One Night in a Naval Hospital "Maybe you should take a walk," a soft voice calls from some place lost in the click, click of I.V. machines, and the lunar glow of heart monitors. My first reaction is Big Jim who inhabits the bed beside me, his skin turned brown with late cirrhosis, talks in and out of heavy medication, but his tongue that licked every ungodly whore from Hong Kong to Subic bay, is silent thought left in air after the finish of a long book. Then I think of a sea-breeze lifted over the roil of surf to move inland where painted girls sing down the alleys and avenues of San Diego. But the curtains of this room hang defeated like men standing in soup lines whose only motion is a passive cough to clear the phlegm lodged in throats too weak to pass the word: Hope. Something is strange in this garden, where flowers continue to whither beneath bright suns, and no amount of rain poured into the soil extends the root's life for one more season. I cannot tell the farmer from the field. Dark things push into my skin, day circles night and back again, doctors greet me with rehearsed smiles. Their weak arms cannot lift these stones of pain that keep me pressed in bed. The calendar on the wall tells three days I have been covered with a quarry's daughter. This left leg, once a friend, is now raised high in traction above my head like a monument nearing completion, it reminds me of Indian mounds in Louisiana, those green knuckles pushed up from the earth where men measure height, diameter, make notes on fragments found. Later, they discuss their findings, formulate theories, but in the end remain uncertain of origin, such meanings are left with a sun. Pain does not wash off, and the snake beneath my skin will not crawl away to its brothers in a dark den. The tail begins at the ankle, the body coils up the calf, stops before the knee, all the bright diamonds of its scales are buried inside my veins. My eyes will never see its tongue sing, but I feel the sunk fangs spreading ruin like a muse who suddenly betrayed, sets fire to her favorite poet. To die without meaning is not a terrible thing, but I am young and not ready for extinction, give death a glass of wine and wish it on its way, I car only for a snake and the black scorpion who sits inside my lung with its curled lance raised in power. Its sting is madness. Two weeks ago I ran 10 miles on Mission Beach, now I fill with sawdust. Diaphanous breath is a lunatic laughing in a cave. She slowly emerges when I call her, hair is filled with twigs and bird-droppings, her eyes are wild like a stormy coast, but I love her flights into an unfenced country. "Maybe you should take a walk," again, from among the asylum I hear a soft voice, though now it's more pronounced, more flesh than fluid membrane. It carries a weight I can't explain. Perhaps I am drunk on morphine, perhaps a doctor is hiding in the closet playing games. Big Jim still sleeps like a tired muscle, I fear he will never move again. Outside, gulls carry funeral songs west to the ocean, a helicopter beats a drum and is gone, moments of after-silence pulse to name where the bullet flies. Here, the cost of waiting is measured by memories tiny as a crack in ice. They seep back to form moist lines in sand no herd of horses can erase. "Maybe you should take a walk." What voice watches to validate this cruelty? I steer a path to clear from bed, but I cannot not move. Instead, old streams race back to meet me, mountain laurel bleeds green waves from hill to hill. A farmer waves from a stone porch, his hands hard relics to a time when patron saints endured. I am above my body, no pain infuses with danger the life I know. All stones are lifted and freedom to walk rests where the eagle cannot reach. I have read of these things: the being of non-being. When Big Jim stirs, it's time to let loose the rope, my body embraces me to rage us back to pain, scorpion and snake laugh at my silly walk. If morphine is blamed will I bring justice to its end? Tomb Damp granite walls muffle rain and wind, a vision of sky filters in through a single, opaque window. Two metal vases hold plastic flowers, dated inscriptions decorate our concrete beds. Side by side we ache in its belly, looking for an exit to end this eternity, our bones....... One of us must relearn flesh, muscle, tendon, teach them back to our body, grow mortal wings beneath these ragged clothes, fly from this marble fast, retrace our fate, pale prisoners heavy with the truth of it, who suddenly released, carry it back in time, back to the light, the living.