Contents | May 2004
More on poetry from The Atlantic Monthly.
The Atlantic Monthly | May 2004
Helpless as an overturned beetle—left eye prepped
The Visionary Under The Knife
by Madeline DeFrees
and draped—I lie on the operating
table. On this final day of the year, the surgeon
will remove the identical twin preachers in the one
pulpit by the papal flag and the distant
fire hydrant down the block
that looks like a vicious green dog. The crew
waits for the Nurse with the Knives. Of course
I wear an IV in my arm, tape across
my brow and ankles, terror in my solar plexus.
Team members talk to one another
in low Medicalese: capsulorrhexis ... paracentesis
tract ... phacoemulsification. The oximeter
clipped to my middle finger
must be keeping time
with my pulse. Something else: a speculum locks my
eyelids open. If I could clearly see
what everyone else is doing, I would not be
here. Masked faces draw closer. These costumes
suggest a royal ball, a bank heist, a Halloween
party. I dramatize
all three. The glass eye of
the operating microscope zooms in
on the surgical field. Dr. Chen makes a stab
incision at the 5 o'clock
position, perhaps to revise ad slogans, mangled
by weak eyes, on my small TV.
Anesthetic drops allow the doctor to dissolve
the lens in quarters. That's when I issue orders:
Leave the eyelid movies untouched!
They are my favorite show to watch as I'm
drifting into dream. The room fills with jets of
spraying water and ultrasound far beyond
the human ear as the hollow needle vibrates 40,000
times a second. The needle stops. The doctor
inserts a foldable silicone lens, courtesy of
Bausch & Lomb. The surgeon
checks the wound for leaks. More anesthetic drops.
Tomorrow is a New Year. Circus colors of falling
stars. Dazzle of meteors from oncoming
cars fades to Seattle gray. Metal patch over gauze
to my operated eye. My trusty
gurney, on standby, carries me to Recovery,
body propped high enough to sip my java
and order tardy breakfast.
Time to leave but not the way I came. Doors
swing open on the ever-moving world
always and never the same.
Madeline DeFrees is the author of several books of poems, including Blue Dusk, which received the 2002 Lenore Marshall Prize from the Academy of American Poets. She lives in Seattle.
Copyright © 2004 by The Atlantic Monthly Group. All rights reserved.
The Atlantic Monthly; May 2004; The Visionary Under The Knife; Volume 293, No. 4; 78.