The Bad Physician

The body in health, the body in sickness,
inscribing
its versatile logic till the least
of us must, willy nilly, learn
to read.
And even in error, as when
the mutant multiplies, or first
my right eye,
now my left, is targeted
for harm by the system
designed
to keep it safe—
even in error the body
wields cunning
as birches in leaf wield light.
The child who swallows the amnion now
will swallow milk
by winter. The milk
can find a use for me but not
for my belief,
nor yours, and it beggars the best
of our purposes. Within us
without us,
this life is already beyond us,
so what must it make of the man who cures
by rote?
My friend’s young daughter moved
with a slightly muddied
gait,
and then her tongue
and then her hands
unlearned
their freedom, so newly
acquired. Unlearned with great
labor
while the tumor thrived,
and all the elixirs in Mexico
could not
revise her sentence by a day.
You who make your living at
the body’s re-
versible deviations,
what will you say to a six-
year-old
when all her bright first lessons
are defaced? Even the skeptic
in his lab,
who works at the friable boundaries
of our common
legibility
and does the work that I trust
best, is bound to frame his question
in the pure,
distorting light of hope.
The beautiful cells dividing have
no mind
for us, but look
what a ravishing mind
they make
and what a heart we’ve nursed
in its shade, who love
that most
which leaves us most behind.
—Linda Gregerson