Best of the Net 2009  

The Surgical Theater as Spirit Cabinet

I am without wings and obsessed with each patients'
    dark physics--the way their eyes are the copper bells
signaling the end of intermission.

It is here I come to peel away all guarantees.
    Gurneys line the hallway, some of them empty, some
with old men or children hooked to machines whose hum
    is something I can sleep against.

If this is what I'll become, then let me turn
    into a puff of smoke. Let me hide
in the warm lining of a pocket.

Somewhere behind me, men talk through
    their masks and as they speak I feel the space
between the air and my body. It is too bright
    and the world becomes unknowable.

There is a chasm of indifferences as I am pushed
    to the double door. It's all so rehearsed.

Before my turn, I think about what I love
    the most and remember the audience, the man
whose wallet is found in his neighbor's bustier
    or the woman's watch now on the wrist of the magician.

I know. That's not love, but a sleight of hand.
    Presto, our lives bound from out of a top hat.

Now you see me and soon I'll be sawed in two.
    My brain sets its wavelengths on the flourish
of the sorcerer's cape.
          The voice's redirection
and the sotto voce of the operating room's radio.
    There is nothing up their sleeves and

I am beginning to understand
    my body as the little curtain closes.

The magician's assistant disappears--slips
    through the trap door soundlessly--my own
thin voice the hollow slap of a hand on a cabinet.

- Oliver de la Paz (from Diode Poetry Journal)