THE CRONE WHO APPEARS IN MY DREAMS, OR WHEN WILL WE STOP HURTING OURSELVES
The X-ray reveals a spot on my thyroid.
The doctor's office is white, and the doctor has small hands.
At night I fall asleep to the thunk thunk of dusty-white moths
hurling themselves against the window pane, gunning for the light.
In my dream, the doctor says you have a spot on your thyroid,
hands me a prescription he has written, folded like an origami
crane, flying away. I gather my sweater, green with pearl buttons,
pull the crane from above our heads and put it in my pocket.
In the next room a nurse dressed in white scrubs and white
socks and white shoes, unfolds the prescription, unfolds
the origami crane. She has black hair and skin like first frost.
Her eyes are brown and unblinking. I cannot turn away
from her gaze, her breath fills the room with air—she is the lungs
of the room holding me with her breath, The doctor has ordered
flagellation. I don't know why I don't question the diagnosis or the cure.
The nurse motions to the exam table, I lay my head on the pillow.
I lay my bones and sinew and muscle and heart and limbs—
I lay the whole territory of myself down. The nurse closes iron locks
attached to chains around my ankles and wrists until I cannot move,
then reaches under the table, pulls out a leather whip.
As long as my body. As thick as an arm. My stomach clenches.
My body shakes. She raises the whip in slow motion, and it snaps
above me like a night-horse arcing in fear at a crack of thunder.
I suck air. Every drop of blood in my body is aware of the whip.
The skin on my leg tightens and just before the whip reaches my thigh,
I hear a howl, a sound that smells like a lake of rotting leaves. The howl
becomes a word, and the word echoes through the chamber.
No. I was wondering when you would finally say no.
She is old. She helps me to my feet, her hand at the small of my back.
She walks me through her private door, and I step into a forest
with flowers the size of melons and a gentle rain like softness, like
whispered love in the ear. The nurse-turned-crone writes in her notepad.
Presents with spot on thyroid. Spot is dissolved.
Weeks later I return to the doctor with small hands and a white office.
He tells me that in the newest X-ray, the spot has disappeared.
It must have been a shadow in the film.
Alicia Elkort is an emerging American poet living and writing in California. She has worked in the film industry for over 18 years and is currently producing a documentary on Prayer. She edited and contributed to the chapbook Creekside, published under the auspices of the Berkeley Poetry Review where she also served as an editor. Her poetry was featured in the Ishaan Literary Review and has also been published in Elsewhere Litand soon to appear in Glint Literary Journal and Menacing Hedge. She earned a Bachelor's degree in literature from UC Berkeley and a Master's Degree in Spiritual Psychology with an Emphasis in Consciousness, Health, and Healing.