Dr. Pedro Adjusts My Back
We have been through this before,
he and I. I come to him with a knotted
body I think of as mine. He reaches in
to my back, hands up to the elbows
as if he were reaching into an ice chest.
But this time, he announces
the name of each muscle as he goes.
Splenius he says, and I become aware
of corded ropes in a gentle sway
down from my neck, braiding
along my shoulder. He moves
my head, or I do—hard to tell—
and splenius moves aside, a curtain
parted to reveal (his voice from
behind me, from out of nowhere)
trapezius—like two harps center stage,
column to column, and he, maestro
with fantastic hands, reaches out
from the podium to stroke both.
And now he raises my arms over
my head, announcing latissimus dorsi,
and I am conscious of two new hands,
palms on either side of my spine,
wrapping me: these must always
have been there, they are me
wrapping me. And again I hear
latissimus dorsi, his thumbs pressing
into my sides as if stuck buttons
there would make the muscles
swing open, a too-tight girdle
suddenly come unsprung.
Then we are done. He draws
his hands out of me, lifting them past
the surface of my skin, then shaking
them hard, as if to throw off
a liquid. Or so I imagine because
he is still behind me, because I see
nothing but a wall of his office, two
posters of the human musculature,
and so for all I know we could be
in as auditorium of students, me facing
the blackboard, him with a pointer
indicating and naming for the doodling
and those taking notes. After all,
what else might have come over him
today that he chose to introduce me
to my own body? After six months,
the three of us meeting here weekly,
that he had decided to broach
an awkwardness? It’s as if he were
a couple’s therapist, and it was time,
he thought, for my spouse and I
to turn our chairs in to face each other
instead of triangulating everything
through him, that it was high time
for us to address each other by name.
Her displeasure’s mostly quiet
but erupts occasionally
as a side-to-side thrashing
and high-pitched whine.
Neither of us like it, but
the alternative’s the long
needle of her nose jabbing back
into her affected back end,
worsening a bacterial infection
that already has her red, enflamed,
and smelling like a sewer.
So this is love: “Elizabethan”
the vet called it, though no
lace ruff, closer to a megaphone,
as if her face were a word
emerging mid shout: a half-
articulated cry of Dog!
through the bullhorn.
But love or no love, there’s still
laughter—I can’t help it—
as she bonks the plastic aureole
against door jams. The spotlight
of her head flashes this way
and that, unaccustomed
to its weight: the poor thing
wants dignity. And yet,
what are the options?
To let her rip herself apart?
I lean in as if to smell the flower
and kiss the sweet stigma
of her nose. Dearest,
your sadness is so total
it wrings my giggling heart:
you look up at me hopeless
from the bottom of a well,
knowing—I swear you do—
that I could help, but won’t.
In a few days, I’ll lower
the ladder and draw you out.
Until then, be patient.
I’m nearby, peering over the rim.