The American Journal of Poetry
"Strong Rx Medicine"®

 

David Ricchiute

Contagion

 

My mother insisted I visit the boy,
the neighborhood boy,
the stricken boy in the iron lung.
Still, I can hear the fan-belt motor
and see his head & collared neck
slightly inclined on a thin white pillow,
eyes calling from a hapless face,
from a mounted mirror, from a wall mirror
serving no purpose at all.
Ever so utterly against my will,
I stood there almost still in the room,
face positioned just right just so,
to not ever once even glance at the eyes,
glance at the eyes, glance at the eyes
that followed me.


A child then, I am startled now
to learn that some who led full lives
are stricken again in later life
by regrown nerves that won’t quite last
as long as the rest of their body could.
I’d long forgotten the neighborhood boy
till happening upon a middle-aged man
who saw what he didn’t see coming twice,
first in a playground, a pool, or a creek
and now in intolerably weakened legs
that presented to him as they had years before,
foretelling a sentence no one imagined
until the accounts began rolling in,
exposing a generation beached in surrender,
tone deaf to the contagion of things,
a body for a tomb.

 

 

 

DAVID RICCHIUTE  lives in Indiana and has taught at the University of Notre Dame, the University of Michigan-Ann Arbor, and the University of Kentucky. Poetry and fiction appear or are forthcoming in NOON, Poem, Tampa Review, North Atlantic Review, Interim, First Intensity, Red Rock Review, The Quarterly, and Tipton Poetry Journal, among others.

 

 

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