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Thought Experiment

Steven Cramer

with a debt to Ian McEwan’s Saturday

Before my pupils gape oh in unison,
I find a seat with the semi-sighted

like myself, becalmed
in our separate intermissions
between medium to close-up shots

of cornea and lens,
and the deep blue look at fovea,
macula, and optic disk.

Everyone’s aura ripples about him,

a sign some take for the spirit;
others, an ocular migraine.

With chained pens, new patients
chronicle their histories of floaters,
clots, hard stools and easy bleeding.

Squints; frowns; stalls over gaps
in the body’s time line.
Now that’s a look I know—

memory’s written records
always a chore, always.

In my novel’s last scene I can read
without tearing, a woman peers
up from her torts to see

her striped shirt losing its stripes.

Prepped for the MRI, she eyes
a fire extinguisher, maybe her final
take on red.  Light through the blinds

gone mica-bright, she leaves me
in a quicklime of slowed time

where the mind gets scoochy as a boy
in a polyester suit and the noose
of a tightened tie.  Soon as I could,

I’d shed mine to hide in private
horse operas—directed, starred in,

always the same end:  myself
caught in the dirty deputy’s sights

and shot. . . .  dead?   Now please.

The woman on my lap’s a closed book.
What’s meant when we say Mind
anymore—that’s gone the way

the self went, let alone the soul.

Under my book light tonight,
a micro-surgeon’s feather scalpel
cuts through upper gum and nasal bone—

the growth that bloats the gland
that pressures the optic nerve in its fold
of brain excised, so she’s spared

losing sight of this blistering,
woeful, awfully worried planet.