The Patient in Room 327 has Too Much and Too Little Time on her Hands


i.   On Why I Broke Up with Siri
I broke up with Siri because she asks too much and I want too much.
“Can I help you?” she mechanically purrs, and I, cursing her efficiency
over the whirr of the oxygen tank with the asthmatic lady in the next bed,
want to poke at Siri’s deficiencies.  I ask where the nearest whorehouse is.
Siri, her coded confidence shaken, insists that “the nearest courthouse is. . .”
I asked Siri why the host at the fifth damn Thai restaurant to open on my block
seated that avant-garde couple who spoke not one word to the other but the man
stared at her plate, watched her wordlessly take in a flaccid taupish pancake
atop her noodles, resentfully begrudging her dainty little neck its prim swallow
as though he were a one-man Navy Strike Force against the “Me, Too” women
scamming and skimming him on the dinner check and tip while dabbing her lips.
For this Siri had no answer, again.  But I know, Siri. I know this was no swan song
stuck in her throat, just a mumbled cry. Their eyes locked in a brief, “Just don’t
say it” censure. I avert my own because I cannot afford these homicidal debentures
on the pay-as-you-go menu. Siri, you spoke in too many facts, when parables would do.
I have to speak up, Siri, and be candid with you. You’re truthful, so I broke up with you. 
ii.    On Watching My Wife Learn I Am Dying
I put my hand up to warn you off tears.
I put my hand up to surrender like sometimes
I do to ward the dog off, but he bites my finger.
I put my hand up to salute things that demand loyalty.
I put my hand up, with its band, proof of a wedding.
I put my hand up to pledge allegiance to these broken parts,
and I put my hand up to say no, a futile resistance.
When it’s just one finger, you’ll hold it up and say “Me, too.”
iii.   On Watching My Child Learn that I am Dying While Thinking of Hands
Now that the bloat of bile pins me to my bed like Eliot’s conjecture pinned
and wriggling, using my blankets as a handhold to drag myself to the toilet,
grasping for any rooted place to help me rise from this tortured white space,
I remember you as an infant striving toward nothing but some shimmering,
glimmering mobile, to no purpose but with fierce and noble intentionality.  You
clasped it with your tiny might then.  Hold it as closely now again and tell them all,
I am Ferdinand the Emperor, and I want dumplings. You shout this. Don’t whisper.
iv.    On Thinking Back and Knowing You’d Known All Along
There are lines that can’t be written.
There are lines that can’t be crossed,
like the secrets we’re forbidden,
like the sheets we tossed in the sad
lost sleeps of our churning dreams,
wondering if Jesus is angry in his trousers
and his potent justice is coming for us.
That must be the reason for All of This.
In All of This we breathe through the simple air
that’s more or less, best or worst, I guess,
poor, rich, the perfumed ether of a prayer.
In All of This, in every hidden place
there is nothing, nothing to me, just ghosts
except your face, that emblem embossing
every grace, each layer of you my fingertips
might trace.  If I had only one thing to remember
it would be that day of your curious life cross
ing this one, slow and slack as only a Southern
girl could be, spindly and resilient as Alabama pine.
A vulgar instinct to utter, whatever you may be,
I want it to be mine.  Your profile on a pillow, face
at rest, may be the best poem I’ve seen, a divine nest
of hair, unkempt, unparted, briefly lost in peace,
not worrying about me, your face unlined in sleep.
I foretold these piddling lines you became; I saw
the last rose in autumn.  I saw the last leaf, too,
wrestling with winter’s edge, sprawling these seasons’
spans from my naked lunch to immoveable feast, saw
these beasts beating you down with every needle
martyring my blood, bruising my veins, you wearing
me like a hairshirt for licentious priests at last suppers,
table for 13, and a few million guests in the Upper Room.
The Lord God of Hosts will seat you with all the rest
presently, when the season changes, but that’s not just yet.
I saw, saw you falling tenaciously as a laceleaf of snow,
mettle-testing the dull, dry ground that breaks undertakers’ backs,
saw you straddling that one last hedge to proofread my headstone,
saw tears like holograms tumbling like ice-locked bees stinging
you through the looking glass, darkly—your weeping a slow-
moving squall of swarming griefs. I saw you, saw you tumbling,
throttling over that ledge looking for me. This time, don’t follow.
v.    On How You Regret Important Questions You Didn’t Ask Siri or Dr. Google
About A Tristram Shandy and that blank page — was that more satire, or
just printer’s error? Did Edwin Stanton say “Now he belongs to the ages,”
as sage biographers claim, or “Now he belongs to the angels?” What wire
was misguided in Newton’s noggin when he stuck a bodkin in his eye to see
if blood is really red, or just conjured into color in a Newtonian head?
I’ve had enough needles shoved in me to tell him blood really is red, but
I’d still like to know how Siri would program-ponder out this mystery.
Why did Aesop go after the low-hanging fruit and then grouse it was sour?
Why does the loss of your own beauty ring in the mirrors of your ears?
These are the things that keep me awake, however few and ill-spent the hours.

Pamela Sumners

If you have any thoughts on this poem, Pamela Sumners would be pleased to hear them.