The Doctor Readies The Breathing Tube

Original Text: 

Shane Neilson. Complete Physical. Erin, Ontario: Porcupine's Quill. 2010

1Centimetred grace: coiled like a whip,
2entering a place where one can sing,
3or choke a note. Jiggly jangly, the trip
4down the throat a long tunnel, no light
5at the end. And if you could sing,
6it would be catcalls: hiss, hiss,
7and the clunk of machined air hitting
8a lung. Whump. O hissy fit,
9O life-and-death teetertotter,
10you are messenger only. The message?
11Breathe. Hiss. Boo. Spotter
13weightlifter of air, see-through,
14dependent upon hands and necks
15and other bridges, you just pass through,
16your scratchy sound often capped
18I sing of you, I sing of you
19loafing in the gurgling drama
20of a man about to die.
21Will you go in,
22inserted like a comma,
23like a swan-neck,
24will you sneak
25up there like a supple snake
27will you save the wreck
28that cannot speak your name,
29tongue inverted like a comma
30and the relatives asking Why?
31and you saying Hiss, hiss.


12] carina: in anatomy, the carina is the point at which the trachea branches to form the two mainstem bronchi. Back to Line
17] stoma: a hole made at the base of the throat that allows one to breathe during medical procedures. Back to Line
26] laryngeal: pertaining to the larynx, which is commonly known as the "voice box". Back to Line
RPO poem Editors: 
Jim Johnstone
RPO Edition: 
Special Copyright: 

Poem used with permission of the author.