Gallium Count Poem Gallium Count Poetry
In chapter 11 of my medical memoir CANCER PATIENT I wrote about the investigative test called a gallium count. It is a two-step procedure. First, you go to the hospital and get injected with a radioactive isotope of gallium. Then you go away, returning in a couple of days to be photographed.
For the photographs, you lie very still for about half an hour while photographic negatives are brought into close proximity to your body, and the radiation creates a photograph of the interior of your body. The gallium tends to concentrate in problem areas, helping to diagnose not just cancer but other conditions, such as the degenerative disease known as sarcoidosis.
When I was putting together my book of poems, ARC OF LIGHT, I remembered a poem I had written about the gallium count, and I wanted to include it in the book. But the relevant notebook was in my personal room in our house in Japan, and I was afraid that trying to get my wife to hunt for it would constitute cruel and unusual punishment of a kind which would make a good excuse for a divorce.
As it was, I arrived back in Japan of April 2006 and did not find the desired poem until the start of June. That same day, I found, in one drawer, my minidisk player, a minidisk being a tiny disk which holds about a CD's worth of sound, and is recordable. And, in a mess of electronic wiring on a burdened bookshelf, I discovered the recharger for the minidisk player.
I had tried to reconstruct the poem from memory, but all I could remember was two lines:
The woman who shoots me up is good at this,
And knows it.
Here, finally, is the missing poem, the gallium count poem:
This is the cool room in the basement
Where the pace is slower,
The pace of those
Not hasty in their deaths.
The woman who shoots me up
Is good at this, and knows it.
Inserts the needle,
Pulls back the plunger,
Confirms the flood of red in the chamber
Then pushes the plunger home.
Into the vein.
"It doesn't hurt?"
"It doesn't hurt."
A slick hit, smooth
I am at ease,
Feet snug in their trefoil slippers,
But something must have happened,
Because I am lost,
Misconstruing the maze,
Baffled by the blandness
Of the all-directions blue.
Finding in the dead ends
Of my predicament