Nebraska Center for Writers

MRI
by GEORGE O'CONNELL

When she folds your arms across your chest,
pharaonic, says breathe light
but try to live the next half-hour
motionless, it's plain this is ritual
rehearsal. All the metal in your pockets,
pens, keys, the shining links
to your outer life
waits in the little room
that holds your clothes,
the one with the warning
for those whose bodies carry
any form of iron. Ritual demands
you strip and don the scanty gown,
one more reminder that the skin' s
a kind of larval sheath,
and now you're trundled
on a long white tongue
into this sarcophagus.
Inside, its canopy curves
like the cabin of a tiny jet
inches from your nose.
The dark would be too close
to keep most people still,
so they've run two rows of soft peach neon
indirect, the kind you see behind the sprays of gladiolas
at a wake. Best to think
escape-pod from doomed rocket,
the gas of suspended animation
mercifully seeping in,
but while you practice being almost dead
an unseen eye begins to click
along the arc over your body,
as if some great celestial beetle
tracked the stars above your planet.
Its sharp, carnelian gaze
cuts down upon the plain
blood and bone of you:
axial, sagittal, the clouds and tumbled
columns of your ruin,
while behind her shield the nurse technician
unstacks the glowing deck of slices
at her screen, the pink tip of her pencil
circling and circling, scanning these horizons
for the shadow of that little moon
whose hour of rising
must be wrong.

Reprinted with permission
Copyright © 1996 by George O'Connell


GETTING THE RANGE
by GEORGE O'CONNELL

Sure you want to put your bullet
where you look.
But the heart is a noisy organ:
just when you've got the sight hovering
on target, one little beat
will shout you off.
You learn not to breathe,
to start the trigger squeeze
far enough out it can't hurt you.
I mean, so slow, so whispery
your pulse takes the hint
and shuts up. Believe me,
when that black bead
at the end of the barrel
starts to settle,
it's not enough to quit thinking.
Your blood needs to go
real quiet.

You've got to be good as dead.

Reprinted with permission
Copyright © 1996 by George O'Connell

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