A storm of buzzards is circling outside the window
of my hospital room, looking south and east across the river
toward the high-rise construction cranes downtown.
They are a regular sight in December, buzzards migrating
in particulate vortices, slow-moving gyres that resemble,
from a distance, glassless, black-feathered snow globes.
Satin-hemmed sheaths of cloud shuttle across the sky,
diffuse silver light alternating with bursts of Florida sun,
the occasional spatter of raindrops from a string
of unseasonable storms parading up from the Gulf,
cars composing a stop-and-go stream of metal
parallel to the river, small Caribbean freighters docked
along quaysides of cabbage palms and crab traps,
I can see it all with great clarity, the birds, the traffic,
it’s effortless—the doctor in the eye clinic
spoke enviously of my vision, better than 20/20,
even at my rapidly advancing middle age.
The bad news is that I am periodically blind
in one of those otherwise excellent eyes, which flickers
between darkness and light, like poorly connected cable TV.
It’s terrifying, that darkness. Enveloping. Confounding.
Immediately, all thought flows toward the remaining eye—
may it never falter, dear lord, may it guide me
through the corridors of your mansion forever and ever,
amen. In the land of the blind the one-eyed man is king
but I have never envied royalty. I am a democrat
and I want to go home. It’s two days before Christmas here
at the ho-ho-hospital, and the nurses are antsy
for some quality family time, Becky has four girls
and a worthless ex-husband, she started nursing school
after the divorce at age thirty-nine, if you can believe it.
How to describe the gloominess of the hospital at this season?
Little worse than its familiar, jaundiced, institutional gloom,
in some ways, but it is more poignantly melancholy,
doors adorned with droopy silver wreaths, a poinsettia
dropping its leaves on the brightly sanitized nurses’ desk
as if it were coming down with something.
Every effort at seasonal cheer serves only to clarify
its inherent joylessness, just as all the holiday schmoozing
on the ever-running TV sets, the enforced jollity
of Toyotathon commercials and celebrity chefs
baking caramel gingerbread men on the morning show,
makes us feel more empty-hearted, fearful, and alone.
Fever of Unknown Origin