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A Palisade of Words
Paul McLaughlin

Fearfully, I duck behind a palisade
of closely-stacked scientific terminology,
an oak-solid barrier I built to deflect
the unintentionally threatening questions
of caring friends–
What did the MRI show?
What did the neurosurgeon say?
Do you have a date for surgery yet?
How are you guys holding up?

The flaming arrows of their concern
zip menacingly toward me and thunk into

      glioma      incision      resection
   craniotomy     temporal lobe astrocytoma–

medical words that tumble out of my mouth
as if I say them every day,
technical words that obscure how I really feel,
protective words that shield
the powder magazine in which I have hidden,
under kegs of black powder and incendiary bombs,
the plain words and feelings I must not say
out loud.

Come closer: let me whisper them in your ear:

Tomorrow, a doctor is going to
drill a hole in my wife's head
and cut out part of her brain.
I am terrified.

May 2000