← Issue 10

Self-Portrait as Hospital Room

by Noland Blain

‘What happens when people open their hearts?’
‘They get better.’”  Haruki Murakami, Norwegian Wood

Everyone else stays in the waiting room
with their armfuls of carnations. I speak,

& popcorn ceiling flutters out, antiseptic perfume,
my tongue a bar of scent-killing soap.

My loved ones ask what else they can do
& I tell them get out, I tell them hurry

home. All those footsteps
amble out the automatic door,

an all-day affair of heels pronounced
against linoleum, while, in my head, I parade after,

like a dumb beast, flinging slobber
across the white walls slick as spit

until there is no saving. There is just
punishment. Better my loved ones leave

with their fists crammed in coat pockets,
frustrated that they cannot heal the chronic,

than they stay here where my sick infects
all of us. Better I stymie the flow.
Better I wipe the cringe of blood from my mouth.

Eventually they stay in the car.
They don’t want to come into the hospital.
They know I would turn their stomach.

Noland Blain is a queer writer currently studying Creative Writing and Museum Studies at Florida State University in Tallahassee, Florida. His writing has appeared previously in the Kudzu Review, Oroboro, East by Northeast, and Élan.