I was introduced to this in Mrs Karp’s high school English class. The typewritten copy I made then has followed me around for over 30 years since then.
The trouble was they left her too much alone,
feeding on books and dreaming of love
and watch willow tree shadows
sway across the polluted river.
Instead of running about and laughing
and talking of nothing with the other girls,
she grew wistful and wan and dangerously thin
and after hours of pondering such things as
frost on a window
or the frail filament fingers of an old nun on a bus,
she would look weaker than ever
and complain of a terrible pain in her chest.
Until late one night they rushed her to the hospital
and worked over her for hours in Emergency,
removing a huge tumorous verse
so horrible that even the nurses grew sick when they saw it.
For days afterwards
she was draining words where the stitches were
and then only a few letters now and then
until the wound was completely healed.
But there’s still a large scar where they made the incision
and even now when she sees things
like a bird on a twig
or the shadows of leaves on the sand
or a butterfly wing washed up on the shore,
the scar turns pink or a livid red
and you almost wonder
if they succeeded in getting out all the infection.
John W. Dickson