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The House of Bread
By Linden Ontjes
Genre: Poetry Level: Adult
Year: 1997 Category: UAA/ADN Creative Writing Contest

She lies stitched to her pillow. Repeats ghost words
to herself so that time can build errors into new meaning:
besynes, fesynes, fesymes, fesning, freamyng.

They bring her pills and a toothful of water to swallow,
wallow, allow, ow. As a girl, she was taught not to play
with her food and so she drinks her hunk of meat: a lady

who luncheons. The ward smells like ammonia and urine;
she likes the smell, tries to draw it up through her nostrils,
hold it in her lungs as if to fumigate the stinging hive.

She's noticed that male nurses are gentler, lifting her
on and off gurneys with one arm cradling her head.
They do not seem to resent her unresponsive body or punch

The needle through her skin, as if each bruise was a vindication,
proof of something dark and subcutaneous. No, they slide
the needle sweetly so liquid will flow into her bloodstream

A continuous passage. She wants the flowers removed
from her room; she cannot bear the twitching of their amputee
stems -- the phantom pain of a florist with delirium shakes.

Now at The Hospital of St. Mary of Bethlehem, she lies
breadless, bedless, bedlam, Eucharist. This is my body,
she thinks, a contraction of Bethlehem, asylum and bread.

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