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  • Infusion Suite
  • Claudia Emerson (bio)


She puts on the protective gown for this one,sky-blue, crepe paper–like. She asks againfor me to verify name, date of birth,checking what I say against the informationon the small plastic bag she shows to mebefore hanging it upside down, its contentsimpossibly clear, benign-lookingas water coursing the clearest bore—umbilical-like that almost invisible line.The trees outside the tall window appearstill full with summer, crows’ flight—morelike drunken tumbling—something to seewhile I agree that yes, yes, this is me. [End Page 109]


The poplars outside this place an old stand,their trunks rise, slender nudes that sway in a rushof wind and sun. At the trees’ edge, someonehas hung feeders to distract us from ourselves,and so I don’t look at her when she saysto the screen of her computer that my bloodnumbers are good, better, in fact, than last

time. Hour after hour, we watch birds circlethe plastic cylinders of sunflower seed,cling to the caged cakes of suet swingingfrom tall, hooked poles—not unlike ours, I liketo think, their source of flight gravity-measured—a given, too—and we are all radiant with it. [End Page 110]


The surgery was a flashfire in the yard, folks

nearly deliriouswith rakes and hoses, their

faces hot with it.This place is the slow

burn they watch, if they do,at a safer distance, as

they might a neighbor’s fieldsmoldering, glad it’s

not their own, their concernnow the direction of

the wind, a chance of rain. [End Page 111]


Leonard, he shrugs the name-patch on his shirt;his cancer back after a good year and a half;it’s worse this time; then tells me just as much

a matter of fact he is a mechanicat the collision place, his specialty the undercarriage

of a car after a wreck,realignment, the stuff nobody ever seesand will never notice unless—no, until—

it gets out of whack; he’s lucky, though,his brother’s bone marrow a match, the onehe had not spoken to in thirty years;

he will go in to work tomorrow, has to, that new guy—he shrugs again—some brand-new kind of stupid. [End Page 112]


The trees redden beneath it, before loss,becoming livid with this: rain, cold, windless—shadowless the light, the sky a low

opalescence. This one a quieter day,the room empties earlier. I eata bowl of soup from the table I make

of my lap. Later, I will win at Scrabble,studying my sorry trough of letters—cause double its worth, though, and I puzzle it

with Uz—as in Job, as in the land of—triple—cheating, really, but we agree we willlet it go this time, all my words small

but costly, and my accounting of them perfect. [End Page 113]


The old woman next to me does not speakall day, not even to the young girl who came

to be with her, a granddaughter, perhaps,with nails painted the same electric blue

she used to paint her grandmother’s nails,and perhaps she was the one who plaited

the single tight gray braid—a pinned, frayed

aura around her head. Her eyes occluded,clouded over, the older woman appears

to look me in the eye, though, to hold me inan iron-steady gaze, the cataracts

small blinds she has early drawn down,defiant, and she stands behind having done it. [End Page 114]

Claudia Emerson

All of Claudia Emerson’s books were published as part of Louisiana State University Press’s signature series, Southern Messenger Poets. Her forthcoming collection, The Opposite House, will also be part of the series. Late Wife won the 2006 Pulitzer Prize for poetry. She also edited the 2010 Best New Poets vanthology. Emerson has been awarded individual artist’s fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts and the Virginia Commission for the Arts; she was a Witter Bynner fellow and was awarded a Guggenheim Fellowship for...


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