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  • Those Hospital Bracelets
  • Brett Foster (bio)

Another week, another bright blue hospital braceletfreed from my wrist and deposited, illogically really,into the growing rat’s nest on the bedroom dresser,snarl of identically cut bracelets from the numeroussummer hospitalizations and chemo appointments.Why not throw them all away? What superstitionrequires me to accumulate them? What recordam I imagining they could ever verbalize? Silentas dust and disenchanted, they are such helplesslittle talismans, and, as I finally skim the simple printon this new one, they reveal so little—my name,my birthdate, which I am now in the mindless habitof reciting, swiftly by rote, whenever a shot or drugis administered. Next is “Epic ID,” followed bya seven-digit number. I have no idea what it meansor tells caregivers, or how it helps to identify me,but I fancy the thought of being epic in my patienthood,somehow, my war-torn body like the Pharsalian plainin Thessaly where Roman fell to Roman in a war“worse than civil,” with Rome’s sword (Lucan’s version)or scalpel or cellular scourge plunged in the viscera.Yet the lost soldier must have welcomed such a death,comparatively I mean, being at least no mean casualty,no perishing at sea, heavy with the shame of anonymity,no “never saw it coming” since every battlefieldyields its outcomes, no dismaying show of cowardice,taking aback the coward most of all. The bracelet’slast line reads “Hosp ID,” after which is thesame seven-digit number. I wish I could misapprehend itas “Gosp ID,” taking hope in that abbreviation,but instead I read it like an ancient prophet: “hospice”like an oracle, undeniable in the cattle’s entrails. [End Page 3]

Brett Foster

BRETT FOSTER, who died this past November, was the author and editor of several books, including The Garbage Eater (2011).



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