Poetry by Lauren Bender

Art by Valerie Chamberlain

Bedside Manner

Old magazines filled with

nothing. What a waste.

The bed with the paper

bitches about flesh and

leakage and how they all

beg for the gift-wrapped

fiction of their bodies,

for someone to tie it up

nicely with ornamental

knot, to figure it out,

figure it out, for the

love of god, once and for

all. The nurse laughs and

types up the symptoms and

checks all the boxes. One

box is on the floor calling

out numbers, more numbers

to note. The plastic nipple

pokes into a tepid ear.

As of this moment I still

have all my clothes on,

but he comes, listens and

thinks. Thinks and thinks.

And says the pants have

to go, and we both reach

for the button and zipper.

I'm certain there's something

to be said for hesitation

in this instant but his

fingers and thumbs unfasten

me and that can't be right.

What was that. This keeps

getting messier, and I am

tilting and pale above

the fabric, which I only now

realize is also me, while

he gloves a hand and finishes

what I started. Centuries

since a skilled doctor would

sample my blood, give my urine

a taste, we fumble around in

this dark intimacy like nothing

has changed. He whips out

a six-syllable condition to

defend himself, followed by

a definition which includes

it could go away, it could

get worse, it could matter

or not. Further tests could

be more definitive or as

definitive as they've been

so far. But my age, risks,

and family history. But

my anxiety. But my pain

rating and femaleness, but

just in case. He's thinking.

Lauren Bender lives in Burlington, VT and is editor in chief of Mud Season Review. Her work has appeared in IDK Magazine, The Collapsar, Gyroscope Review, Pittsburgh Poetry Review, Yes Poetry, and others. You can find her on twitter @benderpoet.

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