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  • Mary Ellen Swee

A Beauty Queen Calls to Me



If I want to

I can avert my eyes, translate foreign verbs while I hide

in the waiting room, waiting alone,

and other patients float by, outside,

down a boilerplate corridor, terribly bright,

where scant breath

is stored in rolling cans.


What I think

the worst thing is:

a sudden delay

for more pictures than needed, or maybe they are needed.

(There is no real way of knowing.) Then my technician,

a beauty queen from central Indiana, calls to me.


At the portal, she is lateness

with layers of real hair, full hips,

but, like me,

she is looking for the exit.

How to get from nuclear medicine to dreamy comfort,

far away

from the instability of isotopes.


Trained on tumors and machines,

she moved to the city

to revise unbending truth. And dodging the decay that hurtles down

a teeming passageway,

she puts me on the pallet, prone, under a blanket yet in the spotlight,

radioactive,

imagining infinitives that split like atoms.


To do

or to breathe or to want.

Language hardly matters now. Because I am exposed to the beautiful stranger, who looks deep inside, under my rocks,

at bones, spots, permutations, suspicions.


She insists on stillness, quiet inhalations

and pigeon feet— toes taped together,

towel wedged between my heels, to get the proper angle. But what she cannot see while I am put down:

the will to live.


A Beauty Queen Calls to Me
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