Still groggy from gas,
his eyelids greased shut,
all he saw was a world burning
in amber. When the nurse peeled tape
from his bandaged shin,
staph seeped from the knife-cut.
He pretended to sleep
under the wings of her dress, the ceiling
TV buzzing like a hornet’s nest.
The penicillin she left on a tray
was the color of mucus.
So was the cup of ice cream.
For five days he plotted the coordinates
of flies behind his window,
their drones in a spider’s knots.
When he finally went home,
he rediscovered the blue sheen
on grass, sun
lighting red candelabras of swamp maples,
parachutes of mist hovering from the waterfall
where an Indian jumped,
daffodils blowing trumpets over graves.
Holed up in his room,
he followed the orange skin
of the school bus flashing as it turned,
snow retreating into shadows
of Christmas trees and stone walls.
In the silence, the light hardened.
To stay calm, he counted his heartbeats,
pieced together bird models,
nailed them to blue walls.
If anyone called,
he let the birds speak for him.
Mr. Brown Takes His Students to the Museum
The Chinese Compass Lost Its Bearings
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