I was lucky enough to hear Paul Monette read from "Love Alone, 18 Elegies for Rog" shortly after the book of poems was printed and shortly before his award-winning memoirs, BORROWED TIME, was released. It's why I have an autographed copy of the poems and my copy of the prose is not autographed. Paul Monette died in 1992. Of the 18 elegies, this one only seems to be the single self-focused poem (until the end which belies that impetus). I wrote a review of Monette's collection of poems for The James White Review while I was still an editor of that publication. -gcb

Current Status 1/22/87

marginal no change T-4 four-sixty-five
as of 12/8 but the labs are notoriously
inexact nerdy white-coat sits eyeballing
his microscope counts the squiggles in a cubic
inch racks them up on his abacus and writes
his apt # on the lab slip thus I'm fifteen
less than August thirty-five more than June
this is not statistically meaningful or am I
the walking wounded do not count the counting
begins at breakthrough how are my lymph nodes
how are they not a mere three-quarters
centimeter at the neck in the vampire spot
cm and a half in the armpit not suggestive
unless they harden or start to throb taking
four hundred milligrams RIBAVIRIN b.i.d.
the magic dose if results released 1/9
prove to be long-term of course when you cry
all day an afternoon can be frightfully
long-term but we mustn't muss the curve with
personal agendas equal dose ACYCLOVIR
ditto twice a day this part purest guesswork
doesn't attack HIV but seems to lower
the general viral bullshit level and besides
the cornflower-blue capsules go quite nicely
with the royal-and-white of the RIBAVIRIN rather
like the flag of an island nation which I am
bowels normal though I peer at each specimen
in the bowl like an oracle poking entrails
David E who just got back from the Rift
Valley where man began says if you flush
a toilet five feet south of the Equator
the spiral flows clockwise five feet north flows
counterclock this is the only non-medical
fact I have learned in two years moving now
to the head twenty milligrams SINEQUAN for
despair no effect at all but may help
tip me over into sleep that little church
of the dark which bars me all its sacraments
add fifteen milligrams DALMANE 2 a.m. for
the final knockout not the same as sleep
not even the same as night but a full-bore dose
of SINEQUAN makes you Lennie in OF MICE AND MEN
within two weeks and you eat whole loaves of
Wonder Bread till your moon-face waddled body
humpty-dumpties off a wall no mouth sores
fevers sweats bruises like imploded orchids
nothing significant see you in March
to put it quite simply I'M DOING FINE
or as we say in California DOING GREAT
holding a shiv to the listener's throat as it
to dare contradiction the test-givers
bald numerologists and milligram chemists
all my tribe of shamans and not a one knows
the iron tests I watched you suffer the six
spinals three broncs your bone marrow sippped by
a ten-inch needle till you had enough numbers
to stump an algebra class pyramided like
a Mayan calendar exact to the second for
a thousand years by which time the last Mayans
stared out of stone eyes at the blue monkeys
who swarmed their decimal palaces my medicine
men can't see my condition is just a prefix
my vast pharmacopoeia no more than a grave
not to you my friend who bore so many
milligrams we needed a gram balance like
a CHARCUTERIE in Paris tests of tests
my groping docs might just as well use leeches
for all they can touch my invisible disease
cracks on the heart don't blip on an EKG
thus no treatment sorry we don't cure life
Rog I am still in the anteroom of all
the useless measures leafing old PEOPLEs
reading diplomas deep in my head I hear you
the night of the third intrusion your larynx
like slush from an extra milliliter's freeze
of XYLOCAINE quelling your voice to a strangle
for two three hours WHY IS THIS HAPPENING
I DON'T KNOW I said all the bells in my voice
untarnished and thought how no one had better
try to say why either or ever suppose
to know the worst take my pills like clockwork
because you took yours submit to a week's
bleeding because you fought like Theseus for
the white-crowned hill of your reason breakthrough
is the real thing when these are not just tests
of fate ball bearings in a wheel of luck they are
fate made visible which of my thirteen
pills would I give a dying child which one
ought the world to be taking morning and night
to feel this strange communion dose by dose
this set of printouts clinically healthy why
does that sound like a qualification is this
how being a hero starts or just dying
Ypres and Verdun men have lain down in certain
fields with all their unspent years but meanwhile
there is the fighting before that the target
practice I'm learning how to hold a sword
but there is no telling what I will do
when I get there stay at my side will you
so I don't do anything vain or cease to honor
you and all our brothers below the Equator

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