This is the machine that will write the narrative.
Lying in an open hospital gown
in a dark cubicle,
I watch the sonographer
type in my details.
He leans over and attaches electrodes,
asks what my interests are.
His passion is Dungeons and Dragons he says,
moving a metal wand over my rib cage
as we enter a land of pulsing currents
and blood-filled caverns.
The ribs are the enemy, Game Master says
as if inviting me to role-play, pick a character
in an audio landscape I can only imagine.
It seems there are two protagonists —
Lub and Dupp, though others could pop up anytime.
We trek through a “plooshing” subterranean stream
until Game Master stops at a Listening Post:
And there’s your problem, he says —
blood splashing backwards in a waterfall
from the mitral valve.
One that Lub is meant to close securely.
At the junction of right ventricular outflow,
the low and high voices of Lub and Dupp
identify themselves sequentially …
Lub-DUPP Lub-DUPP Lub-DUPP Lub-DUPP.
Game Master fires an ultrasonic beam vertically,
waiting for an echo.
I can hear your murmur, he says,
and isolates the sound on the screen.
Swoosh … swoosh …
like a turbulent river coursing through a cave
or a dragon pursuing us through a swamp.
We trek back to intercostal space
and exit through the tissue interface.
Three … four … five waking sneezes
and I know it’s back.
Existing somewhere between physical
and ephemeral, dust reminds us
we’re on the same journey.
I first noticed it as a child
learning ballet in a old hall,
a building of high beams and hazed windows —
dust spinning in sunlight
like the grubby glitter of decrepit fairies.
Now it swirls through the hall of this house,
touching down on tables and bookcases,
unloading in inaccessible corners.
We mix it into our lives, lungs, linen —
flakes of skin, husks, insect wings —
breathing alpine forests and dried animal dung,
ash from flaming pyres on the Ganges.
Documenting the future under your bed,
dust is life’s greedy archivist.
© Jan FitzGerald
Jan FitzGerald is a long-established NZ poet whose publication overseas includes the Atlanta Review, Yellow Medicine Review, The London Magazine, Orbis, The High Window and Acumen. She has been shortlisted twice in the Bridport Poetry Prize and has four poetry books published.