N. M. Courtright


Yea, delicious taste of the waiting room,
on inhale the just-brushed feeling
sweeps my teeth like July 9th,
clean from cleaner meant not for mouths,

and I read with such intent
one ladies' magazine and then another,
this time in Spanish:
          "Cómo satisfacer a su amor."

Faraway noises of the sick sound—
jumping, potted plants turn their heads
in the boredom of sterilization.
It's then that with glazed eyes

you exclaim fuck this wait,
pulling a pocketknife from your pants.
And off goes your boot,
off goes your striped sock,

and on your right big toe shimmies
a castle of infection—thou grand ingrown.
With a ballpoint pen
you nuzzle back the sadsack paunch,

scissoring away with the army blade,
sweating, sweating.
The scrape of tissuepaper tuxedoes
echoes off each antiseptic tile

and your measured breath. And then:
you shout with pride,
the triumph of good over evil.

The waiting room is still,
all eyes on you,
smiling, bleeding,
you wonderful and economic savior.


When writing this poem, I had just for the first time entered the realm of the uninsured. With no recourse if afflicted, I found myself more than a little bitter about the state of healthcare in America—my choice either was to pay exorbitantly for insurance I probably would never use or take the risk of being uncovered in a time of great desperation. This situation, still unremedied, has led me to see the self-medicated and the self-healer as all the more heroic.