Seven Wards

Man is made of ordinary things, and habit is his nurse.
–Johann von Schiller


Bedrest follows at long last, and a nurse,
like a bridge over me, holds bedrail
to bedrail. To think I’m awake for all this:
how streams are changed in their beds,
how a day is engineered, the blood being drawn,
the bloodwork done.

How she spans me, fixes me,
the keystone set in her eye.

Shouldered into the balance, among the ribbons
and twenty-year pins, the objects of our
helplessness are there—the dreamboats
brimming, the loaves that make
their way in the world
and multiply, surrounded by lust,
ridicule and violence, milksops
crying, the mobs at bay.

A little space
for the rose to fill!

She’d make the way

She’d stop this flooded brain, her offerings
full and aching for a mouth,
or wrinkled, flat and dry as a balloon,
being nothing less

than herself, being herself
as true to form, to the spare
canonical shape of the hours
as any bride.


My cock is unexpectedly thrilled when the sheets are
drawn. It lurches, it pulls on the catheter, makes
a stand! But no one laughs or turns aside—it rates no
embarrassment. Oh, but allow me to be
appalled. Permit me to stare.
And let the morning rounds, like a spelling bee,
go on.
Let guards keep their intervals—
silent, refusing to spell.
Let kings be restored
like divots to the old sod.

I love my poor retarded boy.
(I love him, by God.)

The cavernous brain repeats itself
when too many slack-jawed wounds have gone
to waste and liquefaction, wicking away
in too many throats.
But allow me the balance
of everyone’s time to speak wonders.

I love my green unpleasant lad
(however much he blunders).

They’re going to undress and unpack me.
They’re going to manage, and allow for me.
But the gimp will rise
from his old sedan, the irresistible veteran
will burst his wrappings.


They clean me out with dynamite
and come behind with their muckrakes and gear
to clear me away.

We must have a crisis, and an urgency
or let me be trained in it, every day
dredged and revamped.

I cannot retire to my grotto,
but suffer my day on the rack
because I’m instructed

by devils, whose names are
tonus and cachexia

rancor, rumor
and Death in the Pot
and all the attendant humor.

Angels that hid in my vestibule
have been shamed. Game birds
flushed from my sacred groves

are revered. The course is as
clear as butter. We let
the idle fingers splash.

We take up the bones
with the cutlery
while armies clear the table.


The Thanksgiving dinner is served.
The Thanksgiving mood is set.
The chief complainers are spiked with ham, and
everyone gets what’s coming to him. It’s not
a day for asking. We are that we are—
and we’re high muckety Moguls, cranked
to greater than thirty degrees,
remembering the wings that had flapped
for us then, as we sang out with gusto
Chicken today, feathers tomorrow!
when they ran from us, frisky as girls,
those naked birds that we patted dry
and rubbed with sage, their breasts
split and fed with oranges.
Oh, how
they were basted, and how the juices ran!
But now they’re tanned and dried as ever,
the disaffected grease and leather, the trays
being passed by hairy old women–palette
of eyes and ear and snout—the same casserole
with yesterday’s hash. The same allusions to
carrot and stick, the same misquoted flavors.


I’ve had that nurse before.

We were a tangle in bells and harness,
horse and lather.

We refused the fences together
and argued over the hills.


Finally arrived at organ point, the day
plunked down on a day-ending note,
the thin muse drifts out of his hand, considers

the hour, the ruinous fare.
The blue alert is winding down, the color is going,
the eyes are gone. You’ve run the right side

of the menu, the rescue breather is squeezing
the bag, and someone says
“Any suggestions?”

Now tell me, doctor
would you worry yourself at the thought of me,
draw thorns on this night,

speak to my rages
and my piles, my sugar blindness,
how the nurse was a sop for my failing eyes?

Are you finally decided,
would you drag me through gardens
beneath headstones that split us apart?

Could you find yourself room
in the possibilities? Are you not a fixed star,
steadfast in the night sky?

Bound to set things
running, bound to crack these wide-open spaces,
you pound these games in your sleep.

Oh, doctor!
Can you turn your game around,
turn annoyance
into performance?


Here’s where the greenest professionals go—
to be on station, to sit for less, where
the little corporal stands his watch

who tells me
I haven’t lived.

That is to say, there’s no believing in my absence.

That is to say I’m still here wasting
and god-damned in bed, where my sheet is all,
my arms powerless in the folds.

But stop the unwinding. He’ll never unwind.

Tell them to wake me if anyone codes.
I want to see who knows the drill, who gives
the orders, gets the drugs on board

and who’s
going down with all hands.

Buxton Wells was born in Iowa, raised in Virginia, and lives in Memphis, TN. Appearances online with Winning Writers, Umbrella, Wandering Army, the Legendary and Contemporary American Voices (pending 2010) constitute his publication history to date.