The Infirmary

(a dream)

At the infirmary
she received that long awaited relief
from a needle
a serum that kills
all pain
reduced
to one small injection
barely noticeable

suicide

walking slow
she still felt the heat
of that cooling shot
promising not pain
this time
but gain
a quiet rest
of nothingness
until her feet hit

home

the door she had closed
gaped wide open
and lying
on that old bed
(the one she had sold)
was that old accusation

his smile

so sweet
it sliced open
her half-healed heart
still feeling the flame
not of love but his need
to bleed
a simple wish into utter exhaustion
feeding her regret
of having tried yet again
of having pushed too hard
yet not enough
apologizing
for that sigh
or that tear
streaming into many tears
screaming
for no reason
(yet every reason)

again

old and cold
and told
to stop feeling

neglected

and slipping back
into her numbness burning
with every plea for reason
drowned out
by tight lips licking
its own damn injuries
and smacking her tongue for wanting
warmth instead of wounds
but this time

she saw

a prisoner in a small grey cell
quite smug and so stuck in his hell
not able to escape
his own deep wound
needing
to shift
the blame

again

she showed him
the keys in his hand
and how she could never free him
and suddenly
his stubbornness fell
on deaf ears and red eyes saw
those keys in stiff fingers
bent to be right
and unbending
steel bars
reflecting that old smile
slicing his own heart
as she turned
back
toward that infirmary
with a new will to live

but how?

she’s been dead far too long
the damage done
the injection
complete
suicide serum searing
through her matted weave of madness
feeling helpless again
against his words
trailing behind her
waking memories of that sweet smile
that sliced open her half-healed heart
still pumping
strains of death
through weakened veins
at the cost of life

what life?

her life
her life wanting
not his old cell flashing new paint
not his boney fingers’ rusty keys
not his arid breath impaired by booze
not his words bereft of feeling but full of fault-finding
not his smile incapable of soothing
not his heart full of harshness and regret
not his cold touch grabbing for hot love-
making
defensiveness his only guard
there in that old bed
(the one she had sold)
remains his old
cold smile
so sweet
it flees
once again
failing to lift or leave
its own dead weight

so she turned

toward life
toward that infirmary to reverse the curse
to be healed of the error
the arrow bringing death
a slow dying
that now begs to live

but

at what cost?

what is the cost of life
and who must pay it?
a girl grown down
toward the ground
cold and old
and muddy
bleeding

years

turned wrong
now aiming to turn right
to reverse this night
and to live a little more
light?

and right
this time

she awoke
without a sequel to her dream
yet knowing
it could never be
years turned round
or down
or some infirmary with death
or life serums
in syringes

she was

reminded of that One

true love still calling
the dead
from their dying

tombs!

Petra O. Hefner


A still small voice spake unto me,
“Thou art so full of misery,
Were it not better not to be?”

A second voice was at mine ear,
A little whisper silver-clear,
A murmur, “Be of better cheer”

So heavenly-toned, that in that hour
From out my sullen heart a power
Broke, like the rainbow from the shower

-Alfred, Lord Tennyson (1842)