Witness

Portal of flesh
perched just above the left breast—

better for chemotherapy
since her veins like to blow.

Surgically placed three days prior.

He rifles through the chart, strips away
the spent gauze.

Are you gonna do my head shunt, too?, she whispers.
They say it’s in the brain now.

He does not reply.

Scribbles a few hurried lines.
Closes the door.

In the mid 14th century, doctors walked the streets
in waxen coats—observed the masses

from behind a mask shaped like a bird’s beak.
Stuffed the tips with flowers and spices

so as not to smell the afflicted.
Wielded wooden sticks to prod away the dying,

lest they be touched.

The window
above her bed overlooks a bustling courtyard.

Blackbirds on the slanted sill
roost in nests of scattered refuse—

whistle elegies and lullabies.

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