STILL-HILDRETH SANATORIUM, 1936 / When she wasn't on rounds she was counting the silver and bedpans, the pills Ui white cups, heads Ui their beds, or she was scrubbing down walls streaked with feces and food on a white- wash of hours past midnight and morning, down corridors quickened with shadows, with screaming, the laminate of cheap disinfectant . . . and what madness to seal them together, infirm or insane, whom the state had deemed mad. Thefirst time I saw them strapped in those beds, caked with sores, some of them crying or coughing up coal, some held in place with cast-iron weights ... I would waken again. Her hands fluttered blue by my digital clock, and I lay shaking, exhausted, soaked cold Ui soiled bedclothes or draft. I choked on my pulse. I ached from the weight of her stairstep quilt. Each night was a door slipping open Ui the dark. Imagine, a white suitfor gimlets at noon. This was my Hollywood star, come to be lost among dirtfarmers and tubercular poor. He'd been forgotten when the talkies took hold. He saw toads in webs drooping over his bed. O noiseless patient, his voice would quake.
The Missouri Review – University of Missouri
Published: Oct 5, 1996
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