The first thing you notice is
the smell of what they use to chase away
the smell of illness and decay.
It’s not pleasant,
like over-ripe fruit blended with dollar-a-gallon vinegar.

The lights are always on.
The hospital’s trust fund invests heavily in utility stocks.
When the power blacks out
generators roar into action
keeping blood flowing through the building’s veins.

If you want to get a nurse quickly
push the panic button
and tell her a light went out.

Tell your visitors:
don’t touch–
me,
the walls,
the chairs,
the floor,
the sinks,
the food.
Hospititis lurks everywhere
and drugs don’t cure it.

For five bucks a day you see on TV
the same blurry people from antenna days
still saying the same things
only now you can’t hear them.

The basic food groups are:
anonymous cereal
dry white toast
jello
skim milk
coffee
pills
capsules
stuff that spurts out of needles.

Nurses come to get you up and walking.
Then they put you back down like a dirty sock.

Most of the nurses come from far away.
Some of them have accents
that seem to come from outer space.
Those aliens are the nicest ones.

The billing department always gets something wrong.
Then, months later, more bills come
from ghost doctors who died years ago
but still have good reputations.

Four or five or six or seven times an hour
a loud tinny noise gushes from a box on the wall.
It sounds like it’s squeezed from a rusty tube.
Are those words?

All in black, the chaplain walks in,
introduces himself, mumbles, smiles, walks out
just like he did yesterday
and will do tomorrow.

Today’s the day!
It’s like getting out of jail.
They give you back your clothes
but where are the $20 bill and the bus ticket?

Every month, reminders arrive
from the Alumni Association
asking you to remember your vacation
with a generous contribution.
We contribute them to the recycling bin.

This poem is from my “Dystopias” series.

This post makes my 52nd week of weekly posts. I had promised myself I’d do it weekly for a year and I did. Since I am about to get busy for a little while, including a visit to the Dodge Poetry Festival, this blog may become less regular for a while. However, I’m not quitting. And you’ll still get notices whenever a new blog is posted. Thanks for reading. –LG

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