Seven Wards
Buxton Wells

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 impassable.

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 dysreflexia 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, bedbound, 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.