Electric EDGE
Web Edition of The Ragged Edge
March/April 1997
Electric Edge


for Jack Fennell 1948 - 1992

The lesions in your brain are growing algae
in your fishtank. Your life has been reduced
to wide-eyed glances darting this way and that
there in Room 808, and all you see is this
bustling life on the other side, blurry
but undeniably real through the glass.

You wonder how you ended up here in this tank,
how you let yourself become dependent
on the IV pump, the oxygen tube in your nose.
So many of your friends have already fallen away
from peering any closer through the glass.
Their minds are now in isolation tanks: quarantined.

The glass walls are empty except for the clock.
The shape of each number and the slope of the hands
are burned in your brain, somewhere deeper
than the lesions found in the X-rays last week.
It is the deepest gravel of them all,
crumbling into particles angrier than salt.

You swim this way or that through the plants,
bright and green under the ultraviolet light,
focused steady and clear-eyed on your memories. WasnÍt
it sweet, having that apartment of your own right
on Christopher Street, sweet and easy to scoop up hot men
literally off the street and whisk them up the stairs?

Wasn't it magical, crowding together
a posse of deaf gay men in discos and bars?
The poppers promised the scent of everything.
There had been so many beautiful men
who shimmered and swam once past your eyes
under the flashing and swirling strobe lights.

But the plants are becoming fewer and fewer;
their greenness seems somehow more vibrant than before.
The bubbles from your oxygen tube carry you now,
but your gills are tired of propelling forward.
Your left side is paralyzed, your left arm feels
hot and cold, your right arm is weak . . .

Your lips are parched, aching for a reason
when even the heater can't calm your temperature.
You take in some water from a Styrofoam cup,
but you are already lost in the gravel of time.
Your scales have lost their giddy slipperiness
and they no longer shine so easily.

You're tired of being tested over and over again,
just to make sure your pH balance is intact.
You're suffocating from the alkaline of stares
pretending that you are still beautiful.
It is ichthyophthirius of the worst kind.
You wonder if they ever notice their own tumors.

The lesions in your brain have become algae
themselves, slithering with a green blackness
all around the happy green leaves of your aquatic plants.
They are now greedy leeches, sucking
every leap of synaptic energy from your gills.
They've even reduced you to wearing diapers.

And last night one of the scavenger nurses
found the IV tube wrapped around your neck.
But no, it wasn't tight enough. You are
still breathing, your parents are coming
soon, your body is again slagging with pain,
your mind is fixated . . . Where are you?

You flounder from one corner to another.
But even the water has turned to sewage.
Your body has become a tank of toxins.
You close your eyes once more, hoping
you never have to navigate again in pain:
A sweet warm-bodied ocean awaits you. Go.

-- Raymond Luczak

© Copyright 1996 Raymond Luczak


This much I cannot say:
for even the tools of my writing trade can collapse
into a broken English, a pidgin language of awkwardness.
I meant to say, but the perfect opener, witticisms always fall

This much I cannot speak:
for the immutability of your face has cast a spell on my anxious eyes,
a montage of "What?" and repetitions. My hands wish to fly
free of my voice, not caring any more whether you understand: Just like

This much I cannot share:
for this lightheartedness of mine must be hidden for fear of frightening
you again. (No, not like that night when I asked you....) O if I could
beckon you closer, to hear your question

-- Raymond Luczak

© Copyright 1996 Raymond Luczak

Raymond Luczak's previous books include Eyes of Desire: A Deaf Gay & Lesbian Reader (Alyson Publications) and his first book of poems, St. Michael's Fall (Deaf Life Press). The two poems above are taken from his next book of poems, Mute, which is seeking a publisher.

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