Outside the Network

by Daron Larson

It makes me feel alone
to answer to a name
I've never used.

What we say to each other
contracts space or expands it.

They keep saying the new system lets
all the departments communicate better,
but I live outside the network.

Explosives seem to be lurking in the forms,
so I step gently and imagine
relying on one leg or one eye
for the rest of my life, simply
because I am too timid to ask for clarification.

I am single in this world, alone on paper,
because our relationship is not one of the options.
After all this time, we're still just friends.
This is not personal, it's just a field,
in the same way that a name is a field.

I'm not sure what to remove
and struggle to take off my ring
wishing I'd left it at home where it means something.

I play along
and promise not to move,
not to breath too deeply,
to avoid painting a picture
that distorts the way things really are.

The machine bangs through my ear plugs,
but drowns out the comfort of human voices
warning me about what will happen next.

Another body reclined here just before mine,
and soon there will be another.

The machine will reveal esoteric details
about my bones and muscles,
but who will warn the caregivers
when their hidden hearts have atrophied
beyond their capacity to feel?