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This poem is taken from PN Review 111, Volume 23 Number 1, September - October 1996.

The Lung Wash Michael Symmons Roberts


The first day, you cough up only water,
warm saline laced with vitamins and herbs.
Your lungs mistake healing for drowning,
they fetch up what tastes like the sea
into a white enamel bowl.
Your lungs mistake baptism for torture,
'O God, O my God, O God'.
You sought him out, like countless others
who speak too much and breathe too little,
you found the only doctor in the world
who washes lungs, and went to him.

The second day you know what comes -
'Breathe in Sir, now breathe out.'
The tube is pushed behind your voice
and water floods into the hair's-breadth
channels of your lungs, you choke
...


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