werewolf

Time out word warning, in this poem. This poem is about discrimination. Substitute practically anything for werewolf…. disabled, bipolar, depressed, autistic, substance abuser. I am sick of discrimination. For human, substitute “normal”.

You know I’ve been a werewolf my whole life

Started in the womb
triggered by antibodies
to tuberculosis

And I am tired

of people telling me

I’m a werewolf.

Ok? I fucking know that.
I have known it since Kindergarten
where I arrived full of joy
ready to sing

and was shunned

we didn’t have a television

but I knew that wasn’t really it
I was different
I am different

and fuck you humans
different is ok.

I am a werewolf
and I am fucking proud
of all I have accomplished
in the teeth of humans hating me
and trying to shut me down
and shunning me
and reporting me
and doing everything short of shooting me
with real guns

I’ve been told to sit down
shut up
stop arguing
be nice
be good
go away
die
don’t read my writeups
don’t C! my work
don’t talk to me
stop making waves
been fired
been reported
been shunned
been alone

and fuck you humans

get ready
because I am middle aged now
for a werewolf
and I am ready

to be one all the timee

damn the torpedoes
full speed ahead
fuck you humans
for how you’ve treated me

I’ve turned the other cheek
for sixty years

and now
I
will
fight

writhe

You are sick as shit.

You go to the ER.

You finally feel safe, on a bed, they will save me, you think.

The nurse is on autopilot. He does not seem concerned. You are shaking a little as he arranges you on the bed. He puts the heart monitor stickers on and hooks you up. Blood pressure cuff, pulse ox. Blood pressure is fine, pulse is a bit fast, at 110.

You notice he is not making eye contact.

“I’m cold.” you whisper.

He doesn’t reply. He keeps messing with the wires. He puts the call button next to your hand. He leaves and returns with a warm blanket. It feels wonderful. He doesn’t say a word.

You feel better under the warmth.

The respiratory therapist wheels in the ECG machine. You smile at her but again, no eye contact. She puts more stickers on you. “Hold a deep breath.” The ECG spits out. She takes it and leaves.

The radiology tech wheels the portable xray machine in. You watch his face but don’t bother to smile. He looks everywhere but at you. It’s a bit creepy. Are they all robots? It’s 3 pm, not 3 am. “Lean forward,” says the tech, putting the radiology cartridge behind you. “Take a deep breath and hold it.” He takes the cartridge and leaves.

The nurse is back. Puts in the iv and draws 5 tubes of blood. You are shivering a little. He doesn’t seem to notice. You think about another warm blanket. The iv fluid starts and you can feel it running cold into your arm.

There is a child crying in the ER, in some other room. You start noticing the noises. Machines beeping. People typing on computer keyboards. No one is talking. The kid gives a howl of protest, rising and then is abruptly quiet.

Your hands and feet are tingling and burning. You writhe a little under the blanket. Sensation is returning to your hands and feet. It hurts but it is also good. You were at the point where all your feeling had shrunk to a tiny spark in the center of your chest. As the iv fluid runs, feeling slowly spreads out from that.

The doctor comes in. Grumpy, clearly. “Lean forward.” Listens to your chest. “Sounds clear.”

“It’s been hurting for 5 days. It hurts to breathe. Burns.” You are anxious as hell. BELIEVE ME.

The ER doc gives a little shrug. “Oxygen sats are fine.” He does a half-assed exam. He leaves.

You look at your feet, taking your socks off. Because he didn’t. There are two black spots, a couple millimeters across, old blood. Those are new.

You press the call button.

Time goes by. The nurse floats back in.

“Look. Tell the doctor to look. These are petechiae.” You point to the black spots.

If the nurse had laser vision, your feet would be burned. The nurse glares at your feet. He goes out.

The doc comes in and looks at your feet.

“They are petichiae. I have an infection.”

He gives a tiny shrug. “Your chest xray looks clear. Your labs are normal. You are not running a fever.”

“I am on azithromycin for walking pneumonia. I suddenly felt like all the fluid was running out of my arms and legs. I am worried that I am septic.”

“Blood pressure is fine. You are really really anxious.”

You are furious. It probably shows on your face. You are terrified.

“Could it be an antibiotic reaction?”

Shrug. “No rash.”

“Except the petechiae.” A sign of sepsis.

“I will change the antibiotics. Clindamycin.” He leaves.

You lie back, terrified. He doesn’t believe you. He is sending you home, septic. You will probably die.

The nurse comes in. Removes the iv and unhooks the monitor and the blood pressure cuff. You get dressed, numb and frightened and cold. The nurse goes out and returns. He recites the patient instructions in a bored voice and gives you the first dose of clindamycin.

You walk shakily to the door of the emergency room. To go home. While you are septic and they don’t believe you. You know what happens with sepsis: your blood pressure will drop and then organ damage and then IF you survive you could have heart damage or lung damage or brain damage and you might not anyhow.

You go home.

Tickle me, dear

One of my favorite halloween and nonsense poems ever is The Lugubrious Whing-Whang by James Whitcomb Riley.

I don’t remember the first two stanzas very well. I think that someone, my mother, my father or my maternal grandfather, would read it to me starting with the third stanza. I loved the sounds and the mystery of the rhymes from very young. When we are very young, many words are mysterious. At some point I gathered that the Whing-Whang was a monster and was imaginary, but to a small child it’s hard to tell what is real and what is not. And then there is Santa Claus and the tooth fairy and the Great Pumpkin and religion and what is one to believe?

The rhyme o’ The Raggedy Man’s ‘at’s best
Is Tickle me, Love, in these Lonesome Ribs,–
‘Cause that-un’s the strangest of all o’ the rest,
An’ the worst to learn, an’ the last one guessed,
An’ the funniest one, an’ the foolishest.–
Tickle me, Love, in these Lonesome Ribs!

I don’t know what in the world it means–
Tickle me, Love, in these Lonesome Ribs!–
An’ nen when I _tell_ him I don’t, he leans
Like he was a-grindin’ on some machines
An’ says: Ef I _don’t_, w’y, I don’t know _beans!_
Tickle me, Love, in these Lonesome Ribs!–

Out on the margin of Moonshine Land,
Tickle me, Love, in these Lonesome Ribs!
Out where the Whing-Whang loves to stand,
Writing his name with his tail in the sand,
And swiping it out with his oogerish hand;
Tickle me, Love, in these Lonesome Ribs!

Is it the gibber of Gungs or Keeks?
Tickle me, Love, in these Lonesome Ribs!
Or what _is_ the sound that the Whing-Whang seeks?–
Crouching low by the winding creeks
And holding his breath for weeks and weeks!
Tickle me, Love, in these Lonesome Ribs!

Aroint him the wraithest of wraithly things!
Tickle me, Love, in these Lonesome Ribs!
‘Tis a fair Whing-Whangess, with phosphor rings
And bridal-jewels of fangs and stings;
And she sits and as sadly and softly sings
As the mildewed whir of her own dead wings,–
Tickle me, Dear,
Tickle me here,
Tickle me, Love, in these Lonesome Ribs!

I love the idea of lonesome ribs, longing to be tickled. And the Whing-Whang is a monster or something lonely and frightening, but he too longs for love, even with fangs and stings. He longs for a monster to love him, even with mildewed and dead wings. Aren’t we all afraid that we are monsters and that we cannot be truly loved?

I took the photo in 2006, our family summer cabin from the early 1940s in Ontario, Canada.
Also published on everything2.com.