One to Ten
On a scale of one to ten, with ten being the best you’ve ever felt and one being the worst, how would you say you’re feeling today?—common psychiatrist’s query
The questions are beyond rote,
Like pennies turned over in so many hands
They’ve become featureless discs,
Lincoln’s head polished to a muted lump, the dates
And mottoes inscrutable.
Reduce your life, please, to a number.
The days that stretch on, painfully long
And bone-dry as a track of dust-rutted highway,
Red earth horizon to horizon, the heat choking you,
When even breathing is a chore.
The nights when winter comes all at once,
Bringing swirling snow and discontent,
And you find yourself trapped
beneath the clouded green ice of your sorrow,
Bare heels and palms banging at the cold of your confinement,
Searching for the sharp-edged black hole
That you must have left when you fell in.
Please rate the dust, and the dryness you feel
Coating your brain with its grit;
Please give us some objective measure
Of the sensation that comes before drowning
When your lungs spasm wildly and make your heart stutter
We aren’t asking much. Just a number.
Just tell us, and then we’ll go.
--AG, Aug 2011