249: Hospital Linens

249: Hospital Linens

249: Hospital Linens

Hospital Linens
by Marianne Boruch

Read the automated transcript.

They take the linens every day, the bloody linens
worn through by sweat
and sleeplessness. Simple bleach at the end of it,
soap swirling itself gray-green, huge washers
shudder and stop, the sound of
planes landing.

Not just surgeries. It’s mainly
ordinary seepage, the drip down tubes into arms,
drains in secret to abdomen
and lung. Always sheets bearing up their cool finish
as if nothing will happen, then caught in
that lie. The life behind fabric—cotton, flax
in the weave—is a seed broken,
getting ahead of itself by tiny increments
unwatchable because we
have no patience with the slower inscrutables.

A woman drives this morning, takes the linens out
one door to the street and into another.
Huge plastic bags encloud her, dizzy her, sicken
bird-whirl her. Bedazzlement keeps
staining, the dry brush-by of
so many wings. She has a hard time with balance.

Nothing to make of it, nothing but
look again. The bloody linens, evidence.
And the little truck they drive
not much more than
a go-kart really, a runabout.

"Hospital Linens" by Marianne Boruch, from THE ANTI-GRIEF by Marianne Boruch, copyright © 2019 Copper Canyon Press. Used by permission of Copper Canyon Press.