North Brother Island
I thought about what to tell the others,
how we can ferry over and pick our way
through the shoreline vines and brambles
into the interior of North Brother Island,
with its stark-raving buildings
ringing the inner forest like Easter Island stones --
Tuberculosis Pavilion, the Nurse's House --
walls aching from neglect,
gaping portals where the glass is gone
but the iron bars still grip for dear life
against the ghosts this sanitarium.
Dear, dear life.
You have been my greatest pathogen.
You are the cruelest of diseases, cycling between
proliferation and dormancy, epiphany and stupor.
Others fret over ways to extend you,
or rather, how to extend into you.
But you know better, taking so many
in convulsive waves, bodies in the streets,
the slyly perpetrated ruse of dignity exposed
for what it is: The ultimate indignity, the mess.