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,
how not to fear the wild trees bowing heavy
with their top load of leaves or the buildings
ringing the inner forest like Easter Island stones,
some brick, like Tuberculosis Pavilion,
some clapboard, like the Nurse's House,
with their aching walls and open portals
where the glass is all gone
but the iron bars still grip for dear life
against the ghosts who rule
this abandoned sanitarium.
Dear, dear life.
You have been my greatest pathogen.
You are the cruelest of diseases, cycling between
proliferation and dormancy, epiphany and stupor.
Some of the others fret over ways to extend you,
or rather, how to extend themselves 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, final indignity.