Jul/Aug 2010 Poetry Special Feature

The Placebo Effect

by Brent Fisk

Artwork by Costel Iarca

The Placebo Effect

I'm telling my physician how I can't sleep
because I no longer dream,
that when I wake, my future's gone
numb. He spins in his squeaky chair
and drops his feet on the desk
and doesn't write a damn thing in his little pad of paper.
The silence is killing me, so I say,
"Maybe I'm not getting enough sex, or iron."

The acoustic tiles sag overhead.
He rubs his temples and the bridge of his nose.
On the wall behind him I admire the colorful
evisceration: A poster from Gray's Anatomy,
a grin that's not a grin.

Surely I'll get a shot of vitamin B, the generic dose
of reality. He'll move in close with that bright light
and demand that I not blink. I will smell the animal
crackers and tacos on his breath. Hanging lifeless
around his neck, his stethoscope is a goner.

In the soaps when there's bad news
the handsome doctor always turns toward the window,
overcome by what he must deliver. I watch wasps crash
their exoskeletons against the dingy panes of glass.
What the hell is keeping his nurse.
A jar of suckers gleams on the sterile counter.

Finally he gives me a smile, slow as the shadow
a sundial casts. He says, "Sometimes dreams
go away on their own, like a tic. Sometimes
we need a sample or two for our centrifuge.
Yours went out with your adenoids and tonsils."
The large E at the top of the eye chart
has never looked so mysterious.

"Your mother took them home in a vial in her purse.
She said you buried them in the backyard next to a pet turtle
and a mourning dove riddled with birdshot."

I tell him that I want to love my wife, enjoy my career,
have a kid who grows up to become Secretary
of the Interior. I want to write the next great American novel.
He tells me to drop my pants as he snaps on a latex glove.

In the lobby I wait to have my prescription filled.
Bright fish kiss the glass and calm those waiting.
A small treasure chest opens and closes,
is obscured in a commotion of bubbles.
A black plastic diver spins free of his moorings
but I can't quite see the expression on his face.
"Mr. Fisk," a nurse calls loudly, "Your sugar pills are ready."
The sign above the door says,
"Watch your step and have a great day."


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