SOVEREIGN AND SEVERE | Woods Nash
From Moshi, Tanzania
Dawn arrived with an onrush
of vomit and antibiotic in my butt,
which stung like death.
And I slept, slept sluggishly
through a morning language lesson,
beyond the ripe avocados of lunch,
and past an afternoon sliver
of carrot cake severed from its home
in American Café. And still I
slumbered like sawdust in the shed
while someone else tugged on gloves
and clipped the novel top of the hedge.
Nor were they my hands that lit
candles in the evening. I kept to my
sleeping and could not be roused
for even a sip of tea or pinch of bread
before the others went to bed.
It must have been 3 a.m. when a pipe
burst in the kitchen and sent its
steady gush sliding for the slump
of my bunk. And I awoke like a ghost,
surprised to find the slick tiles awash
with papery plankton—journal jetsam
inking like a dead squid—
and my steps in the tepid water
no longer aloft on the topography
of sentences, but sounding
mere splashes of loss, loss, loss.
Woods Nash teaches in the Honors College at the University of Houston for the program in Medicine and Society. He’s also affiliated with UT’s McGovern Center for Humanities and Ethics and teaches in the McGovern Medical School. He’s published articles on Walker Percy, Cormac McCarthy, and David Foster Wallace. His poems, while mostly failing to appear, have been seen in JAMA, Annals of Internal Medicine, and the Journal of Medical Humanities. But none of that would tell you anything about his affections for soccer, Kentucky bourbon, and Nick Drake.