No One Ever Told Me

that an MRI sounds a bit like
avant-garde dance music, or one of those
key chains I had as a kid,

where I’d press a button
and it would shriek out some
distorted beeps and static to mimic

a machine gun, or a bomb falling
from far away. No one told me
that I should use those sounds,

to distract myself
from how long I’ll have to hold
my breath. No one told me that nothing else

is as satisfying as the radiologist’s
voice over the speaker system saying
OK, you can breathe now.

I felt like pork: driven into a dark tube,
ready to be made into sausage.
I did not expect the radiologist

to be so kind when I writhed
on the first try. She patted me
with her cool hand and said I’ll give you

a few minutes alone. How strange:
she, of all people, would be someone
I would want to call after with Please don’t

leave me here alone. But after
I learned to keep my eyes shut,
as five years earlier, when he held

my shoulders down from above me, it became
somehow easier: I remind myself that I asked
to be here, planned it, calmly undressed

and left my clothes heaped
in another room. No one ever told
me that it would be an MRI – the strange

linens and the breathlessness – that would spin
me back to the memory of a blind date,
his empty house in the noiseless woods,

Will I exit this exam the same as I did that night:
gather my things casually, so stunned
that I smile politely and wave before saying goodbye,

relieved that it’s over? But here,
in this office, it is not over yet:
when the long platform I’m sprawled on

surprises me with its quick jolt, like a stutter
forward and back, I clutch the sheet
beneath me, and focus on the noise:

discotheque, video game, fax machine,
the sound of an old ink jet printer
grinding the cartridge across

the page. No one ever told me
I would feel outside myself, as if I were standing
with my nose just above the paper, watching

the bands of color overlap one
thin strip at a time to form the whole
picture, waiting for it to finish.

Lisa ManginiLisa Mangini earned her MFA at Southern Connecticut State University. She is the recipient of the 2011 Connecticut Poetry Prize and a recent semifinalist of the Codhill Press Chapbook Award. Her work can be found or is forthcoming in Stone Highway Review, Louisiana Literature, Knockout, 2 Bridges Review and others. She is the founding editor of Paper Nautilus, and teaches English composition and creative writing part-time at several colleges and universities across Connecticut.

 

“No One Ever Told Me” is a Best of the Net 2013 finalist, selected by A.E. Stallings. Congratulations to Lisa Mangini!