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George Perreault

the new doctor

she looks up, the other guy he says here your wife’s spirit’s are pretty good, but her prognosis is poor, says you appreciate life’s inherent tragedy, does that about cover it?

thinking about basswood, big yellow leaves in the fall, better luck with grafts than seed, couple butternut trees by the gate open to a good-sized hole where the barn used to be.

once saw a milk snake slipping through its rock foundation, muscling deeper into memory, copperheads in Apalach, rattlesnake clattering the trail in San Patricio, officious lil bastards.

she liked it there, across the creek, porcupine now and then, falcons, bare cottonwood along the wash draped with sleepy vultures, wings spread warm and black in the morning sun.

turkeys fattened in the orchard, burbling as they followed her through the long grass where apples which had fallen lay unbruised at her feet, and guess, yeah, that covers it.

purple apple newspaper

i’ve aged along with my doctor until now she’ll assign me words for the exit exam, but

i’ve none of those wastings whose names are whispered into letters or names like Gehrig, and

with little to cover – my life’s a flat lake where any hooked trout lowers it one eureka at a time –

she asks about Belfast, its old cobblestone burble, the iron clankings between orange and green,

their dysfunctional government so like ours, and i confirm the ongoing bitterness, structured poverties

and murals for the dead, the tour guides outside the jail almost boasting of its wing for republican

terrorists, another for loyalist thugs, the calm in- between for our decent ordinary criminals, so

i ask about the neuropathy in her own foot, if the chemical shrapnel still shrieks in the night,

this old give-and-take between friends, until i wonder if she wants those words: apple, purple,

and something about the news, sorry to see her embarrassed how it had slipped from her mind,

nodding yes, newspapers, as if anything there was worth knowing, lifting a hand and letting it fall.

conversely so we were talking about ukraine, how the sky’s on fire in pakistan and no one gives a shit, all the hidden costs of human rule, and she remembers her first assignment, ICU recovery, two girls in a week from the same denominational school trying to sidestep their pregnancies,

and you know how it was back then, the alleys they had to sneak along. that first girl, the lucky one, she died on the table, but the second was twelve hours of surgery after the drāno douche, heavy sedation postponing the pain and the horror,

and who wants to be there when she wakes, who wants to explain what’s lost: you’ve melted the urinary tract, your bowels, all the organs in your pelvis, and then the bone, so much bone. these chemicals, they have no conscience.

even after two tours in vietnam, the things we do to each other, she remembers that second girl, the things we do to ourselves. they took her down a hallway to a room with solid locks. termination, my friend whispers, sometimes an elusive mercy


George Perreault has served as a visiting writer in New Mexico, Montana, and Utah. His fifth full-length collection, lie down as you were born, was released in July 2023


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