A Rare Condition

After being poked & blood tested by the specialist who spoke Hmmm
In several dialects including an obscure amputee sign language I eavesdropped
On her conferring with beleaguered foreign colleagues by the soda machine,
Whispering vowel-heavy polysyllabic antiseptic gibberish; apparently,
She’d never examined anyone with opposing thoughts in one skull before.
In the section of the country where I grew up everyone called it soda. Here they say pop.
I had my whole life an inkling my internal arguments were in constant conflict—
Choosing up sides in schoolyard games, my soul always the last pathetic pick.
Not that I wasn’t prepared for bad news: I’m a big boy. But I anticipated something
More along the lines of tumors that grow overnight like Chia Pets, arteries clogged
With apple-smoked congealed bacon fat. Even as a child adults scolded me—
Get with the program, be of one mind. But I never knew which head to place
My thinking cap on. After my Siamese twin brains were separated I starting yapping
Out both sides of my mouth & was instructed to avoid other patients. I, I, I (the
Medication makes me stutter) commenced to see the world through the eyes
Of a seeing-eye dog, but after the transplant who is the real master? Naturally,
After rehab, I landed a gig as a professional dog walker whose poodles sport little
Doggy sweaters that match their owners’, like those dog-humans who wear their silly
Brains outside their heads. I vacationed in every examination room east of myself
& sat naked for weekly eternities on icy stainless steel tables sketching the diagrams
Of the color-coded digestive system, or taking a peek at previous patients’ charts.
Staring at the medical scale, I could be the carnival guy who professes to guess
Your actual weight within two pounds & awards you stuffed cartoony-colored animals
If I’m wrong. Hearing the radiator clank I could be chained to a radiator composing
Fortune cookie wisdom. Waiting for the new doctor I could be the faceless
Who squidgy-cleans your windshield when you stop for a red light. (You did stop
At the red light didn’t you, even though it was 2 a.m. & maybe you had a little too
Much to drink)? My shirt size is so evolving I buy irregulars. I am the dull thought
Of any man who’s been laid off for a decade but leaves the house each morning
With an unstoppable grin as though nothing’s wrong & pushes his pen so deeply
Into the racing forms at the track the sheet rips. His wife isn’t with the program;
She’s only cultivated one brain; so they have no children. Walking home, I am
Confused by the emaciated girl in the picture window who looks more like a mannequin
Than the mannequin she undresses. Oh, I can still talk to myself. My reflection
Is almost always in the mirror, shellacked with radioactive radio waves rationed
In the most advantageous ratio of life & living. I am my own disease & the cure.




Bruce Cohen’s (poems 30) have been featured in various journals, including The Georgia ReviewHarvard ReviewPloughsharesPoetryTriQuarterly & Western Humanities Review as well as being featured Poetry Daily & Verse Daily. A recipient of an individual artist grant from the Connecticut Commission on Culture & Tourism, he has two collections of poems, Swerve and Disloyal Yo-Yo, which was awarded the 2007 Orphic Poetry Prize.


“A Rare Condition” appears in TLR: Therapy!

Cover of TLR's "Therapy!" issue