“Hospital”

A weekly poem, read by the author.
June 26 2012 5:45 AM

“Hospital”

A nurse walks past empty beds at the government run hospital in the northern West Bank city of Jenin 20 November 2006.

Photograph by Mehdi Fedouach/AFP/Getty Images.

Click the arrow on the audio player to hear Charles Webb read this poem. You can also download the recording or subscribe to Slate's Poetry Podcast on iTunes.

Hot spittle, sizzling on pain’s grill.
Hopsicle: bouncy, tooth-chilling, bad
for you. Hopcycle: a gamboling bike.

Opposite of hope’s fiddle. No
“Soldier’s Joy.” No “Jolie Blonde.”
Hive full of people in white coats

(or green, or blue) commanding,
“Swallow this,” inflicting tests that punish
if you pass or fail—people hump-

backed with sacks of doom they throw
down on my bed, and bolt. Losspital:
place where losers meet. Hospice:

little. (How big do death-rooms
have to be?) Hiss bottle, has pickle.
Ass brittle—like the rest of me! 

“Have you ever,” a clipboard-man
demands, “been hospitalized?”
Been ossified? Alphabetized? 

Fossilized? Caramelized? I won’t
leave here the same, or possibly,
alive. Hot tickle. I’m not giggling.

House pistol. If I get my hands
on one . . . Horse drizzle,
swizzle, sizzle—let me ride away! 

Some guy is fishing, on TV,
for river-monsters toothier than tiger
sharks. How can I rest

with all these teeth gnawing at me?
Cords yank out every time I turn.
My monitor pings. “Sorry,” I tell

the nurse who runs in. “Still not dead.”
“That’s good,” she chirps, and jabs
a needle into me. Hiss

piddle. Hose poodle. Hat riddle:
How’s a 10-gallon like a barbershop?
Cop fizzle, sop griddle, lop pizzle,

lot pedal, toss stipple. Glass
house-pitiful you shouldn’t throw
up in, stoned or not. Hostile

hostel, I won’t come back, I swear!
Hose pustule, top tickle, Oz puddle.
“Thank you,” I tell each doc,

meaning, “Fuck you for being well.”
Bop middle, slop griddle, rot victuals,
Hope’s diddle. The Grand Hotel

Oh-Well-To-Hell-With-Me.
You enter immortal, and exit disposable
as snot.

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Charles Harper Webb's latest book is Shadow Ball: New and Selected Poems. A new book, What Things Are Made Of, is forthcoming in 2013. He teaches in the creative writing program at California State University, Long Beach.

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