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July 2019 Vol. 15 No. 2

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Warren Gossett

Hiss of the Oxygen

Through the oxygen tent’s plastic shroud I see mom and the doctor whispering. I can’t hear them for the hiss of the oxygen. I’m certain they feel I am going to die. We’ve already been told I have polio. I’m having trouble breathing. My lungs have been affected, my right leg is totally paralyzed to my hip, my other leg and left arm somewhat affected as well. Beyond the narrow hospital windows, the dark clouds of late autumn become even darker. God I’m so scared! I’m just a kid. I want to scream.

Fast-forward 63 years. Yes, I lived. But now I’ve developed post polio syndrome (PPS). Muscles that weren’t initially affected in 1956 are beginning to die. I’m weakening. I have chronic fatigue and I’m in a wheelchair. That’s what PPS does to you. I’m a man now, not that kid. I don’t scream. But there’s a darkness growing inside me that desperately wants out.

the moth struggles
in an abandoned web –
new moon’s emptiness