Treadmill and Ultrasound

I can see you beating there on the screen
in grainy black and white. Like a baby
in the amniotic sac, you turn and twitch
in the forever sleep of the body, pumping
your dreams through every part of me.

I shift my weight as the treadmill lifts
at one end, simulating a hill, the endless
upward climbing which is life. I turn back
to the screen, another simulation,
the whispered language of muscle and nerve,
overheard and turned into light.

I step faster as the earth moves faster
underneath me. I have to jog to keep up,
gripping both guardrails tight. Breath
rises in my throat. I watch you throb harder,
half hidden in the sound-shadow of a rib.

The white-coated nurse points out
a fluttering in the midst of your movement,
like a small bird flapping in a storm,
but steady, making headway, which
I am not, nearly running but getting
nowhere, panting hard and starting to sweat.

The nurse lifts her hand to a dial
where wires, pasted and taped
to my shaved chest, meet. 140.
“We’ve got to get you to 160,” she says,
and I groan, looking toward the screen again.

Now I’m urging you on. Beat faster, strain
to match my straining legs, keep pace
with this dash I have to make to stay standing.
When you finally reach your peak, I’m told
to hold for ten more seconds, counting
them down aloud. Three, two, one.

Then the treadmill abruptly slows
and I’m back to walking, then to standing
still as death, still watching as your image
pulses on the screen, more slowly now,
until it finally steadies at seventy five

(kz 1995)

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