POETRY: Small Talk in a Garden, by O. B. Hardison, Jr.

I will admit freely that it hurt.
In fact, it hurt like hell
Although I didn’t notice it at the time.

Like a damn fool I fell asleep
(If I have any fault, it’s being trusting)
And along comes the famous Doctor
Penknife in hand
And starts sawing away at my rib cage.
Some day they’ll catch up to him.
Lift his license.
Sue him for every cent he’s got.

Anyway, I woke up and there she was,
My first experience of society.
Going out where I go in,
Going in where I go out.
There was a reason for that, as I should have realized.

I suppose I was weak from loss of blood
Or still silly from the anesthetic
Or disoriented by shock.
Whatever it was, she got to me where I live.
Remember, we hadn’t grown up together,
Gotten used to each other, to the differences, as you might say.

I suppose, too, I made all sorts of silly statements.
Probably a few promises that only a fool would keep
(Not that I realized it then—
Then everything looked rosy—
But it certainly did occur to me later
That I should have kept my mouth shut).

I wasn’t after much
And, frankly, she didn’t have all that much to offer.
I’d watched the animals go at it.
I knew the name for it even before I’d gotten through naming them.
When in Rome, I say, do as the Romans.

If she were honest (which she is not) she’d confess
She liked it just as much as I did.
She only discovered later there was a hook in it.
The good Doctor again. This time he did it without a penknife.
Worked it so we betrayed ourselves,
Betrayed ourselves willingly, lovingly, enjoyed it even,
Jumped singing over the cliff.

So there we were rolling around in the grass
And might be there still, for all I know,
If she hadn’t gotten hungry from all that exercise,
Gone foraging all over the blooming garden,
Brought back that fruit,
Held out on me until I agreed.
Hell, at that point I would have agreed to anything.

It was then I began noticing my side was hurting.
Ached when I got up in the morning,
And, believe me, ached when I got home at night after work.

Home, that’s a laugh.
Home to the usual insipid boiled cabbage,
Jello with fake whipped cream
Laced with innumerable cancer-producing chemicals.
Home to that deadly chit-chat about the boys
(Mostly Abel, a fairy if I ever saw one).

She’s gone to fat now.
About as desirable as a water buffalo.
What with that and the pain in my side
I can hardly get it up any more.
None of that is as bad, however, as my uneasy feeling
That life may still hold one or two more surprises.

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