“Expectancy” in LEVEE, a new collection from faculty member Paul Otremba, published posthumously in September by Four Way Books

He places a pillow across my lap,

then lets loose a joke about saving dignity.

He wants to check my scar, and the whole team

descends from their orbit to watch his cold hand

test a red line the length of my stomach

that closes where the stomach had been.

From their fingernail’s slice of cratered moon

they assemble the daily surgical theater

where I come and go, lifting and dropping my gown.

His fingers probe around the plate, reading auguries.

Then like a held breath retreating from stench,

the team deflates, the demonstration ended.

But today, there’s special providence:

the pathology drops like a winged thing

wounded. Like the one I’d found on the patio,

its feet still curled around some absent branch.

The sparrow had the look of a toppled-over

sleepwalker. My hand stuck in protective layers

of thin plastic grocery bags, I was afraid

that what I touched would spark, would wake and fly,

even though that’s what I should have wanted

for it. No readiness can cure that.