Second Surgery
—a poem by Ally Malinenko

I woke up.
They told me this wouldn’t happen
or if by some slim chance it did
that I wouldn’t remember anything afterwards.

But I woke up and I remember everything.
The paper cloth was over my head,
my arms tied down to the sides of the operating table
the way executioners are in movies.

I moved my head.
I wiggled my fingers.

This was not a dream, I realized
and the feeling that followed
was like someone’s cold rough hands
fumbling with my guts.

I tensed. I thrashed.
I moved my head.
I moaned. I think I moaned.

I waited for pain,
the sensation of a nipple
being sliced
and peeled back like the top of a tin can

but I felt nothing.

I heard my surgeon
tell the story she told my husband
and I earlier
about her family on vacation in Canada.

She is Polish and in the waiting room I liked the way she said Canada
each syllable like its own small island you have to jump to.

But now, I didn’t make the jump and I’m drowning.
I tried not to think about blood.

Okay, she said, finish the stitches and move her out.
And then they lifted me like a toy, off a factory line
and I said again,
I heard you.
I heard you.
I was awake
but she just stared down at me
and I wondered if under that mask
she was smiling.

Ally Malinenko is the author of the poetry collection The Wanting Bone (Six Gallery Press), as well as the children's novel Lizzy Speare and The Cursed Tomb (Antenna Books). Her novel This Is Sarah is forthcoming from Bookfish Books this summer. She currently lives in the part of Brooklyn voted to have the best halal truck.