The Shape of a Pill
What is there if not this labor, the light labor of hands popping pills out of packages, checking names, prescription tags, double checking the correct dosage. Outside is only the dark and the near empty parking lot, the small labor of looking to make sure a sleeping man is breathing. So many shapes and colors of different pills that pass through my gloved hands. Nearly translucent gel-like amber ovals that glitter like jewels and stick to the pack, tiny white ovals that could put a man to sleep; brown pills, red pills, blue, ovals and circles so we may swallow them though some anti-anxiety drugs come in strange shapes Buspirone with side indents like tabs, I suspect so one could break in half if needed. There are even hexagons, for high blood pressure and narcolepsy, a pill to open one’s eyes. To close one’s eyes, to speed up the heart’s rate or slow it down, to level the blood pressure, all these different shapes for the body, for the organs, the blood, the brain. Numbered and lettered, made in giant factories. They pass through my hands. I put them in tiny cups. I mix some in yogurt, so they go down the throat and no one chokes. After I close my med cart and turn off the light, I imagine the pills glow with a light of their own, amber light, snowlight, locomativelight, electrocardigramlight, the light that travels through the veins, blueriverlight, autumnleaflight, because the med cart wants to fly, wants to visit the old villages, it knows nothing of profit, it flies through the narrow mountain pass, wants to roll toward the bed of the woman in pain on a thin mattress, the man coughing in a mine, the barefoot child wheezing, the one who cannot sit up straight, the one lisping, the one going blind, the palsied—backwards the med cart flies, carrying all the human labor that made these pills, the chemists with their calculations, the giant corporations who paid for them, how someone needed to imagine the need, which is another way to say they diagnosed, how a doctor somewhere thought up the first ailment, checked the lab work, wrote it down, all the pieces of paper, encyclopedic, calculations, compounds, formulas, and then one day the masked workers leaned over the assembly line. Thousands of hair-netted and gloved factory workers, suited executives flying first class. Because they invented a tiny pill. Placed on the tongue. Like the eucharist. For the body. For the blood. Dissolving down to the elements: magnesium, sodium, tree leaf, turmeric, oyster shell, what is prescribed in this life? What is taken and what is given? But where is the cure for loneliness? The MEd cart speaks, in a soft female voice, I have one. What is the pill for love shorn? I have one. What is the pill for grief? I have one. Is there a pill for hopelessness? I have one. Is there a pill for my father’s beatings? My mother’s slaps. Is there a pill for wanting to fly? A punk rock pill to replace my pacemaker. I have one. A pill to fill the cathedral hollow in my chest. I have one. A pill for exile? Evacuation? A pill to forget genocide. A bell canto pill to recall. A heart shaped pill for regret. A pill the shape of a trumpet’s bell? Or a tambourine, so I may shimmy and sway, though no one has ever asked me to dance. Do you have a pill to teach me how to finally spell? Words like peonies, or bourgeoise? An Episcopalian pill that smells like old money? Can you call me in that prescription? A pill so I may sing and open my diaphragm round as the Os in osteoporosis.