It was sooty, and unmedical,
like the aftermath of coffin-fires,
like the heating of rusting wrought-iron
scalpels and forceps, to sterilize them,
until they disintegrate in the
white heat and steam.
There was no reaction
from the comatose: pain
is a phenomenon of cords
and electricity and flesh.
Echoic and uneven their breathing
in hermetic masks, amid that pitchless
fluttering music, though their ears
were gauzed in layers of leaden
foam, holding down the conscious
with black-stained gloves, watching mouths
and throats moving noiselessly.
When it was seen that the darkening (stain,
bubo, necrosis) and sounding (fluttering, grubskin,
peristaltic) was not cause but consequence,
the facility is abandoned, wrapped in wailing,
dust-blackened gauze piling
against locked doors.