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I Grade at the Doctor's Office

"There is no window to reassure me that I am in the world of the living."

Published onApr 14, 2024
I Grade at the Doctor's Office

Photo by Karolina Grabowska:

It is December in Alabama
and everyone has the flu
or strep throat or a sinus infection.
My own throat is raw with swallowing
words that are not mine.
I have been waiting in this room for an hour.
There is nothing here but a blank wall,
a metal chair, the exam table, and a red sharps container.
There is no window to reassure me
that I am in the world of the living.
I unload the exam papers from my tote.
I grade them in my lap.  My neck aches from looking down
so long.  I stretch.  I cough. 
I move the essays onto the white paper liner.
The exam table is too soft and not conducive to writing.
I wonder if the nurse will glower at me
and then sanitize the space where the papers have been.
I don’t remember how to spell the words I mean.
My brain is pulsing and my running nose tastes like metal.
The red pen scratches and then runs dry
so I toss it into the sharps container.
When the young-faced doctor arrives 45 minutes later,
I really can’t remember if I am in his office
or if he is in mine.

Joyce Kelley is a professor of English at Auburn University at Montgomery where she teaches courses in British and American literature.  

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