A Map of My Body

by Rick Campbell

The upper regions mapped, the X,
Sharpie on masking tape, in the center
of my throat. The machine
traverses a line, coordinates tied to this mark,
to other known points, clavicle
jaw bone, maybe an ear lobe.
How far, centimeters, is the X
from where my cancer
began, the scar on my neck. How far,
just for nostalgia, from the nose,
thirty years ago smashed by a brick,
a tangible violence. I’ve measured
too often, the girth of my waist,
my weight, this last May my wife’s
heartbeat, her breathing, as she lay
hooked to tubes and meters, whirling
and beeping. I measured her breath
by breath, diastole, systole, diastole,
systole. And even that highest of science
or art, that tick by tick connection
to the numbers of her blood, the difficulty
of breath, told me what matters
is immeasurable. Today
my mask fit tighter on my forehead,
my nose, and I feared something
had shifted. But my body—mapped now
like the plat that defines our home,
a point in concrete north of the drive way,
an iron pipe in the confluence of two creeks,
the angle between them—flat on this table
could be a job I worked years ago, painting
survey targets on the suburban streets
of Boca Raton. The laser burns my body,
maps what it is I am now, the chance
of my being someone else by summer,
the science of reclamation.

RICK CAMPBELL is a poet and essayist living on Alligator Point, Florida. He is the author of six poetry collections, including Gunshot, Peacock, Dog (Madville Publishing, 2019). His poems and essays have appeared in numerous journals, including The Georgia ReviewFourth RiverKestrel, and New Madrid. He teaches in the MFA program at Sierra Nevada College.