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What Pus Does To Us

As a child, I would obsessively pick 
the scabs on my knees and elbows. 
Each flake, each crusty nugget, peeled away 
to reveal the glistening pulp beneath. Squeezed 
until red turned to white and then red again. 
For weeks, until my entire knee 
was a sheer slab of glassy green. As it dried, 
I would peel it off in thin strips
like dragonfly wings, then look proudly
at the smooth purple skin beneath.

A few years ago, in a Georgia stable,
I helped my boss inspect a lemon-sized 
lump, under her horseís chin. 
As she pressed, expecting the firmness
of tumor, a strange squish made her fingers 
curl back just before it burst and a waterfall 
slapped and sloshed at hooves and feet. 
We jumped, stomachs turning, even she, 
a stout farm girl, raised in manure.
After the vet, she sent me back to the barn 
with a bleach-gun. Clear rivers broke milky white, 
then everything dampened to an even brown.

Last week, I found a monstrous abscess
in my cat Cucumberís neck. I chased her 
around the room, pus pouring like syrup
from the quarter-sized hole. I bombarded her 
with crumpled flowers of toilet paper, 
until it stopped and I could see in 
to arteries and esophagus. The stitches 
come out next week, and then all thatís left 
will be a puckered worm of a scar.

The other night I had a dream, 
where I wiggled a loose tooth with my tongue, 
and then plucked it from its bed and swallowed it 
like a kernel of popcorn. I went to the mirror 
and slowly pulled a long corkscrew
of black coral from where the tooth 
had been. Pus ballooned from the mouth
of the wound, into a pearly orb. I kept watching, 
my tongue flapping in creamy saliva.

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