The Manhattan Review
The Manhattan Review
Established 1980

Archive > Vol. 1 no. 2


Christopher Bursk



The medicine cabinet is the last haunt
of a rainy day. We cherish
its secret hoard of eyedroppers, swabs, a hearing aid
fitting no one’s ear,
a blue eye-cup,
razor blades and iodine so red it is black
and stings, shames our cuts well.
We want the dark red privileges of a real pain.

When our chests ache,
we want them smothered in mint and camphor,
to be made mysterious by vapors.
We walk around the house, anointed
and aloof.

Sick in bed,
we cough till each swallow
is a public act of suffering.
Soon, oil of peppermint will be rubbed into us,
soon our pajamas
will be filled with coolness and convalescence,.
Then we will pretend to sleep

Until it is safe to sneak into the bathroom
and climb the sink
up to what is high and forbidden.
We will sort pills into each other’s palms
and crush them,
mix them in water and then rub the glass
across our lips.

To be that close to martyrdom
and its cloudy potions
and then to put it aside, 
to pour it down the drain.
To listen to our long-awaited deaths
drip through the pipes of the house.