11. The Uses of Lumen

Lumen, the word for the PICC line port,

cavity or passage, originally, for a tubular organ–

the lumen of the intestine, for example–

but in his arm a double lumen, plastic, one purple, one red,

for injecting Taxotere and Vancomycin, and for drawing blood.

But also:

a unit of luminous flux equal to the amount of light

given out through a solid angle of 1 steradian

by a point source of 1 candela intensity radiating uniformly in all directions.

What started as blood in his bladder progressed to pain in his kidney,

caused by the pressure of a prostate cancer tumor in his gut,

a stent inserted to open the inflamed ureter, then chemotherapy that invited

MRSA and a fever of 104 and WHAM into the hospital with him

and thence to a SN(i)F, where he lies on a soft September evening,

two weeks into his new institutionalized life,

constipated and sea-bound as the coast of Nova Scotia

(“will you ever heave a sigh and a wish for me”),

when Caroline calls and her voice evokes the loneliness

of corridors slippering past tiny rooms and elderly slumping patients,

the inchoate chatter of the nurses and aides, a retching someone,

a dreaded luminosity more isolating than the dark,

his body a cavity, a lumen, vacant to the searing light.

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