Roberto F. Santiago, A Conversion Theory

A trash compactor in a lab-coat sits across
from  us  in  a  small  beige  room.   He pulls off his glasses.
And  speaks  softly. Too softly. He takes no breath. Nor  pause.
Nor does he look either of us of in the eye. Boyfriend grabs my
shoulder and

Tautness. A quicksand feeling, like when you
lose your balance. Like vertigo knit- purling itself over and
through each  rib. creating a cozy coal mine inside each lung.
Blacker than the   breaths  they  take   in. This blackness
pools into the spongy pockets, of each lung; overflowing my
windpipe with kerosene, smoke and sob.

Each choke is thick as chicken fat collected  for
several  days  on  the  stovetop  in a measuring cup. This same
thickness throbs behind his eyes, leaving his head too heavy to
hold itself  up, so he rests his head in my lap.

H i s  j o i n t s  a c h e ,  h e   t e l l s   m e as   we
l  e a v e   t he   s m a l l   b e i g  e  room.  I make him strange
promises to comfort him.   I  say  I  will  bathe  him  in  salts,
plum-milk  a n d l a v e n d e r ,  f o u r   t i m e s   a   d a y . H i s
s k i n  w i l l  g r o w  i r i d e s c e n t   for  want  of   the  sun.
He  will  become   an anthology of musculature breaking free of
tendon and bone.

My stomach, and its knotted valleys, will  no
longer  enjoy  food.  I  will   barely keep anything  down  when  I
manage  to  eat. I will feel the shifting of blood in my veins,   like
rivers in a drought, or tenses in a workshop, whenever I hear pills
slide out of a bottle with his name on the label.

The soft skin around my eyes will break at the
edges.   Salt-wounds   will   foam   red at the site of tears. I will
wake at all hours of  the night just to watch the flashing dots on
the cable box. The murmur between my lungs will itch fever-hot
and burn  too  much  to  speak  to him.