Joan Colby 

6th Floor

Every time one goes in or out
they shut the door despite
your saying leave it open.

You hate feeling jailed.
The only view the heli-pad
where people sicker than you

are airlifted in or out.
It’s hygiene, I say, this door
question. Keeping germs contained.

On this floor, infectious patients
are quarantined, some with blue
or yellow placards on their doors.

Acceptable practice: aqua gloves,
hand sanitizers, an occasional mask.
You want to see who staggers

past gripping an IV pole
like a bishop with his crosier.
The girls in scrubs

chattering in Tagalog,
Swinging their lanyards
Like scapulars.

Hospitalists in white
lab coats. Specialists important
in suits and ties like businessmen.

The laundry carts, the carts of food
you order, then disdain, a liquid
diet of broth or tasteless jello.

Leave the door open is your refrain
against closure. The codes
that mystify the corridors.


* * * * * *

Joan Colby has published widely in journals such as Poetry, Atlanta Review, South Dakota Review, The Spoon River Poetry Review, New York Quarterly, the new renaissance, Grand Street, Epoch and Prairie Schooner. Awards include two Illinois Arts Council Literary Awards, Rhino Poetry Award, the new renaissance Award for Poetry, and an Illinois Arts Council Fellowship in Literature. She was a finalist in the GSU Poetry Contest (2007), Nimrod International Pablo Neruda Prize (2009, 2012), and received honorable mentions in the North American Review‘s James Hearst Poetry Contest (2008, 2010). She is the editor of Illinois Racing News,and lives on a small horse farm in Northern Illinois. She has published 11 books including The Lonely Hearts Killers, The Atrocity Book and her newest book from Future Cycle Press—Dead Horses. FutureCycle has just published her Selected Poems. A chapbook, Bittersweet, is forthcoming from Main Street Rag Press next winter.