His face so terrible in the bus window’s reflection,
you cannot turn away.
You did not know when you sat down
he would look at you as though to see
what flesh you are made of. He does not speak;
that hideous maceration of eschar,
crocodile scales, lipless mouth, lashless eyes
that burn like coals into your face. Outside
the snowstorm howls as the bus coasts down Avenue Cotes Des Neiges.
At night you’re drenched by monstrous dreams
of icthyosis and thick-lipped crackling flesh. In the mirror
you stare at the fuzz on your twelve year old cheeks,
imagine the skin shrinking
into a shriveled mask across your face’s
In the morning on the bus he is there again,
and again you sit beside him.
For a week you do this impossible thing, until,
on the seventh day when the air is clear,
when he turns to you and grasps your hand,
and you see underneath,
something grotesquely beautiful. And he asks your name.
Arthur Ginsberg is a neurologist and poet based in Seattle. He was born and grew up in Montreal, Canada, and attended undergraduate and medical school at McGill University followed by internship and residencies in the United States. He has studied poetry at the University of Washington and at Squaw Valley Community of Writers with Galway Kinnell, Sharon Olds and Lucille Clifton. Recent work appears in the anthologies, Blood and Bone, and Primary Care, from University of Iowa Press, and Beyond Forgetting, from Kansas State University Press. He was awarded the William Stafford prize in 2003 in Washington State by the renowned poet, Madeline DeFrees. He received the Humanities Award from the American Academy of Neurology in 2009, and serves as a reviewer for the poetry section, Reflections, in the journal, Neurology that is distributed worldwide to thirty thousand neurologists. His chapbook, Faith is the Next Breath, was released by Puddinghouse Press in Ohio. His full length manuscript, The Anatomist, has been accepted for publication by David Roberts Books, and another chapbook, Crossing Over, will be published by Winterhawk Press. Ginsberg was awarded an MFA degree in creative writing in July 2010 from Pacific University in Forest Grove, Oregon where he studied with Dorianne Laux, Marvin Bell and David St. John.