It’s the growling pain with which I argue.
You’re too old, they tell me.
That’s a young man’s affliction.
You’re out of date.

So pick something better, worser.
We’ll look it up.
Our textbooks have all the answers,
something with a prognosis we can statistic.

For this I came to Paris, radio-isotopic ultra-sound analyses,
the inexhaustibility of pourparlers?
And how in the world can you explain it to them:
an explosion is about to happen?

Downstairs they were hopping
to a jazz band. Upstairs it was as though
they were getting set with the lilies.
Back in the hotel room my wife is waiting.

Maybe we should bargain.
But lacking the language I am inarticulate.
They offer me a blood test, a CAT scan.
And I say, I’ll take it. I’ll take it.

Everyone smiles.
It’s Compliance really does it.
They look at me with benignity,
How gods everywhere maintain their sovereignty.

On the phone she says where are you?
We have tickets to the opera.
Hell fires and damnation!
Instead of the Bastille, an operation.

So here I am again. Twelve hours,
and the serpent has stopped squirming.
Even in Paris
the hospital food is lousy.