I unbuckled the Atrocity Belt of the Balkans
but my discomfort grew worse.
I ripped the boot of Italy from my foot
but the infection spread to my calf.

Though I pass the kidney stones of England,
though I endure high colonics to cleanse myself
of France, what I fear most is losing Russia
to a surgeon’s saw in the Crimea.

I’d steal codeine from dental cripples
to outflank the phantom pain of the empire
before it reaches the sciatic nerve of India.
Willing to try anything for relief, I sniff glue

and coriander for traces of Heaven
but it doesn't work and always there is China
to tremble over, an affliction of the brain
I'm years from accepting rationally. Good Earth,

I can't sleep. Numb me with love and opium.

Scott Coffel
SCOTT COFFEL's poems have appeared in Salmagundi, Paris Review, Ploughshares, Prairie Schooner, Antioch Review, MARGIE, and The American Scholar, with work forthcoming in Seneca Review and Barrow Street. He teaches technical communications at The University of Iowa.