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Humidifier

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—After Robert Pinsky

Defier of closed space, such as the head, opener
Of the sealed passageways, so that
Sunlight entering the nose can once again

Exit the ear, vaporizer, mist machine, whose
Soft hiss sounds like another human being

But less erratic, more stable, or, if not like a human being,
Carried by one, by my mother to the sick chamber
Of my childhood — as Freud said,

Why are you always sick, Louise? his cigar
Confusing mist with smoke, interfering
With healing—Embodied

Summoner of these ghosts, white plastic tub with your elegant
Clear tub, the water sanitized by boiling,
Sterile, odorless,

In my mother’s absence
Run by me, the one machine

I understand: what
Would life be if we could not buy
Objects to care for us

And bear them home, away from the druggists’ pity,
If we could not carry in our own arms
Alms, alchemy, to the safety of our bedrooms,
If there were no more

Sounds in the night, continuous
Hush, hush of warm steam, not
Like human breath though regular, if there were nothing in the world

More hopeful than the self,
Soothing it, wishing it well.

Source: Poetry (Poetry)

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This poem originally appeared in the July 2005 issue of Poetry magazine

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Humidifier

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