Ward 10

Nothing melodramatic, it’s just when the sunlight
came in through the wired windows and laid itself
down on the green floor, it was nice, we liked it
there, then, playing our games. And like kids
anywhere, we were bad, always sneaking off
to buy chocolate in the lobby, over to Maternity
to make faces at babies, and one morning,
after a previous evening of hushed, excited planning
based on an overheard conversation,
we took the elevator all the way down to the lower basement
to wind our way through the deserted tunnels linking buildings,
nervous, fearless explorers among the bare floodlights
and echoes, looking for signs pointing
toward the animal labs. The night before
we’d lain in our beds unable to sleep with the image
of what we must have thought would be
some sort of petting zoo. We got giggly lost three times
before the stink of sheep’s pee found us,
and then we found them, bleating in their concrete
strawless pens, raw geometries shaved
in their sides. In the next room were cages
and cages of cats, most of them silent, some
with electrodes sewn in their heads.
We could hear monkeys nearby, but instead chose
to finally read the signs we’d laughed at minutes before:
we were unauthorized personnel, we weren’t
supposed to be there. We went back to the ward
to find the nurses laughing, scolding.
They thought we’d somehow found out
the hated technician who took blood
was coming that morning, and that we’d sneaked off
to buy Hershey bars in the gift sbop instead.
Always loving, they applauded our ingenuity:
“How did you know?” We hadn’t, but
played along anyway.
“Guess,” we told them.