for just a moment,
in between solemn words to his parents
(his neutrophils haven’t come back up yet, mrs jones,
he’s still spiking fevers)
and the close examination of the young boy’s
gums, poking and prodding at his belly,
and shining blinding lights into his eyes –

the physician brings out a stuffed lion,
and, behind his mask, lets out a deep roar.
a small crescent smile bends upward on
the four-year-old face, still pale, still

and for just a moment,
he and the doctor are on a safari scouting
his favorite animal, the guide whispering shh
don’t scare him, the grassy tundra painted on the wall
springing to life, stuffed animals
animated into soulful beasts,
the iv pole is his walking stick,
the bed is the cruiser,
and as the pump beeps the lion scurries away, chasing with it
the zebras and antelopes and wildebeests

ah we’ll get em next time bud.
the doc slings his binoculars over his shoulder,
taps the iv tubing, winks at the kid, and follows the
animals out the door into sterility.