I’ve spent the past week thawing bags of frozen peas,
saving our microwave the burden.

Now I stand at a clinic counter holding an empty semen specimen cup.
The young female attendant points to a door.

A tiny room.
Bright halogen lights and a smell of fresh band aids.
Copies of Penthouse, Playboy and Hustler are fanned out upon a coffee table,
just like mom used to display Good Housekeeping and Catholic Digest.

A pleather chair covered in thin disposable hospital paper sits in the corner under a poster advertising flu shots.

My mind races.
Do I sit or stand?

I see a CD player.
Was I supposed to bring Barry White?
No one told me.

I think of that attendant,
and she knows why I’m in here.
As a teenager,
after a long bathroom visit,
you could say you were popping a zit or combing your hair,
but she knows!

The paper covered chair is uncomfortable and crinkles loudly,
and I remember Queen Victoria’s wedding night advice for her daughters.
“Just close your eyes and think of England.”

Well, I close my eyes but I can still smell band aids and I’m wishing I had that Barry White CD.
Yet I do my duty, knowing the queen would expect no less.

I emerge and the female attendant avoids eye contact,
and I wonder what she’ll say.
Normal customer service language would be mortifying.

I place the container on the counter.
Only a week ago, it would have been pulsing with lightning bolts of virility,
filled with my own Navy Frogmen prepared to sacrifice their young lives for their commander in chief.

Now, like the Dead Sea, absent sperm or scrolls,
I leave my sample and shuffle out,
while the attendant pretends to search for something in her purse.