Poetry | September 01, 2007

Featuring the poems:



In 1853, Charles Gabriel Pravaz and Alexander Wood developed the first syringe with a needle fine enough to pierce the skin….The first recorded fatality from a hypodermic-syringe induced overdose was Dr. Wood’s wife. The tragedy arose because she was injecting morphine to excess.

-Utopian Surgery website


Perhaps you’ve always known her obvious desire,

her thirst for more, then more: the way she’d wish

for more kissing after the warmth of sex

had risen and gone; the way she’d beg

dinner guests to stay long after the servant

had cleaned the plates and the oil in the lamps

had burned dry; the way she always asked,

even in courtship, the how and the why

of your every declaration, wringing

the roots of thought as if the answers could

fill what existed before the pain began-

that presence that came unannounced, uninvited,

rejected at first then welcomed as part

of daily life.

Even so, if heat is all she feels

in the throbbing, each filament a knife

of fire, a guarantee that cinders through

the night; if she wakes to weep

in the certainty of pain, its circling

through each pathway in the cheeks,

the eyes, the upper lip, so that only

the sweep of a finely woven handkerchief

can count as a kind of washing; if she

can spend all day tending to its need as if

it were the child you never had; then one day

you will have to acknowledge that she might

love the pain, and you won’t be able to

imagine when or how she learned to love

anything to such excess. After

the tooth extractions have failed to relieve

the shooting; after the melancholy

has withered in her temples and refused

to leave; after you have seen the nets of nerves

unfurl in a revolt of heat; after you

and she have exhausted your search for a word

that encompasses the largeness of this woe;

remember this: the garden of lilacs

that she planted before the pain began.

Go there and see the buds clustered,

enclosed and clean, then their limbs, the lean

from left to right, the dew-glistened drift

to the mulch, the blossoms that do not unfold

in time. Think syringa vulgaris. Think

tube, pipe, fistula. Think of filling

the barrel of the syringe, then plunging it

deep in her skin to fill the canals

of her nerves with a dark, sweet dream

of forgetting, then imagine her loving

that opposite of sense, the moment

at which the hairs of your moustache

branch into lilacs, common pinks

and blues flourishing behind her closed eyelids.

The poppy’s milk has a voice

that will sing her into sleeping, and a word

for every thought as she rises

beyond the small feather bed.

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