Little Cake

 16th-century Prosthetics (1564) PDR HAND reszd

Oh for a special order of operatives
who could manage the routes of pain, tricking
it perhaps into circumnavigating
the center in you where you are holding out
with only a rag and a butter knife with which
to defend yourself. But pain travels its own
tricky path, arrives but never really leaves,
from time to time relents to let you see
its absence only signals its return
with fresh armies and replenished supplies
to fortify its occupation, to pull up
the bridge over its moat, meanwhile
that twittering outside about who feels pain,
how pain feels, how they feel about having pain–
as if it’s something one has when anyone
who knows can tell you that pain goes inside you
and locks the door, makes you its little cake,
burns up your life to clear a way to
the cupped edge of its inside world.

image: http://publicdomainreview.org

Ward

eisberg 3 mod ward 2

He is thinking: preponderance, his mind has been running over its hills and ridges, it has ceased to be a word, has become a thing, something that could sit on a chair, something formidable you could ride around in, something you could never exactly wait for that was always waiting for you, something hidden in a forest, going on and on in its hiddenness, later forgotten by the thief responsible for concealing it, his cohorts eager for the spoils, slapping him around a bit as they went from tree to tree, poking, digging around for the iron chest with the silver in it, the treasure absconded with at such great cost now lost. Explosions, campfires.

There is a steadiness about it, this preponderance, though it conjures visions of future scarcities and enigmas, and much amazement–after all, what clumsy human hands could have made such a solid thing, such arrested pomp with relatives in distant crenellations, something so thoroughly riveting. Preponderance, a better word than pain for pain, for when pain comes, it seems always to have reserved your body in advance, when it claims you, you’ve never been anywhere but where you are, it has you pinned, and it’s not budging. It’s cousin terror, on the other hand, never sits still, is always in a state of hurry and alarm, running about the ward from bed to bed turning men to stone and then releasing them as something less than men to contemplate in fragmentary and befuddled ways their fate: spared, again, but skewered, and still helpless.

What was this place but an empire of mysteries in which terror had transformed a semblance of ordinary life into a minefield and one’s body seemed to have become a laboratory for idle but nonetheless unspeakable experiments. Whatever face suddenly appeared to unplug or plug, to empty, to fill, to puncture, to poke belonged to some species of tyrant overseer, uncouth, unaccustomed to the role and thus more eager to see errors than things well done. Nothing was done that was not an affront, clamped down so minutely it made everything impossible, made life such a sullied thing that it ceased to have substance except by virtue of the residue of so much handling.

That damn clock, ticking, ticking, out of sight so they couldn’t watch it, as if the hell of their kind of time wasn’t real, out of sight, but he could feel it ticking in his skin, it seemed to iterate the same minute endlessly, the minute before the other million minutes of rampant pain until the next bit of temporary oblivion if it ever arrived, that ticking the sound of time staying in one place, here there, there here. Time in a tied up bag. Blind. Endless. Ruthless. Heartless. His heart ticking, ticking, a big cruel joke, some joker periodically strolling through to tell him close to his face your heart is doing just fine, as if therefore everything was just fine. That voice so pleased with the body part of its provenance was the same voice that had explained to him as if to a stubborn, demanding child that, basically, they were prolonging his suffering because they were afraid that alleviating it would kill him. If he could speak he would shout not fine not fine not fine.

Maybe that heart that was doing just fine belonged to some other self, some self now out there living it up in the land of the painfree, a free self, an outside self that would never wait in doctors’ offices, suddenly part of a foreign society of the ill whose minds were riveted by pain, whose bodies had become houses or mansions or ornate cocoons for something like another species, the site of something emergent, the thing that’s just wrong about the body’s colonization, that the body becomes merely a host for things that proliferate, though he supposed there was something to be said for bacteria and viruses—they were relentless, but their onslaught often threw one out sooner rather than later, unlike some of their slower cancer cousins that ate away for years with twinges and quirks dismissed as imaginings until the elusive thing that caused them was so ensconced and tentacled it couldn’t be killed without killing its host, it was not without reason that people feared hospitals not as places where they would get well but as places where they would die, places where they would be killed.

But there were other waiting rooms to wait and wait in before you arrived at the place where he was now, apparently, permanently emplaced, the waiting rooms of the dying, the ones where waiting was the end of things, the ones occupied by people, including you, who weren’t even people anymore, occupied by the things that were killing them, for that was what was being looked after, not the stunned and listless patients, but the things that already occupied them or the things that were about to occupy them, things trying to get deeper in, things all over them like one of those slippery sweaters that is always all over the place as if one is wearing some animal that is trying to hang on or fussily trying to find a comfortable sleeping position—was that what all over him like a cheap suit meant, ill-fitting, like wearing something made for someone else, things made for everyone that were thus for no one, like the gown that now chewed into him no matter which way he was turned, or like that even more intimate material he wanted to escape from, that was what his body was now: bad clothing, encasement, a trap he couldn’t get out of.

This place, this inescapable place where the mind had no place to go and so went everywhere, everywhere but away from this thing it was tethered to, this pain, this preponderance that had moved in to his body and stuffed his soul away in a corner where no one would ever look for it, and no one, not even a god, would ever find it.

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altered image; original image: http://content.lib.washington.edu/cdm4/item_viewer.php?CISOROOT=/fishimages&CISOPTR=53725&CISOBOX=1&REC=15