Sunday, October 24, 2010

Wrist Splints

Considering how common illness is, how tremendous the spiritual change that it brings, how astonishing when the lights of health go down, the undiscovered countries that are then disclosed, what wastes and deserts of the soul a slight attack of influenza brings to view, what precipices and lawns sprinkled with bright flowers a little rise of temperature reveals, what ancient and obdurate oaks are uprooted in us by the act of sickness, how we go down into the pit of death and feel the waters of annihilation close above our heads and wake thinking to find ourselves in the presence of the angels and the harpers; when we have a tooth out and come to the surface in the dentist's armchair and confuse his ‘rinse the mouth—rinse the mouth’ with the greeting of the Deity, stooping from the floor of Heaven to welcome us—when we think of this as we are so frequently forced to think of it, it becomes strange indeed that illness has not taken its place with love and battle and jealousy among the prime themes of literature. Novels, one would have thought, would have been devoted to influenza, epic poems to typhoid: odes to pneumonia; lyrics to toothache.

-Virginia Woolf, On Being Ill

Wrist Splints

ink sting, I flick my pen
nib singed strokes
that flare in icy glyphs
wake frozen phrases
tingling paragraphs
that burn the frigid page
and consume
my frost-bitten wrist

stiff brittle pen
a crumble of words
collapsed nerves
a bundle of ash
I plunge my hand
wrist deep in the wreckage
the eroded sand
that blasts against my skin

broken reservoir
a wash of black silt
bashes letters against
the ragged bed
of ravaged nerves
outcroppings of words
scrape the pen’s flood
of broiling ink

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