Thirteen Ways of Looking at Pain
by Sallie Young

[with apologies to Wallace Stevens]

Among two thousand body parts,
The only moving thing
Is the beginning twinges of pain.

I was of three types of pain:
Aching, throbbing, sharp ---
Each with its own domain.

The pain whirled in a cloudy haze.
It was a major part of the hallucination.

My body and my soul
Are one.
My body and my soul and my pain
Are one.

I do not know which to prefer,
The wonder of Demarol
Or the effectiveness of Ibuprofen,
The pain in its own torment,
Or just after its surcease.

Icicles filled my veins
With barbaric terror.
The shadow of pain
Passed over, warming,
replacing freezing fear
with the cold comfort
of familiar torment.

O homeless men of the street,
Why do you indulge in wondrous drugs?
Do you not see how pain
Keeps you in touch
with the world around you?

I feel heartbeats
And lifeblood pulsing through me;
But I feel, too,
That pain is involved
In what I feel.

When the pain receded to its edges,
it marked the surface
Of a new plane of existence.

At the peak of exquisite pain
Squeezing internal organs,
Even the Marquis de Sade
Would cry out in dismay.

She saw the spectre of death
As it glided past.
Once, a fear pricked her,
In that she mistook
Its icy grippage
For impending pain.

My lifeblood is flowing.
The pain must be sparking.

The pain lay like a blanket.
It was throbbing
And it was going to throb.
It kept its beat
to the blackbird's caws.

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