Before I go, I have something to say

Describe Your Headache

When the doctor . . . asked me if my pain felt like pins and needles, I said: “No, it’s more like rubbing against a hot driveway impregnated with broken glass – ” and [he] . . . said, “Oh, right, you’re the poet.” – Lucia Perillo, I’ve Heard the Vultures Singing

Describe your headache, the neurologist says.
It’s like a chainsaw’s gone off inside my head.
It’s like someone’s taking a pliers and twisting the muscles behind my eyes.
It’s like a bowl of Screaming Yellow Zonkers is popping hard behind my forehead.
It’s like a choir of off-key angels shrieking in my brainpan.
It’s like my brain’s manic hamster is spinning its wheel with sharpened toenails.
It’s like somebody left all the lights on, and they’re never coming home.
It’s like God has trained a magnifying glass on the insects in my skull, frying them blind.
It’s like I’m sitting on stage, the ventriloquist’s dummy, and someone else
is closing my eyes for me, over and over and over.
It’s like somebody left the lights on –
You already said that.
But it’s like somebody left the lights on, and the lights are the sun, and it’s February, the
light is careening off the crust of the dazzling snow and the blinds won’t shut.
It’s like that chainsaw’s completely silent, but cutting down my forest.
It’s like a fistful of wasps blasting their venom into my frontal cortex.
It’s like target practice by overactive children armed with cannons.
It’s like the Devil is running an internal ice pick from my hairline to my left eyebrow.
It’s like I’m in the circus and the knife thrower is aiming straight at my eyes
and not missing, never missing. His aim is perfect, his knives white hot.
It’s like the pain is a mad dog in a dream I can’t escape no matter how far I run.
It’s like all the medicine you hurl at it becomes the punch line of a bad joke.
It’s like –
I’m giving you new medicine.
It’s like nothing will work. It’s like –
I said –
It’s like the grinding of gears, a machine with no off switch.
It’s like acid rain’s been substituted for tears.
It’s like the axons and dendrites are shooting stars, electrified.
It’s like the songbirds all died and I can only hear crows.
I’m giving you –
It’s like I’ve sinned and this is my curse.
Come back in six weeks. Tell me how it works.


Published in Headache (journal of the American Headache Society) 4/2011

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