Before I go, I have something to say

Thirteen Ways of Looking at a Headache

Under my pallid forehead,
The only moving thing
Was the arc of the headache.


I was of two minds,
Like a head
In which there are two kinds of pain.


The headache drilled in the winter chill.
It was an insistent part of the diagnosis.


A woman and a headache
Are one.
A woman and her husband and a headache
Are one.


I do not know which to dread more,
The onset of the headache
Or the thudding of the aftermath,
The headache taking hold
Or just before.


Sunlight filled the high window
With staggering bolts.
The finger of the headache
Breached it, in and out.
The pain
Lit in the high beams
an inescapable wick.


O brilliant Joan Didion,
How have you survived your pain?
Do you know how your 1968 essay
Comforts the head
Of this poet who studies you?


I know formal poems
And lilting iambic pentameters
But I know, too,
That these headaches inform
Everything I compose.


When the headache eased for the night,
It left a mark
On a long calendar of days.


At the prick of a headache
Screaming with a swift note,
Even Superman
Would cry out in agony.


She traveled to Nebraska
In a heated car.
Once, a terror assailed her,
When she mistook
The horn of a semi
For a headache.


The doctor is busy.
The headache must be commencing.


It was February all spring and summer.
It was hurting
And it was going to hurt.
The headache roosted
Beneath her skull bone.


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

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