Friday, July 16, 2010


After the third blood transfusion, your veins are so tired
it's no wonder they're hiding from the needles. Three tries to find
the fountain. Three more scars, three sorenesses. It's fear that
makes them hide, that shuts us down. Tired of needles everywhere.
No more. Arms and hands scarred with needle-marks, after three
months of pokes and prods, sometimes stealing vials of life-force
blood to be examined, to run through interminable tests, sometimes
filling you back up again after you've been leeched dry. If you can
bleed your life-force out of your ass for three quarters of a year
and still be cheerful about life, you're a better man than me.
More power to you. You win. Not that I've ever understood
why everything in life must be a contest, I'm more collaborative
by nature. I don't see the point. Maybe it's remnant fear, the fight
for survival that had a point once, back when we still hid in trees; but
even then we took reed torches deep into caves and drew with needle
rushes eternal paintings. Mammoth and hunter changing shape into
one another. Even then we knew there was more than fighting.
Outside the caves we left handprints on straight thing spires of rock
broken against the sky, knitting themselves to clouds near phallic pillars
and window arches, knowing somehow these were sacred magical places,
called hoodoos, called gorgons, called stone needles. It's not hard to
mythologize the phallic needle threading the fist's web between thumb
and forefinger, making a pleasure of the poke; not hard to point out
the silliness of sexual competition when procreation's not at stake.
But not now. I'm tired of needles, phallic or otherwise. I've got these
needle marks, these track marks, these scars along arms, elbows, hands.
All my tracks are medical, I don't even have the junkie's ecstasy to recall.
A similar collapse of veins, though, an exhausted cousin of overuse,
internal scarring, rolling away, all used up. They use the feet when there's
nothing left. Look at my arms. I don't want to see a single needle again
for a very long while; I'm tired of being tired of needles. At some point
you get tired of being stoic, of living up to people's expectations of strength.
Actually most folks expect you to be just that.
Your mortality scares them with their own.
Which is why some friends won't visit you in hospital, even when they offer.
It takes a needle of their own, a stiletto in the mind, before they'll face it.
Most run back towards their pet distractions, fighting all the more to
pretend it's all okay. Some rare few become quiet, and sit with you,
their presence enough. The eye of the needle takes you to the end
of your rope. Can't you see I'm dying here? Not all bruises show on
the skin. Although today yesterday's needle bite on the inside of the arm
shows the colors of a tornado-laden storm around the point of penetration,
where yesterday's pointed embrace put the blood back in.
Outside the robins and cardinals are dancing inside the shelter of
the pine needles. Carpets of resiny brown points litter the root mounds.
Sore arms, sore ass, sore head. Little bits of flooding that no one wants
to deal with. Why should they? Bleeding out slowly, from life-force to
floodwater, through the point of the eye, a sometime broken skipping record.
Quit needling yourself. Make a fist, tie off the torniquet above the rattler's bite.
Sure the inside of your elbow hurts, only a point more than myth, and only
until the next extraction or transfusion, the next set of needles. The sun's dagger
makes a temporary needle along the labyrinth, a shard of light.
Let the new blood fizz in you, the soda of provisional survival.

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Blogger Jim Murdoch said...

Excellent! I found the fact that you served this up as a single block of text difficult to read. Had it been most anyone else I would have given up on it. In your case I pasted the thing into Word and reformatted it into single sentences with a space in between. Try it. It makes the world of difference to the piece. But that aside this has some very good individual lines in it. You use ‘dagger’ twice which personally I would fix, the second use anyway since the first is a quote; I don’t like to use unusual words more than once in the same piece. I tried to pick out my favourite bits but there are too many. And since you’re using all things pointy, why not change ‘mammoth’ to ‘saber-tooth tiger’?

5:21 AM  
Blogger Art Durkee said...

Thanks for the sabertooth tiger. That's an interesting image. (I was watching the BBC series "Primeval" earlier this week on BBC America. That's probably why there was a mammoth in my brain.)

This is probably, admittedly, one of my own ideas that imprisons me, but breaking a poem like this into its sentences is the last thing I'd do. It's not that I've never done that; it just feels like this big block of text is supposed to be this way. Structured more like a long Rilke poem than a long Whitman poem, if that makes sense. I'll play with the idea, though. it's not a bad idea, I just find myself resisting it.

Honestly, ease of readability is not always something I think should be done. Sometimes you want the reader to work a little harder than they have to when reading the newspaper. Again, I readily admit this could be an idea that traps me, but I have sound reasons for it, and I'd need serious convincing to change my mind.

"The sun's dagger" is a direct reference to an archaeological site in Southwest USA. But maybe "stiletto" would work in the first instance. Actually, I think I'll change that right away, I like it.

Thanks for the suggestions, and I'm glad you liked the piece as a whole overall.

9:44 AM  

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