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Alison Strub

Five Poems

Address to Gregor Mendel

I counted these replications
as if they could be divided
by the mind
instead of multiplied by the body.

I counted these replications
on the crown jewel of the gene,
the unstable section
of chromosome four.

I believed in the whimsy
of the double helix.
I filled the bowl with water
and then with blood.



Address to Asclepius
The first doctor

I have sacrificed the cock
and watched the hemlock grow,
stayed the hand that would prune
its branches,
stayed the hand that would tend it.

The first critical period:
immediately before receiving
a formal diagnosis.
The second critical period:
in Stage 2 of the disease,
when independence diminishes.

I covered the limbs with a tarp,
and told others it was firewood.



Address to Dr. John Clarke, 1959

I offered a clean bed
and an IV filled with fluid.
A pillow,
a supple hand.
but they asked for trepanation,
gestured to the rusty tool.
This surgery is all about trauma,
to cure the madness
there is no way to leave the mind.
I spoke clearly
about the Diamond Bone Cutting System®,
how it’s smooth to soft tissues and cuts only bone,
but they could only feel safe
with the old trephine’s sharp teeth.



Address to Hipocrates

On the Sacred Disease,
there are now over forty types.

Could I save you more easily
if by demon than by heredity.

I walked outside and the sun
was no longer the sun,
and the earth was no longer earth,
and the water was no longer the water
and the air was no longer air
and the fire was no longer fire.

Could I be more
secure in prayers
and a basin of holy water
than in treatment.

The spring was blood,
the summer was yellow
the autumn was black.

I am trying to achieve balance,
even when the gait shifts
and the hands and arms move,
as if in a dance.



Before Phrygian Powder and Petit’s Eye Salve

I said: there will be no way for you to see past this fog.
You said: there is nothing on the other side of the eyelid for me;
the breaking of the dust around the cornea,
the shaping of lashes,
the painting with color,
was done without purpose.

From touch, you say, you can identity a breach birth,
remove a single strand of hair from an infant’s mouth.

I said: seek my face.
You said: my pearlescent eyes will never be cleared of their nacre;
do not bring me the calendula flowers,
yellow precipitate, Spanish saffron, or camphor

 
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