Blackbirdan online journal of literature and the artsSpring 2015  v14n1
an online journal of literature and the arts
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Six Explanations for Migraine

1 Demon
Flashing like lightning it is loosed
above and below. Weather, wind

enters through the eye, row
of trees along the road. Like one

sick of heart he staggers, like one
bereft of reason he is broken.

The dance stop-
gap, hypnotic. Slips in

past the interim, ducks
through a hole in the sight.

2 Hemicrania
If the affection be protracted, the patient
will die; if more light

and not deadly it becomes chronic, torpor
and weariness. Cold cloths,

supplications. Offerings
to the gods. Sharp and tormenting

Vapors. Pull the drapes, safe
from sight. Dim

the light, damp half
the mind, and wait.

3 Deity
The fiery life of divine essence
aflame beyond the beauty of the meadows:

I gleam in the waters and I burn
in the sun, moon, and stars.

The world hums
in outline, glow: what he’ll come

to call “the visuals”
radiating, eyebrow out.

From the very day of her birth, this woman
has lived as if caught in a net.

And I would call it down, pull out
my own shoddy wiring,

make trade of music
for this passed-on spell.

4 Psyche
Outlet for unacceptable impulses.
Harmful manifestations

of harmful processes.
Children don’t— The flip

of my grandmother’s skirt,
doctor’s door

slamming in her wake.
Children don’t: She was right,

knew the tripwire
from the cause. Still

here is a box,
a nest of wires.

Gloves, clippers. I strip
the sheath. White matter,

shutter. Know more, but still
they twist, they ghost.

Gift him the case
along with the tools.

5 Chemistry
Ibuprofen, caffeine.
Ergotamine tartrate.

Propoxyphene. Dextro-
propoxyphene. Propranolol,

butalbital. Sumatriptan
succinate, first shot

of what works, rush
of heat through a vein:

surface or depth,
I don’t care. Every finger

tingles, bruise blooms
on my thigh. Buys me

days and days. Calculate,
dizzy on the hall floor: more.

6 Galaxies
Grain the trigger, the gut
the gun. Feeding the baby

such a rattletrap trap:
strict dominion

of obscure turns, genes,
lines. Pull the thread

and a stitch
elsewhere twitches, eye

and an eye closing
behind it. Cat’s cradle

more skyfield
than map.

We tack spark to spark.
Stars thrum

in the boy’s eye. I turn
the cloth again. We wait.  end  


Much of the italicized text is drawn from historical descriptions of migraine. By section:
1 Demon: Mesopotamian clinical description with symptoms attributed to evil spirits.
2 Hemicrania: Hemicrania (ημικρανια), a term coined by the Greek physician Galen, translates to
“half of the head.” Quoted text, Aretaeus the Cappadocian, first or second century.
3 Deity: Hildegard von Bingen, twelfth century.
4 Psyche: Contemporary characterization of Freudian-era conception of migraine as effect of
psychological sublimation.
5 Chemistry: Common medications for migraines used during the 1970s, ’80s, and ’90s.

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