Andrew McDonnell's 'Anatomy of a Headache'

Anatomy of a Headache

I’ve tried everything else;
the blister packs, the fizzing orange juice,
the pressure points between the thumbs,
now I will ask poetry to help:

    Please come and papercut
        my face apart
and have a look about.

         *    *    *

The poem as an endoscope:
    let words fill the asyndeton
of passageways linking nose to eye to ear
    let the page show
what should not be there,
    that which wants to escape.

         *    *    *
We can see rooms within rooms
    strip-lit and a-buzz
        with someone laughing
            for a thousand years
and if those years were sped up
    and crammed into one day;
       played back at full volume
           through headphones
              to the centre
                of the head,
then, would we be getting close?    
             Would we be tapping on the window?

         *    *    *


Headaches can take on human form –
    the light bleeding across the face
of someone on the edge of a family photo;
    the half-form of an old lady
in the back seat
         of a Ford;
a man poking out of the corn;
       a ghost baby in the scan;
the extra in our midst
       in census figures,
heavy breathing
       on the phone.
        
         *    *    *

You can pull a duvet from the throat,
    start with the corners and pull.
Whereas a headache
    is a bubble in a spirit gauge.
             (if you break it,
              it’s as if it was never
              there at all.)

         *    *    *

I’ve lost track of the days
        under a smog of heavy felt.
        “Roll invisible bandages around the head
        dispensed from a cold can of coke”

(I follow the instructions through the undergrowth)

    “whilst slowly removing the endoscope.”

         *    *    *

        The headache is becoming shy,
slipping back to its own shadows,
rustling as it moves, like someone opening tin foil
                         during a film.

         *    *    *

                  It’s Tuesday.




*Andrew McDonnell (b.1977) is a poet who is (creatively) interested in gaps and elisions. He lives in Norwich.

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