By Cynthia Huntington b. 1951 Cynthia Huntington
Living from pill to pill, from bed to couch,
what doesn’t kill me only makes me dizzy.
Pain dissolves like chalk in water,
grit on the bottom of the glass.
Waiting takes forever,
throbs to the soles of my feet, Bella noche . . .
Hives as large as mice hump up under my skin
(“no more barbiturates for you, Cynthia!”)
—itch, stretch, I don’t fit my flesh—
sting, tingle, prick, the sorcerer’s threat.
There’s a knife stabbed through my left eye.
My right foot is made of elephant hide
and weighs in at roughly one cartload of potatoes.
Oxygen twenty-four hours; I’m swelled with steroids,
prednisone buzz in the brain; a motel room
with sixteen foreign workers sleeping in shifts,
playing reggae at three a.m.
Oh I love my white pill
that makes the black fist of pain unclench,
unspasming the nerves. I float,
released to darkness visible,
worlds dissolving.
And the yellow pill, bitter on my tongue,
that wakes me at 2 a.m.
writing out plans in Arabic
to organize an expedition to the Pole.
Drug of hubris searing my eyes,
my scrawl unreadable in daylight: foil my enemies.
Bitter taste of fugue,
my hand shakes: some foreign being in my brain giving orders.
You must You must You will.
Later, the pungent brown liquor
shoots the dark with threads of gold behind my eyes.
One flash as the mind goes out.
I must elude pain
                                                            float past clarity
pain in the brain
                                                            slammed down like a housefly.
It’s a big dodge.
Fly on a stovetop
                                                            sizzle and ash pop.
This is illusion,
                                                                        mental confusion
                                                            born in the synapse.
What can be undone
                                                            down to the last gasp.
It’s a hodgepodge.
If you kill pain
                                                you will become pain;
pain does not feel pain,
                                                            no nerves in the brain.
It’s a mind-fuck.
It’s just your bad luck.
                                                            A torpor sealed my brain
                                                            I felt no humans near
                                                            it seemed to me I could not feel
                                                            or touch or see or hear.
I don’t know who I am
                                                            without my medicine.
My skin will crawl with bugs
                                                            if I don’t get my drugs.
My brain’s a maelstrom,
                                                            singing a sad song.
Reality is so cruel.
Prednisone oh prednisone
so fast my mind racing, never tasting
Razzle-dazzle razz
Fist bitch piss stitch witch . . .
                                                            (only wait, the fit will pass.)
fast, gash, lash, splash—QUIT!
(I saw a werewolf in a white suit, walking
past the tables at the Full Moon Café.
Floppy bow tie, big furry hands.)
Percodan, Percocet, let you go, let you rest.
When the grip lets you go and you float like a note
on the flow, there’s your life, there’s no worry—
(yeah, it’s funky how the night moves.)
Barbiturate babykins, narcotic slut,
black oil of opiate. Chatty Cathy, dirty brat,
bed-wetter, nasty pants.
Painkiller, painkiller, I have a new friend,
better than my old friend,
plugging holes in the brain:
Sigmund Freud, Sigmund Freud, Sigmund Freud, Cocaine!
I want a soft landing; let me float.
Once the seizure lifted me and threw me down.
I did not like it. I did not like lying there
on the floor looking up
through air like green water.
And there is one so dark, a ghost,
it passes through the mesh of thought
without tearing a strand, whispering
destinies perceived true, pronouncing
sentences of death.
A cloud, the absence of a noun, no name,
roaring far away in the summer
dark like a train, or a giant fan, or a highway that never stops.
The mind explodes in the dark of space,
unnursed by atmospheres,
as air raid sirens scream for blood
and I am only nerves, strung on constellations,
meridians and vectors quivering. A red and yellow
capsule invades the chemistry of thought; cathode rays blast
from the television screen and signals pass deep into space
until the stars are singing “Rosalita.” You
will not remember this night.

Cynthia Huntington, “Meds” from Heavenly Bodies. Copyright © 2012 by Cynthia Huntington. Reprinted by permission of Southern Illinois University Press.

Source: Heavenly Bodies (Southern Illinois University Press, 2012)

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Poet Cynthia Huntington b. 1951

POET’S REGION U.S., New England

Subjects Living, Health & Illness, The Body, The Mind

Poetic Terms Free Verse


Cynthia Huntington was born in Meadville, Pennsylvania. She earned a BA at Michigan State University and an MA from the Bread Loaf School of English at Middlebury College.
Huntington’s free verse poems often examine the bare mind, restlessly turning the form of the individual against both built and natural environments, mapping both threat and respite against a shifting screen of personal memory. Introducing her early work in . . .

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SUBJECT Living, Health & Illness, The Body, The Mind

POET’S REGION U.S., New England

Poetic Terms Free Verse

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Originally appeared in Poetry magazine.

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