Freight Train Coming, another migraine poem
by Christopher Clauss


Beautiful days

are meant for deep breaths,

for watching clouds

and commenting on how their shapes

roll into being,

now a turtle,

now an anvil,

the head of a dog,

now nothing recognizable.

The sky,

a shade of blue

it hasn’t been for weeks

and the sun glints

from the corner of an eye.

It’s nothing a squint

shouldn’t be able

to handle.

The trees are perfect

in that warm sun

and maybe a little fuzzy

around the edges,

like a dream sequence,

like someone is airbrushing all the parts

outside of the focal point.

Blurry is an intangible

that no effort can fix,

no rubbing of the eyes,

no amount of blinking will restore focus,

or clarity,

or the assurance that what’s there

is really not supposed to be blurred,

or is it blurred at all?

The periphery of the thought process,

those side thoughts

and facts held onto for a moment

phase out of tune,

and in,

and almost in,

and perhaps it isn’t the visual acuity

but the cognitive after all.

Perhaps there is a moment

of awareness,

of clarity

during which the pain

has not yet begun

and a proper decision

ought to be made

other than rubbing the eyes

other than blinking

or starting a sentence over.

Moments exist

as defined.

They do not linger

for anyone’s convenience.

These are transitive nouns,

electron clouds of always

not there anymore.

The moment passes

and somehow the dull ache of befuddlement

is seeping through the intrepid mass of skull.

Heavy enough

to stretch time into eternities,

it is all the constriction of a vice

without ever touching the cranium.

There is something there.

The searing pain

entry wound

to exit

is a fire-hot brand,

a piercing sword

that does not show in the mirror.

It moves and paths

like the real thing,

causes real shudders

a crippling debilitation

of facial muscles,

of nerve function.

There is a numbness,

a paralysis of lip

and teeth

and cheekbone.

The same mirror

that hides the sword

on which this eye socket,

this soft palate is impaled

now reveals a slack lip

a drooping eye

a humiliation of drool

of which nerves have courteously

not informed

the parietal lobe.

The sight of the reflection,

this stranger’s drooping face

under the din of confusion

the echo of pain

coming louder and more cacophonous

with each reverberation

is a startle response,

a self-check

a series of blinks

and a search for truth

to make clear sense of this inability

to sip from a cup,

this melting eye

looking back into one

that is experiencing

a different sensation of touch,

of nothingness.

There is no explaining

this cheek that looks all wrong,

that feels like less than empty,

like the arm

that can move just fine

but doesn’t feel like it’s even there.

The arm is a novelty.

The mirror’s reflection is identity,

brings in the question of truth.

Is that really my face?

Is this happening?

Should I be afraid now?

Am I going to die?

The doctor shines a light in the pupils

checks the pulse,

says to Smile like you normally smile

when nothing feels normal

or looks like it ought to.

The taste of aluminum

inundates tongue and throat

from a non-point source,

trades itself out

for a stale ginger,

then a taste not unlike the scent of patchouli.

The doctor attributes everything

to acute migraine,

to blood vessels pinching a nerve,

says to eat some food

with a lip that will not keep it in the mouth,

says to get some sleep

with a racing heart

and mind that still suspects

I will never wake up.

In time,

I am learning

to hear the winds blow,

to keep a finger on the tracks,

to feel the hum of the locomotive

long before it is upon me.

There is seldom, today,

the shock of surprise

when the freight train rumbles through

in the middle of a perfectly good conversation.

The foreknowledge

never stops the train in the distance

from barreling

right on through.

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