In 1853, Charles Gabriel Pravaz and Alexander Wood developed the first syringe with a needle fine enough to pierce the skin. . . . The first recorded fatality from a hypodermic-syringe-induced overdose was Dr. Wood's wife. The tragedy arose because she was injecting morphine to excess.—Utopian Surgery website
Perhaps you've always known her obvious desire, her thirst for more, then more: the way she'd wish for more kissing after the warmth of sex had risen and gone; the way she'd beg dinner guests to stay long after the servant had cleaned the plates and the oil in the lamps had burned dry; the way she always asked, even in courtship, the how and the why of your every declaration, wringing the roots of thought as if the answers could fill what existed before the pain began— that presence that came unannounced, uninvited, rejected at first then welcomed as part of daily life. Even so, if heat is all she feels in the throbbing, each filament a knife of fire, a guarantee that cinders through the night; if she wakes to weep in the certainty of pain, its circling through each pathway in the cheeks, the eyes, the upper lip, so that only the sweep of a finely woven handkerchief can count as a kind of washing; if she can spend all day tending to its need as if it were the child you never had, then one day you will have to acknowledge that she might love the pain, and you won't be able to imagine when or how she learned to love anything to such excess. After [End Page 150] the tooth extractions have failed to relieve the shooting, after the melancholy has withered in her temples and refused to leave, after you have seen the nets of nerves unfurl in a revolt of heat, after you and she have exhausted your search for a word that encompasses the largeness of this woe, remember this: the garden of lilacs that she planted before the pain began. Go there and see the buds clustered, enclosed and clean, then their limbs, the lean from left to right, the dew-glistened drift to the mulch, the blossoms that do not unfold in time. Think syringa vulgaris. Think tube, pipe, fistula. Think of filling the barrel of the syringe, then plunging it deep in her skin to fill the canals of her nerves with a dark, sweet dream of forgetting, then imagine her loving that opposite of sense, the moment at which the hairs of your mustache branch into lilacs, common pinks and blues flourishing behind her closed eyelids. The poppy's milk has a voice that will sing her into sleeping, and a word for every thought as she rises beyond the small feather bed.
Joanne Diaz received her MFA from New York University, where she was a New York Times Foundation Fellow. Her poetry has appeared or is forthcoming in AGNI, American Poetry Review, Quarterly West and the Southern Review.