A Prescription for Chronic Pain

I’m sitting in the rigid, stirruped chair
of the earnest ENT (otolaryngologist to you),
listening to some gibberish about my tri-
geminal nerve, its errant sheathing, and how
the diagnosis of atypical facial pain
is difficult, if not impossible,
wondering what I’m doing here
as the pain in my face keeps pulsating
in its dull, uninteresting way,
when the young, attractive female intern
raises her lovely head and says
in her lilting iambic pentameter,
complete with its gentle amphibrach,
One thing you might consider Mr. Wallace . . .
and my pain begins to ebb and lift
in blessed anticipation, and then
the otolaryngologist shifts an eyebrow
just a hair, and rakes a jolt of electricity
across the wide synapse of air between them
and she stops, looks down, flickers, and goes
out, and my pain takes up residence again
and I’m thinking about analgesics and anti-
depressants, low-level anticonvulsants and
opioids, and how what it all comes down to,
when it finally all comes down, is this:
the flick of a synapse, a nerve, a twitch
of recognition on the neuropathic pathways,
a bit of iambic pentameter in the air.

—Ron Wallace, Madison, WI