May 2013 - Comments Off

Theory of Panacea

Sam Dolph '13

for B.

I feel like a whale, she told me,
referring to the tissues suspended from
her nostrils like fluffy tusks.

She meant a seal because only
narwhals have tusks: coiled cutlasses
of the brow used for who knows

what—to assert dominance or beauty,
(underwater peacocks circling their lovers
in songs of virility), to thrust them deeply below

the duvets of the sea, to stab predators in the gut,
to spearfish for dinner? To hang themselves
from the ocean floor in effortless headstands of

resignation? Doomed from the start: corpse-like
and colorless, just some ugly dolphins, there are no
unicorns of the sea here. The males have been seen with

their tusks crossed and rubbing one another, a dance for Poseidon
and Pelops before this kind of love was forbidden.
Her own tusks keep falling out as she reads in bed (female

narwhals have stunted tendrils too, backwards ponytails
of knots cocked to the clouds) face tilted downwards,
lips contracting and relaxing into one another as she soaks

up whatever she’s reading, simpering when she knows
I’m looking at her. I stick the tusks back into her
nostrils when she doesn’t and tell her the garlic

oil is good for her sinuses. Ptacek taught us
this trick a few months ago while telling us stories
about his road trip across the US: shortly after

the closeted and lonely old man, naked from the waist
down tried to seduce him with years of bad poetry,
someone told him to stick garlic up his nose when

he wouldn’t stop sneezing. Did you hear about the
woman who cured her cancer by eating ten cloves
a day? It works. No animal protein (not even

babička’s weekly duck), a shot of slivovice upon
waking, some holy basil in between meals, and sunlight.
I will cure her every ailment, I have every trick in the book,

classical music for the heartbeat will reverberate in and out
of her humid pores, her body my church without prayer.
I will lick every joint and pour vinegar through her veins,

plant citrus trees all over the room and make them grow
in winter. Years from now everyone will know
how I never let her die.

Published by: in Poetry, Volume 69, Volume 69: Issue 2

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