Duplicate Worlds

The headache divides the patient
in half. Now the patient is in
two places at once.

The patient is in a surplus position.
Please, the patient would like
to be re-sewn. By whose hand,

whose needle? The patient isn’t picky.
The patient is a buoy whose prayer is a tide.
Can the tide also drown? The patient

expects to find out.
Advil is a symptom. It has a morphology,
a path of progression. It can worsen.

Is Advil also a patient?
The patient has not considered this.
What happens to the body

when it crowds itself out?
The patient is purple with wondering.
Like a bruise, shadow

of a shadow’s edge.
Disease is a condition
that afflicts only the living.

The patient would like to keep living.
How to be a symptom of living,
the patient would like to know.

Questions and Answers

What inspired or motivated you to write this poem?

I had a single, constant headache for a year and a half. Literature offers little comfort for anything, especially illness, but in Susan Sontag’s Illness as Metaphor I came across the phrase “The patient enters a duplicate world.” My world too felt duplicate. Did that mean I was a patient? Some questions are best stumbled through by way of a poem, which is what I did.

As a published writer, what are your tips or words of motivation for the aspiring poet?

Louise Glück says she became a better writer once she got a teaching job, which gave her a commitment in the world—having nothing to do but produce poems can make it rather hard to write. William Faulkner advises writers to take on the least strenuous job available in order to reserve as much capacity as possible for writing. I do not know which path is better—thus far I’ve failed at both—but it seems like a pretty good idea to learn about the conditions that make writing easier, or harder, for you, and then to conduct your life accordingly.

This poem “Duplicate Worlds” originally appeared in Returns Spec. issue of Canadian Literature 243 (2020): 39.

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