Referred Pain

Issue 12 | Summer 2024 |



I refer my pain to my mother across our wide geographical divide
She unfolds the map of my body, thumbs its hilly terrains, smooths the prairies.

The anatomy of a red-ant sting is tight-lipped and radioactive.

Visceral afferents kiss the same neurons in the spinal cord that receive nociception from the skin.
That is to say, an ache deep inside ignites another surface.

My heart burns on my mother’s left shoulder
Her arthritis keeps me up all night.

In a way, we are infectious. Contagious and linked
Through the same synapse, a desperate sea
Of neurotransmitters to inhibit our collective ache.

There must be a principle about ongoing fetoplacental circulation
Post-partum. I am still a part of my mother.
Her analgesic system is my analgesic system—her endorphin, her enkephalin—and I am drunk on it.

Half-life measured in terms of agony and we are self-destructive
In a sense, that only means we are creatures wrought in heat, seeking consolation through pain.

When my mother instinctively calls me the moment the ant sinks its venom, I know—
The anatomy of a red-ant sting is bright and violent, red lotus blooming, tender with love.