Bloodletting is a specific science,
passed from mouth to mind to hand. Tools
of the trade: leeches, or razors? Some choose
the sharper edge, for the blood to make exit
into something holier. Like a pure white porcelain basin.
Like the white bandages spoken of, opposite the red
in every barber’s pole.
Like the air.
You have to know the precise exit points,
the pulse points,
the points of where to sink a single tooth in to bite. Open a
vein in the right hand for liver problem, a
vein in the left hand for the spleen. You must
weigh these things carefully; balance and precision
are key. Guide the razor carefully, and it will
follow you, sensing for the excess humors begging for escape
in the veins, underneath the skin.
Does this trade follow us through the DNA,
the double helixes written by God which tell
how to knit together hemispheres and heart ventricles,
how to construct computer minds and stripped open nerves,
or how to color an eye blue or a crown of curly hair
brown? The problem is, some practice
an inexact science: they know there is
black bile under the skin, reservoirs of it oozing up
into empty chest cavities and choking out the heart. But
the razors go everywhere: up the arm, across the wrist,
down the thigh. Nothing is exact with these cuts:
the melancholia never exits, only is forgotten
once razor’s edge touches skin, only blurred out from vision
once the beta endorphins flood your rivers
in a rush downstream.
And that is the problem. There are better ways
of exit: an open window, a door left
ajar. The mouth, the eyes, the pen
can all be opened for exit. The fresh air
rushes in, pushing the black bile out. Release.
Saturnine weights leave the doorstep, with only
some black droplets and torpid, laborious footsteps
sounding on the concrete as evidence.
I am not you. You are not me.
But I have worn saturnine weights around
my own neck long enough to know how they choke,
how they strangle. I know the Titan’s craft of
swallowing you up inside something liquid, inky, and cold
that freezes every last vestige of feeling out of you. And
from one melancholic to another, I can only ask of you one thing:
carefully consider the blade in your hands.
It is not a friend to your skin.
It does not distinguish between you and
hair, paper, the ragged skin of an old twig, or a block of cheese.
It will only leave you with unanswered questions,
long sleeves on a hot summer day,
and an El Jadida cistern filled up to its arches
in smothering black bile.
© 2011 Nicole Nicholson. All Rights Reserved
This poem, as you can guess, is about the practice of cutting. Or rather, it’s my voice as a sincere hope and plea to stop.
I started thinking about this after watching the video for Pink’s song, Fuckin’ Perfectand then I remember a poem by Joseph Harker from a while back about cutting. I wanted to write a poem about it. I don’t know if I’ve done the subject justice: I kept thinking about the ancient Greek idea of the four humors and how bloodletting was used to cure many ailments. But I do hope it reaches someone, and maybe causes someone to reconsider cutting.