Patient Presented with Jaw Pain

J.V. Davis
Featured image: untitled © Charles Park 2019


Our language is an old rented cabin
and this conversation is the party
where we toast to our imminent eviction
condemned, unfit for inhabitants
we forfeit our security deposit
to test these weathered beams with passionless stomps
and allocate what’s left of our depleting resources
to buttressing what could once bear our load

“no—literally literally,” my emphasis
met with gently tilted nods
a direct route to their own limited experiences
Do we call it understanding if they ring one true note
in an otherwise dissonant chord?

and in the vernacular, we’re all exhausted, sure—
but I mean it more in the sense that
and-I am-damn-near-running-on-fumes exhausted—
you know: exhausted—metaphorically
or maybe literally
I can’t tell anymore

the resource guides on the waiting room table advise me
—not me, per se, but some generic reader
who is best improved through this categorical triage—
to bolster existing connections
to make room for proverbially held hands
(over wringing them, as is our wont)
to avoid caffeine after 5PM
to practice mindfulness
(which always ends with a scattered and invasive presentation
of my mind’s deepest recesses
with no right of reply)
to work on Effective Sleep Strategies
(which had literally never occurred to me
as if it’s a choice to wake myself screaming
or to stop clenching my jaw with pneumatic force
as though I’m protecting the world’s biggest secret
from climbing up my throat and slipping past my lips.)

I keep a note in my wallet behind my license that reads
I knew someday this would happen to me
—not to haunt the paramedics, but to serve
as a posthumous rejoinder to my then-past self
an attempt to prove that some part of me was right
to lie awake dripping with sweat and worry—
proof that the anxiety was not for nothing.