Ann Keiffer

Experiencing the Pain

Toward the end of this poem you will find a graphic passage describing
a real injury that landed me in the Emergency Room in March, 2010.

I knew a man–
a perhaps-
not-so-ordinary man–
who had necessary,
invasive surgery
on his face…
without anesthesia.
It was a test
he gave himself,
an experiment
in the power of
human consciousness.
What it required, he said,
was laser-focus on
as the surgical instruments
cut across, down, into, through
skin, nerves and flesh…
on each moment
of what was happening–
exactly as it was happening–
never getting ahead of
or behind the scalpel,
skin, flesh, pressure,
sever, split,
staying exactly
with it, on it, in it…
not one instant of
fear, pain, or panic
breaking through
from the mind.
conscious experiencing.
He said it was
infinitely difficult,
and he nearly
couldn’t sustain it.
But he did.

I am not that eager
to test my consciousness
on surgery without
benefit of anesthesia.
But from the
perhaps-not-so-ordinary man’s
test of conscious experiencing,
I fashioned a life-tool for myself,
a way of dealing
with terrors or traumas,
emotional or physical pain.
Faced with needle, knife,
or drill, the prick or pierce
or prelude to the pain…
I open up a passage
for the experience in myself,
and allow it in.
I go in my mind’s eye
to the exact location
of the experience in my body,
envision, sense, follow it,
staying conscious
of it every second
as it moves and changes
until it, then I, let go.

In the ER,
three fingers twisted,
ripped open, bleeding,
broken backwards
at the second joint.
Eyes, don’t go there.
Turn inward.
Let this in. Come in.
Laser-focus on
…the sound, vibration
of a screaming blade,
as it cuts off my rings
….the angles, oddness,
positions, sensations
of broken fingers as the
doctor examines them,
…the pierce, puncture,
and flow as a needle
injects a local anesthetic,
…the turning, tugging,
repositioning of bones
to set them,
…the piercing-in-out,
pulling-together of sutures
closing up torn flesh
…the prickly, padding,
pillowing of gauze
and bandage
swaddling my hand.

And then,
it is over.

I come out of my
inward awareness into
awareness of the room.
I open my eyes.
Beside me, my husband
says he nearly fainted
as he watched.
I am done, I realize,
but not undone.
I experienced it.

Ann Keiffer
July, 2015
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About Ann

I am interested in the strange beauty of brokenness, in transforming possibility in difficult times, in how we heal even when we can’t get better, in the alchemy of surrender, in the interplay of light and shadow, in the bounty of everyday wonders, in the gift of laughter…and writing about it, all and everything.

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