Pain Bias

“[A] Swedish study, published in 2014, found women waited longer than men to see a doctor in a hospital emergency department. This bias is amplified when it comes to reproductive health.”

                                                                        -Lydia Smith, “Is Women’s Pain Taken Seriously?”

How is your pain?
                                    When you answer, beware the god
trick-eye. Don’t say cresting. Don’t say eleven.

Build a papier-mache of your uterus
            and play arsonist or slasher
and scissor it to shreds.

When they say, Don’t cry,
                        plant a field of cattails
            waving for water in a homemade diorama of the Sahara.

When they say, Hysterical,
            do not bury your voice.
                        Say each world dissolves into the next
through the sticky amber-slur 
            of the maple syrup they serve on Styrofoam pancakes.
Wax lyrical in your pajamas
                        about seventeenth century Dutch vanitas paintings
and all they got right:
                                    the skull and burning incense,
                                                             the tumbling wine glass.                   

When they won’t believe your symptoms
                        and slap on the wrong diagnosis again,
scatter seeds in the whorls of their ears.

Ask them if they can hear the whirring of first growth.


Sarah Giragosian is the author of the poetry collection Queer Fish, a winner of the American Poetry Journal Book Prize (Dream Horse Press, 2017) and The Death Spiral (Black Lawrence Press, 2020). The craft anthology, Marbles on the Floor: How to Assemble a Book of Poems, which is co-edited by Sarah and Virginia Konchan, is forthcoming from The University of Akron Press. Sarah’s writing has appeared or is forthcoming in such journals as Pleiades, Orion, Ecotone, Tin House, and Prairie Schooner, among others. She teaches at the University at Albany-SUNY.


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