Julie Wade
The Generalist

At first, pain is only a hypothesis.
You whisper words in your sleep
you will not pronounce upon waking—

        ignominy, epidemiology

You think you have been mostly
really hungry. Mornings after sodium-
rich foods, your mouth sweats instead of thirsts—

        cravings, curses

You once made the mistake of believing
you were a specialist. “What makes you
so Goddamn special?” someone asked—

        delusions, grandeur

You did not have an answer for that question.

Now a few of these theories have been tested.
A feminist in your spare time, you call them
“theories of the flesh” and find fulfillment—

        bodies, burdens

You lace words together through the eyes
of your shoes, bind them close to your skin
like combat boots tall as your chin—

        courtship of risk
        hermeneutics of suffering

You realize all human beings look essentially
alike. Victims blame themselves, and perpetrators
claim power. The lines between them are oblique, at best—

        objection, abjection

Words also begin to sound the same.

A number of controversies exist concerning inoculation.
Someone swabs your tender flesh with cotton. A shot. Got it.
The critics want to be helpful but can’t stop drawing blood—

        platelets, plasma

You tell yourself not to worry about varicose veins.
No body is perfect. No body knows everything.
The grocery store activates your tear glands—

        salt, water

It saddens you to think you are no exception. Further,
you resent the lack of rules. You suffer no unique psychic damage.
Your pain is neither predictable nor exceptional—

        standard, deviation

You do not have a question for that answer.