Case Study—Sir Alexander Crichton 1798
What takes the body first is want
of appetite, then nervousness, insomnia,
a little mouth trouble. Teeth loosening,
hinged at the prick of nerve and flesh.
She takes a tonic for the tremor stage—paralysis agitans,
she’s told, a familiar note in the hospital records.
At times she finds her small mouth
stunned and silent, come and gone again
to the murmuring broken noise
of the back of the night. Whispering speech.
A quivering almost entirely still.
Despite her delirium, he writes, she is able to demonstrate
the situation of the heavens on a map—
the hushed echolocation of her finger
along Virgo’s flowing tresses, then
nearer the muscular wing formed
from her shoulder, breaking away
at the thinnest hinge of desire.
Pouring from a china pitcher, tin chloride
the shade of water, she floods the plate glass
and inhales the sallow vapor of quicksilver.
And from the fricative heat of her limbs
when she moves, the room blazens into
one silver unfurling—all salts and essences.
What passes for brightness will ravish her.
Sand. Flint. Tale. Spar.
Inside these frames she burns another world,
where light itself might suddenly translate
the soul into air, sheath of glass into ocean,
her tremoring body into winged-thing
suspended above it—all green, like moving marble.