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Physical Sense

by Beth Pauli
Acid streams in slow motion
from a bottle marked "hydrochloric"
to the flesh of your sunburned arm.
A feeling not like needles sticking in a human
pin cushion nor steel wool
fixed to the end of an electric sander scrapping
relentlessly in one specific locality
of precious pink and orange skin.
More like a painful shock that disallows
a scream--same as the moment just after
crashing face first off a bicycle and scraping
your two front teeth against the cement of a driveway.
Can you feel it eating at you like a parasite?
And what about the taste?
Your mouth is repulsed and overwhelmed
with a sulfuric coating.
Once-soothing saliva is now a refill of this poisonous
tidal wave--a mix of harsh liquids:
drain-o, white vinegar, rancid olive juice, age old champagne.
It gags. You hack and cough and spit.
Your eyes water and your face grimaces
illustrating horrid pain.
Can you taste it creeping up the back of your throat
like that bit of vomit that is coughed up
then swallowed again from time to time?
And what about the sound?
A crackling less friendly than a popular
cereal. More like cooking oil dripped
onto a scorching hot pan.
Seething and constant sibilant sound so high
your dog cowers in the corner.
Loud--uncomfortably loud.
You panic at the thought that a fire is raging
just behind you in the breakfast room.
No comfort is attained as your eyes grow
wide and you realize there are no flames in
your comfortable home, but rather your tender flesh
is being devoured by ravenous hydrochloric acid.
Such is my pain.

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Copyright © 1997 by Beth Pauli. All rights reserved.