No 166 - 2001
The Gods have become Diseases
‘The gods have become diseases. Zeus no longer rules Olympus, but rather the solar plexus and produces curious specimens for the doctor’s consulting-room or disorders the brains of politicians and journalists who unwittingly let loose psychic epidemics upon the world.’ Carl Gustav Jung.
Suddenly your heart is beating faster,
you draw in breath... sharply... look again.
Unable to move, unable to master
the simplest tasks. You struggle to regain
your sense of control, but it keeps slipping.
Everything now becomes different
as if an arrow were twisting
in your chest with a message, sent,
its orders dictated by the heart:
‘Everything in your life must change.’
Your once familiar routine now starts
to become completely new.
You might have fallen in love, except some
doctor tells you: ‘Take it easy ... Yes, you.’
Diabetes is the most alluring
femme fatale, sister of Artemis:
sweet as urine, bitter as the sugar
she throws in your blood: the cruelest mistress.
Through the Langerhan archipelago
her hounds, on loan from her fierce sibling,
devour everything in their way. There is
only delay, no stopping her killing.
To satisfy her hunger she bites through
pancreas, eyes, nerve endings in the feet.
She sighs in ecstasy : ‘Oh, that’s so sweet!’
Only Insulin’s love can distract her
as she drives forward in her conquest.
For a while, his needle halts her progress.
Once you believed in the existence
of a soul that can, and will, take flight,
once the body loses its life essence.
Now body holds sway. The gene has the right
to dictate every action, what you
really are. All mystery has gone - or
has it? In moments when you see
loved ones losing their sense of order
acting as if they lost their shame
caught in labyrinths of sicknesses that
you disguise under familiar names:
Parkinson’s, Altzheimer’s, Tourette’s, whatever...
The body runs on, an efficient machine:
what is lost is the soul, not the gene.
When at last the symptoms begin to lull
lost sensations begin to reappear.
Admittedly they are still pretty dull,
but at last your perception begins to clear
with an intensity that can surprise
senses dulled by fatigue and pain.
A world once glimpsed through watery eyes
reappears, comes alive again.
Insect footsteps along the ground -
that normally go unnoticed by
even the most acute of ears - are found
to have become incredibly loud,
while the eyes are rendered almost blind
when the sunlight emerges from behind clouds.
Imagine you have returned from your meal
in the hall of Olympus and are back
home in familiar streets and feel
ready to eat again. All you lack
on the dining room table are a few
simple ingredients, maybe some bread
or fruit, or salt - nothing special that you
cannot get locally. Quickly you head
to some shop where the things you need
are easily obtained. You walk out
feeling that the street is safe, freed
from troublesome gods playing games
with your life. Then you hear a familiar voice say:
‘My throw.’ And a dice rattling in your DNA.
Graham Mummery was born in Altrincham, Cheshire but has lived in Kent most of his life. He works for an investment bank in London at Canary Wharf. Poems and translations of his (from the German of Rilke and the French of René Char) have appeared in several magazines including Obsessed with Pipework, Psychopoetica and Equinox.
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