Therese Gleason: “Self-Portrait with Migraine”


“I seem to myself, as in a dream,
An accidental guest in this dreadful body.”
–Anna Akhmatova

Lizard brain shakes awake before dawn,
stumbling for pills and ice, too late—wildfire
spreads, engulfs my head. I pace, repose
unbearable. Hot and cold sweat blooming,
guttural urgency. On my knees, I retch
so hard I pee myself, expelling salt,
bile, snot. Teeth clattering, spittle dangles
from my chin. Cranial crescendo: pain
peaks, recedes. Euphoric, I’m scoured, wrung,
almost holy with relief, a vessel—
what angel, message, lesson? But the trickster
body balks. I slump, the brutal throb builds.
A tinny voice in my ear—a crone, patting
my back, croons let it out, let it go.

Therese Gleason is author of Libation (2006), selected by Kwame Dawes as co-winner of the South Carolina Poetry Initiative Chapbook Competition. Her second chapbook, Matrilineal, is forthcoming from Finishing Line Press (2021). Her work has recently appeared or is forthcoming in Worcester Review, America, New Ohio Review, San Pedro River Review, Literary Mama, Psaltery & Lyre, Halfway Down the Stairs, Painted Bride Quarterly, SWWIM, and Mass Poetry’s “Hard Work of Hope/Poem of the Moment” Series. A literacy teacher and MFA candidate at Pacific University, she lives with her husband and three children in Worcester, MA.

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