The Cure

(an old poem, from July 2008)

The treatment is pioneering, and never
more in demand than now
as in daily dozens the sore-afflicted
into reception, thousand-yard-
staring and gritting their teeth.

In stage one --- diagnosis --- the patient,
extensively instrumented,
is prompted to home in on his stress-trigger
which blooms across the screen
as it is spoken.
Graphs are extrapolated, correlations mapped
by costly hardware in the east
wing, codenamed
BRAINIAC --- appropriately, as it too
is a cluster of very many small
functions running massively
in parallel. This takes
time; the patient is offered
a glass of water, which he
invariably slops.

Stage two is treatment. For this
the patient is strapped down, and a warm
moist pad laid across the temples.
Much of what happens next takes place
outside the field of vision.
There is
an intense buzzing, and migraine-
like aura; ideation follows,
a fugue of daily life with obscene
interjections, evidently-
imaginable horrors
peeling from the wallpaper.
This passes; the buzzing persists
with tiny modulations. Nurses loom.
The last
half-hour or so is frankly boring.

The apparatus, referred to in acronym
exclusively, weakens
the connections between trauma
and the life sustaining it.
Nothing of what happened is forgotten;
only that it mattered -
that it had
to be accounted for, and could not be.
It dissolves, say its inventors,
moral problems
like those of pain and evil, which are not
in their opinion
worth half the trouble people take with them.
"Pain's just a signal; likewise moral pain,
a crude reflex of early conditioning
usually received too late to be of value.
What's eating these guys is emotional
neuralgia, a maddening
itch. Why not just make it go away?"

The project leader gestures through the window.
Outside young soldiers smile at their young children,
hold hands with girlfriends, jape
boyishly with the buddies they came in with.
"Why not ask them", he says, "if they _feel_


324 Words

2019-03-19 12:06:00