Chi

(first published in American Journal of Poetry)

my mother told me to get acupuncture for my ankle sprain,
I laughed and corrected her, acupuncture is Eastern superstition,
works by the transference of our attention, from one pain to another,
i.e. from your torn fibula to the invasion of dermis by a needle,
and not some mysterious Chi energy never observed by a microscope.

but today,
there are Western acupuncturists
with degrees from universities that actually have
campuses and credentials; and there are books,
I mean hard cover — drop on your foot, shatter you cuneiforms,
centuries of pages of resume-heavy papers — text
books from publications not run from a basement
but companies with market-researched logos
stamped on buildings who send out agents like baseball teams.

from all this, I can conclude,
my mother has somehow convinced the whole western world
to believe that acupuncture can relieve migraines,
seaweed soup helps you lactate ,
and bleeding out the black blood pooled in your thumb,
will soothe your upset stomach, in short,
that mothers know best,
old wive’s tales are old but are not tales,
and east knows things the west can’t know
with all his steeled instruments.

Or else
the whole scientific, medical, educational
industrial complex of knowledge,
is a sham, and that what is real
is the old Chinese acupuncturist,
off Brown & Main Street, his shaved head,
and his almond-blossom eyebrows
that bend like an ancient
tree with his smile, and the wall pinned,
penned diagram of the human body,
splayed, and all the energy points dotting that universe
like constellations, inscribed in them
a person’s health and fate, and his searching index finger,
snubbed like a nose, sniffing for my energy point,
and once he finds it, thrusts a needle
that sinks in without a single red tear drop,
and my mother,
clasping my hand,
believing it still in need of holding,
like I’m still her
five year old
Chi.

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