Plum Pit Syndrome

(Sept 2021)


I was melancholic, a dark wet humour taking me in times of strife.
I’d read, I’d watch and listen, I moved slowly
but I would move. I would eat. I would lie still. I was hibernating
in the cold light of Saturn, buried in dirt, waiting for time
to bring me back to bloom.

Now, I’m manic. I flush, I heat, I sweat, I move. Food is ash
and curdles in my stomach, if it makes it there at all.
I’m mobile, present in my body but far too aware
of every ache and pull and itch, the fevers that appear and vanish.
I don’t have coping mechanisms for this. I’m furious
at the betrayal of my body and the red light of Mars
stabs behind my eyes, roots in my brain, projects images
of sickness and decay and loss.

Friends gifted me plums. Some were dark, soft,
and sweet, dusty-fleshed but pale green within.
Some were red like beets, the pits sharp and hidden
but easily cracking between my teeth.
The churn of my guts eased with these gifts.

I began to choke. Breath was blocked
by something intangible, like the crush of sleep paralysis.
The bones in my neck felt warped into space normally left for air.

This is plum pit syndrome. In the 200s CE, Zhang Zhongjing
wrote of this globus, a stagnation of qi from the liver
that was a manifestation of anxiety. "A woman
who feels as if a piece of broiled meat is stuck in her throat
should take Banxia Houpo Tang."

Nearly two thousand years later, I’m furious
that my human body deals with stress by gagging me.
I am choked by fear. I’m choked by frustration and stagnation.
A tented tension tugs at my collarbones.
It’s hard to breathe. It’s hard to drink. It’s hard to be still, to rest,
to relax. I must guard my voicebox, though my voice won’t pass the pit.