Best New Zealand Poems 2002
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To a woman who fainted recently at a poetry reading

A blood pressure of ninety millimetres of mercury is normally required to adequately perfuse the central nervous system. If the head is lowered, however, the pressure needed to maintain consciousness is considerably lower. Of course if one has severed a major artery or torn it lengthwise like a weak seam in the lining of a jacket then poetry should not be blamed and, in fact, may become entirely appropriate.

It is wise to consider hypoglycaemia as a contributing factor. I have heard that a barley sugar placed per rectum in obtunded patients with a precipitously low serum glucose may at times mean the difference between them dying and never eating barley sugar again.

Simple dehydration, overheating or a sudden shock can also be associated with fainting. For this last reason poetry should not be left lying around especially if it is graphic in nature, with swear words in it like ‘bugger’ or ‘bastard’ or ‘shit’. Lines such as ‘She used to love me but now I am a crumb in the biscuit tin of life’ can induce vomiting. ‘She used to love me / My heart is the sound of oysters opening at low tide’ can also be counted on to take the breath away.

Micturation syncope is a syndrome in which men who increase their intra-abdominal pressure at the moment of urination can impair their venous return, cardiac output and subsequently faint, however this cause will usually be obvious from the history and immediate setting. Individuals suffering in this manner can sometimes be confused with those who have drunk too much then pissed themselves before collapsing.

Despite a strong link between alcohol and poetry this scenario seems unlikely to be the case in your situation and so it only remains for me to write you the following prescription – four black wheels swallowed whole like pills; one siren, the blade of a sharp knife; three sheets, as crisp as biting apples, two flashing lights striking matches in the wind – and in this small ambulance send you, like flowers, straight to hospital.

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