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.
Listen to the poem