UHTHOFF’S PHENOMENA, Tamara Kaye Sellman

UHTHOFF’S PHENOMENA
by Tamara Kaye Sellman

There is a dark star sun in my head. No blinding
rays to shoot through ears, eyes and nostrils, just
potential heat stored in Uhthoff’s famous furnace,

waiting for a cerebral match to trigger the pilot.
A hot shower can boil my internal sun into being.
To avoid stoking new wildfires, I only use the cold

setting on my blow dryer. If I am cooking or baking,
the windows must be wide open. Hot weather calls
for dwelling in shade, charging portable fans, packing

ice, spraying my skin with menthol, quaffing pitchers
of cold drinks in defiance of a broken thermostat.
Even on freezing winter days, hidden heat ignited

by my star sun forces my coat’s return to the closet
and a crank on the AC after the car’s windshield
has been scraped of ice. During blossoms of heat,

my skull sweats from the inside, a warm oily wash
across the dura, trickling through the woven threads
of the corpus callosum until it reaches muscle fibers,

busy arterials and lymph in the interstice. I can feel
my sun’s inflamed pulse as it floods like lava across
neural networks, causing nonsense slurs to fall

from my mouth, delaying the recall of daughters’
names, my own cell phone number, the memory of
how to spell the word The, evoking a roaring tinnitus

concert; even the thrum of MRI acoustics cannot
cancel out the noise. Meanwhile, I count into life
patterns of conscious breathing, reason through each

step needed to walk five feet, forget to count change
at Safeway. There are days when trust in strangers
is easier. To put this systemic fire out, I succumb to

naps, wait for my devil to burn itself to ash, while
the brain sends crews to survey damage, launch post-
traumatic restoration, scavenge rubble for survivors.

New work from Tamara Kaye Sellman related to living with multiple sclerosis is now available in the third edition of Something On Our Minds, an anthology of MS writing. She also has new work coming out in the journal, Halfway Down the Stairs, in 2016. Her work has been twice nominated for the Pushcart Prize.
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