If I try to burn out the illness, where do I stop?

Today I am thinking about burning my medical records. It is a form of exorcism that my doctor and I talked about once. When I mentioned my desire to erase the computer medical records and thereby all evidence of my illness, he told me, there were some cultures that believed you could destroy disease by destroying the records.

The timing of this desperate and deliberate new remedy seems crucial.

I visualize myself, folded by my fireplace, laying the thick wads of xerox paper over the burning logs: not one, but both copies! They are such thick piles, that the papers will only smoke as they slowly turn to black and then whiten to ash. Fiery red roses will curl the corners now and then and give off the perfume of a smoky paper mill.

Dissipating into smoke rings, I will see the vials of blood, reflecting the shapes of so many strangers' faces, my anguish and tears, the embarrassments and cursedness of tissue swabs, scrapings, pokings, proddings.
Searing heat waves will absorb the collected microscopic bits of me, once sent all over Massachusetts and Connecticut. The record, the trail, the evidence, ten years will go up the chimney.

The disposal of these ashes seems crucial to the efficacy of the remedy.

I will take them to the sea where the tides are the highest in the world. I will walk out across the mudflats at the lowest tide, sprinkling them in the red squishy floor of the sea. Each burnt bit will be sucked up and become food for the microorganisms that make the mud breath, pump, ooze and alive.


Should I also burn the pile of journals in which I have so meticulously followed each of my aches and sobs, questions, fears, every tear and every laugh?
Is that the way to make the cure complete?

How far back must I burn my own words, my own record, my own written trail?
How deep do I cauterize?
Must I think like a surgeon, taking good tissue as I cut out the bad spot?
Is there a division between health and illness in the words?
Where did illness begin?

Now that I have imagined this cure,
I am not sure I can destroy the records and remain intact.
Where do the evil spirits being exorcised end and the real spirit begin?
Leave the bullet in.

- Holly W. Graves, 2002

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