Blood Pressure

Gilbert, Sandra

Primary Category: Literature / Poetry

Genre: Poem

Annotated by:
Coulehan, Jack
  • Date of entry: Feb-12-2001


The scene is a medical office where "a white sleeved woman wraps a rubber / sleeve around your arm, steps back, listens, / whistles." Wow! The pressure must be amazingly high. The author imagines the blood pressure's power--"a tide of electrons," a "lightning snake, a "black rain." The patient sits on the cold table. How vibrant his interior chaos is compared to his quiet external appearance! He says the ordinary things--he'll lose weight, he won't complain--but behind his eyes is a flash of turbulence. [30 lines]


In this short poem, Sandra Gilbert begins with a simple clinical act, but the "reading" in this case is not a set of numbers. Rather, the "reading" explodes into metaphors (tides, lightning, serpent, acid) that evoke the extreme stress and disorder within. Though the disorder is real, the patient rejects it and avoids personal responsibility--"you've always hated that awful / crackling in your veins."

Primary Source

Blood Pressure


W. W. Norton

Place Published

New York