We pay the cable from the reel in staggers,
jerk the squiggly line between the bushes,
wake the minor aches, the none too vicious
graters in the knee that love to grab us.
Nothing lightweight in the gear for this one:
the Black and Decker like a struggling toddler;
the squeaky derricks of our legs manoeuvred
round the pain to give the tools a platform.
Though it’s money saved; and while the gripe’s curtailed
we crouch to proud, redundant, bent old nails
which squeal against the grinder, scattering in the nettles
tiny marigolds of blistered metal
until the shanks resign, the flat heads flying.
But how to rise, from those smoking stumps of iron?
She asks if it’s raining outside while she takes my blood pressure. I ask if I should take my shoes off before I stand on the scales. Sharp scratch, she says before she slides in the needle. Four vials of blood, all with sticky labels. I take the foil plate into the cubicle, slip on the purple latex gloves. My name is printed on the side of the plastic tube. The body makes the slow transition to data.
On a scale of 1 to 10, how painful are your joints? I try to measure my pain. She presses on my knee and I gurgle, spit out my tongue. My body is unmarked, conceals the grinding of bones. No sign of swelling here, she says. Writes it down. Ghost-bodied, I float somewhere on an interface, alongside the sick. Sleeping whales suspended in the blue. We sing the numbers of our suffering.
Worst days pain ricochets like shooting stars with pinball crushes. Oh the love! Releases fiery goo when ramming rib, tooth, bone. Skull reels alone; body razed by frequent flyer flares, flags pushed here there, declaring consternation zones. Each smart begets another, emulates, and brass bands march in new-laid grooves, playing their loudest, most discordant tunes. Strangely breasts score synchronicity, pressed hard against the faces of two grinning clocks (hands colliding, clouding time). Neither words nor image until pacified.
Book SUPINELY SUBLIMELY
you sit in my throat like a stone in shoe
eyes dry as bone. bones hurt.
these days that feel different but all so same.
little belly wrenches all the time as though to be freed from something
tonsils i should rip them from my neck. daft neck
neck forever stiff
but why should neck feel at ease when i remain so needlessly static
lose my reasons every day
and think of new
ask yourself what time it is. what day
become like a teddy bear.
apples hurt my mouth but i still eat them.
how life is unfair.
why must i scratch my skin?
not fair on you
to have everything
daffodils. i used to kick their heads off. weak.
it follows me round everywhere.
what’s the point in being alive when you’re dead
how can you sleep when you’re wet
The year I grew tomatoes
I had no understanding
that my body was failing,
how the plants needed
more earth than I could give them,
out in the yard
on a concrete bed,
hunkered in pots
the size of my skull. I
fed them too early, I
forgot to pierce
the container holes
and June drowned them.
You can try too hard
to care for something,
and I watched through
the dusty window
as the summer shifted,
as my body took
a spade to itself, dug
and re-dug, broke
roots until the soil was raw.
Good days unfurl
in bad years
like yellow flowers, sometimes
the fruit does set. But
the tomatoes I picked
were swollen, their faces
multiplied, the seeds like grit,
stems bending from the sticks
that were meant to hold them up.
D is for Dysesthesia
It’s also for dictionary. I’m very fond of mine. I was given it as a gift in 1993. Emblazoned on the front are the following statements:
• The foremost dictionary of current English: now thoroughly revised and expanded
• 120,000 entries and 190,000 definitions
• Over 20,000 entries new to this edition
I looked up the word dysesthesia. It’s not there. Neither is its alternate spelling: dysaesthesia.
D is for Difficult
It’s difficult to describe dysesthesia. However, the clue is in the name. I’ve learned it’s from the Greek ‘dys’, for bad, and ‘aisthesis’, for sensation. So, bad sensation. In practice, for me, this means my fingers might feel as though they’re being ground in a vice or my thighs like they’ve been splashed with acid. Or, sometimes, it’s the reverse.
USA (although I’m from Scotland originally)
Helplessness. It’s worse for me you know. You are only suffering but you do that every day. But every day I wake up and with the reddened sky I know that I can never help you. Hopelessness. It’s worse for me. You can imagine a cure or some relief though you know – you know – that that will never come. All I want is for your pain to go away for ever. And you know please know that’s not the same as not wanting you here forever. Look into my eyes, please look into my eyes and please, please don’t show me pity.
Waking up at 2am
Neck locked again
Tilt forward, searing pain
Then snap, try to get back to sleep
A morning spent studying
Sat at a laptop, the pain spreads
To my shoulders, I stretch
Moving head and shoulders, crackle
Late evening and writing is done
I think I might be too
I move and my whole body seems to pop
This can’t be right, I’m only thirty-eight
The difference between lowercase-p, pain, and uppercase-P, Pain, is huge.
Bigger than just a shift-key should make it.
The difference between “Yeah, let’s go on a hike today!” and “I can’t walk today.”
The difference between pain that ends, and Pain that just backs off for a while.
The difference between the morning pills and the afternoon pills and the evening pills and the night pills and the pills and the pills and the injections and the appointments and the Pain.
The differences between the screaming in your head and the screaming locked in the gilded cage in your throat, and the knowledge that it is a bird that will never die, it will just remain in you, like a bird throwing itself against a window pane.Yes, pain and Pain are so completely different, I can’t believe they’re even spelled that same way.