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)
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.
It wouldn’t be fair to say the ache starts
every morning as I wake.
Or truthfully that I wake at all,
more I become conscious… of the pain.
The fire started small and young.
Fickle flickering up my spine.
Across my shoulders like a seasoned log,
spreading further, faster as I age.
It took hold.
It ravaged me, left me weak and wincing.
Scared to stretch my body,
as if it would elongate my pain.
The ache doesn’t care how I adjust.
Turn this hip, rest this hand, lift this leg.
To chase it out of one limb just moves it,
across the map of my body.
It doesn’t listen to the pills.
Signals sent to block it in my brain.
It weaves its way round them,
conniving and wheedling itself into my synapses.
Author website: www.kittyfrilling.co.uk
When he was dying, I swallowed a CoCodamol before bedtime as if it were hot chocolate. I craftily attributed my zen-like calm in the face of helping Dad as he pissed blood into a plastic pot at 3am – I don’t know what’s happening to me, he said, again and again – to my sensible study of The Tibetan Book of The Dead. It was a lie, but a lie that helped.
Author website: The Diary I Didn’t Write
M.E. destroys one life
and ruins more.
Fatigue replaces rage.
If pleasure is the absence of pain,
then pain comes first.
In the planter outside my front door,
a wren’s nest whorls down
to darkness. The nestlings chirr when I pass by,
or when the wind’s fingers brush too close,
as if the wind and I are mothers,
returning with meat, as if refreshed
sensation means relief from pain,
meaning pain comes last –
like a shadow, sleek and well-fed,
or a body’s imprint in the bed.
I grow to love you, dear familiar.
I lie on the couch, but you cannot see my velocity. I have a tangential vectoring sense that pain is coiled mitochondrial speed, that while I am prone I am riding the rails deep into the future and the past at once, as if pain exposes ruptures in the time/space continuum and pulls me into the openings, as if a body at rest in pain is a body in motion through time rather than space. There is a sense of pressure on my skin as the force of time’s ungluing. There is a sense of coiled mathematical work and a formula connecting time to pain through space as I leave my location on the timeline and descend into time’s scaffolding. I am quantum, visible in two places at once. The electrons vibrate with pain, which is the pressure of the universe, the music of the planets.
An afternoon spent, or was it an evening, or three, in a wheel clamp’s tender clasp. My dues for modernist mutation paid out in full: ribs, calves, hands, sections of skull, wrenching, arching, hardening. A homecoming of sorts, a holding; mattress won’t grumble, neither will I – if only we knew if we’re hot or cold, horsehair or hardware, flesh or fish or foil.