Welcome to my evening. I would love to simply kiss my husband goodnight and doze off. TURN OVER, I have taken my evening medication, all six of them. TURN OVER. My husband starts his evening purrs, just his rhythmic tiger sounds use to aid me to slumber. TURN OVER. No more can I find that useful vessel called sleep. TURN OVER My glass is no longer half full, there is no glass at all. TURN OVER. The TV is on very low but to me it’s screaming, TURN OVER. Its now wintertime and I have only a cotton sheet on me and heat is emitting from all my pores, TURN OVER. TV off and say my prayers please Lord flick this switch that screams my pain, let my strength in you regain. TURN OVER. It must be 3am now and still no sleep, maybe in the next hour…
This is shocking.
I am not an object and I am not broken but
the pain tells me differently.
This is chronic.
Why am I not adjusted yet?
It comes and goes, it’s all my consciousness
all I want is to lie down.
And when I come into work I lie about my days off.
Why do I look tired? Maybe,
that’s just how I look. Maybe,
they think I am just not very ‘together’…
This invisible pain cannot be talked about because that will only make work relations worse-
because they never know how to interact with me after, but
my anxiety aches like the bits between my legs.
I am not used to this.
I am managing well and privately proud, but sometimes
I wish they all knew.
I guess all superheroes probably feel like this sometimes.
I bet there’s a lot of us.
I’ve slept through Christmas. I shiver and pull the covers over me; sweat, and throw the covers off. My head bobs with nausea as I hobble to the bathroom to pee. The cats stay away, though at some point I hear them sliding across the living room floor, chasing that knitted ball with the bell. They sound far away. I sink into scalding bathwater—steam rising around me, my skin red—but it doesn’t feel anywhere near hot enough. I eat a deviled egg. Hear the glass of seltzer fizzing on my nightstand as I turn onto my right hip to relieve my left. Awake time for the day: 45 minutes. Sleep time: 20 hours. In-between these two: three hours of semi-comatose wondering, wondering if I’ll ever get back a bit of the life I once had.
*from “Sick Notes: The Story Inside the Illness: Memoir Meets Case Study”
Link to Master’s Thesis on ProQuest
Our minds latch to narrative,
it’s how we learn, remember, interpret.
I went to hospital to have a baby,
I should’ve returned more, not less.
Subtracted: my ability to rise, walk, move;
In my pelvis, broken bone.
What is the premise?
What is the character’s motivation?
What is the hook?
That feeling: ochre, electric, waist down.
The hook is me on the edge of my bed, listening for my baby.
My doctor: you will probably heal
what if I don’t
things that were part of me: walking, laughing, being in ocean.
My editor draws lines through this section.
[The pacing is slow, nothing happens]
Days are triangles between the bed, the couch, the bathroom.
Pain tethers me; a dog on a rope.
I’m on the bed trying to stand, the collar pulls my neck
to breathe or growl
I watch from the other side of the room how I’m changed.
From our window, the clouds seemed static, frozen. Orange-and-green taxicabs drove through the slush six floors down. Tilly whimpered, buzzed for the nurse, asked for Dilaudid, whispered “good morning.” Swaddled in her sheets, she breathed hard. Phenolic air. She asked me how I was feeling. We lolled in our beds, our mothers asleep in their wooden chairs, wrapped in winter coats, their heads dangling crooked.
Tilly and I began our daily walk—we could only ever circle the floor twice. We linked arms, dragged IV poles with our free hands. The hospital hallway was long, off-white, off-world, a nearly invisible trail of half-existence. Fluorescent light faked endless daytime. Supposedly, there is also no night in heaven. With every step, that sorry tube stabbed me deeper in the gut like a helpless thief. Blood drained downward into a bag wrapped around my knee. My insides, bared to all who passed by.
My grandma had 7300 sleepless nights
Until a Shanghai doctor said
‘You have restless legs’
The 1st good night’s sleep
In the 7301 nights.
It hurts too much to move,
to unlock, unhinge my joints,
put pressure on my tender limbs.
I will wait for my Carer:
my lover, my friend,
who will lift me from my bed,
My arms encircle his neck
as I breathe in the salty sunshine
of his skin, pressing my lips against
the cool ripple of his shoulder blade.
He carries me to a bathroom
of sunken marble and satin cushions,
a garland of candles guides our way,
I am Ophelia light: baptised, reborn.
His devotion will wash
the wounds of night away,
unclench the claws which trap
I will bathe in his tenderness:
my twisted hands and swollen knees
brave and beautiful
in his eyes.
All will be well
when he arrives.
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.