The passer by denies my existence
with the confidence of their gait,
the steadiness of their gaze.
I peel back layers of skin
to show the shining mess, but
each time I’m swallowed by earth –
which in case you’ve forgotten
is cold, full of dead, sharp things.
It’s like fucking an iron maiden –
which, in case the information passed you by,
is a fictionalised torture device.
Make of that what you will.
– by Matt Alton
I woke up a wilted rose
My petals were crushed
a thousand tempests
My thorns turned inwards
striking my stem
Worms crawled all over me
my roots were intact
– by Angelina Bong
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…
It came to visit last week. No warning at Three am. One turn in my bed and here it is. Stealing my long breaths. Grasping the hand rail, I try to turn on my side. The red-hot cattle prod steals my spine. The pain splinters through my nerves screaming. One, two, three jabs in seconds, breathe I try to tell my nerves, muscles and sinews to rest. To no avail. I need a wee, no hope here. Hold and breathe. Stuck like a fly in a web. Its close by and ready to pounce if I try to breathe too long, if I try to twitch a muscle it will attack. I feel glued in on this bed, like a weight is pinning me down. It stayed for five long days before freeing me from its snare. Trapped nerves you are despair.
Punch views images from the lead-lined room
of hunched, misshaped bones.
Punch dances round the room –
head on a pole,
chest iron-maiden bound
with extra spikes,
hips a claggy crucible,
Mismatched red socks sneak
past frozen feet,
up past stiffened ankles.
Punch plays St Sebastian.
Punch is put to the rack —
stretched, heaved, bent, twisted.
“You manage quite well, considering,” puffs the osteopath.
Locked inside the Lord of Misrule’s body
I don’t know whether to be pleased – or not.
There is a snuffing out
when the synapses stop firing.
The ex-wives fade to black.
His hawks blink.
The Co-op, Jesus, trains and snow glimmer.
Planets spin off the axons.
Our kisses are ashes
blown to the wind.
He lies alone, like a great house
with all it’s furniture moved out;
windows smeared with grease,
electrics, plumbing in such disarray,
builders would suck their teeth,
shrug, turn away.
Flick a switch, see the neurons crackle.
Smell the burning.
Too young to understand,
Too scared to stay
[The image features a form with chaotic hair spanning the entirety of the piece, lines and dots show the chaos of the mind]
I am your pain.
Like Puck; quicksilver, impish, mischief-making.
You’re easily fooled, you make my nonsense real, you feel what is not true.
I stab and prickle, or transform into
A metal straitjacket, squeezing your foot, your leg.
Around each toe, elastic bands pulled tight.
You call me neuropathy; I say there’s no such thing,
Your foot, your leg, your left side, are my playthings.
When you sit quiet or sleep, I perch on your bed,
Waiting for you to move, when I will strike
Half-numb, like an injection in the gum where you can’t smile or chew,
Half feather-sensitive, you jump awake
When the duvet’s pulled so gently by a sleeping partner; he is unaware
That you lie, struggling to relax, to breathe it out, make it go away…
But I don’t leave. I will never leave.
I control. I rule you. I am king.
She stands uncertainly inside the cubicle, exposed to light from a dozen UV tubes.
Machinery hums softly, the seconds tick away.
A narrow slit connects her to the outside world.
Friends have seen her skin, inflamed and bleeding, her swollen eyelids. She hasn’t mentioned synapse pain, the 2am, 3am, 4am explosions waking her, holding back the edge of sleep, just out of reach.
She hears the hum die down; the door swings open.
Gentle hands steady her, lift the visor, remove her goggles.
Back on terra firma, the treatment room, she dresses slowly.
The techie’s voice reminds her to shower cool, to wear soft clothes, to moisturise.
‘Let me know if you are sore, just call.’
She wonders what she’s done to deserve such kindness or is this simply how the world should be?
And even though her treatment’s hardly started something breaks inside. She dreads its ending.
The skin I wear
The skin I wear is a covering
for my bones and flesh
and I’m glad it holds it in
but wonder sometimes
why and sigh
about the pain I’m in.
It’s not as if I’ve fallen
or didn’t watch where I was going,
I was plodding on quite well I thought
and tried to do what I’d been taught –
I enjoyed it all in a way.
Can I use a vacuum cleaner?
Why do you ask? I used to
work full time and be the breadwinner
and I can’t help wondering whether
you would have asked that of a man.
I can somehow think you know
I’m still here in a way,
I think so, anyway.