It’s 2am and my body is on fire. Every cell is boiling. Sweat creeps from my pores. It only takes a moment to soak through my favourite t-shirt, then through the sheets and mattress covered in yellow imprints.
I can’t get any fucking sleep. This happens to me every night, up to ten times. Then 40 times a day, no matter the season.
I’m a comedian, but it’s near impossible to make people laugh when my body is transforming against my will. When I’m furious about an illness 50% of the population will never experience while the other 50% will understand it 20+ years after me. Isolated because no doctor out of my team of 7 can determine exactly why it is I went into menopause at 28. Depressed because they know little about a condition that under 1% of the female population develops.
This is my life now.
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.
a flap in the back
tra la la obsessive screaming
sounds of machines
situated between two beds
rupture of bodies
delivered in close up
Jane Joritz-Nakagawa’s most recent book is Poems: New and Selected (Isobar, 2018) on sale at Amazon
The chaos of pain in every moment
Playing its jarring jazz
Impromptu – No set list
Whilst I exist amongst you
Cloaked I normalcy
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.
Like a tennis ace, all
Crisp white shorts, and shirts
Fresh every day,
He sits over the breakfast
Table, too big
For any chair, an elbow
Planted, a one-hand scoop
Of eggs and bacon,
Solid muscle in the arm
And thigh, his neck
A bronze pillar
Of glowing flesh.
And then you see
Slight tremor, and glimpse
The massive continuing act
Of self-control that holds
This huge frame
Spillage, leakage, any sign
That one day soon
Tendon may spasm,
The merest lifting of a fork
An impossible task,
And are aghast
Before this terrible
Anthology: Bristol: 21 Poems (published 2017)
UK (but written in the Maldives)
she is in the sauna drinking coke and eating salted peanuts
one knee resting against the hot wood, silvery hair damp and sticking to her shoulders
we discuss midwifery and the what it’s like to catch a slippery baby
in your palms
she is standing in seal skin coat with white fur collar beside the church
mid afternoon sun coming through jewel red of stain glass window
holding a cigarette to her lips exhaling smoke and warm breath
casual flick of ash hitting the ice
i can’t say what it is about these chance encounters that reel me in
give me something to latch onto
but mystery in itself can be a sustainer for the curious
there is no such thing as “meant to be”
things are just happening – miraculous, mundane things –
and why do we need more than that?
all is as it is as it is, amen
for a split second
a thought crosses my mind