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.
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.
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.
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
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.
Four walls and me,
Four walls a fistful of pills and me,
Surrounded by silence,
The silence that reminds me me myself and I.
You’re never silent,
The voice that never stops,
The endless alarm that disturbs my slumber,
You rattle round my brain in whispers and shouts until I scream.
Then I’m heard,
Outside of this box,
Outside of this cell walls have ears who swallow my words,
And even photographs in frames refuse to listen,
Because I have no voice.
When the pain goes I half suppose my flesh marked, transformed. A growth of lichen, say, with its warm turmeric tint; a layer of cool, silvery fish-scales; traces of the glacial burn of chain-mail melting into skin. Best of all a delicate, graceful articulation of relief on the site of its worst excesses: once the sharp, piercing jolts give over to prickling, tingling sensations (as if the top of my skull were open or at least porous), the tiniest, downiest feathers could unfurl in the round, a bit like a peacock’s crest – thin stalks topped with trembling blowballs.
But there is nothing, not a wound, not a bruise, not even the flushed tone of a limb pressed against the mirror, straining elsewhere.
(A small crochet work, of a shiny ochre hue, is laid out on a piece of white paper. Dense stitches amass around an empty centre, as if framing a face, becoming looser and looser and turning into ever wider swinging loops. A bit like Medusa’s serpent hair, only less dangerous. In the empty centre, where, were it a face, the mouth would be, lies a small pink square of paper with a black circle from which a thin line protrudes, describing a marker, or corner, or the beginnings of an arrow.)
SUPINELY SUBLIMELY (Book)
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