“Ad unum corpus humanum supplicia plura quam membra.
One human body is liable to more pains than the members of which it is composed.”
Chronic Deterioration, Or,
The Sound the Paper Covering on the Examination Table
Makes When I Lay Gingerly Upon It
And they don’t believe me
when I tell them
I can feel when liquid enters
my body and I can feel
when it leaves me,
filled with toxins,
filled with shame
My ears will pop
at pressure changes
that happen when I am still
They are always fine tuning
Angel Radio Network
Am I coming in clear?
My bones will crack
because I am always frozen,
even loosed, I’m tense
underneath a smile
all you can’t see
X rayed, cat scanned,
I am filled with abominations
Foreigners who should not be there
I am infested
I have organs with permanent scars
I Google kidneys in jars
wondering if one of them can be
mine’s replacement someday
Still they nod and tell me
You’re ok, you’re ok
because this is just the beginning, baby
and I’m still considered young
even though my body says I’m ancient
and it’s always possibly going to be worse some day
Like being in a room full of your own things but nothing is recognizable.
There’s a gold shoe in the corner when I always felt better in silver.
Silver is cheaper. Less pristine. Stainless steel is even better. It has no weight of importance. No one would be tempted to steal it right off of me.
Like making an offering. A bargain. A wager. An even trade with something less. No one is that helpless. No one barters out-of-work organs. No one serves sustainability on a pewter platter. The gift is tarnished. The present is a rusted chain that scrapes against the pudding suit. It aches with slight, sudden movement.
Like a bother. Every day. A sneeze. A tic. A tickle. An itch just out of reach.
Wellness unattainable. A health scare. A horror. A constant orbit. A crash landing into Saturn. Blood like Mercury. Pain is elemental and enlightening. There are parts of you on fire that you never knew could burn.
Like an unwanted child. A thorn poisoned and embedded. A sip of water that isn’t enough to quench. I clench with every step. I grind my teeth to chalk and drink it down to quell the acid. Like a volcano. Unstoppable. I destroy civilizations with the truth of things. I am a burden with a mouth. I am the recipient of every pitying apology.
Like a worst nightmare. Like waking up hungover with no benefit of having been drunk. Like a rushing train. Constant rain. I am drowning in here. In myself. In my unease. Like fallen leaves. I’m dead but I remind everyone of life and beauty. Like tragedy. This is disease.
These Unmighty Hands
“Who knows the poet? These days
we are all personas. Who wants
to know the poet? Does the poet want
to know you? Is the poet thinking
of you as she writes? Do you think so?”
The Bronte Sisters.
The Founding Father Thieves.
They all wrote by hand.
The Apostle Paul
with his twisted back.
with his withered hand.
I will never survive
if I can’t write.
Only say the word and I shall be healed.
My wrists are the oak tree knobs
we’d squeeze in between
when we were feeling romantic.
I saw a play about Tom Sawyer
so I laid in the field under the trunk
as he did. Jeans rolled up. Barefoot.
Long grass dangling from my mouth.
I bit into it
out of curiosity. I thought it tasted
how hay felt
scratching against supple skin.
This was long ago. Now my pain
medication tastes like how I shiver
when I hear the terrifying scrape
of a knife being sharpened.
Metal on metal. My nerves
rubbing together like sandpaper.
But I can still think of those days,
under a tree, scribbling sonnet attempts
in teenage angst font. I wanted to be
anyone but me even then.
I remember when eight hours of writing was a breeze.
Now I can be pulled off center,
off balance, into excruciating hellfire with the force of a sneeze.
Jeez. We started off venting then transitioned to begging please.
I will be brittle leaves. I will be bitter wind. I will pay
for uninformed sins like they say my ancestors did.
I’ll wear the road map on my back and die,
mid-metaphor, once this illness of various
launches its final attack.
I am a million exposed nerve endings. My own skin bare,
even air carries dangerous weapons. The pen I hold
is a flaming sword.
The book I had my mind set on reading is too heavy.
I am not looking for Cliffs notes or cop-outs. I want
to devour the whole meaty meal even if it doesn’t fit in my belly.
I am already bursting at the stretch mark seams
with all I could never let go of.
I can’t wash my eyes, speckle covered, of all I’ve seen.
My ears are clogged with harsh words
against all I’ve ever done to survive.
It is all wrong. It has finally woken up to its reality.
I’m talking about the body. I have left it neglected
and far behind. My hand is a forced phantom.
I make it all work. I lie. I lie.
To spare you, I give you flowers and hope.
I keep the truth wrapped with a tight rope.
I am the train and the train tracks. I’m that
stupid cartoon, highly inappropriate
and appropriated, “Indian maiden”
no one bats an eye to save because
“She’s got it!” Clever knots. I’m
killing myself to stop, and smile,
and please you. Beg me to live well.
Be well. I cannot.
Don’t touch me. You’ll never survive the volts.
The shock. The sudden start. Sparks in the dark.
Your softness will sting me. It will upset me.
I will feel all you carry and it could be my last straw.
My back is broken. I’m a dehydrated camel. My legs
are made of wax. Shining with enamel. Scuffed and
suffering is law. Mother Mary appears for my last act.
© Jennifer Patino (2017)