...flinch

When it‚Äôs everywhere, you give up/ and what you once called pain,/you start to call yourself. ¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬† ‚Äď Fleda Brown, ‚ÄúThe Devil‚Äôs Child‚ÄĚ

I drag it   around with me

I stow it    in the pocket    of my middle

Like I might    need it later

Like my grandmother    carries   the Depression   

In drawers full   of sugar packets   rubber bands

A marsupial    who thinks pain   

Is her baby   tuck, tuck     there, there     I consume

Coffee    like gasoline   pills

With the most careful   addict's   math   

Counting hours   like a pharmacist...tick...tick

I feel it   percolate

Or is it   the caffeine

Or does the earth    quake

The body learns to cringe    inward

Translates pain

Memory like    tripwire across

The kitchen   my trigger   son who is

Only autistic   not actually

My father   shouting   brother   mother

Pouring out life    by the glass

A body can’t tell   the difference

His face becomes   other   when he doesn’t

Like something   there was always something    to shrink from.

I’ve been guarding

Against so much   my eyelids   mimic it

In bed   or in my soft chair   my body

Sparkles like   Christmas lights   left leg   upper left thigh   a flutter

Not mine   like a fetus   right finger   twitch

The whole hand sometimes, stop

In that last hour

Before sleep   before the baby cries

Or the smoke detector   detects   nothing real

Faulty batteries   faulty synapses

Before the cat yowls   the alarm

Or the boy   wanders out

Before my husband wakes   hunching Into his clothes and I am   afraid

Of the effort    my heart makes

There is no quiet even   in quiet except       in that space

Where the house   and the others   are all   at rest

And my body whispers   to itself       

... alert…... alert…... danger   

... flinch.

I stow it    in the pocket    of my middle

I stow it    in the pocket    of my middle

I stow it    in the pocket    of my middle

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Writing by SHANNON CONNOR WINWARD has appeared far and wide in places like Fantasy & Science Fiction, Analog, The Pedestal Magazine, Lunch Ticket, Rogue Agent, Argot, The Monarch Review, Cider Press Review, Literary Mama, and Rivet: the journal of writing that takes risks. She is a Delaware Division of the Arts Emerging Artist Fellow and author of The Year of the Witch (Sycorax Press, 2018) and the Elgin-award winning chapbook Undoing Winter (Finishing Line Press, 2014). Shannon shares her body with chronic illness of the physical and mental persuasions, but her spirit is doing pretty well, all things considered. In between parenting, writing and other madness, Shannon edits Riddled with Arrows Literary Journal. Visit www.shannonconnorwinward.com.