The disease resists diagnosis and instead begs
a description. A list of areas I don't feel pain:
Most fingers. My mouth, sometimes. The back
of my left ankle. Usually my forearms. Okay,
now a list of things that alleviate pain:
Being underwater. Biking away. Drinking.
Driving exactly 45 minutes, but only south.
Drinking. Drinking. Drinking. Okay,
how about your doctors? Not to be
dramatic, but Fuck You. Sometimes I take
lovers based on how they touch my back.
Sometimes I keep lovers based on how
they react when I beg them to be dangerous
to me. Listen, I never get to be in pain for fun.
It's always this supermarket-spasm, this
work-limp, the subtle contortion I hide
under another seat taken. Okay, I have
a theory: Once, I had a lover who only
looked at me. So my spine twisted t'ward
their hands. So my hips dilapidated in such
a way that they must have noticed how I
slowed under different weather. I mean,
I drank until I moved soft enough to glide
into them. I mean I biked so fast
their only option was to follow. I mean,
it is not my fault. Sometimes I decide
to spend the night based on the shape
of someone's bed. What is it called
if a body twists against me in the dark
and I am jealous of its ability to do that?
What if I drive 45 minutes three times over
just to be held? What if, alone
in the elevator or break-room
or single-stall-restroom, I hold
my breath until I am underwater?
Maybe that is the diagnosis working
backwards. Maybe if I stop spending
the night I will stop waking up with
so much new hurt. Listen, I threw up
the medication. The bath-water got
cold. The stairs leered when the
elevator broke. My lover's hands were
so gentle and I still bruised. Okay, a list
of things I've told to Fuck Off recently:
Every doctor ever. A memory in which
a now-ex lover tells me to stand up.
My skin and its stubborn welt. My bed,
for how I sink into it. The space between
my shoulders where once I asked
someone to punch me and they did
and it didn't help. How my desperation
rears and snakes. How a multitude
of hands reach to cradle all this
nightmare-ugly and just
the air moving between us
makes me flinch.
L.R. BIRD (they/them pronouns) is an Aries from the Jersey Shore, so they're not sure what you mean by 'speed limit.' They have work published or forthcoming in Blueshift Journal, Maps for Teeth, FreezeRay, Public Pool, and others. A multiple Pushcart Prize and Bettering American Poetry nominee, Linette is on the executive board of the Philadelphia Fuze Poetry Slam and is sort of trying to complete a bachelor's degree, but is mostly just trying to survive in small-town America.