Last year, my catheter stopped working. This resulted in a hospital visit I was not expecting. Two surgeries and a few days later, I returned home holding all this grief. I kept asking, “Why me? Why must this body know illness more than it knows love?”
I called my boyfriend (at the time) weeping into the phone. With barely enough words to craft a sentence, all I could grasp was air. There was silence and then a wail, a deep cry of wanting from within me for a life—any life—more worth living than this one. My boyfriend stayed on the phone while I broke down. He held space. He tried to help.
The call ended and the tears were wiped, but the feeling remained. So, I did what I know how to do when I am hurting. I wrote a poem.
a mantra for the chronically ill: in two parts
questions the day after a mental breakdown
have you ever been angry with God?
have you ever belonged to a body?
have you ever been a body you didn’t belong to?
have you ever been yours?
been a witness at your own funeral?
cleaned house and still missed a spot?
have you ever sat in a bed and denied morning?
was it in a hospital?
was it in a hotel of a body you do not know?
was it home?
have you ever missed a mother who is still alive?
are you still alive?
where is your father?
is he God?
where is the wound?
does it have a pulse?
what is lupus?
can it peel skin like a ripe orange?
is it a body in war with itself?
are you at war?
with your kidneys?
with the ugly you name before your brilliance?
with the men who did not stay?
what is strength?
does it keep an address?
when was your first kiss?
did it matter?
did it hurt?
the doctor with bad news?
the tv with bad news?
will it get better?
does better have a name?
is it a body?
is it yours?
will it arrive tomorrow?
can you hold on until then?
i am not my disease. i am not the hurt in my kidney, the healthy one draped in the small of my back. i am not the oversleeping and the inflammation. i am not the rash on my left arm. i am not the creek of stretch marks flooding up my thighs, my waist. i am not the fear of the hospital. i am not depression, the swallows of doubt come to take me home. i am not the lazy or the excuse. i am not the trauma. the reason i cross the street. the headphones i use to block the noise, the words drenched in vulgar and vulture. i am not the anxiety in my wardrobe, the gaze i do not ask for. i am gorgeous in my sickness. i am perfect in my illness. i am the fight for stability. i am surely a woman, both damaged and dancing, both in pain and in progress. a body all my own.
The intention of this poem was to remind me, my body, my spirit, that it has survived long before this moment. That survival is something I am an expert at. I have done it before, and I can do it again.
Poetry is a lifeline that returns to me when I need it most. When I was sexually abused, I wrote. When I was heartbroken, I wrote. When I was diagnosed with lupus, I wrote. Here I am again, writing to keep me alive. To keep me.
Friends, I hope you write through it—the bad days, the good news, the in-betweens… Write through it to get to the other side. I promise, there is another side. And as always, I love you. I see you. I am always proud of you.Leave a Comment