Let me see—there was the brief bout
of pneumonia at six or seven, the house too big,
I asked for a sister. A few cases of bronchitis,
weakened lungs from my mother, but no need for an inhaler.
My joints hyperextend, no broken bones, but a predicted
future of early-onset arthritis. I have stabbed myself trying
to dislodge an avocado seed from the flesh. I am prone
to high fevers. My father has a bad back but refuses
to talk about it, or when he nearly slammed
into the sink when it gave out, or in the midst
of a storm, refused to swim back to shore.
My mother told me that, wanted someone to blame
when she said I went crazy like him, acting up
all American, and why don’t I take something
herbal, don’t I know I’m ruining my liver?
I’ve been medicated on-and-off since eighteen.
I’m terrified of burns and scalds, I laugh
as a coping mechanism, I feel nauseous
before a panic attack. I’ve cried on top of men
I didn’t want but needed, I’ve been touched at
seventeen by a man who didn’t want me when
he saw me naked. I’ve worn makeup to bed
after sex, but really I cannot sleep next to a body
I don’t love, my nerves are alive. There are scars
I regret and others I don’t. There are nights I bargain
with my body until the mirror makes sense, the breath
on the glass my only proof of life. There are nights I lose
hours opening my skin, like Narcissus digging for something
beneath his own reflection. There are three pills I take
before bed, sometimes four. I think I have been numbed
by pharmaceuticals, but fear the alternative. During emergencies,
I am calm: the first time I am pulled over, the first time
my sister stiffened and convulsed, her lips turned blue.
When I cannot think a complete thought, I blame
the drugs instead of my own refusal. I am stubborn
when I am sure of love and soft when I want it.
My mouth is missing eight teeth, but the gaps are gone,
I can hardly remember.