Waking up the wrong shape.
Unable to locate this searing pain. Limbs feel unfamiliar,
organs out of place.
Bit of me hurt, but which bits? My mind
collects the scattered bones and flesh. Recalls the correct
positions. Locates the pain. Why
do I recognise it? The reply;
like a coiled up adder in the gut, my gall bladder
has struck again.
A faded envelope rises to the roof of my brain,
its bilious pages spilling out before I can contain them.
Agony that stretched out – weeks and maybe more.
Him lying on the bed, flippantly diagnosing
muscular strain; no need
for a GP or a visit to A&E.
No sympathy. No feeling for my helpless sobs.
Exhaustion and apathy, the brief relief of knackered sleep,
the sickness, the ache, the fire between shoulder blades
waking me time after time.
The night I lay on the stairs, clutching
at bannisters, finally unable to rise,
the whimpers which woke the kids. No phone. They don’t remember
how they alerted emergency services and neither do I.
Medication, scattered time. A ragged thing writhing in bed,
sweating in smelly sheets, fevered and disconnected,
my children controlled by that twisted protector, his agenda
furthered by my convenient illness. Though his method was different
for each of the siblings, as father and stepfather,
the demon’s mentor left no child unscathed.
My calendar ripped and stained, dates mislaid
in the debris of sickness. Trailing to the surgery,
saying I still felt ill.
A raging doctor holding me in blame
for leaving it so late before calling for help.
Those words writ indelibly on my mind;
Think yourself lucky you’re not dead.
Another septic layer of shame, while my silence
yet again replaced
what I dared not try to explain.
You talk of blame? Go on, Mr Medical Man, beat me, beat me with your words. Beat me, you narrow GP. I’ve had specialists attacking my case – you can’t do worse. If I tell you, an image will rise in your brain; a picture of a kind man who couldn’t be guilty of such subtly iniquitous sins. You won’t be the first. He even charmed the simpering marriage guidance counsellor, who ridiculed me, thereby becoming compliant in my isolation. Nobody but my two oldest children know. I won’t give you an excuse to say I’m delusional as well as stupid. You’ll get no added ammunition from me. All you have is a voluble little twig. My secrets stand between you and the stinging willow cane.
When told of the news that my life
had been endangered by his obstruction,
my partner displayed no shame.
Three decades later, my symptoms are similar,
but there is no ogre holding me down.
Determined to work, I make it to Oxfam, but after an hour
the pain knows no bounds.
My manager points to the office phone.
She leaves me alone to call my doctor and I get an appointment
to see her at one.
Before I go home
I make a wry face and stick up my finger
at the ghost of the ogre.
His spirit baulks at the scar on my digit;
just one more wound that didn’t get stitched..
I know he regrets it, but my anger has flared.
Gritting my teeth I smile at the spectre;
I should show good grace, since his wicked ways
were placed on display by others long ago. Also,
I am still kicking
and he is dead.
I rest for an hour
before taking a shower to make me fresh
for the medical centre, where I will get help
and all will be well.
©Jane Paterson Basil