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Self Portrait with Lyme Disease


My body is a burned-out house. The scent

of smoke and singed hope scurries along the corners.

Fear is the perfect fuel; it lights again and again,

flames in the marrow of my wrists.

The window of my left eye is fogged over.

Someone scratched the name of their loved one

in the dew; it bleeds letters like half-swallowed pills.

Come tomorrow, it will say something else entirely.

I will hire a reader with big hands and small lips.

For a look into the patterns of my quilted blood,

he will tell me that my body is a vase. He will think

hard about water; I will know he means rotting stems,

roots catching like claws, three months under the sink

avoiding the need to be washed out.


Before, my vanity was a big as a forest, wild as a waterfall

of golden hair. I went down on my knees in the moss,

filled my shins with the pebbled walkway.

You noticed, but a spider was building a nest

in the crook of your elbow. Only one of us

was hoping to catch something. Ticks, I’ve learned,

are lazy. They perch on the tip of a blade,

wait for you to come to them. First brush of body,

they latch on. And why not?

They know you can’t help yourself but to come back

to the thing that will kill you.


In this too-tall bed,  Aphids march over the salted hills

of my breasts, lick the penicillin sweat from the cracks

of my lips. Sheets strangle me with twists of vine,

thorn threads stab like nettled fire. The man

I once loved cooks wild mushrooms in a wall-fallen room.

The smell of his voice is raised in mourning dirges,

Frank Sinatra to the tune of sun-casked chardonnay.


That door only swings one way. To open it again

is to build a spider web again and again over water,

each time tangled by wind and wing.

It is to hang on the end of the thinnest rising,

hands steepled, head bowed, blind and burning

for a single step, that brushing touch.



Notes: I seem to be on a self-portrait roll lately, which is interesting because traditionally very little of my poetry is self-reflective. Hopefully, I’ll be out of this mode soon — I think there are few things more boring than talking about myself. Still, I loved revisiting my brush, as it were, with Lyme. Such a traumatic time for me, and I’ve mostly avoiding writing about it.

Today’s prompt from Nikki Magennis. Read it, and all of the amazing poems, at Not Without Poetry.