I play hide and seek with myself: concealed behind bed sheets, curtains and the lines drawn in childish crayon across my face. I giggle in the darkness then trace the oyster edges of my bones in the mirror – whisper “I am still here.”
Here, despite the fact you rest your head against my back and stare bewildered; you tell me you cannot find a heartbeat, you tell me there is silence, there is empty. A cage without a prize or promise. A bird without song.
Here, despite the nurse searching for a vein, using a butterfly needle to transform me into a less lifeless thing, until the bile reaches my throat and I feel dizzy. And I bruise too easily.
Here, despite the sickness, the fatigue, the leaden legs and bloated skin; a sad game of peekaboo each time I undress, pinch the flesh and proclaim, like Pinocchio, that I am real, so painfully real. My quiet mouth begging Gepetto for anything but this: begging to be held with string, left for the whale’s gaping maw in my fairytale beginning – half-un-finished.
Poem: © Kristiana Reed 2021
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