I want to tell him that the chronically ill don’t have goals. They don’t want to be ill. I want my old body back. I don’t want to be in his office. I tell the doctor, I want to stand long enough to make grilled cheese, want to walk the dark living room at night to check the children are breathing. I want to say absurdly large sunflowers block my path, My hair floats toward the ceiling as if my body is sinking in water, the flower vines out and wraps my hips and arms like a handshake. I want to stop the knife from cutting into my head like cooked meat on a platter of lettuce and tomatoes.

My husband loves like a boulder, tumbling and crashing. Like a sea urchin spine stuck into a bare foot. My husband never takes off the boots sewn into his ankles’ delicate skin. Boots are preventative. You can imagine him walking on piles of bones, how from a great distance this bleached white mass melts into mouths of oh and ah faces—masks of human faces like stretched and melted rubber, like taffy pulled and pulled. My husband and I both like the chew and chemical tang of banana taffy. Irrelevant.

I carry their portraits with me—my husband and the children. Watercolor on canvas. I ask to write letters to my surgeon in an anesthesia and morphine stupor. I want to know how many stitches. My husband and I have a fight—tight smile, angry whisper. I tell him I’m writing a screenplay in my head. My husband says I’m speaking gibberish. The reel behind us glows. I substitute objects for all of the characters. Our son will be fingernail clippings. Our daughter a stuffed dog. Our youngest white petticoats. Gibberish. Fine, I whisper, I’m calling my mother. Nurses teach me how to get out of bed. In the screenplay, I am a felled tree. I have lost all feeling in my breasts and the fat pockets under my arms. I wonder if my audience wants to hear about each relapse in detail. In the mirror, I notice grimace lines around my mouth. I rock my body as if holding an infant. Here is where we edge too close to sentimental. Perhaps only the ill and broken notice how mourning is both being veiled and the veil lifting.

I want to tell my husband there is a dictionary for grief. But he wouldn’t look up from his book. I fantasize about thin pink wafers lined with pink cream and crisp-still-warm meringues. Sugar melting on the tongue. I want to say this is how I taste, but I don’t mean to you. I mean to me. Packed in that crisp thick melting is the body. I want to convince my husband I am still inside my body. Make him a believer again. I pretend to still experience the nuance of his touch—tickle, prick, tongue—but it is all just pressure. I moan anyway. The neurologist pricks my legs with a safety pin some visits. Tosses the pin into the garbage pail when she leaves the room. I keep a collection of all the pins I’ve retrieved in a secret drawer with my children’s baby teeth in labeled plastic baggies.

Allison Blevins (she/her) is a queer disabled writer. She is the winner of the 2023 Lexi Rudnitsky Editor’s Choice Award from Persea Books and the 2022 Laux/Millar Poetry Prize from Raleigh Review. She is the author of three collections, most recently Cataloguing Pain (YesYes Books, 2023). She is also the author of five chapbooks. Allison is the Founder and Director of Small Harbor Publishing and the Executive Editor at the museum of americana. She lives in Minnesota with her spouse and three children.

Artwork by Barbara Gillette Price