I am spinning on a carousel tied to the back of a wooden horse with its teeth maniacally bared.
I am falling through the heart of a dying star.
The gravity of the Earth suddenly doubles its strength, and it grabs me and pulls me down.

My stomach has been replaced with a small, angry porcupine trying to chew its way out.
My guts are lined with smoldering coals.
I grow painfully familiar with my hidden anatomy:
the ileum and jejunum pockmarked with lesions,
the defective diaphragm where my stomach presses through.

My skull is pierced by a thousand arrows.
Light becomes an enemy.
My brain leaves my body and floats a few feet above my head
in the form of a cumulonimbus, shimmering with lightning.

My arms and legs turn to stone.
I sleep for eons like a bewitched princess in a fairy tale,
but there is less romance to it than you might think.
This body aches from stillness,
these dreams take on the heaviness of quicksand.

My knees, hips, knuckles, and spine were strung by an amateur marionette maker.
They are stiff every morning, sore if I sit still,
tender if I try to write longhand or skin hazelnuts
or kneel down in the soft dirt to plant flowers.

My lungs are a toy accordion that a child is crushing under her feet.
I had to leave New York when I ran out of air.
Car exhaust, cigarettes, perfume, incense, shampoo, new carpets,
bleach, candles, wet paint, soap: almost all smells become suffocating.

I do not wax poetic to the doctors, because they will reply:
Maybe it is normal to be in pain every day.
Maybe you don’t really need that cane to walk.
Maybe you should stop worrying so much.
After all, your diseases are mild.
After all, you are a young, healthy woman.
After all, you are a woman.

Nervous System

The neurologist says, The world must be dreamed
before it can be seen—


" Children waiting in empty
lots and melting sandcastles,
enduring as monster-flowers
–monsters, to hurt what hurts
–flowers, to want to live."


Biomedicine is a shameless Cartesian purgatory committed to betraying Black bodies the way it betrayed my mother.