Pain Courts

Pain seduces you slowly, until one morning
you wake to find its toothbrush in your bathroom,
its underwear in your laundry basket,
its non-fat vanilla soy milk in your fridge.
Saturday mornings, pain sips coffee with you on the sofa,
laughs over New Yorker cartoons.
Soon, you take Pain home to meet your family.
It sits between you and Grandma at the long table,
leaves with you at dusk and complains bitterly
the drive home of the many miles,
the bread pudding, the early Monday to come.
Inseparable, Pain helps prepare taxes,
pick paint for kitchen walls, trim toe nails.
Each night before bed, it hums between the sheets;
Pain is needy, doesn’t like when you’re unconscious,
wakes you the moment you dream of something else.

–originally published by Wordgathering


Therapy’s Song

The purple carpet smells of stale sweat.
The soft thud of steel plates in the circuit
supplies staccato for the grunts of men
and women who’ve come here to work.

Voices join this found song:
chipper encouragements, annoyed chides,
lewd jokes between sets, and murmurs
of this week’s doctor check-ups.

It looks like a gym: worn, white muscle
systems and strength training machines;
elliptical trainers, recumbent bikes,
and treadmills; balls and bands and benches

that flex and snap and groan; and snowy
towels that hang on parts not moving.
You can tell it’s therapy from the raised
beds and bandaged ice packs, TENS units,

massages and ultrasound machines. Here,
canes, crutches, braces, and wheel chairs
litter the few empty areas where exercisers
and therapists step over, through, and around

them, their focus on the next set in the circuit.
Men and women, their faces pinched in pain,
haul wooden boxes filled with weights in the narrow
hallway past the green mats where others stretch

unwilling muscles. Fluorescent lights hiss and pop,
and hope corrals them through their exercise lists.
The redheaded trainer shouts his litany in the corner,
“you can do it. You can do it. Only one push more!”

     — originally published by Disability Studies Quarterly


The Accident: Revised


“Well, it’s more or less true,” I’d say.
Years and pain medications have dulled
humid memories of the July day.
“A fat man fell on my head
—crushed me like a soda pop can.”
And I stop, for this is the moment
people usually giggle or look at me
with pity or disbelief.
This is my embarrassment:
am I hung up on decade-old accident?
Did soda pop can sound with a whine,
a fizzle? Do I beg desperate for attention,
a hug? Cheeks burning, I find I rush
queried details, bubbling: “I worked
at a boat dock, and a guy who wanted
to paddleboat fell on me and crushed
my spine, so I couldn’t walk for a year.”
Then, I stop
and listen
because I see you think of your own story—
accident becomes adhesive.
We are all bone, cells, mostly alone.

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