stale, leaden veins
black velvet pain
to be free [so very, very free]
see your life
watch your story
so melt in
syrupy, sweet fire;
and drown in
cruel, bitter desire;
become anger, confusion
spot your life
I see you.
taste seductive, vicious hands
as they haul you back home
to a weary,
ache and creak,
let an ugly tear leak,
and hear them whisper
what this poem means to me~
I wrote this poem around September 2017 for a school assignment. At the time I was really struggling with my chronic pain, and couldn't find the words (verbally) to express what I was experiencing to others. I felt trapped, suffocated and incredibly lonely. My aim in writing was to communicate the reality of living with persistent pain to a healthy person - I was so desperate for empathy, for understanding, for recognition of what I was enduring. As I began to write, I started to hear myself. I started to understand myself. These words hold a special place in my heart, for they symbolise the first time I was able to honour my internal world through language.
Initially, I wanted to depict what chronic pain physically feels like: fatigue; constantly feeling fragile; feeling like your body is degenerating and elderly; the constant stiffness and soreness. More importantly though, I wanted to convey what chronic pain emotionally feels like. I needed to to express the frustration and anger that had felt consuming to me at times. It can feel like you are losing your identity to the pain, which can be quite scary. Your emotions are sometimes so overpowering that it feels there is nothing else to you: you are being eaten from the inside out by your own confusion and loneliness.
I wanted my poem to have a sense of vagueness, almost deranged madness – as if the persona is not in their right mind – to emphasise the feelings of desperation, hopelessness and restlessness that accompany chronic conditions. I also wanted to depict the pain as an exterior, controlling, malicious force – as opposed to something from within – to portray the persona as a victim (which is not necessarily the case realistically, but it can certainly feel that way at times). I wanted to unsettle the reader with a sense of eeriness, a sense of powerlessness and imprisonment.
Ultimately, I was desperate to communicate to others the feeling of suffocation, of being trapped. This poem is about lacking the freedom to take control of your life and live the way you want to. I wanted to portray feeling like a spectator in your own existence, as if you are watching the pain take control without knowing how to change your own fate. I wanted to express how devastating it is when you find a pocket of hope (for example, a new treatment, a new diagnosis, a new opportunity), and realise time and time again that nothing is changing or improving. This poem is about feeling that you might never heal your body, and fearing that you will always be a slave to your pain. It’s about your vision for the future, your dreams and your story changing before your eyes and feeling like you cannot do anything about it.
Overall, this poem is an expression of the consuming nature of chronic pain. I wanted it to be delicate and powerful, like the human body, and present a new perspective on living with any persistent condition. I really enjoyed writing this and I'm super stoked with the end result, but I'm not sure if I achieved the impact I aimed for - the poem could be interpreted in so many different ways due to its vagueness. I also consider this a powerful quality though, as hopefully readers everywhere can relate my words to personal struggles they are enduring, or have endured.
I am endlessly, endlessly grateful you have taken the time to read my words! I hope that in some way they can bring a new perspective to your day.
Sending so so much love and light,
thumbnail photograph: copyright work of Claudia Tero