A spoonful of sugar with the medicine
and I’m sicker than before.
I feel my way to the bathroom
to drown. It’s a fucking joke—
my body a barrel of water, still dying
of thirst, squatting skinny-legged
to piss for the twentieth time tonight.
Suck the cold tap before I’ve even
tugged my knickers up my thigh.
I was eight years old and vanishing.
I must have been vanishing, I thought then,
looking back at my own eyes
dark as pansies, knees awkward
as doorknobs in saggy leggings.
That whole Christmas reeked of hospitals.
The tenth door of my advent calendar
swung open to reveal me
bony and awkward on a starched white bed
and learned phlebotomy was a bloody word.
I feared the nurse, her stub-nailed,
soap-smell rub, snapping her rubber fingers.
I writhed in reptilian hands, tourniquets,
as she gently pushed up my sleeve
to expose a thin arm. Broke the news after lunch.
There is a bruise on my leg
like a tiny and squashed violet.
My handbag is a scatter of lipsticks,
receipts with Fruit Pastilles stuck
between them in sticky kisses.
Needle-covers rolling like teeth.