As a baby you are down covered like goosegrass,
Rooted to your incubator with a thicket tubes and wires.
There are two holes in the plastic lid
Where tiny nappies can be changed.
You are a patch of wild strawberries,
Whose creeper stems are too fine and fragile to support their weight.
Age five and seven, you’re Gypsophila Spray. Limbs spread wide and chaotic.
Age nine, you’re green, soft sapling bamboo striving to develop your tough, woody skin.
You see specialists, who ask if you can write your name.
You are weighted and measured,
And sent out into the world,
Where other children fail to understand
Your balance is a delicate dandelion clock.
They sing and huff
Each breath sending you spiralling.
You write in notebooks with crayon.
Sketch out the flowers you think the prettiest.
Alongside each you keep a list of every time someone says, you can’t.
At eleven, a girl pulls your hair as you try to explain involuntary muscle spam.
You run a nettle the length of her exposed flesh.
Her ponytail gripped tight by a purple scrunchie,
She slaps your thighs.
You bite at loose skin that trails your bottom lip.
Hauled into the Headmaster’s office,
Shame-faced and sore,
It is the girl who cries.
Beneath your skirt,
The Hawthorne grows thick and fast
As your toes begin to cramp in loops and pulses.
The heel of her delicate Mary Jane pumps,
A series of dots and dashes on the muted grey carpet,
The girl stamps out her message.
Your twisted legs, hippy parents,
Your clothes that smell of patchouli oil and incense
Your knees like knots in soft wood
You are bindweed with your creeper vine arms pulled taut.
We wish to rip you from the earth.
The roots run deep, yet your list of cannots grows longer.
Soon you will learn to collect them
Your vines, thorns and blossoms,
Train them to wind round a cane.
Like feeding a monster,
Like precious marbles in a jar,
Like a seedling pushing upward.
And You Thought Me Empty
Wednesday night’s chow mein congealed in the sink,
I open my throat to you.
The noise comes out a gurgle,
That last swig from a bottle left in the sun
Blackout blinds still fully extended at noon,
The lyrics to a Bowie song are blood and spittle on your cheek.
Wiping your skin, you tell me I’m sick.
Yet, in my marrow, I know
You can’t understand the pain and strength
That it takes to feel the smallest bit alive.
Something Like Mount Rushmore
His skin protrudes at odd angles.
His bones crack and grind.
I can almost see them break,
Crumble and reform.
He doesn’t appear to be in any pain,
But he looks at me all the while.
His new form being fashioned:
Chiselled from the marble
Of our kitchen countertop.
Fortified and unyielding,
He is strong.
Keely O’Shaughnessy is a writer with Cerebral Palsy. She has an MA from the University of Gloucestershire. She is Managing Editor at Flash Fiction Magazine. She has words in magazines and anthologies. She’s a Pushcart nominee. When not writing, she spends time discussing David Bowie with her cat.
Photo by Alejandro Pinero Amerio (unsplash)