Sensory Overload by Amanda McLeod – poetry 

photo by Sharon McCutcheon (unsplash)

Sensory Overload

originally published in Rhythm & Bones Lit Issue 6: Love

I need to see it all, feel it all. Touch everything, taste everything, touch everyone. Taste everyone. My skin prickles with longing for it and I’m edgy, minuscule jerks and twitches giving away how hard it is for me to restrain myself. The electronic waves of music roll across me and my body rides them, sensual ripples, pulsing beats and pulsing bodies as I move across the dance floor. I shadow, I mirror. A beautiful man traces his hand down my spine; I pull him into my mouth and taste the sweetness of his tongue as he maps my body with his fingertips. I shudder as he sates my need for contact, for the few seconds we share the same space; but the feeling never fades and now I’m spinning across the floor again, looking for something new to touch, someone else to taste. Arms wrap around me and the beat and lust pull towards the ground like gravity; we slide down, hands and bodies, heads back, lips open with desire. More, screams my id, and I’m slipping away, heady with desperation as I search for whatever will dull the sharp crackling that skitters across me like lightning.

The sweat-slick smell makes me gasp with pleasure. The air is thick with base wanting. Conversation, impossible over the music, happening through eyes hooded with hunger. People stalking ceaselessly around each other, the endless search for whatever, whoever, can scratch the constant itch. Unable to contain it.

The lights flare and for a moment I am highlighted in neon and not just another face in the crowd. More bass with electric twang sliding over the top. Every sense is being stimulated past the point of no return and I can’t separate them now, the lights, the sounds, the hands, the mouths are all pulling me everywhere at once. Each second feels like an age and it’s all too much but never enough. I push through the exit doors and the night air is instant relief. I can gather my scattered synapses, find order in my internal chaos.

I can’t help but wonder if it’s like this for me, what it must be like for humans, who lack my propensity and tendency to sort, analyse, filter. How it must be to know these emotions and sensations organically, rather than break them down and process them as strands of binary code and electrical impulses, which is really all they are. I yearn to know this unknowable. We cyborgs are funny that way.

A Fevers of the Mind Quick-9 Interview with Amanda McLeod

3 Poems by Amanda McLeod from Fevers of the Mind & Avalanches in Poetry Anthologies

Poems from Amanda McLeod in Fevers of the Mind Issue 1 (2019) “Inclimental Anger” “Day With Perfect Storm” “Anchor” “You Are My Sun, Except When I Am Storm”

A Fevers of the Mind Quick-9 Interview with Amanda McLeod

with Amanda McLeod:

Q1: When did you start writing and first influences?

Amanda: I started writing when I was very young, and like so many of us pushed it aside to get a ‘proper job’. I didn’t come back to it until well into my thirties. As a young writer, I loved reading Bryce Courtenay, Judy Blume, and classics like Jane Austen.

Q2: Who are your biggest influences today?

Amanda: Today I read very diversely. Contemporaries whose work I admire include Melinda Smith, Sarah Wilson, Mark Tredinnick, Robert Macfarlane, Gaynor Jones, and Kathy Fish – and many, many more! I’m also dipping in and out of Wordsworth and Thoreau at the moment.

Q3: Where did you grow up and how did that influence your writing? Have any travels away home influence your work?


I grew up in Central Queensland in Australia and to be honest, it didn’t have much of an influence beyond encouraging escapism when I was young! I did have two wonderful English teachers in high school who really encouraged my love of books and writing, and I think they had far more influence on me than the environment itself. I think it’s made less than a handful of appearances in my poetry in recent times, mostly as I’ve reflected on change.
Influenced by travels, absolutely yes. I’ve travelled overseas numerous times, but seem to go back to the same places over and over (I think I’ve been to New Zealand four or five times and it never ever gets old!). I’ve also lived in a lot of different places in Australia and those various environments tend to shape my work as I’m in them.

Q4: What do you consider the most meaningful work you’ve done creatively so far?

Amanda: That’s a tough one. I think whatever I’m working on at that point in time is the most meaningful thing. I think at this point my flash collection, Animal Behaviour, holds the title. It’s very dear to my heart, and was a labour of love that allowed be to really find my creative self and paved the way for me to develop more as a writer.

Q5: Any pivotal moment when you knew you wanted to be a writer?

Amanda: Less a pivotal moment than a slow dawn!

Q6: Favorite activities to relax?

Amanda: I am an avid hiker and love being outdoors as much as I can, whatever the weather. And of course I paint, and read.

Q7: Any recent or forthcoming projects that you’d like to promote?


My poetry chapbook, Heartbreak Autopsy, is coming out August 30th, 2021. It’s a collection of poems about all the ways relationships don’t work out that aren’t the sobbing-in-the-bathroom or explosion-of-hatred endings. Remember in the movie The Bodyguard, how at the end Kevin and Whitney loved each other but didn’t stay together? These are those kind of stories – the ones where two people part and there’s no big drama, just a kind of quiet grief or even sometimes a sense of relief.

Q8: What is a favorite line/stanza from a poem of yours or others? A favorite piece of art?


A favourite line from one of my poems:
The world is changing; loss is the only constant.

Favourite art piece? Van Gogh’s The Starry Night and Monet’s Bridge Over a Pond of Waterlilies.

Q9: Who has helped you most with writing?

Amanda: Kelly from Sick Lit Magazine gave me the self belief to really go for it. Eli and Beth from Animal Heart Press have both pushed me hard and made me a much stronger poet. I’m also a member of a fabulous writing group (hi, Canberra Writers!). They’ve definitely helped me strengthen my writing. We meet fortnightly and give each other feedback on our works.

3 Poems by Amanda McLeod from Fevers of the Mind & Avalanches in Poetry Anthologies

Poems from Amanda McLeod in Fevers of the Mind Issue 1 (2019) “Inclimental Anger” “Day With Perfect Storm” “Anchor” “You Are My Sun, Except When I Am Storm”

3 Poems by Amanda McLeod from Fevers of the Mind & Avalanches in Poetry Anthologies

Ophelia, Drowned

in madness and sorrow
turn from the depths, child,
and bathe your face in sweet light
let the current be your baptism
instead of your death
emerge clean, shining
know this darkness is not forever
beyond shadow, there is always light
for one does not exist without the other
give the river your sadness
but not your soul
your beauty is needed here
your joy brings joy to others
an ending means a new beginning
but not this kind of end
there is more for you here
than what one man could take away
let another you come forth
make the water your mirror
what do you see,
when you search for yourself there?


Brother night, take me -
Let me feel the coolness
Of your hands on my fevered skin
Sweet darkness -
Drop your midnight veil
The harsh light of the sun
Burns my eyes Sears my lungs Scalds my heart
Pour on me the countless raindrops
That become the flood
Let darkmoon silence
Hum in my ears a mute ritual
Float me womblike in
Comfortable ebony air
My lacquered bones holding
No weight
Glass splinters
Prickle my stomach
Pierce my skin
I pull them out one by one
Careful not to spill my own blood; watch
The glitter spread on towels
Mind my step
Crushed hearts are sharp when
Only stars light the way

Each shard wet with the broken promise
Of an empty vessel

For Leonard; You Freed Me

Someone else brought your words to me,
but I was mesmerized from the start.
Who was this stranger who seemed to know
all my secrets? Where had you been, 
on those endless nights I needed to feel
less alone?
Where were you when everything I wanted
to say was choking me, and the wellspring
threatened to drown the flame
that burned behind the bushel
of my heart?
No matter. A rare gift, pulled
from a shelf with a quiet hallelujah
and my life was never the same again.
The world needed beauty and dignity
and quiet strength, and so did I.
You gave me hope; showed me
the beauty in my cracks and taught me
how to love my damage.

Poems from Amanda McLeod in Fevers of the Mind Issue 1 (2019) “Inclimental Anger” “Day With Perfect Storm” “Anchor” “You Are My Sun, Except When I Am Storm”