Been watching women in romantic comedies

toss tiny handbags over their shoulders, laugh

without smudging their gloss. They suck lollipops

noiselessly, as if silence is true seduction.

Sometimes, disclosing my illness feels like

coming out (again). I look too young

to be this tenderised. My birthmark

not yet faded. My freckles unironic.


I believe that a body in pain

is a body in the opposite of freefall.


In the film Second Act, the protagonist pretends

herself someone else. Not to acquire attention,

but to be successful in ways that can be recognised

by strangers in train carriages.


Last week I answered a work call while wearing a surgical gown,

my underwear bloodying a plastic bag. Mimicking filmic femininity,

I recited a dialogue of betterment; poured wellness down the plastic

pores of the phoneline, as if my womb would simply un-scar itself.


On dance floors where nobody knows, it is easier to convince

myself that my hip clicks like a metronome, not a clock.

This chronic body is a betrayal I am trying to warm towards,

an apartment with damp walls that I stay homesick for.


When I fall in a ballgown

does it soften the impact

or just soften the sound?


A student exclaims, you look like a main character today

when I enter the room, red lipsticked. A louder mouth

collaged over my own. Despite fake pockets, aesthetic

signifiers of fertility still receive more speaking roles.

If I were a romantic lead, my pain would be a plot point:

deserving of dialogue, yet damsel defining.

I don’t long

for arched redemption.

Let sick stay ordinary.

An inconvenience carried in my cutest clutch.

Something tactile that can be folded into squares,

like my grandfather’s handkerchief.


If my body falls from a roof tomorrow

it will still be a body in pain, only



When I confess the chronic of my illness, new lovers reply

to a wounded animal. The signature scent that makes me feel

sexiest contains musk, an ingredient derived from hunted deer.

Each time I prioritise desire, there are consequences. An evening

spent swaying makes my joints protest the morning / I sip pale

ale and each vertebra flinches / I make love and


make pain, simultaneously. I perch on the priority seat

of public transport, wearing stares. They say,    

a priority body

couldn’t possibly

paint itself pretty.

To be believed, we must be so sick that mirrors forget


to include us. Otherwise, we are merely actors playing

faulty protagonists, who forgot to get better

before the film’s final kiss.



Overland’s Friday Features project is supported by the Copyright Agency’s Cultural Fund.


Madison Godfrey

Madison ‘Maddie' Godfrey is a writer, educator, and emotional feminist. They have performed poetry at The Sydney Opera House, St Paul’s Cathedral and Glastonbury Festival. Maddie is a previous recipient of The Kat Muscat Fellowship, the Varuna Poetry Flagship Fellowship and a WA Youth Award for their ‘Creative Contributions’ to the state. Currently Maddie is completing their PhD and living on Whadjuk Noongar land with a rescue cat named Sylvia.

More by Madison Godfrey ›

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