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
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.