Ghost Signs


The wall is the shadow of a ghost
advertising the repair of fountain pens,
a long lost art now that we all steal biros.
The letters are faded to a whimsical grey
that whispers of a time of calligraphy
when we still painted our own wounds.

I feel perhaps I’m peeling too,
the flakes of chemical snow falling down.
The letters that say book blood tests,
no mention of what for.
The appointments to explain
my intimate history of disaster.

I cannot read my own warnings.
The symptoms are obscure
and the typography of surgery
haunts my small hours.
My DNA is written in a language
I do not speak, the swirls of mutations
that spell a future written backwards.

I don’t know how to translate my body,
even though they tell me I can be reconstructed.
A mural repainted brighter, bolder,
a clearer message for all to see.
Yet I sense the past scars will still be there
under layers and layers of medical science.

I never knew it would be so hard
to read the writing on the wall.

What Survival Looks Like


So Sunday morning nearly three weeks after my mastectomy,
we sit in bed and you point at my pyjama top
saying ‘I want to see your boo boo.’
As if to let me know the sudden closing of bathroom doors
and secret showers have not gone unnoticed.
I hesitate before slowly unbuttoning.
You’re two years old, please don’t let this scar you for life,
the Halloween deformity of the dissolving stitches
where once there was warmth and comfort.

You consider what’s missing for a long moment.
Then you say ‘it looks like a smile.’
And of course it does, the long sweep
swirling upwards at each end, though this
would never have occurred to me in a million years.
I could nearly weep with gratitude
but you’re already on to the next game.