The surgeon has straightened
me out as best he can, my bones
fused, twined with stainless steel.
Pins harness my skittish vertebrae,
ball bearings support my questionable
spine, my sideways being.
I am myself, but a new construction,
too. People treat you different
when you are no longer bent.
I see it in their face, the absence
of dismissal. The lack of quick
and fulsome pity, the small smile.
I fear my spine, leaning, listing,
going slant again. I fear the return
to what I was. I have become an expert
on curvature. I’ve learned a world of new terms,
acquired fluency in deformity’s language.
Kyphosis. Stenosis. Scoliosis.
Hunchback. Call my misshape what you will. I could say
that’s gone, the titanium rods are all
inside, my crooked’s my secret.
But one can only hide so much. The defects are always there,
like the flaws in a weakened bridge,
the mending plates in a rehabbed house.
Straight’s been way overrated; the cripple lurks
inside. And she comes out, whenever there’s
something I don’t like. I tilt,
I stumble, I shuffle down the corridors. I remind
you of what you’re not. I shoulder myself
against walls. I keep the center off.
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