Interpolating Acne

‘ideology “acts” or “functions” in such a way that it “recruits” subjects among the individuals (it recruits them all), or “transforms” the individuals into subjects (it transforms them all) by that very precise operation which I have called interpellation or hailing, and which can be imagined along the lines of the most commonplace everyday police (or other) hailing: “Hey, you there!”

… the hailed individual will turn round. By this mere one-hundred-and-eighty degree physical conversion, he [sic] becomes a subject’ (Louis Althusser)

‘limits are always set within the terms of a hegemonic cultural discourse predicated on binary structures that appear as the language of universal rationality’ (Judith Butler)


At fifteen I lost my voice:

I had a fever—shakes, too.
After two weeks bedbound, finally
I went to the doctor, symptoms scribbled
on a pocketed scrap of paper.

He—the doctor—ushered me in
and gestured: chair. I sat, obedient, waiting
to be asked why I was there.
Instead, the doctor asked,

So what
shall we do
about that acne?

Then he was scribbling a script he tore
brusquely from his pad, and before
I knew I was out in the corridor, blinking hard
at his prescription—also my diagnosis:
a cure making me re- cognise myself sick.

The paper was so white, clean, corners
crisp, the etched-in signature so
official: a legislation, judgement, a decree.

Still blinking, I stashed it in my pocket,
discovering as I did the other paper
I’d never taken out: my symptoms
didn’t matter now. In fact
there was appeal in remaining
bedbound another week or three.

Had the doctor thought it odd
that through the whole consult
I spoke not one word?

Or was that simply to be expected
from a girl marked as I was?

 Amelia Walker


Epigraph sources

Althusser, L & Brewster, B [trans.] 1971, ‘Ideology and Ideological State Apparatuses (Notes towards anInvestigation)’; Butler, J 1990, ‘Gender trouble: feminism and the subversion of identity’, Routledge, New York & London.

Amelia Walker has published four poetry collections, most recently Dreamday. She also holds a PhD in creative writing from the University of South Australia, where she is presently employed as a lecturer.

© 2019