I was shedding, stripped and blue-veined. It happens every few years,
each time an earnest battle. I don’t like war metaphors. I was sick,
which led to the first backrub. I remember discussions of tin roofs,
no heat like Adelaide-heat and mimosas, flowers when a friend died.
I was reading a lot of grunge then, illness a new kind of sloughing,
an ecdysis. I bled. There were dogs, the park at midnight and when you
said you were falling in love with me I asked if I had to move out.
We kissed by the garden where carrots struggled under a dead
grapevine. There was acquiescence then, later wisteria, my skin
trailing behind us and you tripping over it. For a second I thought
we were in this together. You bathed me. There was ginger
in everything we ate. There was a couch that unfolded into a bed
which I lay on for aching hours while you went out into the world.
I wrote poems about sex and chilli peppers. When the winter rain
hit Adelaide we talked about tin roofs again. I’d grown new skin
that you liked to touch. It covered my body, which was mine.
Heather Taylor-Johnson is the author of the novel Jean Harley was Here, recently optioned for a tv series, and the editor of Shaping the Fractured Self: Poetry of Chronic Illness and Pain. Her fifth book of poetry will be published by Wakefield Press in 2021, as well as an epistolary verse novel by Recent Work Press.
Listen to Heather reading No matter how much skin I lose I am always the same body (1:26)
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