Alone on my path of sickness,
friends, over cups of coffee, were so sorry,
––but did they know what it was like to hallucinate
Ashton Kutcher in the shower?
Did they know the rainbow of illness
the colors cast on their floor, dim and grey?
Grief is an endless crumbled hallway.
Laughter an echo in my stomach.
My friends don’t hold their breath
when they pour a cup of tea.
Once, I forgot to hold mine,
and the kitchen floor was the coldest place
to soothe my burnt body.
Five months of bandages, the truth
under my robe as everyone said Congratulations!
and not, How are you feeling?
But one day I found a bridge
that fit into my back pocket, a community
who turned on the light in my hallway.
with Polaroid photos
I could not
Who also knew the fork of topamax
topped high with food,
which tasted like nothing
what it’s like to not know
your own name
after an episode. How the body shrinks into less
of a person. My university professor saying, Oh
you look so good! The invalidation of sickness––
Was my body even bad before?
They knew that being too thin was also a sign of sickness.
Their stories on display like an art gallery,
in tiny medicine cups, something
I could finally recognize.
They understood the confusion
of a sudden slumber at work, a fatigue
that hides behind your eyelids, & calls it home.
They knew the embarrassment of an unexpected
crash at the party of Zumba class, breaking
a lamp in the studio, because your brain
had a different agenda than your feet.
My friend in London struggles to make enough
money. I understand. Without my wife, I swim
below the poverty level. I tell my friend
across the pond about the polite emails
which exclaim my fingers didn’t spin
fast enough to work at the coffee shop.
My avatar texts two purple hearts, the color of epilepsy,
to say, Together, we are strong like Bulls.
Drool drips on to my chin while looking
at the recipes my pal with Chron’s posted.
Their phone dings with two growls
from my hungry stomach.
Two orange hearts to those with Multiple Sclerosis.
One friend stuck in bed for 11 weeks.
Sometimes that’s all you can do.
You don’t know the struggle, don’t know
what to say. But know the heart said it all.