Happily, we go under
By chance: the same round eyes, bony hips, cold and blue
inquisitive hands, softly angry mouth. Our heads level.
And on me, these heavy tattoos on my back
like a vein infection. Identical calligraphic twists
across the stranger’s stomach and breasts.
Years ago, for both of us, the ritual wrapping in cellophane,
the oils. Black ink throbbing on us, and as hot as our blood.
Me, sleeping alone on my front for so long,
her, sleeping on her back, with ceiling fans,
open windows spitting their curtains in the wind.
We hate, we say, how they look on my back/
It’s not a hard decision to make. On operating tables
in a tiled room we go to sleep at the same time.
Gloves veer in close to touch us now
as smooth and pale as washed up stones.
She feels it when the anaesthetic bears down on me
with its hazy, cool insistence that we shut our eyes.
At this moment I do not think we are afraid.
I am not thinking of scalpels at all.
From now on we will never be apart.
When I wake up her nipples are on my chest like pink flowers
on an open casket body. They have the permanent look
of the sensitive blind eyes of someone very old. I never
imagined an embrace like this around my ribs.
The stitches are so small as to hardly be seen. My skin,
tight over her vertebrae, like an envelope for a letter
accidentally opened once, by the wrong recipient,
and then resealed.
Needles have been handled well, by the artists
who gave us our skins, and those who skinned us later.
As if we stroke the cheeks of newborn kittens (just as tender,
just as puffy-red) she touches my belly, I touch her upper back.
Whenever we look at our new bodies,
tattoos intact and back to front,
it will feel like aeroplane turbulence in our guts.
The sickest platitude
I dreamed my ex boy had lost his eyes,
and skin had grown over again completely
like a sheet of crushed grey satin
and before, I had loved his clear eyes, sorrowfully.
Skin I’d kissed, grey, even (god) his hands.
His translucent bony scalp. I said:
“It looks better than the last time I saw you.”
He looked like a scabbed animal
that snatches its rare sleep up in branches
or at the backs of silent caves.
This was a disease he had, it bent his head
down like a curse. He was so tired.
He stewed in blame across the table. He said:
“No – it’s worse.”
Guilt washed me like a baby. There was nothing
I could do to help. Neither were we alone now. I said:
“Sometimes it gets worse before it gets better.”
I was embarrassed for myself,
speaking a shoddy mortal language.
It felt like a bruise to the nail bed:
it stayed with me all day.
Lenni Sanders is a writer/performer in Manchester, UK. Current General Editor at Cadaverine, she makes interactive performances with Curious Things and weirdo poetry cabaret with Dead Lads. Tweets at @LenniSanders – hear some of her writing at https://lennisanders.bandcamp.com