The surgeon’s album
He turns the pages for me:
full and partial reconstruction, implants,
muscle flaps from back and stomach. Creations
to match and balance. But how would I look
flat? No extras. Straightforward scars.
He frowns at a lop-sided photo.
The absence doubled? I’ve not done that before.
Twelve months on, he wants
my picture, conforming to house style:
no head, arms at forty-five degrees to clavicle.
I stand anonymous against a stripped pine door,
knots and fissures dark behind my skin –
a knife-thrower’s object, still
until the last blade hangs from the wood.
Three turns in the corridor
to the anaesthetic room, one last walk
with breasts, the weight of them
familiar as my own name and address.
A young man in a white coat small-talks
London, fixes a cannula into the wrist
where my watch has been. My lips
keep moving––explain we left
some years ago, not the stress,
more the desire to raise our child
on chalk hills, near the sea.
His eyes clear as a newborn’s
close to my face, he holds my hand––
a moment of love, I will call it that.
I lend him this life, veins freezing
from the forearm up.
I think of love
and suddenly as though I’ve heard some new word
in a half-known tongue, comes
this sense of you, and in the opiate fog a growth of light
and you there just beyond my reach
to make me stretch, fill my lungs
and feel the cuts,
a tightening band of steel around my ribs––
and all the years and days we’ve been together count
as much as every stitch that binds me skin to skin,
and in the places nipples were
I feel a charge of blood
and ghosts of kisses visit me as pain.