“Tonsillitis” by Arlene Ang

Arlene Ang


Like a man’s remains in the belly
of a whale, the throat cultures its own pain.

A cruelty—a secret love—that drinks
crushed glass from a glass. In dreams,

the body runs, twisting its ankles
in different places until the feet break off

and swell into barrel cacti from the sand.
A heartbeat cuts the torso apart,

fever that draws a birdbath from the groin.
To possess a head is to wear it inside-out

after the hair finishes licking the pillowcase.
On one wall, there’s a charcoal sketch

of Death digging up his mother.
On another, a mirror holds the moon

captive inside the room—deformed

and unborn—like a diaphanized turtle in a jar.

from Rattle #31, Summer 2009


Arlene Ang: “There’s little difference between being ill in bed and being drunk on the floor. You get to stare at the ceiling a lot. I was sick when I wrote this poem. I didn’t want to see anyone or eat anything. When I got tired of wishing myself dead, writing became the best alternative. It still is.”

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