The First Lie

When my coworker asks, “How are you?”

I know she really means, “Hello.” Period.

It’s a greeting, not an opening

It’s not meant to be inquisitive

Though the question mark hangs there:

a crooked, crippled body, like mine 

 

I wake up today, but just barely

 

I wake up every day feeling like gingerbread 

Stiff, brittle, itching to run away from life

but determined to offer something sweet

Coffee softens these stone limbs enough

that I can crank myself out of bed

and into a river that licks its lips at me 

 

I wake up today, but just barely

 

I swallow a circus of pills after struggling

with twist lids and the buttons of my shirt

My fingers feel dainty and helpless 

but without the preciousness of both

I brush my teeth, waiting on the medicine

I drive to work, waiting on the medicine

I sit at my desk, waiting on the medicine

Everything aches, until it doesn’t anymore 

 

I wake up today, but just barely

 

I want to tell her this, that against these odds, 

I am here. I am still here. I am still here.

I don’t mean in this office building

I mean in this pain, trudging through all the 

“Good Mornings” and “How are yous?”

Biting back a truth that tastes like aspirin 

 

I wake up today, but just barely

 

If I told her this, she would pretend to care

then gobble me up like the fox in the story

I know this like I know the rain will come

I can feel the certainty in my bones

Instead, I say, “I am well.”

It is the first lie I tell myself today

 

 

You can also read this poem here.

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