My Malfunction. I Carry my Burden as a Mark of Shame
By Hattie Arthur


My Malfunction. I Carry my Burden as a Mark of Shame. I carry my burden as a mark of shame. I pummel it down into backpacks. And I rarely assess. I scarce consider this may not be my fault.

I am a malfunction.
A heinous anomaly.

The one in the batch
That belongs
To the reject pile.

I have a mutated gene.
Extra-twisted DNA.

A viral distortion
That spreads
Through my whole.

This is my lot.
My cross to bear.

A thorn in my side
Stabbing afresh
With every move.

It leaves me weak.
Vulnerable to attack.

The pierce mark
A bacterial entry point
Into my soul.

And who shall be blamed
For this cruel twist of fate?

Surely not me,
For my deviance was determined
Before my first thought.

Yet I carry my burden
As a mark of shame.

I pummel it down
Into backpacks
I haul.

I do not question.
And I rarely assess.

I scarce e’en consider
This may not be
My fault.

This spreading virus.
This multiplying bacteria.

This parasite within me
That feeds on

This spitting cobra.
This stinging ray.

This rabid dog
That attacks at provocations
Beyond my control.

I chose not my malfunction.
My misbehaving genes.


The foreign body,
The spreading sickness
Is not welcome.

Yet still I conceal
What I carry around.

What I stuff in my sack
Or dress up
As a purse
To avoid whispered discussion
About problems not named

Or embarrassed silence
Because metaphors
Aren’t enough
To count as reality.

To merit your sympathy,
Or spare me from shame
And a sense
Of my guilt.

So let me repack the bags
Laid bare in these lines.

I must tuck them away
As secrets
To be kept
Close to my heart
Where poison spreads freely

Because only the literal
And physical
Can be excised.

Reproduced with permission, originally posted on mermaidsandink

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