Wild – poems and paintings

Alexandra N Sherman


I am wild
with pain.


I cannot

I must go
to ground.

Hide my affliction.

You will find I am absent.
on a vast tundra of Hurt.

A Hurt so intense
I wonder at erasure,
I wonder
if it can morph into the exquisite?
I ache to disappear…
to feel nothing.

Can I disconnect from this burning, thrumming, misery that consumes me?
Can I leave?



I want a new sleeve.
Slip me into a body better suited to this environment.

Preferably, one that isn’t warring with itself and make it PRETTY!

Part of me feels guilty…
at how easily I would betray my body.

I’d part with it for an upgrade.
I don’t blame my body for its perfidy,
but perfidy it is, nonetheless.

Alas…this body is the medium
And nothing would be the same

I’ll stay,
if it’s all the same to you.

Awake I

Upon waking

wait for the Hurt to settle

conjure visions of the Tin Man.


How can/will this day turn





the 8?

Awake II

There is a high-pitched noise ringing in my ears.

There isn’t really, but it is the only sound I can conjure to describe

the act of becoming conscious.


Waking-up feels like acting out a scene

in a movie

in the aftermath of the protagonist being beaten within

an inch

of her life,

she is about to pass out,

the screen blanks out.

We are left to wonder at her chances of survival.


I enact this tragedy

over and over,

day after day,

perfecting the scene.


It is decidedly

a sudden,




I have no dreams to shake from my hair

The day has no divinity

everything is broken up,

but not in dances.*


Don’t you know?

If you are PURE


you can CURE ALL

that ails you!

Cut out









Hope is Not a Strategy (or Denial)

I am endeavoring to “think” myself


of being

in pain.

I just can’t

figure out how

to convince myself

I am not DEAD



A friend’s therapist told her

“hope is NOT a strategy”

yet, I’ve been going with it anyway.

HOPE that this will

just go


HOPE that if I swim

enough miles


be better.

HOPE that if I eat clean

I WILL fix myself.

HOPE that I can just

get by

on the minimum of



Because they are NASTY, NASTY things

AND sometimes seem WORSE

than the DISEASE!


I don’t want

to be vulnerable to infection

because my immune system has been KNOCKED OUT.

But it asked for it;

it needs to STOP

attacking my tissues

STUPID THING can’t even recognize me!


It’s been over a decade since I’ve been told this is my lot.

I still




accept it.



Hope is not a strategy.


You cannot really see

what is wrong with me

neither can most

doctors with degrees.

Nor can a blood test

definitively say

I have exactly this or that


It is a collection of puzzle pieces

fit together

rather, shoved together

whether they fit or not


your disease becomes emboldened

and dares to show its ugly mug


I didn’t want to believe

and certainly, didn’t want to take the drugs

and I blame myself for not being able to diagnose and heal myself

degree or not

There have been all sorts of

red flags

warning signs

that this was not what I was told


I just pushed through

and now I find myself

on the precipice


to go



I went to the dr. because I had excruciating pain

In my knees.

They BURNED like hell-fire,

they protested at each step I took.


I KNOW something is seriously wrong with my knees.

He feels them and says they are not hot or swollen.


Can you just do a Lyme’s test?

Why would you think you might have Lyme’s disease?

Because I go outside?


Are there any stressors happening in your life right now?

I break down in tears,

somehow proving his point;

my true nature as a hysterical woman revealed.


I am weepy because I have been in pain for days on end.

I am weepy because there is no help here. I am not believed.

I am weepy because I am about to be told


is in my head.


I am not a reliable witness to my own suffering.


A simple blood test

would have told him otherwise.

That’s all I was asking for.

And I should have demanded it.


But I didn’t know any better.


It is hard to stand up for yourself

when you can barely stand,

but I have learned

out of necessity.

A Catalog of Complaints

Finger joints in tiny vice-grips-

tightened and squeezed

Someone is stepping on my right hand

I am walking on sharp pebbles

except they are inside my feet

my knees, my elbows, wrists, shoulders all crying out at once

the ache deep and low in my back


Morning stiffness – I march of the penguin to the toilet

The stiffness might ease with movement


it will plague me all day

My body becoming something other


My eyes ache with a searing intensity,

it hurts…to look


Blurry vision – which I thought was just a part of aging…

eye-strain, fatigue, too much screen-time…

but is actually an inflammation

– which if left untreated will

steal my sight.


Fatigue so viscous I can barely move

There is a rash under my eyes, breasts and arms

and I have scratched my shins bloody

The top of my scalp is tender from my raking at the ferocity of its itchiness.


My skin is crawling.

My nails have strange divots, dings, and colorations.

My hearing seems to be diminishing.


I will not think about the distress of the rest of my insides.

My Grandmother’s Hands


Were like talons.

Misshapen, gnarled.

Knuckles the size of walnuts

that could not possibly fit

beneath her skin.

It hurt to look

at her hands.


I imagine her holding her hands the way I do

Gently cradled on her belly

or laid out prone upon her thighs

endeavoring to escape the awareness of hurt

quelling the itch to do something with them

shoving the frustration at their inability



My pointer finger has a homing beacon

in the second knuckle.

A concentration

of pain.

A walnut

in the making.


My Grandmother took up watercolors

at the age of sixty-four

with broken hands

she painted vase after vase of flowers

the lines shaky and wavering

She drew chairs in the negative and upside down.


I recall a time she visited,

was I eight?

The day she could not come out of her room

Grandfather would not let me in to see her.

I was told her hands were paining her,

my mother getting a heating pad

for her to move in circuits around her body.

Now, I know the hell and vulnerability of this

because I have lived it.


My Grandmother’s hands are specters

haunting me.


The memory of her perseverance

an inspiration, I call upon.


You motioned your arm down and bent at the hip

your hand looking

to grasp mine so as to pull me up

as you say to me that it is as if

I am underwater

and you cannot reach me

My body is here but I am not

fully there


What an interesting observation

This flare does feel

like drowning


I am unable

to surface

weighted down

an internal battle

raging and ravaging me

Side Effects

Hair loss






Weight gain

Blurred vision

Excessive perspiration

Jerky movements


Mood changes


Suicidal ideations


This drug will make me feel better?

Sounds like a different flavor of hell to me.


Today I am

a different person

the hurt has receded enough…

my head above water.


I wade hip deep through a morass of exhaustion

and residual pain

that restrains me

but not enough to halt my progress.


There are no words to convey

how tired I am

body and soul.


I can think again…

maybe I shouldn’t indulge in that too much.


I think about just a couple of days ago

when I questioned if I could go on living like this.


My promises to my loves feel broken

because I am broken.

My son, my anchor

tethering me to this plane.


My hands are paining me.

I have the sensation that I am wearing a particularly thick

garden glove on my right hand.

I am finding it hard to bend my fingers and grasp things.


This terrifies me.

What if

I can no longer hold a blade, a brush?


It amazes me

how much I take

my hands

for granted.

Now, I am aware

of every movement.


There is no comfortable way to hold a book or turn a page

making it hard to concentrate – distract myself from the pain.

forget opening that jar

or prepping dinner

or pitting cherries for my son’s lunch

or for the cobbler recipe I so desperately want to try

forget pulling weeds or pruning houseplants

forget digging in the garden

forget making art.

I cannot even think of the studio

I feel so far away from it

from myself.


My son came home from art camp all fired-up

having learned how to make friendship bracelets.

This brings back to me countless hours I spent tying knots as a girl.

I even taught myself to make the ones with diamonds!


It was meditative, a quieting practice

a tangible object formed by my hands.


Today, I struggle

to get my fingers to obey,

to help him tie his knots,

to teach him spiral staircase.


Getting a square of toilet paper is a challenge

I never expected to encounter

the paper slipping from my grasp.

Brushing my teeth, my hair

these mundane basic routines…

I forgo eye-liner, mascara – my armor

earrings – a bridge too far.


I’m swimming anyway.

The act of getting myself to the pool

a feat of endurance.

Each pull and flutter I am

all too aware

of every joint

in my hands

my knees

my feet

my lower back

my skin.


The water,

normally a refuge,

allows no escape from the ache…


but the quiet is still there,

the blue.

A Piano Falls on Me

I have been disabled much of my life

but I never


of myself in that regard until recently.


Perhaps it was the stigma?

Perhaps because my dysfunctions aren’t visible to the untrained eye?

Perhaps because we are taught to hide

that which is wrong

with us.


Perhaps because I could hide it,

until my disease progressed.


I listened to Imani Perry read her illness narrative

“A Dangerously High Threshold for Pain”

She refers to herself as disabled.


A piano winched up ten stories

falls on me –

a discordant cacophony of snapped strings –



It somehow


occurred to me

to think of myself in this way


I too have a long illness narrative,

all of which have disabled me.

I too have a dangerously high threshold for pain.


I watch Michel J Fox tell the tale of his illness in “Still”

hiding in plain sight, illustrated in film clips

I remember when he revealed he had Parkinson’s,

and feeling admiration for his perseverance.


Why can’t I give myself this grace?


I ignored this moniker for sometime

and then it came and found me

on a grant application

Do I identify as disabled?






No one has ever asked me this question before.


My very smart friend suggested

I sit with the label of disabled

So, I invited it to tea.


My friend thought it might allow me to be kinder to myself

to treat myself more gently

to not push myself to the brink

to allow that there are things

I cannot do






I am disabled.

Is the path to self-love and acceptance

ironically through a broken body?


You try

to live

your life,

lose function,

make concessions

just surviving

not living


you get used

to “living” in this way

you don’t even realize

how ill you are

until you become even more so

your body “suddenly” unable to accede to your wishes


I have been inhabiting a room with the walls closing in

berating myself for all I could not do


I look at all I have accomplished while being incredibly ill…

while my body consumed itself













I feel

I owe


an apology.


I kept going towards that precipice

I felt being

this way

is unacceptable.


I need to do my part

I need to take care of everyone…


Yes, but I think

I am finally accepting that

I can’t.


I need to…

take care of myself.



I cannot be this sick again.




I have to accept that








This outcome.


There is no curing this disease.

There is only living with it.

Ghostly Things

I can feel

the inflammation

eating away at my joints.

I can tell my immune system is hungry.

It has developed an unnatural taste

for its own flesh.


My fingers


reminding me


that I am losing

my dexterity.


Sadness overwhelms me

while I am at my work.

My fingers tell me

with every movement

that they are, inflamed



How will they



when I am better?





gnarled hands

haunt me.


Ghostly Things.

a ghost of what might be…

yet to come.

Thank you, Pone

This morning I read

about the French musician Pone

who lost

his voice

his ability

to move

to breath on his own

and will loose

his life

in a little while

to ALS.


He speaks through a computer

voice synthesizer

which tracks his eye-movements.

He has composed and released several albums

using his eyes to


music software.

Started a record label

an ALS website.

published his autobiography

and created a mix for Paraplegic games.


If he can do all that

completely paralyzed

then I will

find a way

to create no matter

what happens

to my fingers.

Paintings in this volume – works from “Bodies of Water” and “Altered States”

Click the images to view titles

Thank you to Fatal Flaw Literary Magazine and Radar Poetry for previously publishing the following paintings.

“Resolve” and “Taking the Plunge” Fatal Flaw Literary Magazine, Agency, April 2023

Continual Calcination” and “Drifting” Radar Poetry, Volume 35, February 2023

* Awake II refers to lyrics from Jim Morrison’s “Ghost Song” An American Prayer

Thank you to my family and friends for their love and support. A special thank you for my readers, Paul and Martina.

Copyright All Rights Reserved ©2023 Alexandra N Sherman