I carry my illness with me

and it watches me lift my feet.
One step
                  at a time,
                                    as I ascend
the stairs to my office.

Too many people watch
me            punch            the elevator button.
Eyes scrape my back as I cave,
turning to traipse
                        upward.

My shame paints a story like sex hair
            and sun shades at 8:30
            on Saturday morning,
but I march on head held high.

My coworkers don’t mean anything by it,
can’t know what it feels
to engage these peeled muscles,
            wrung out
                        dry and dehydrated
like beef jerky without the seasoning.

They almost won’t hold me up.

I pace uneasy breathing,
                                    exertion
like a lingering smell I can’t escape.

It walks beside me,
                              the stench
                        announcing itself
to people who stand close.

It slings an arm            around            my waist
when I stop and chat,
chit-chat,
            chit-chat,
all I hear
when a coworker chirps
about the gym.

I work out at home. Set myself on fire.

Jenna Neece is an Oklahoma native. She has a bachelor’s degree in English and is working on her MFA in Poetry Writing at Oklahoma State University. She works as a GTA for Oklahoma State University English Department, is PR and Fundraising Assistant Director for the OSU Writing Center, and in August 2016 she was a featured poet on featuredpoet.com. Recently, Jenna has been published in The Rising Phoenix Review and Quail Bell Magazine.

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