and I never liked the word; how it gets in everything – human bodies, star bodies – constellations cleaved precisely open, light against the dark. the doctor had beautiful eyes above his mask, she tells me. the ancient greeks coined the word, seeing a tumour in a breast as a swollen crab, the sprawling, thirsty veins as legs and pincers. all summer long she hands me pieces; a cup of golden hair like candyfloss that we burn in the dead of night. don’t make it bigger than it is, she says. I’m not allowed to put any in a locket and anyway, how could any love be reduced to simply this? instead we sweat out beautifully under the London sun, our laughter high as the flashing parakeets, a flush of green – just as harsh, just as sweet. this is bullet-time; slipping coins from pockets, hands from jeans to grasp, deadly serious, loaded kisses like a gun. it’s there, she says, like they drilled it deep – I start dissecting everything; pomegranates to poetry, juices sticky on the table. I would become a surgeon for her in a heartbeat; seeds and words sharp as teeth in my mouth. cancer in latin, karkinos in greek, both meaning crab, both meaning nothing. like all dying things her body becomes fragrant & petrified; rose petals dissolved on the tongue before sleep, lavender licked across the wrists like a blade. flowers grow best in the graveyard, she tells me, as I listen, horrified. it’s all the nutrients. I tell her instead about Hercules, how he kicked Hera’s crab all the way to the sky, where it became an everlasting constellation. I learn that every dead thing produces something deadly alive; I find a deer skull split with honeycomb, the summer bees fat and somnolent. everything nests deep into everything else; she in me like a song. in the operating room, the whirring fan becomes a hum. like all gentle things it fills the room entirely; just like perfume, just like grief.
Amy Wolstenholme (she/her) is a scientist by day, a poet by night and a nature enthusiast always, originally from the beautiful Jurassic Coast. Her recent works can also be found in Magma Poetry, Crow & Cross Keys and on the Young Poets Network. Twitter: @AmyWolstenholm3.