Venus of the Underfunded hospital

                                                                                                                        [Ali Graham]

It might have been a metal beaten and rubbed / to a
mirror or another austere thing – / navel in the belly of
the Venus / of Urbino, postcard of which I have /
because if she would / I would. For how she grips roses
/ not from the stem but above / she is not not like me.
When he offered / me beer out of his can / it was a wet
and real / yes, cleanest of knowing, a sharp edge /
deflected from some inner site / of me. I seethe a high
Looking in the window there is a dog, this dog / is hard
to imagine, but to do so is to do with hearing / and
sustaining even in loneliness. There is a bird / in a living
room four miles to the east buffeted against / her
window. This dog’s fur grows ermine over / his
shoulders though you only see it when his hair is short.
He mutters the shape of his whiskers, is deserving, /
the world knows when he is hurting.
In windows I remember / the start of my body, how
when they / said to wait for a man I said / I will make
this myself. I smear / assorted medicines on all
buildings I am in, / memorise the signs that bring
visibility, make / for the sake of knowing it to be there.
No one think of the doctors fuck you / and in the hallway
I find my rage, / it wears love’s second best t-shirt / and
the earrings I stole because work.
Because there are good insects calling in the broad day
/ with a mispronunciation of my name / close enough I
will allow.
Because I am tilting / over into love of him. Venus of
Urbino I would if you would. 
Our backs turning away from windows – / shut-
mouthed – garment of your hands – / the dusk stirring
into display.
My near-love of him fed to your dog.
The bird is four miles / and four hundred and eighty-seven
years to the east. 
I want simple things. I want / to have him beg me in the
hallway of the palace of on-demand healthcare.
The floor of the ambulance is a cold dalmatian, / and I
want to lie with his head in my lap – / stubbled face,
limbs and nervousness of a greyhound – here with / me
in the shame.
Between the weight and metabolism of his head / there
would be heat and pressure enough and we would / live
just behind in the shame.  
The words of past medical people who do not want to
believe are in the sky menacing the colour away from
blue, / the sky refracts in the window, the mouth is only
an opening / on the body, inflammation is the body too
big for itself.
It is a very bad angel from my knees to just / short of
my tits. The angel an unholy white with / calcified wings.
It flutters its wings, / the stalagmites go through
In the sixth hour of the angel visiting / I had selfish
thoughts, I was / rendered selfish in the hospital /
redesigned to among many things / render people
selfish. I was slapping / the snout of any light away,
most of my love was blanched out, / the people were in
a quantity both too great and small.
I wiped my tongue until dry and hygienic / on the
sheets, first untreated linen then blue brocade.
The paramedic explains I have rated my pain too
Inside a hope, the absence of him who I want here is a
dog reclining / on my lap, we are looking at this / Venus,
every Venus, each is a wrinkle / of me. I am so correct.
As a dog is prone to, / his suede-tipped nose wrinkles,
he also growls when my stomach is touched. 
I cannot carry over her expression to a man’s body / so
when he is as this Venus, he has no face. / I know him
anyway / and spit in his mouth.
You will have to / tell me if the angel of this pain has yet
/ to go off the edge of here.
I got on the floor and bawled for a hysterectomy. I was
/ the big spoon beside my Venus, unjustly obscured.
My hair looked so good. I cut it myself / a lifetime ago.
Each movement glittered / a separate meaning. My
Venus said it is okay / to be approximate and by this / I
knew if pain makes me more the shape of a woman
then I am a dog and dogged. Then she / gave me back
her heart because it was my own.
It came over in ceremony, a dish of scraped but
unwashed shell – / the salt crusting pearlescent –
clumped velvet / of the aorta – knowing I should gift her
in return but all I could come to was / the absolute
greyest of my enemies.
He walked into the garden by some feat of convulsion
and I / clung to the roses rather than hold him / until
word came that the angel / had left me and had done
so / wearing Venus of Urbino’s probable bridal whites.
I remember I have made my body / once before. The
not believing is a brutality. All the men / meld to a floor
tile and floor tiles are more capable of belief. Belief / is
an effort. Drawing the good men out of the floor is an /
effort. Drawing out the only one I presently / want is an
effort. I have him against / a glassless colonnade
window in my head, leisurely, / we do not at all wait or
budget. He is this Venus, I am / my Venus, my Venus
watches with understanding / from the hospital roof that
overlooks the palace / while a passing bird shits pure
sea salt onto her naked shoulder.
I want him in the palace of the oil painting; / by me in
the hospital. The want lives in a body picked out of the
shadow / by applied gleaming. The light retaliates, the
fine edge of either / the beer can or the shell rests
expectant on my lip.
I will also mention my nipples to him next time, they will
be / enunciated against a deep olive green / and
instead of milk it is salt out of my tits / and it is so
womanly. In the dim taxi passenger seat alone / with
the pain medication’s fuzz, I / am in the mirror.
I could be someone in this lack of light. There / is the
terrier of my heart, foaming ready to maul the pain. She
is real and not, all the world in a flash and the drag of
nothing, hurt and wait.
There is a she who is a well body, nothing approximate
/ about her, she is picked out in the light. It is so
womanly / in each surrender of my good behaviour. It
is so womanly / on the surface of this Venus, when love
is a glossy coating, when public.
When the big spoon.
When the roses.
When the codeine.
When the elevation.
When my Venus spits in my dry mouth and it tastes /
not like a waitlist, not like some acrid and clothed
articulation / of light, not as if the state is happening to
me but as if / the state is with and for me.

Ali Graham is a writer living in Norwich. Ali’s poetry and essays have been published by 3:AM, SPAM Zine, The Tangerine, Seam Editions, and Glasgow Review of Books, among others. Ali can be found on Twitter at and on Instagram as aligrhm. Ali likes the films of Maya Derren, the colour grey, and hybrid things.

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