Sarah Fawn Montgomery

Chronic Pain as Porthole

Say goodbye to shore
mooring line kelp tangled
and curved as a noose
the circling gulls greedy
for what was left behind—
stale bread and bitter
drink, a lone flounder
gasping across the empty
dock desperate to discover
a way back to breath
like this view of the endless
sea, a meditation to distract
from the horizon of mirage
because even in the safety
of the stinking harbor
the ship was already under water.




From the depths it is easy
to forget how to be

a body breathing, beating
against the current cold

as the used cadavers
to practice healing

hurt an invitation
like the tender pulse

of an open anemone
or the jellyfish widening

to take in the sea
medicine an exploration

like trench submarines, whale
song recordings, endless

ache and bellow,
but an octopus holds

out arms only to flee
and I am diving

without a mask
submerged in the rising

sea of diagnosis,
falling fathoms, far

too deep without the safety
of air or even a flashlight

by which to find
my way back from the dark.



Sarah Fawn Montgomery is the author of Halfway from Home (Split/Lip Press), Quite Mad: An American Pharma Memoir (The Ohio State University Press), and three poetry chapbooks. She is an associate professor at Bridgewater State University.