The Body Needs Blood

My father smoked cigarettes,
pack a day,
enough to punctuate every sentence with a cough
I began to wait for a cough at the end of each sentence
Some were louder than others
The others were small, ceased by force, muffled,
they never got to be the biggest coughs they could have been

When I was six, maybe seven,
I slid his Peter Jackson Blue’s off the kitchen table
and gently placed them inside the kitchen bin

I must have thought: out of sight, out of mind
He told me he wanted his damn cigarettes
and I gave them to him
Years later I sat smoking a cigarette on a balcony
somewhere in Vietnam, too many beers in,
feeling euphoric and invincible
wondering why I ever hid my father’s cigarettes at all
I had forgotten the coughs

He could have died of watermelon poisoning,
being eaten alive by a walrus,
hunted by gnomes or,
falling out of a helicopter,
but he didn’t
He died in a road accident
But I think of the cigarettes
and the sticky, hot blood coursing inside his veins
making it hard for his body to live

The heart, which is full of blood
receives no nourishment from it
But the body does


Why’ve I got
to tell you
why I do
what I do
With my body,
adorn in it art,
rags of
my choosing
for my
Why’ve you got to
ask me
criticise me
I wear
what I wear
feathers and
a forty year old rag
cut right up
with spice

Why’ve you
got to look,
look to you
for what’s right
What if
your criticism
made me die
would that
stop you,
would you
put the sheath back

I want to reclaim
my space
I want to reclaim
my mind
I want to reclaim
what’s mine,
it’s mine and
what’s mine,
is mine
I want you
to swallow your tongues
and roll backwards
away from me

Author’s Biography

Ruth (she/her) is a writer of non-fiction, fiction and poetry in English and Polish. She received her BA with a major in Professional Writing from Victoria University. Her latest work has recently appeared in Dumbo Feather (aus), Mamamia (aus), ABC Everyday (aus) Neon Literary Magazine (uk), Coffee People (us), Parliament (us) and Rhodora (in). Ruth also reads creative non-fiction for literary publications; Catatonic Daughters and Kitchen Table Quarterly. She doesn’t want to own a Tesla, which could be a result of working in some very old, heritage listed theatres for many years. Ruth has two cats and treats them like her own children.