In this powerful and vivid poem, Emily Swettenham creatively explores living with Pelvic Inflammatory Disease, a condition that affects almost a quarter of a million women in the UK each year.
I call her nana
Sitting on the counter counting things
like the spots on her skin
or the number of times she’s been touched in the past few weeks
now that she’s not green for it
she yellows into a mellowness that is
sweet in the way old women can be
they’ve been mashed up a few times
met vanilla, tasted chocolate — had their cake
and eaten it.
Sickness is green;
orange is orange —
resilient to this re-
arranging of pith,
Once I was top banana.
You’ve come down with him bad, nana
you’ve gone bananas
you’ve gone off.
I can see myself slipping
in your skin.
This past year, I had P.I.D. resulting from an improper insertion of the coil. I have never experienced anything so painful in my life – physically and emotionally. Thankfully, and honestly a little miraculously, I have now made full recovery, excepting a residual pain issue that I’m told will clear up in time. Many women with this issue are not so lucky. I wrote this poem to help raise awareness of this often stigmatised illness in hopes of showing others that they are not alone.
Information about Pelvic Inflammatory Disease (P.I.D)
Pelvic Inflammatory Disease is an infection of the uterus, fallopian tubes, and ovaries. Most often, it develops from an untreated STD, or from the insertion of an IUD, but it can also occur spontaneously (normal vaginal bacteria passing through the cervix). It is extremely painful, debilitating, and can cause infertility and chronic pain if left untreated. It can be missed by doctors, as its symptoms – particularly in cases where a patient does not fully manage to clear their first infection, resulting in an abscess – can be passed off as resembling normal or functional ‘female pain’, or even misdiagnosed as endometriosis. See the NHS webpage for more information and advice on what to do if you’re showing any signs or symptoms of PID.
About Emily Swettenham
Emily Swettenham is a recent graduate of the University of Cambridge where she read English. In 2020, she won the university’s Sykes Prize for her prose fiction piece ‘Elegy.doc’. Her/their writing responds to the question of how we might find spiritual expression in a postmodern world–exploring the ways in which this question intersects with the natural world in crisis, and what knowledge the fleshly experience of the body has to offer in this context.
This piece was written as part of our latest mini-series, Our Body’s Bodies
Everything is written on the body – but what does it mean to write about our bodies in the era of Covid-19? And is it possible to write about bodily experiences in the face of such pervasive and continued violence? Using different modes of writing and art making, Lucy Writers presents a miniseries featuring creatives whose work, ideas and personal experiences explore embodiment, bodily agency, the liberties imposed on, taken with, or found in our bodies. Beginning from a position of multiplicity and intersectionality, our contributors explore their body’s bodies and the languages – visual, linguistic, aural, performance-based and otherwise – that have enabled them to express and reclaim different forms of (dis)embodiment in the last two years. Starting with the body(s), but going outwards to connect with encounters that (dis)connect us from the bodies of others – illness, accessibility, gender, race and class, work, and political and legal precedents and movements – Our Body’s Bodies seeks to shine a light on what we corporally share, as much as what we individually hold true to.
Bringing together work by artistic duo Kathryn Cutler-MacKenzie and Ben Caro, author Ayo Deforge, poet Emily Swettenham, writer and poet Elodie Rose Barnes, writer and researcher Georgia Poplett, writer and researcher Hannah Hutchings-Georgiou and many others, as well as interviews with and reviews of work by Elinor Cleghorn, Lucia Osbourne Crowley and Alice Hattrick, Lucy Writers’ brings together individual stories of what our bodies have endured, carried, suffered, surpassed, craved and even enjoyed, because…these bodies are my body; we are a many bodied being. Touch this one, you move them all, our bodies’ body.
We also welcome pitches and contributions from writers, artists, film-makers and researchers outside of the Lucy Writers’ community. Please enquire for book reviews too.
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Submissions are open from 6 January 2022 until late March 2022.
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Feature image: artwork by Sara Rivers.