“Swallowing” by Sarah Hilton

Poetry Pause is the League of Canadian Poets’ daily poetry dispatch. Read “Swallowing” by Sarah Hilton, part of the League’s Fresh Voices program.


By Sarah Hilton

Become sick long enough and your illness becomes

an animal. My body began growing

something poisonous inside

my mouth after I met you. My tonsils

ballooning after our first kiss.

My throat puckered, an over ripe fruit.

You slip into my mouth anyways

and graze against the wound

with urgency, finding every corner of its cavity

like water swamping the bath. I swallow

to prevent drowning, the salt of you

in my throat, the calcium of my illness

against soft palate. You love my neck

the best, the reach of your hand

cutting through sleep. In the morning, you

undress my body and ask how much

can I relax my throat. I cannot

understand the way the mind

succumbs to the body

like this, how the body can discover itself

choking and the mind will lay back

in surrender, abandon breathing in

the name of love, sink into suffocation,

call it want. I was belly up that whole winter,

collapsed in your sheets and falling back on

my illness. Those days overtaken by my disease,

I continue to call you by another name,

guide your hands to my neck, mythologize

our love again and again. The next month,

my tonsils become two tumors blocking the way

to my body. I breathe only

through my nose. I choke on water. Blood

pooling behind my tongue. My mind does not go

to medicines, the hospital. I Google

ways I can incite pleasure without a mouth.

When you leave, I drink in

as much air as I can. I am still

gasping for it. These days,

I still reach for my throat

when I hear your name, feel your echo

awaken a throb in my gullet.

I try instead to find

the place my mind and body

intersect. Put a name to the animal.

Put a name to the ghost.

Copyright © Sarah Hilton

Sarah Hilton (she/they) is a lesbian librarian, or…a lesbrarian! Her work has been featured in several print and online journals including Minola, Untethered, and CV2. She is the author of Saltwater Lacuna (Anstruther Press) and the digital chapbook homecoming (MODEL Press). They live in Toronto.

Fresh Voices is a publication and workshop program created by and for the League’s associate members.

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