Malady Unlocks the Door

Desiree Bailey


No one knows how it enters. Through nostril? Or through the mouth, dissolving on the tongue then sliding down the throat? Or maybe it wedges itself beneath the toenail, finding a roof there, a shelter for a season’s rest. There’s talk about the one that enters when you love somebody deep and full, the one that rubs its back along your thigh, inches up up and blows out all the candles in the room. They say that one sucks the guts and the marrow till you are a net of bones, nearly scattering at the edge of a bed. But no one knows if its like that, really. And no one knows how it enters, or when it enters for that matter. Does it come at the moment of the inhale before the first cough? Or in time with the first pinch of the aching knee? Is it years before that? Before you learn to thread a machine? To cook beneath the sky in a coal pot, throwing coconut shells into the fire; when pain was predictable and understood, when it had a clear cause: the prick of a needle, the lick of a flame?