The personal is political, by Crystal Hurdle


Need to eat to keep up my strength

Headlines stick in my throat

Lice in Farmed Salmon

Global Warming, Swine Flu, Food Crises

I push away the spinach salad

half eaten

I put down my Odwalla smoothie

half drunk

or should I think half full?

Negativity my intractable symptom.


Popeye’s biceps deflate

suddenly an old man with batwings

The E coli adopt jack-o-lantern faces

as they race over autumn fields

where cows moo at closed chocolate factories

Syringes in the creamy centres, how salutary!


Virulence strokes me

gentler than Sick Witch.


Maybe I’ll take a bath.

Taint of anti-bacterial soap

new and improved germs goose pimple my skin


Maybe I’ll go to bed

Sheets stink of chemicals and bleach

I roll over, close my eyes

with every intake of my breath

people contract HIV

one Mississippi

why can’t I sleep

two Mississippi

die of SARS


Maybe I’ll count sheep even as

their lanolin festers

they sicken and die

bird flu mutates into something worse

false modesty and viruses in hands to hold

to shake

infection! pass it on!


drowning in new diseases

must each have a catchy acronym

to be considered real?

(ACH, Acquired Crystal Hurdle?)


AIDS now out in the open

not the careful makeup chancres

on Tom Hanks in Philadelphia

or Angels in America

would like an Emma Thompson nurse

don’t need her avenging angel


Sick Witch is enough with her corpse breath

now reeking vaguely of strawberry and salad

Bedside, she sluices her spinach-green hands and smiles

blood where her teeth meet gums

My sisters have been very busy


What sisters? The one from the East

–the SARS one?– she’s dead, right?

dropped house, Asian grave

and good Glinda couldn’t wouldn’t bring so much as a rosy rash, not frostbite, maybe chilblains with their small itch?


Who? Not more doubles? I’m too sick to do the math

like that Breck commercial about telling one friend and so on and so on until so many heads of hair filled the screen it looked like connect the dots into one blob of blackness


Sick Witch smiles but doesn’t answer.

I don’t need a bad angel to boot

my right toe twitches

a good sign


give Sickness the boot

as she already has my ruby red slippers

She holds them to her face and plays peekaboo

as if I’m a baby in a crib


angel as nurse

who is Sick Witch’s other?

what does she still want from me?




boots will lift me higher from the pooling waters

did I forget to drain the tub?

leave the taps on when scrubbing?


a small northern country floats by

the suds swell toxic

maybe hip waders?

how high are the heels


tottery regardless



my ark

alter egos two by two


I am my own island, an ice floe

Sick Witch sings a dirge

with a chorus of similar voices

all off-key, all cackling

then the gibbering of winged monkeys


I see a jungle

without rainforest

without humans

it is very hot

my ice floe puddles

but I’m too late to lick the drops


I’m so small

melting! melting!

soap doll

down the drain


My hands grasp the side to hold on

hold on