House of Cards

by Melissa Hedges

I’m five months
away from being twenty-two,
and I want a different magic trick
that doesn’t involve playing cards or whipping
the table cloth from beneath the fine china.
I want the cloth to tear, the china to chime as it breaks.

I am only twenty-one, and I like to imagine
my body is a temple,
that the pill I’ve been on for five years is fighting the good fight
but it doesn’t stop
the pain that so acutely washes through my bones,
through my skin, and reminds me I’m a woman.

For the past two years
I’ve been on three month monthlies.
For six, I’ve been afraid of my body.

I wonder how something as sweet sounding
as “chocolate cysts”
could force me on my back,
“did she get behind my uterus? To check?”

A probe checks between my legs to see if I’m in love
or if it’s just the cells from my uterine wall attaching to my lungs
leaving me
I wonder out loud if this is what sex is supposed to feel like.
The technician laughs and says: “No, it’s so much better.”

I wish I knew the difference between
love and disease. Both involve swelling, constriction, being trapped
in a room you didn’t expect yourself to be in
with a bunch of white coats pushing an IV into your hand, telling you to “relax.”

In recovery, I pick at the stitches on my nightgown
and imagine that the doctors patched my uterus with the Queen of Hearts.
My body is a compost pile of ruined
playing cards that I don’t know how to rebuild.

Melissa Hedges
 is currently an undergraduate creative writing student at Stephen F. Austin State University. She has an unending love for antique maps and typewriters.

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