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by Carol Berg


Each day, my back reminds me
that pain is an artist.

Some mornings, my pain
is a contortionist performing in carnival,

bright fire in its mouth, bending
in ways my body won’t.

Some days, a boring lecturer,
the dullest words culled

from an iron alphabet.
A deep-sea diver,

pulling pain like long strands
of seaweed through my spine.

Violetta in La Traviata,
rising to an aria so high

it vibrates in my skin.
Some days, my pain holds

out an olive branch, and when I reach,
retracts it. There are days when my pain is a baker,

kneading and stretching my joints see-through thin.
My pain scatters its numbers across my back until

the scale of one to ten becomes a puzzle,
pieces I can’t fit together.

I try once more to learn how to count

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