The Catheter Aria

The crescendo eclipses
the bustle by my bedside.

A minor note deepens the chord,
hinting complexity, like wine in sauce.

The French horn is flat, sours the baseline;
the conductor waggles her stick at him.

Startled, the flautist comes in early, trilling,
leading a confusion of sound

till the conductor flops to a chair
and waits for the to clash fade.

All this I imagine, as they tell me to sing.
It helps to sing when they slide the tube inside you.


First Memory

Seven inches of water slosh around my calves as I stand, trying to press my fingertips into the strip of sealant that joins the bath to the white-tiled wall. Steam wraps around my shoulders as I lean forward and my feet slip. Heat ripples the air in front of my face. I fall slowly, as if the moisture in the air has me moving like a wasp in syrup. As it nears, I notice that the squishy putty is ever so slightly yellowed.

I didn’t feel my teeth crack against the porcelain.



Before Dawn

I peeled my skin from toes to crown to find my inner Russian doll. I thought she would be smaller, lighter, having never held the weight of your insecurities or scrubbed at memories that stick like tar. I thought I would shrink to fit her body, delight in my hips’ new narrow curve. But as I peeled and my skin became cloak, dangling from my neck like uncooked crackling, I felt the change sheer into the base of my skull, erasing memories, touches unwanted and wanted alike, erasing an entire language that I would have to learn again, without you. My knife hovers. When I am done, this new girl will nail my pelt to the lintel; my scars a cave painting, a warning: don’t come too close.


Joanna can’t seem to stop writing about trauma. Its aftereffects, moments of lightness and poignancy are the subject of her MA nonfiction manuscript at Bath Spa University and of her poetry. She was the 2017 Valedictorian of the university’s school of writing and performance, having won the 2016 Les Arnold Prize. Recently, Joanna was shortlisted for the 2018 New Poets Prize. Her work is featured widely, including: Amaryllis, Eye Flash, The Fenland Reed, Flash and Cinder, Irisi, and Riggwelter magazines. She is also the social media editor for Tears in the Fence. Twitter: Jo_Nissel

Image: Matryoshkas II by PhotoAtelier (Creative Commons)