Poem: Creature of Habit & To My Non-Disabled Lover

[Image Description: an incomplete puzzle made of pieces in primary colours with the title of the poem in the gaps. On some of the puzzle pieces are motifs from the poem such as a lock and key]

Poems by Nell Swallow

Art by Aiden Tsen

Creature of Habit

I am good at being invisible in the same way that I am good

at locking the door behind me before I collapse. By this I mean that

you will know me as the ghost of myself until I give you a key to the door.

You see, I am such a heavy thing to hold

that most people simply do not try at all.

I am such a soft and muddled thing that nobody knows

how to take care of me anymore.

To drift through life having never quite known myself is to sleep

inside a burning building, and to live as a puzzle that people dream of

solving is such a gentle way to burn.

I thought that the doctor’s note would be the missing piece

but it turns out there is no soothing

the quiet confusion living inside my head.

My bones collapsing must look like I’m dancing

but there isn’t a moment inside my head that ever feels relaxing and

I still carry the weight of my own world on my shoulders

because I still don’t belong in this one.

I have recognised that my body is inescapable

no matter how useless it is to me most of the time

so I push through the aches of living because they tell me that I’m special

(really it’s just a polite way to say that I’m slightly mental).

The truth is that I don’t know who I am when I am not trembling

and my cries for help can be so soundless that sometimes they

forget just how much I am hurting.

[Image Description: a heart-shaped pretzel on top of four post-it notes, which read out 'To My Non-Disabled Lover', the title of the poem]

To My Non-Disabled Lover

To the one who holds me still when I shake,

Greater than the get well soon cards,

shoulder pats and pitying smiles from strangers,

is the sound of your songs

on the days I cannot speak.

The hand, scribbling list after list, making note

of ways to help the world welcome me as I am;

the hours wasted in bed laid next to me

when sitting up is too big of an ask, too hard a task

and none of it seen as sacrifice,

not even the last minute trips to the supermarket

When I want to eat nothing but pretzels that day.

Your shadow dances against the scene

of my undrawn curtains, while you love me

through the meltdowns and the mania.

I tell you that loving me is rotten work,

and my very own Pylades replies:

“Not to me. Not if it’s you.”

My Name is Nell Swallow (she/her), and I am a 20 year old creative writing student from the UK. I am passionate about writing poetry and draw inspiration from my own life as well as my surroundings. As an autistic woman, expressing myself is vital to my work, as poetry offers me a unique way of communicating in areas of which I would be otherwise unable to do so.