Head Cold

Julianna May

They diagnosed allergies

as soon as you were born

severe nasal drip and stuffy nose

would occur as soon

as you stepped outdoors

so you grew up pressing

nose to glass – smooshed cheeks

trying to glance down the street

and still couldn’t breathe – you

piled up tissues mounted with mucus.

When the coughing fits started

the doctor was pressed – were you

stealthily sneaking outside, sniffing roses?

he prescribed a bubble –

like an inflatable hamster ball

just for you – to walk through

the outside world unscathed

and healthy. you smiled at checkups

and ate your meals with a chuckle

swallowing three times as much

even when you had no food –

overactive saliva glands

your doctor said, swallowing like that

nothing to be concerned about.

The steady waterfall down your throat – normal.

But you knew something was off

kept your coughing at night

shots of snot

lining the clear walls with yellow

goop cleaned up by morning

so life passed – you found ways

to make friends who didn’t point

and stare; they slept over on the air

mattress next to your bubble, danced

parties next to you but never touched

till one day you woke up

gagging and crying – your parents

ran to you – you kept coughing, feeling

this pit rise up from deep in your lungs

much larger than an adam’s apple.

they gasped as your throat grew a tumor

crawling up it slowly reaching your tonsils

you tasted it first, the slimy snotty ball

catching your tongue – trying to spit it out

but it stuck behind your teeth.

You bit down – the only way to break it

and eject it from your mouth – gasping for air

desperate to get away from the ball

you stabbed the bubble

and took your first free breath –

no snot filling your nostrils anymore.

About the Author

Julianna May (she/her) is an ex-horse girl, ex-Christian, and ex-hetero. She loves teaching English and ranting about Shakespeare. She has previously been published in Crepe & Penn Magazine, Nightingale and Sparrow Magazine, Wingless Dreamer Anthology, and others.

Instagram: @juliannamaypoetry

Twitter: @JuliannaMay1216


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