Listen to “Redefining the pain scale,” read by Jennifer Brough.


1. Remember when we first met? We laid out our dreams like a picnic spread and walked so closely even the darkness was warm. i loved you almost instantly.

2. In the archives of my life, i’m sure there have been years without pain but have misplaced the files. Searching in cabinets, suitcases and photographs for evidence, i find nothing but red herrings.

3. Early one weekend, i phone the non-emergency helpline. Trying not to cry i fold in on myself like a deck chair. You rub my back, helpless. The doctor suggests acupuncture. We stare at each other.

4. “Have you tried…?” is a refrain that follows me in a hymn that everyone seems to know but sings in a different key. i move my mouth in yeses to the scattered choir but no sound emanates.

5. It’s hard to be intimate often and it’s often hard to be intimate. Pain lies between us and caresses me with pins and needles long after you’ve fallen asleep. This is her version of foreplay.

6. i moonlight as an equaliser, someone who adds the things i should be grateful for and world tragedies to a gleaming golden scale, in the hopes that Pain will be outweighed. She isn’t.

7. We’ve been to A&E more times than we’ve been on holiday. i drag Pain along like a naughty child, apologising to doctors who introduce me to morphine. Now i can go swimming while being completely still.

8. i hold a funeral for the body i once had. i light candles and rattle the collection of pills like hollow bones over a salt outline. Though my throat burns i do not weep, only wait to become anew.

9. By flaking away layers of pressure, i have, at last, found a blank wall in a corner of myself. The silence is startling. When you come home, you look at me and smile.

10. All this is a way of saying too many transient things. Beyond greek diagnoses that fall out of my mouth like bricks when all i really need to say is thank you, don’t go, i love you.



Jennifer Brough is a writer, editor and avid reader. Outside of these wordy pursuits, she is learning Spanish and dreaming of Mexico. Her poems and short stories have been published in Eunoia Review, Pussy Magic and Mookychick, among others. She tweets @Jennifer_Brough.