Expendable/Is that all I am worth?


I thought it was over.
All these years of death
and illness, all the funerals.
I’d hardly taken breath
between the elegies

but even so, I’d started
to believe, to hope enough
to make plans, follow dreams.
Things seemed
beautiful, in a quiet way —

the days long enough
to remember words,
find laughter hiding
between the hours,
and though still hard

they were mine again.
My body reclaimed,
broken, yes, but still
mine, and this life
was possible again.

Strange, then, to find
death was not gone
but just waiting
and this life,
this glorious broken life

is not mine
but expendable,
collateral to save
an annoying whine

to be dismissed
as irrational
and I want to tell them
they don’t know
they don’t know

what it is like to watch
a person drown
in their own body,
what it is to see
a healthy child

die. I want to say
protect me, please
but they tell me
to stay home,
stay quiet

and wash my hands.

Victoria Bennett

Is that all I am worth?

When they say
don’t worry
only the old
and the sick
will die

I want to say:

that is my child.
See him, here —
he has blue eyes
and blond hair
and when you are sad
he will know, and he will
ask if you are ok
and every day
his life is chanced,
hangs in the balance

though you wouldn’t know
when you hear him laughing
though sometimes,
when the door is closed,
you might find him
banging his fists
against his small body,
those big blue eyes
screwed shut,
why me?

Now, when he sees the news,
scrolls down his screen
to see the adults saying:
don’t worry
you’ll be fine
it’s only the old
and the sick
that will die

he looks at me
and ask me why
no one cares?
He says
is that all
I am worth?

And I pull back my tears
and tell him:
No, you are worth
to me

and later,
when he sleeps
I clean,
and clean,
and clean.




Victoria Bennett

Illustration Georgina Baillie


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