Hunger 6

Afterwards, the wardens dab her neck, her wrists with eau de cologne,
Not a kindness,
But to mask the trail of what has happened here

Staling milk
Sharp scent of fear

And these women, these decent women, good girls all
Never been kissed, never been touched are spread eagled on a chair
Hands held down
Someone else’s knees thrust against their chests
Mouths pulled open in a parody of passion

Muscle-tissue proteins are broken down into their constituent amino acids and rearranged to support bodily functions.

And afterwards,
Creeping out of Holloway at 5am
Faces peaky under bonnets
Dresses hanging from shrunken frames

A medal from the sisterhood,
Proforma letter
And the waiting
The game of cat and mouse

And Bobby turns his face to the wall,
Almost transfigured,
He is gone away

Flesh rotting,
Breath stinking
Internal dirty protest
Still makes their stomach churn though

Although his does not, any more

by the 40th day without sustenance, the body’s fat reserves have been exhausted, and the body has begun to feed upon itself

Day 56 and 57 and 58 and 59 and the world has shrunk to simply trying to find a way to lie when the weight of a sheet becomes intolerable against skin stretched tight against bones.

And Bobby is thinking of a wife gone away and child gone away and lips cracking,he sings a song, his song

My comrades ghosts walk behind me
A rebel I came, I’m still the same

Oh I wish I was back home in Derry

But the tune has gone away now, so he faces the wall and in 3 weeks time, they will line the streets and his coffin will be weightless, floating in air, transcendent, translucent, transfigured.

The strength with which the heart pumps blood begins to fade, and the body’s ability to adapt starts to break down. The hunger striker begins to lose sight and hearing.

And in Ramadan, the holy month
These men
These men with nothing to lose and nowhere to go have turned their faces to the wall and wait as orange jump suits begin to slip from shrinking bodies and eye sight dims and prayers become confused with nursery rhymes.

Speech becomes slurred and the skin grows dry and scaly, eyes twitch in their sockets and limbs lack coordination. The hunger striker suffers vomiting and difficulty swallowing.

And I’m watching a rapper, black, sharp, shoes just so, jewellery this side of too much become transformed.
Feet bare, wrists manacled, head bowed, scared.

An impossible length of tubing down his nose and his back arches and his toes curl
1 minute
2 minutes

There may be internal bleeding.

There is nothing left of the boy at the beginning, just tears and snot and voice that begs for this to stop
And when it does, he wraps his arms around himself and rocks

Backwards and forwards

And the camera cuts away

There may be internal bleeding.

About cathi rae

50ish teacher & aspiring writer and parent of a stroppy teenager and carer for a confused bedlington terrier and a small selection of horses who fail to shar emy dressage ambitions. Interested in contemporary fiction but find myself returning to PG Wodehouse when the chips are down View all posts by cathi rae

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