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Daniel Sluman - all that holds us .

Well Versed is edited by Jody Porter

all that holds us .
Daniel Sluman


once upon a time
you & i swam
from bed to bed
heavy with a hunger
for a love as light
as a bedsheet
to drown in

so much distance
& how far have we come ?

a middle-aged woman
with heavy eyes
peels off our socks
removing us
layer by layer
like she’s fleecing cattle

the dry skin swirls
from my shin
& the waxy stripes
on my arms
won’t be the first
she’s ever seen

( a reminder
how deep
you can cleave
the flesh before
the body asks
the blood to swell

a reminder
of the gap
where all this
horror burns
between what
the body feels
& the mind demands
the body do about it )

she plys our skins
with emollient
thick as grease
& we are left to sit
in our sweat
like chops spitting
in the pan   this sofa
all that holds us
adrift   straying
further from the life
we were tethered to

in a pacific-blue hoodie
my fingers shake
around a thermos
as outside the guttering
chokes with ice
& the snow flurries
to fill roads like words
in a notebook

we wake
in the same room
somehow thinking
we’re the same person
we were yesterday
in a world that feels
strangely familiar
strangely cold

the coffee we plunge
the cigarettes we roll
by the open window
the days disappear
down our lips

& even sleep
cannot carry the weight
of a human body in distress

our dreams felled
stacked & staining
the pillow like pollen

the carers come again
& again to unwrap us
of what holds us
until all that’s left
are tears streaming
down tattooed wrists
& onto the sofa
that has carried us
like a mother
for eight months

a shallow grave
beneath a dusty ceiling
the lampshades lolling
like buoys through
the dark of so much
dumb slumber


do you ever wonder
where our bodies go
when we dream ?
how even in sleep
our hearts falter
& life cannot carry us
any further ?

the days pass
the room repeats us
inside it in endless variation
& how long would it take
for someone to notice
if we awoke or never broke
through the next morning ?

we are cripples
& death is what
we’re meant to do
so long as we do it
quietly   so long
as we do it slow




Daniel Sluman is a 30-year-old poet and disability rights activist. He co-edited the award-winning disability anthology FTW: Poets against Atos, and was named one of Huffington Post’s Top 5 British Poets to Watch in 2015. His second collection the terrible was published by Nine Arches Press last year, and he is currently co-editing a new anthology of disability poetry, as well as preparing for a PhD at Birmingham City University in 2017. This poem was previously published by The Literateur.

Well Versed is edited by Jody Porter ([email protected])
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