Paige Sullivan

I’m Going to Need You to Work On Yourself

At night, when you are staring at the ceiling, 
doomsday-rehearsing for the imminent death  
of your dog, who you reach for in the dark 
to remind yourself she is just a year old, still 
here and breathing, please relax your jaw. 
Ask yourself, is your tongue touching the roof 
of your mouth? I really need you to unclench 
the tight fist of your body that has warped 
your core, your abs, that thing called the pelvic 
floor, whose location so few of your friends 
seem to know. You have the emotional equivalent 
of a cracked tooth, worn-away enamel. Every 
person who told you that you just need to relax, 
just cool it, just take a joke—well, I’m not saying 
they were right, but. It’s time to acknowledge 
your high-functioning life is a windshield  
struck by a pebble, the crack spreading  
and spidering over the years. I’m going to need 
you to ask yourself every twenty minutes if the dread 
sits somewhere below your diaphragm. You 
have carried all this around like a mother with 
her laptop bag, her diaper bag, and a car seat 
that makes her walk with a limp. Only you actually 
have a limp. Imagine your pelvic floor relaxing  
like a flower blooming. Just not the beautiful part. 
You keep dreaming about a person who hurt you. 
You can’t seem to part with this careworn sadness. 
In your sleep they will lean in close. You won’t 
hear what they say, but you’ll carry the feeling. 

Paige Sullivan is a poet, writer, and communications professional living in Atlanta. A graduate of the creative writing programs at Agnes Scott College and Georgia State University, her work has appeared or will soon appear in Harpur Palate, Puerto del Sol, Cherry Tree, and other journals.
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