Dermoid, The Shrine of St. Anthony, PPD, and Hypochondria – Poetry

By Lindsey Lewis Smithson

Writer’s statement: Like many with unseen, but no less challenging, illnesses I am both drawn to and frustrated by the perception of others. I was told by several people that postpartum depression and anxiety are not real, that it is a weakness, that I make myself worry, and that I do this all to myself. Society, for too long, has forced women to internalize this as a truth, that our mental health and our gynecological health are nothing more than figments of our imaginations or things not to be discussed. While I could have worked my experiences into some personal narratives, I wanted the immediacy of poetry; I felt these things without the ability to analyze them at the time and I wanted to offer readers that similar perspective.


The outside
on the inside, the
hair, a tooth, all
without sunshine
or air for that matter.
A lover’s touch,
more than mucus
and extraneous
dermal cell level shit.
It’s rare, but it could
develop on eye.
Would it have sight
or would it just not
process what cannot
be seen beyond
ovary confinement?

It won’t think of coffee
on Main and Mountain
where we talked
of that future job
and maybe your wife.
We talked around
the idea of kids,
but that’s a hard one.
I was told not to complain
of the pain of pregnancy,
the weight more than weight
that has to be carried.
Other families dream of that
does nothing for the burden.

It’s just cells. It’s all just cells.
On this odd chance
these may spin hair
from pockets deep
within the pelvis.
Could have been different.
We could have been more.


The Shrine of St. Anthony

I got lost going to a church and ended up at a bar.
It’s not a punch line and that is exactly what it is.
Not in either sense. But maybe in another one.
It wasn’t a bar in one of those senses either,
with faux Celtic shields on the walls that may
have been racist or at best insulting if I knew better.
There must have been another calling for St. Anthony too.
That’s why I wanted to find him, to ask him how. To ask why.
I didn’t know that Jesus sent his men to Ellicott City,
the moss-covered state of Maryland that reeks of crab.
No one plans to be there, but we all end up there somehow.
The bar served boxed wine. Too much boxed wine. Too pink.
Wikipedia says that St. Anthony is the saint for those that are lost.



Spoiled she said. We never had this when I was pregnant. These women are fake. Babies make you happy. She drinks. I had a walk in closet in a beige house in Maryland. I cried in that closet. She asked for me to bring cheese and crackers on a green plate. This may have been before the closet. Maybe it was after. We were just so much stronger when I had kids. Women today are too weak.

I was never so alone.



All in your head dear.
The most true insult.
I predicted our impending
boat crash inside my head.

The boat did crash that day,
a real boat, a glitter bronze
refinish from 1968 with white
seats and brown trim. We hit
a jet ski that damaged a dock.

I dislocated my knee at twelve,
later, at thirteen, my arm broke.
It was all in my head until
it was all in a cast.
The knee locks up,
but since it isn’t real
I guess that maybe it doesn’t.
There’s still this pressing fear
that, once in traffic, I may
actually pee my pants.
It’s never happened but
there was this one time
in the Denver Airport
that only my husband saw.
I should know it’s only
a thing that I make up
so that I can worry.
I guess I like to worry.

I had an MRI once. I liked
that, I could see a truth.
I saw a therapist for a while.
I thought about the truth.
Both times I left with a label.
Maybe I could hang all that worry
and to something tangible.
Nothing got fixed. Even if it did
I would just make up something
new, because isn’t that my thing?

Lindsey Lewis Smithson has her MFA from UC Riverside’s Low Residency program. She is the Editor of Straight Forward Poetry, runs a freelance manuscript editing service, and writes poetry book reviews.  Previously she served as the Managing Editor for The Coachella Review and worked on The Whistling Fire. Some of her poetry has appeared on The Nervous Breakdown, This Zine Will Change Your Life, The Cossack Review and WordRiot. She has one kid that is pretty great and is expecting a second. Her dogs are the worst but her husband is a swell fella. She can be found on twitter @lindseysmithson and@straight_poetry.


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