Paula Harris

QMT - Nov 2018

why you can’t have anal sex with me

it’s not that I wouldn’t, if I could,
and obviously why wouldn’t you want to

I had Crohn’s disease and it nearly killed me, twice,
but don’t look sad or awkward
it’s just how things went;
so my surgeon (because I consider him mine)
removed my large intestine
and I assumed he’d remove my rectum as well
but he decided not to
(to be kind, he told me, in case
things could be reconnected one day
although maybe he was really leaving
something behind for all the anal sex)

my rectal stump (I really hate the sound
of that phrase: ‘rectal stump’) got sad
from missing my large intestine
so my surgeon removed it eight months later
(the surgery is called a proctectomy
if you need to google something)
and I assumed he’d just sew me up
with a neat straight seam
leaving me the kind of alien who’d never
had to shit from their anus
but he decided to fashion
an approximation of an anus from my tissue,
even though it’s an anus to nowhere

I wish I had a neat straight seam

when I was 18 and already starting to get sick
I had anal sex with the guy I was semi-regularly fucking
(on a weights bench in his father’s garage,
which is the most 18-year-old place to have sex)
and there was a bit of blood
and I remember the rush of heat to my cheeks
that he might notice and know I was sick
know that I was haemorrhaging blood
most days when I went to the toilet
know that I was scared I might have cancer
know that I wasn’t telling anyone

when I told my new lover about my ileostomy
(because that’s what you end up with
when your large intestine is gone;
an ileostomy, that is, not a new lover)
he said “so anal’s out then” and laughed gently
(and that laugh made me like him even more)

First published in Queen Mob's Teahouse (2018)

Paula Harris

About Paula

Paula Harris lives in Aotearoa/New Zealand, where she writes and sleeps a lot, because that's what depression makes you do. She won the 2018 Janet B. McCabe Poetry Prize and the 2017 Lilian Ida Smith Award, and was a semi-finalist for the 2020 92Y Discovery Poetry Prize. She was the recipient of a Vermont Studio Center writing residency in 2018.

Her poetry has been published in various journals, including Passages North, Barren, New Ohio Review, SWWIM, Gulf Coast, The Spinoff, Poetry New Zealand Yearbook and Aotearotica. Her essays have been published in The Sun, Passages North, The Spinoff and Headlands: New Stories of Anxiety (Victoria University Press).

She is extremely fond of dark chocolate, shoes and hoarding fabric.