Poetry: "Bone Ladder" by Nina Parmenter

If I was belly-based, I could spend my days

sculling in lush pools of gut fauna,

warm and safe beneath my own flesh roof.

But I chose for my space the cranium, famed for its

panoramic views, its proximity to tongue

and tears, its sweet private access

via the top flight of the spine.

Each day, a billion stimuli send me scuttering

up the rungs of my neck, hot

as a bugged weasel, squashing seven skewed vertebrae

in my rush. And when there is danger -

a meeting, a journey, a decision -

I ratchet up my bones in painful panic,

retreat into the tissues of my tower.

Come nightfall, I offer my neck paltry thank yous -

seven hours, two squashed pillows, a mattress

made for the pain. And, quietly, as we lie there,

I apologise for my high-rise yearnings,

for the cruel toll of feet and gravity,

then beg it not to leave me, like Rapunzel,

scaling ropes of my own knotty hair.

Nina Parmenter has appeared in journals including Ink, Sweat & Tears, Snakeskin, Light, Better Than Starbucks and The Lyric. In 2021, she was the winner of the Hedgehog Poetry single poem competition and was nominated for the Forward Prize. She was also highly commended in the 2021 Geoff Stevens Memorial Prize. Offline, she lives in Wiltshire with her husband and two boys. Online, she can be found on Twitter (@ninaparmenter), Facebook (@parmenterpoetry) or on her blog (www.ninaparmenter.com).