Shane Neilson


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was no smaller than my heart,
no less capacious. Whitmanian.
O deepest, most secret scarlet
testimony and rust-duveted
lie blood, disqualification,
who can say I am worth?

Very well, the theory contradicts
my testimony very well. Norms
of seen and unseen, sects
that qualify preference by subset –
let’s itemize every scorn,
each diminished life chance. Let’s
sit at perfect altars to interdict

imperfect minds, convince beauty
that it can be aimed, that it loves
not to be loved, but abuse
instead? O deepest, O most rooted
in ashes and dust, O love not for us,
we, of imperfect mind, convince beauty

to be the exception that disproves your rule.
Bodies sycamore-strain on hospital grounds,
monsters are tormented by consensus in schools;
group homes convene past the square’s ridicule;
on the streets, men hearing voices sound;
my lie is that this heart is miniscule.


Shane Neilson is a poet, physician, and literary critic who researches the representations of pain in Canadian literature. In 2019 he will, along with his friends, publish an issue of Hamilton Arts & Letters on disability poetics in Canada. Shane completed his "affect trilogy" in 2017 with Dysphoria (Porcupine's Quill Press), and is grateful that Wordgathering reviewed it.