Third Dimension by Katie Gene Friedman

They don’t tell you
chronic illness is a philosophy
of mind puzzle. The one where a ship
sets sail around the world. Parts replaced
at each port. Upon reaching
its destination, is the gestalt of the vessel
the original, comprised of new material,
or a substitute?

The boys you date say, “But you’re better
now, right?” Not because they care
but because they want to be seen
as do-gooders. Game to rubberneck
on the periphery of precarity
without stomaching the fallout.
And the test is when you tell them,
for richer, for poorer, in sickness
and in health, you’ll never be the same
ship as before, will they love this one,
or long for more?

Mar, per Oxford Languages, means,
“impair the appearance of; disfigure.”
The example given is wrinkles marring
a face. As if wrinkles are a collective
noun verbing upon their bedrock,
rather than a form a face folds into,
like a chain of protein finding
its third dimension. By implication,
life mars us, and what the boys
really mean to ask is, “But it gets better,
right? Please tell me life is a form
we fold into.”

Katie Gene Friedman is a queer, invisibly disabled high school dropout and healthcare worker, who enjoys musing on the indignities of having a body. Her nonfiction chapbook Foreign Body is out with Future Tense Books. You can find her prose and poetry in Foglifter, SFWP Quarterly, Hobart, Portland Review, and elsewhere. On social media she goes by @ValleyGirlLift.