The Bend


(above are three selfies each showing my limbs bending the wrong way; the fingers of one hand bend back to cup my face; an arm bends back at the elbow and a knee does the same, legs outstretched and toes pointing upwards as the knee joint inverts.)
The Bend:
according to dictionaries’
definitions of being strong –
strength needs physical qualities;
power, force or capacity,
yet I can’t get around my home,
I’m told by every frienemy
I just need to be much stronger;
armored impregnability;
resistance; durability
vital for me not to squander
life; potential; vitality,
such strength for the able-bodied,
I choose a bolder path you see,
or perhaps ‘choice’ was eroded
by kinks in my neurology
and the way my cells encoded
in ‘abnormal’ biology;
my joints bend in both directions,
dislocate in everyday tasks,
nerves aflame as muscles spasm
none know how much each smile masks,
conditions affect each system;
heart, mind, skin, sinew, senses, bone,
womb, friendships, house, ambitions,
the proper functioning of lungs
and access to situations,
yet my defiance overcomes
as much as can be,
though I’ll never be the whole me,
I’ve worked in distant conflict zones,
I’ve danced, performed, travelled, rock-climbed
I’ve survived months bedbound, alone
much of the time, these summits mine
so I won’t justify, atone
or explain why strength doesn’t align
with my gen or position,
or why what I once did can’t now be done,
it’s called symptom progression,
In the narrow ways it’s defined
‘strength’ favours normalisation
where any difference is consigned
to apathy or approbation,
Folk like me need another word assigned;
another word for talking with no voice,
another word for walking on glass limbs,
another word for laughing loud, eyes moist
when the pain feels your carrying Earth’s sins,
I am not strong but I make mosaics
of fragments of me while I’m breaking.
Antonia Sara Zenkevitch
This poem and posting the photos are my first response (of 2) to VJ’s Weekly Challenge on the theme of Resilience. Btw, that is the word that answers the question posed in the poem. The conditions I’ve referred to include cerebral palsy, hemiparesis,  Elhers Danlos Syndrome, ME/CFS, PoTS/STARS, asthma, endometriosis, fibromyalgia and other associated conditions. No, I’m not strong, yes I am resilient!
My second response to VJ’s excellent prompt can be read here.


  1. V.J. Knutson says:

    This is so powerful and emotional. Strong revamped. I love that you identify as more than your disease – hard to do some days, I know. Thanks for participating and sharing your inspiring words.

    1. antoniazen says:

      Thank-you VJ! x

      1. antoniazen says:


  2. DoRee says:

    Beautifully put ❤️.

    1. antoniazen says:

      ❤️ Thanks

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