40 Portraits of Pain

By June Okochi
http://www.juneokochi.co.uk/

I love telling stories. I write about my experiences of life, art, travel, culture, poetry. I even journal about living with my genetic condition.But one day I decided it would be great to express in a different kind way. I wanted to tell mine and other’s stories of living with our genetic condition through visual imagery.I wanted to use photography as an art form to express the different motions that come with this condition.How we deal with pain and suffering every day of our lives. To express how we battle fatigue levels, how we live with anxiety about when next we will be sick and back on a hospital bed, how we have become accustomed to discomfort and pain that we are no longer afraid of it. We have normalised it like the air we breathe. How we deal with broken bones, broken cells, strokes, suffocating pain, damaged organs and fight early mortality. Sometimes the pain is so excruciatingly unbearable, we chose death over life.We are born with it and we die with it. There are no easy ways around it.We deal with the impact on our social lives, our physical, mental and emotional lives. It takes its toll on our childhood, education, careers, professions, everything, until we end up borderline depressed and broken but we keep going, we keep living, we smile, we hide behind our pain, we cry at night, we keep smiling, we keep thriving, we keep popping those pills, we pop them until we die, we take your blood and exchange them into our veins to have life, to live. We need your blood donations, it fixes us for a short time until the next time when we need another fix. We take opiates to keep us alive, pain free. We use oxygen to keep us alive, we use surgery and chemo treatments to keep us alive. We do everything we can because we have no choice, because we didn’t choose this, because we were made to deal with it.Some of us do not know what a decent quality of life looks like.We fight, we fight, we win, we lose. Some fall and don’t make it, we hold their memories, recognising that they are in a better place, pain free, others keep fighting until we make our mark, find our legacy and our legacy may be as simple as just surviving.Sickle Cell…I am a warrior. We are warriors.World Sickle Cell Day, 19th June 2019Watch out for the full online photography series exhibition coming soon.#40potraitsofpain
#worldsicklecellday
#sicklecellinlondonCreator: June Okochi
Photographer: Jim Higham
Creative Director: Ijeoma Okochi-Agwu
Production: Mica Marshall and Tommy Okochi

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Indemnity

‘Stay’, was a word that hung in the air.
Everything else was torn down, packed and registered.
Brought out of the vault to tally up.
Staying meant deserting me.
It was something they could not understand.
The pieces of a life quietened.
Dormant dreams that may never awake.
‘I need a love that’s stronger.’
Was all that could be mustered.
From a breathe that was losing air and strength.
‘Then never think of me’, they said.
Closing their eyes to a mounting disaster.
One that came in with the rain.
That day I left.
Impossible words ringing in ears that had heard such sweetness before.
Closing doors that would never again be opened.
The price we pay to save ourselves, when our worth is so low.
Pales compared to the devil, who sits in the shadows.
Tallying up our souls.

 

 

Claim

I did not choose this future, she said to the dark.
She said to no-one in particular.
They had departed, melted away like last year’s snow.
She waded through the slush of emotions and found her heart warmed.
Not by the sun rising off in the distance.
Or the hand-me-down blanket she wrapped her soul in.
The one she stole from a lover, course and mismatched.
But by the sense of knowing that the day was hers.
Ready to right the ruin.
As she climbed out of her tawdry despair.
Marking her name in red across the calendar date.
Setting fire to the watchtowers in her mind.

Reveal

The suffering of fools, with each day they add their stain.
A clogging of air that you need to breathe.
Beneath the end, that’s where they’ll find you.
So strong and complete. Underneath.
You want it all so badly, this revelation to tomorrow.
To be remembered and loved for the skeleton inside.
As you bathe in a bath of bleach.
And rinse your soul with turpentine.
Uproot the dark and the dirt that keeps you hidden.
That keeps you displayed for a world of passer-by’s.
This great reveal, behind the curtain.
Under the skin.
Is the world you live in.

Veiled

Maybe it was all too much.
This veil pulls me down.
This earth pushes me up.
Bones as thin as china.
Will as strong as Russia.
What religion should I wear?
Which god was I trying to please?
Watch me as this orthodox trips into sunlight.
Unbuckled and strewn about like papers on a desk.
Write my name on everything you see.
For I shall own it.
My signature, worth a thousand jewels.
But then maybe, I shall fade away.
Fall into the shadow of time like a sphinx in the sand.
Riddling into my demise and my own lunacy.
Special to only but myself.
A fading queen of the ancients.
A housewife dead beneath a carpet.
Speak well of me while you eat my bread.
Drink the milk I give and choke on the thoughts I offer.
And forgot me not.
For I was there at your beginning.
And will silently watch you dissolve.
A woman. A soul.
Veiled and precious.
Swirling poison in my mouth.

You’ll see

You will see, said the little whisper.
The sound within.
A distant whimper.
From the voice inside my skull.
The quiet reasoning.
My heart’s strong hull.
That sails beyond a galaxy.
Down here on earth.
In complexity.
These defiant words did manifest.
Into action.
And I must confess.
That I was able to walk away.
From all that trauma.
And sad decay.
And close the book of you and me.
A tired old tale.
Which you will see.