No Context Autoimmune Disorder

In 2021, after what turned out to be a months-long flare, I was diagnosed with an autoimmune disorder. When prompted for questions by the healthcare professional explaining my diagnosis to me, I asked if I could still have sushi if it was freshly prepared with cooked ingredients. (Yes.) I then asked if I could still travel and attend concerts. (Also yes.) It did not occur to me to ask if a cheap hand wash could give me an allergic reaction severe enough to send me to the A&E, where I would then have one of the strangest nights of my life. As I am wont to do with my illness, this poem intentionally glances past the pain, discomfort, and fear that can be associated with an autoimmune disorder, to focus instead on the absurdity, perhaps even humour.

The night a bottle of three-dollar hand wash tries to take me out, I solve Letter Boxed in two
words for the first time. I remember my answer—“Aviator–Reblochon.” It wasn’t the official
solution (probably because I used ‘O’ too many times), but it did conjure up an amusing visual
of a piloting cheese in shades. Across the A&E, an agitated man under the influence shoves a
chair at an orderly, and eight security officers charge in. (Eight?) One has Nyan Cat as his
ringtone in the year 2022. I give the doctor too much information she doesn’t need, and
tell the nurse administering the antihistamine jab I’m weird about needles. She asks if that
means I will scream, and I say only if she doesn’t swab me properly pre-injection. On the way
home, an otter from a nearby park crosses the road; I miss it because my eyes are closed.
Surviving sea salt-scented attempted murder is exhausting.

Allison Thung is a poet and project manager from Singapore. Her poetry has been published in ANMLY, Emerge Literary Journal, Lumiere Review, Roi Fainéant Press, and elsewhere. Find her on Twitter @poetrybyallison or at



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