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Look Away

You think there is a time
For going back
A way of looking over

Shoulders

Seeing the past
And figuring it all out
Accounting for the loss

The losses

A time to measure
To recalibrate
To understand

Grief

But it is all just lost
To the lords and ladies of time
They are dancing in a room

Without you

You can look behind
To the side
Up, down

Askance

But it is a dance
A slow summer waltz with demons
Only you can see

The past

But most often
It is best to shut it out
Close your eyes

Look away

Because the losses are
Enormous
And real

Be true and honest

The incalculable number of coffins
Hang your head
Look carefully at your hands

Your hands

Look at your hands
Are they stained
Or are you imagining

It

Did you dream

It

Wake in the nightmare
Before
Or after

It

It is real
It happened
But its easiest not to look

To look away

Askance
That slow summer dance
When you think of

Before

That was just different
Different
A different day

Downtrodden

We the foot soldiers
Tired and weary of war
Have to look

Forward

We have to soldier on
Like men with guns
Shuddering in the wake of the bullets

And the bombs

There are no guns here
If there were
We might turn them on

Ourselves

They tell us
Its not so bad you see
We all wake to a brand new day
We’ll move ahead
But in a different way
Look forward
Not back
Look ahead
It’s a bright new day
A different way

But we can’t look ahead

We can only look away

Crowded Out

Atmosphere!
 
I am,
 
Crowded out.
 
There is space
 
But I can’t seem to fill it
 
There’s a lot of noise
Mostly in my head
 
Its there when I wake
And when I go to bed
 
I can’t discern, decipher
Its like a jack hammer
 
I reach out

But I falter, I fall, I stammer

I try to take hold of time

To hold it in my hand
It slips from my grasp
In ways I don’t understand

My words don’t flow

There’s a lot of thinking
But there’s nowhere for it to go
 
What we’re going through is

Monumental

Stuck in a room
It feels a bit less
Fundamental
 
I haven’t done what I intend
I didn’t do it now
I didn’t do it then
 
The list just grows longer

And time just seems to bend

The tunnel ahead seems more narrow
I forget yesterday
Before I’ve done today

It has passed into tomorrow

I wake in the dark
Convinced I’m under water
I sit with my head in my hands

I think I drowned

And haven’t noticed yet

I wander in the garden
Wondering why I’m wet

In the dead of night
I tell myself I’m healthy
So I should be alright
 
I kneel by the pond
I want to swim in a river
Its cold outside
 
But I can’t seem to shiver
 
The world just started slipping
It kept on gliding by
I turned away from the window
Stared at the sky
 
Its all gone now
Everything  was yesterday
I cling onto my sanity
 
I hang onto my brain
I’ve stopped waiting for the sunshine
And learned to live in rain.

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Unwild me now

In the dead of night
Fingers,
Unfurl
In the darkness
Eyes open and close
 
This is a world on its knees
There are lights here
But no one can see
 
She says who are you?
In the dusky gloom
Comes an answer
Fully formed


Out of my mouth
Before I can think
I don’t know
 
Anymore
 
I am no longer a fixed point
I live outside my body
Twixt
The rooms, the furniture
The functions
I am shrunken


I inhabit the world around me
But it has faded
And I have grown
 
Smaller
 
There is no one here
I must have misheard
That was a voice
On the edge of the darkness
Was I awake or
Asleep
The words came


On the cusp
Of consciousness
So they seemed real
 
And the answer was true
I don’t remember who I am
Only the furniture I use
 
Unwild me now please
Give me structure
Give me bars
Paint my cage with rules
Pedicure, manicure
Haircut
Tim, taut, tan
Make me up
Because
Turns out
I was made up

The trappings of being
Somebody
Civilisation

Are gone
 
There is some- body
Left here I suppose
Arms, legs,
A vague idea
Of being
But me has floated away

Downstream

I lie here in the early dawn
Firm in the knowledge
I am not any- body
Yet I am not anybody
 
Anymore
 
It takes my breath away
But no one sees
So still I breathe
I wake to routine
To tapping on a keyboard
In an airless room
And I am still unsure
If I don’t touch the keys
How is it words still appear
 
How do I know
How can I tell
If I am even here
 
And then the groceries
Arrive
And there is reprieve
Real people eat
I must be something
Sometime once
I am sure now
But I was half this morning
And I remember now,
Once I was complete
 
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Salad, apples, sleep

 When Hansel and Gretel
Climbed out of the oven
They ate salad for the rest of their lives
Baked goods never passed their lips again
Snow White never ate another apple
It was forty years before she even ate another fruit
And Sleeping Beauty
Oh Sleeping Beauty
She never slept for longer than an hour ever again
She walked around that palace forever
Haunted, gaunt, paranoid
Swatting away fairies no one else could see
Singing songs no one else understood
Old slow dirges no one could comprehend
Because there is no happily ever after
 
There is trauma
 
And the aftermath of trauma
 
This is not a fairy tale
You can taste it on the wind
Like a poem where the words are all twisted
Without rhythm and pace
Meaningless
When you look over your shoulder
It will be there
Think that moment of happiness
Will buoy you forever
An ending, it is over
It is fleeting
A glimpse of something
That could have been
But never was
You weren’t happy
You just forgot how sad you were
In that moment
 
There is before
 
And there is after
 
Live your life with gratitude
 
There is before
 
And there is after
 
There are no more platitudes
Lets be upbeat and positive
Instead
Lets just try and make it through the day
We have come to live in a quiet prison
A green and vibrant landscape
Where a subtle set of bars gild our windows
Where numbers condemn us
As they go up,
 
And up,
 
And up.
 
Our words are hollow fragments
Our mouths form shapes
And the noise tumbles out
But they are just words
They don’t soothe us
They fill our shells
Nibbling at the darkness inside of us
Never sating our appetite
 
For light
 
The fairy tale ending
It left us all behind
Salad, apples, sleep
My fingers fly across the key board
They rage on top of the little black boxes
The ones that add ink to pages
No one will ever read
And still there is just
 
The darkness
 
On the inside
A heart beats
Thump, thump, thump
Lungs still working
Inhale, exhale,
Inhale, exhale
Stagnant air sucked in
Yes, I am alive
We are still alive
 
And still each morning
When we wake to the light
 
There is just the darkness
 
Now,
 
Now, we walk an eternal night
 
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Yesterday

He calls from far away
To find out if I’m Ok

Ok?

We left ok behind some time ago
Have you seen the numbers here

His voice just fades away

He talks about the weather
His getting worse, mine getting better

He is just a noise in the background now

He’s read bout viral load
And treatment, maybe cure

No one mentions vaccines anymore

There is just the stunned silence of reality

Immune systems, vitamins

Have you been working out?
Hope you’re well, All good here
Meaningless words,
All tinged with fear

I breathe in, I breathe out

I breathe in, I breathe out

Breathing is in itself,

An act of joy,

Of hope

There are things I want to say

A long lost explanation
About why I went away

I have lived out in the world

I am not sorry for it

It was a choice I made

There is silence on the line

Then he talks of the economy
I try and pretend I care

I look at my nails,

Twiddle my fingers in my hair

I no longer lie awake at night
And think of him
The night is full of horrors
I know that I can’t share
He wants to know if I’m ok
I can’t think of the words to say
The pain of thousands dead
Will never go away

The pain it is unbearable

Intangible

Yet palpable

We are all scarred forever

We will wear it like a mark

For all eternity

They will talk of us in whispers

Stare when we come in the room

I know he’ll call again
And it will still be all too soon
Because we are worlds away
Yet I haven’t got the words to say

Something moved me on

And us, me, we,

That was yesterday

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In Altered State

I write my name
To remind myself
Of who I am

I don’t know myself anymore

I don’t know who you are either

I am emerging
From a hibernation
A slow unravelling
 
Without a fixed sense of self
 
All around me is grief
But I can’t see it or feel it
Each foot is placed
 
One in front of the other
 
As if I am walking
But there is uncertainty
I want to feel joy
 
Yet happiness eludes me
 
Eludes us all.
We talk through
Thinly painted smiles
 
There is no bridge
 
The road we have travelled
 
Miles and miles
From the safety of our couch
We are not where we were
 
We are not sure who we are
 
We take faltering steps
Forward, backward
Forward again
 
And then we lurch to the side
 
We wobble and waive
I watch my words
I won’t use normal again
 
We lived through a night
 
As dark as ever known
We sat here quietly
In a place we call home
 
Nothing happened to us
 
Nothing tangible happened to us
 
There was no crisis or fate
Yet when we left here
We were all in altered state

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Faces in the darkness

I try and make out

Faces in the darkness

The ones we’ve lost

They haunt my sleep

But they aren’t there

I toss, I turn

There is no peace

We struggle on

Beneath the creep

Of slow guilt

Of relentless pain

Of all those we lost

For no reason we can easily explain

I drift through the house

Worried about flour and soap

There’s a world out there

Where there’s little hope

I can’t seem to grasp

The enormity

Of a world that shut down

In a kind of uniformity

We are one together

Yet hopelessly divided

Fed and unfed

Those home schooled

and those denied it

I must be contributing

In ways I don’t know

To this division of lock down

Into those who have

And those who have no

I sit in the bath

Crying fake tears

Because the ones that I love

Are safe and held dear

What do I know of the grief and the pain

I sat here through lockdown

Slightly worse when it rained

I look into the darkness

In the dead of night

Try to make out there faces

Understand their plight

But it eludes me and

Shames me

It stands just out of sight

I am very lucky

But it does not sit right

 

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On the inside, there’s rain

I sit here
Resolute
A sofa soldier
Ideas out there
I can’t refute
A sober new reality
I can’t compute

Umbrella sales are down

I flop, I flip
I flip, flip flop
Its like a dance
And I can’t stop
Inside my head
Once pink, once blue
Now purple thoughts too

Umbrella sales have crashed

I don’t understand
How it came
It wasn’t in my plan
I live on crisps and cake
Thinking,
Maybe even I should bake
Because we can’t go outside
An unintended consequence
I must have looked askance
I can’t find a way to reference

I have put my umbrella away

We look forward to Sundays
Because the numbers are low
But the truth is we’re scared
And there’s nowhere to go
We call them saints
But among them are sinners
We cloak it in war
We want to be winners

I want it to rain

But the numbers are big
It’s a truth we all know
Stuck here in lockdown
Life seems to go

Slow

But somewhere out there
Is horror

Words can’t describe
And we here in solitude
We stay inside
Left to imagine
A truth to behold
Its taken our poor,
Our vulnerable, our old

I wear my raincoat on the couch

We think we’re important
But we ‘re small, we’re minute
Insignificant, irrelevant
A truth
Somehow we all know
But we’re not machines
The numbers they scare us
They haunt us and dare us
They’ve stolen our sleep

I pull up my hood to cover my face

Because the truth is a lie
We don’t all get to die
Injustice is rife
We made up this life
We must never forget
Surrounded by death
The ones who fell here
Those were the ones
We failed to hold dear

There is silence in guilt

And guilt in our silence
No pitter, no pat
On the glass or the roof
No rainbow that glows
As if we needed proof
Here in the house
Is the truth we all know
When we look outside
And there’s nowhere to go
Out through the window
Through its bitter clean pane
Its bright and sunny outside

Here on the inside, there’s rain

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A different day

Here we are
In that moment
Where what matters
Is your ability
To distil
The past from the present
To recognise what is gone
And what is here
To understand
Change
All change
Is not about what goes on in your head
You can’t wake up tomorrow
Full of positivity
And turn it back
You need to glance into the sun
Squint your eyes
And see the world ahead
Because what was yesterday
Is gone
Buried and dead
All the days merge into one
Time is spinning around us
Like a vortex
There are things going on
Outside, inside
That no one can see
The hours toss and turn
The minutes spurn us
As they linger here
And here it is
Later than it should be
Earlier than it could be
Skipping forward
Whilst we try and pedal back
But the past is gone
We didn’t even close our eyes
We only looked away
It ran off
Left us here
And we have to find
A pathway forward
To a different day

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Untimely, unawake

I cannot keep to the timetable
Routine, schedule elude me

Untimely

I have no sense of it anymore
I inhale
I exhale
Each one is a check for an invisible enemy

Unchecked

It will find me
In the light
In the dark

There is no hiding

I cannot hide

It is not like that

I disappear

I turn out the light

But it makes no difference
I drink coffee
I eat chocolate
Jam, cheese
I make sure I can taste
I can taste

Distasteful

I am not distasteful

I have not washed
It is not lost on me
That I have not lost my sense of smell
The strange nervousness in my tummy
Is that nausea
I go to the bathroom
I look at the soap
How can I ever have enough soap again?

Unclean, I am unclean

Hand sanitizer!
I dream of such things
Little bottles of
Blue and green and pink
As I lie in the darkness

Delighted

It is the middle of the night

So dark

I stand up
Bones ache and creak
I should wash my hair
Or at the very least comb it

Uncombed

Uncombed hair is not a symptom
Somewhere out there once
I was in control
You will thrive in this
If you,
If you what

Unthrive

Is not a word
What does thrive even mean?

Uncontrolled, I am not controlled

I have the remote
As I slump on the couch
In front of another nature documentary
As if the answer can be found in pictures
I go to bed again

Untired,

Untethered

More untethered than yesterday
I have not washed my pyjamas
This month, not once

I am untravelled

I no longer take the train
It is a blessing
The seats had fleas
I think I might have head lice
The poor things will die
There is no other head to pass them on to

Deliced

I feel bad for the lice

I am luckier the most
I tell my tired and drawn face
As I dawdle quietly
Obscured from the view of the world

Unclear

I blur

Into another day, another night

Unlucky, lucky, unlucky

I think this thing is just a lottery

As I stare down the darkness at 2am

Ungrateful

Even then
For a full belly and a soft bed.

I scratch my head

I wait

Unabated, unhinged, unslept,

Until

Finally,

Eventually,

Unawake.

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The gilded lights of the golden age

To the gilded lights
Of the golden age
We miss you now
Now you’ve gone away

To every change
A silver lining
Life goes on
Despite the dying

Maybe its obscured
And we can’t see it yet
But the world it changed
And we must not regret

When things were plenty
And life was fun
The time we spent
Living in the sun

That time is over now
That course is run
Life moved on
Its said and done

The sun still shines
I cower in the light
I welcome change
From day to night

Because change
Change is all this really is
My heart beats on
I choose to live

Toilets, bears and men in chalk

I am worried!

About all the wrong things.

I am worried about stuff…

Like public toilets.
I had a dream last night
They were,
Devolving
Is that the word?
Back to old wooden things
Long drops
And the like
It was probably a metaphor.
I do not consider toilets,
To be my favourite public space
Although I recognise their importance

Still I worry

They are all idle now
Those toilets!
Are they all congregating in the park without us
Is every toilet uprooted somehow
And heading for the gates
Is this the moment all public toilets abandon us
Is there mothership, even now
Collecting them from parks all over the world

I need to remain calm

I am also worried about men covered in white chalk
They appear at my window in my dreams
Can you even get white chalk?
Right now
Wouldn’t paint be better?
How much chalk do you need to cover yourself?
I tell myself I will not google white chalk.
Just in case there’s an image of a man,
Covered, and I cannot unsee it

Lockdown isn’t easy

And finally bears
I have always been worried by bears
I am concerned they are now going to start roaming free
In London
Perhaps they have come here on the planes from Berlin
Which I am sure has bears
Roaming free!
Right now!
Perhaps they are on the tube as I write this
It hits me like a ton of

Bricks

I have landed in the middle classes
Where these are the sum total of my concerns
Somewhere out there is horror and poverty and bravery
While I play Lolly Willowes
In pyjamas as if I can’t dress myself
I want to be useful
But I don’t know how
I am scared
Yoga keeps me calm
But I can’t help thinking

Shouldn’t this be a time for quiet

RAGE

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Melt

 

I am writing this down because we are near the end. I can feel the sun beating down on us. There is not much time left. Was the sun worth it? No. We should have listened to our mother.

We spent the summers sitting in our freezer. All three of us. Every summer. It was a big white square thing that we climbed into in the early dawn. Mum kept it on all the time. We sat in the big ice box and ‘chilled’ all day. We had pencils and books that were endlessly soggy from the melt. The freezer was propped open so we could breathe. Mum struggled to breathe in it but we never had a problem.

We were mostly home schooled. We moved a lot in the early years. Winters weren’t so bad. We sometimes went to a local school for all of autumn and all of winter. It depended on the climate. Mum didn’t like the heat. Didn’t want us out in the sun. Ever. We never left the house in the summer. We just sat in the freezer all day. Every day. I liked the cold. I felt like it held me together. I was right. My little brother was the same.

I am writing this down because Mum wanted there to be a record. She kept telling us it’s important there’s a record. But I never saw her document anything. There never seemed to be any paperwork when she needed it. She always seemed cold in the freezer, as if she was different from us. I think sometimes she wanted the sun maybe, even though she said she didn’t. I don’t think she loved the freezer. She did it for our benefit, at least she thought that was the reason she was doing it.

It wasn’t a normal upbringing. The windows were covered. We stayed away from the light. There had been an older brother. Mum always talked about how he had gone outside and melted in the sun. Neither of us were ever able to figure out what had actually happened. We knew she was a bit odd. We did ok. We always felt loved, even if that love was a bit overprotective and paranoid.

I don’t remember social services ever coming around. I remember an aunt. Mum spent a lot of time researching climate change when she wasn’t looking after us or schooling us. We had a lot of stuff about it around the house. She was worried about the temperature rise. She talked to us, told us what we had to do. How to survive. I think she thought it was impossible but she wanted us to try.

We thought it was ok. We knew it wasn’t normal, the books told us that but we thought it was ok.

Then Mum got ill. It was autumn. She refused all medical help. Then she got more ill. Eventually that aunt came and nursed her through the final days. It was the end of winter by then. I don’t think the aunt knew what to do with us. She would peer into the freezer and wonder. She talked of another aunt who might take us. Life seemed empty, beyond our comprehension. Mostly both of us just felt numb I think. We felt nothing on the inside. It sounds like we were cold but I honestly thought we would be fine, so long as we could stay together. We knew nothing of the world. We only had each other and our determination.

It is summer now, here today, the day we are to leave this house. I think I should feel more something but its like I am made of ice. I feel nothing. Mum is gone. The freezer unplugged and useless in the kitchen. We are to go into the sunshine. We have never before stood outside in the sunshine. Mum had always warned us against it. I sat down to write this. Outside. On the steps. In the sun. But it feels so warm as if it could-

Part 2

When I arrived, there it was on the porch. None of us had ever believed Elsie. But there beside two little brown suitcases was the evidence. Irrefutable. Two pools of vanilla sludge, melding together at the edge. She always said her children were made of ice cream and when they went out into the sun, they would melt. We looked and looked but there was no evidence that they ever existed in any other way. They had gone out into the sun of their own accord. They had simply melted away.

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Relative darkness

In times of darkness
They always tell you there is light
But in the darkness

You can’t see the switch

Do you think there is someone else there
At the end of the tunnel
Who’s going to switch it on

For you

That’s not a real expectation
Instead the darkness becomes gloom
Your eyes adjust, the world becomes

Clearer, less murky

In the gloom
You realise you don’t need the switch
You can walk on in the semi darkness

Because you’re human

And you can adapt
And then one day
The gloom is just

Normal

Its not gloom anymore
Its kind of like living in the light again
There was no

Miracle

No point at which
The switch went on
And if you see the light again, its so

Bright

Its so glaring and so overstated
And you don’t want it
And you feel

Uncomfortable

You can see the faces of the ones you love
In the gloom
And it is all perfectly

Good

And there is no going back
And the gloom is just normal
And we are all, all of us

Ok

Because what you thought was darkness
Was not an absence of light
But a light that was

Different

To what you were expecting
But you got through
And the platitudes and positivity

Useless tropes

In a world that shone

Differently

To the light we have now

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Sunscreen: Super smooth

There is death here
But then there has always been
Except now you can very nearly
Although not quite

Smell it on the wind

I’m sitting this one out
In the middle classes
In a green and pleasant land
And not a shabby urban flat

There’s a garden and some rooms

The birds still sing
The grass still grows
We are fucking irrelevant
And we didn’t even know

I mean I guess we did but

We never really thought about it
I mean I certainly knew
That we just don’t matter
I’d simply forgotten

That nature is deadly

I soothe myself with
Documentaries,
About nature
Knowing that

It is the bastard responsible

In the middle of it all
I play guitar quite badly
I buy myself a new notebook
So I can write earnest words

As if I am truly at risk and suffering

I am worried
We are running low on crisps
And biscuits
It is keeping me awake at night

I now look at my expensive hand bag, differently

Or at least one day I will
I went to the supermarket
And I think that makes me brave
I don’t get my groceries delivered

Like some

Although there is the milk
I am positively a saint
I waste toilet paper
Which to us in the middle classes

Is the ultimate sign

Of our superiority
These days.
Didn’t I make good choices?
I understand viral load too

This virus is the great equaliser

I can’t say it enough
There is no dust here
Except the bits I haven’t cleaned myself
But I will clean

Right after my online yoga class

And the heat
Comes from the central heating
And the extra sweater I bought
Just before this thing broke

I will reduce my sweater buying habits

Because I don’t understand supply chains
And I am not hungry
Dear God, I am clever
It is proving I am more equal than you

Somewhere there in the darkness, there is a light

Because I can afford to pay for it
I have missed the lesson
I did not hear it
It is not this virus that will equalise

But it might be the next, or the one after that

I look at my stockpile of sunscreen
One day I will die from something horrible
In the comfort of an A and E ward
Surrounded by bravery I cannot imagine

And my skin will be super smooth

The Door

No one goes out
No one comes in
I look at the door
No one is coming to the door
It is rendered useless now

Purposeless

I worry about the door

I look at it each morning
I wonder if it knows
Doors are not sentient
I whisper that
Quietly to myself

The door is unmoved

Literally

It has not moved to open in days
I have started saying hello to it
To wonder if the whole thing
Is some kind of,
Some kind of front door conspiracy

The front doors of the world just wanted

Rest

I am starting a door appreciation society
Because it can’t hurt
Because maybe it’s the cause
Because it might help us at all
Because I want to do my bit

I have been in this house inside

Too long

Yet the door is there
It remains resolute
It neither opens nor closes
It just remains shut
Like a shut thing

Tall and proud and

Shut

I touch the handle
Some mornings I kiss the glass
Some mornings I rage against its
Steadfastness
The door remains unmoved

It does not express any emotion

Shut

Meanwhile our house has a regime
Of post-it notes
Of rules we neither agreed
Nor can be bothered adhering to
At the end we will tear them all down

But not the door, we will leave

The door

The door is not a post-it note
I speak out loud to the door now
In the darkness and in the light
‘I promise we will use you again’
There will be an end.

The door remains

Motionless

All those deliveries
The days I carelessly flung it open
I fiddled with the keys in the lock
I opened it just a crack
Leaned against it to chat

I miss those days

Door

I stare at it, shut
I wonder if I shouldn’t get the axe
And bash it down
Even though I have a key
And we don’t own an axe

It is not the fault of the door, the door is

Blameless

I need to make my peace with the door
I sit before it and speak
Words of soothing and calm
I do not blame the door
It is keeping us safe

It is then I spy the shoes

The shoes

I turn my attention to the shoes
All of them in a row,
Sitting there unused.

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Just People

I look at my to-do list

And its just people

A list of names.

I have not been on the train for two weeks
I did not go to the supermarket this morning
Right now, the washing seems beyond me

I stare at the list

Its just people

A list of names, to contact

I stayed up half the night
On a video call
We talked about a Zumba class
I will not leave my house for Zumba

The to-do list

It’s right there beside me

Its just peoples names

Each one a twinkle of light in the darkness
Will any of those twinkles go out
I am having coffee without cake
I have given up cake
It makes me feel like I am in control

Its like my list is living, breathing

Beside me

I look at it again

My weekend to do list
The ordinary one that I do every weekend
I have not cleaned her school shoes
Although I went to school with her
Everyday this week
I did a meeting in my dressing gown
But the extraordinary thing is still the list

The list, the to-do list

Its people

Its just people

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Nothing lasts forever

Nothing lasts forever
Words echo in my head
There was a time before
Without this sense of dread

But it up and disappeared
Right before my eyes
The world changed in front of me
Like it had been wearing a disguise

I thought this bit would pass
This bit here today
Turns out it was the time before
That up and went away

We were left with our platitudes
Be positive, be true
These meant mostly nothing
When Nature turned her screw

And so now we stand here naked
Our world it is stripped bare
You ask me where we’re going
I guess we’re going there

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The silence of fear

I forget what my voice sounds like
As I scream in the night
A distant echo in the darkness
It fades with the light

I hold my head quiet
With the slow dawn of day
I remember a time
When I had something to say

There is silence that holds peace
Gives you succour and light
And silence that holds thought
Of thinking, ideas about right

But here in the sunlight
Of mid afternoon
It’s the silence of fear
That fills every room

It moves among us
We don’t understand why
It takes a voice from a loved one
Without a goodbye

Hold me close, hold me dear
They aren’t rules anymore
The kindest to do
Is to stop at my door

I miss the light
Of real human touch
Of voices played loudly
Of the holding of much

But the world is held still
A moment in time
A cacophony around me
Played out in a mime

A thread  holds us together
A quiet held true
It binds us in space
A me and a you

Without any noise
We wait here in dread
It follows us home
In word never said

The world has made over
In one singe day
Its changed all around us
In ways we can’t say

There’s a new kind of noiseless
A new kind of here
Now the quiet that dwells
Is the silence of fear

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Invisible

She passes through a door
One that is not held open
She sidles past everyone
Takes a table in the corner
She sits there for hours
And no one notices
It’s one of her superpowers
Something only menopausal woman can do

Spurned

She flushes blue,
Then red and then grey
Taps on the table
No one sees
She types on the lap top
Words of alacrity
That no one ever reads

Glorious

Its poetry
But without the rhyme
The cappuccino she orders
It never arrives
She pays anyway
Someone will profit
She can afford it
A fiver in the tip jar
No one even saw it

Salubrious

In between it all
She sips on a coffee
That is not hers
She takes it from the table
Of the man sitting to the side
He seems endlessly puzzled
Why his coffee is shrinking
He frowns, he gesticulates,
Spreads his legs
Keeps on drinking

Ostentatious

She forgets about pace
If life is a race
She has crossed the finish line
Later on she slips between tables
Through the crowded café
Her hand slips in and out of bags
Wraps itself in scarves
That belong to someone else
No one seems to see her
This is what life is like on the shelf

Perplexing

But there is pleasure
And there is freedom
In being nothing anymore
She hovers in the corner
Takes her clothes off
Drops them on the floor

Egregious

She stands resolute,
Naked and free
She walks through the café
She bumps and she sways
She lets it all hang out
As she wanders away

Gregarious

She has earned her nakedness,
Found out her truth
She walks to the station,
Gets onto the train
Splays her legs open wide
No one says a word
She lives in a world
Where voices are blurred

Salacious

Triumphant, victorious
She walks on home
The joy of just being her
was simply hers to own
No longer judged on how she looks,
What she wore
She laughs til she cries
As she walks through her door.

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Love is just a feeling

I have brought a box of chaos
And left it at your door
You might have thought you’d had enough
But I know you wanted more

If there is a holy grail
I have never seen it
And all those words I said
You know I didn’t mean it

When I played the song
I said it was just for you
But it’s the same song
I played for all the others too

There are dark, dark corners
In the glorious estate of the mind
Thoughts lurk beneath the surface
That no one else can find

Waves on a beach
Pebbles on shore
Lots of lovely ideas
Lots of wild metaphor

But hidden in the silent moment
In places dark and deep
There is evil in our memory
I watch you while you sleep

Will it be you or will it be me
Its always been a gamble
When thoughts reach our finger tips
Never forget we are animal

And so we walk a line
A tender loving stretch
As if tomorrow was our yesterday
And we were not a sketch

A vague outlined idea
Of what our lives should be
A house, a car, a dog,
Two kids and you and me

Wretched, wicked and worn
I toss it into the flame
The world will say I loved you
Because there is no other name

But love is just a feeling
It exists inside your head
It does not exist without you
It goes where you are led

So when you hear that song
Words you thought you’d never say
Remember love is a feeling
And like all feelings, it can go away.

Tired

Tired is a word
Short, sharp and sweet
Yet it doesn’t quite encapsulate
My total lack of sleep

It doesn’t accurately reflect
That my eyes are sore and red
That if I don’t close them soon
There’ll be pounding in my head

My breath is slightly ragged
I yawn and gulp in air
My mind it tries to focus
But there is nothing there

I want to be creative
To say something that’s worth while
But my pen is slow and sluggish
There is no extra mile

I long to see my pillow
To lie down in my bed
To close my eyes and rest them
To the world I should be dead

Yet there are several hours
Before I can hope to sleep
Closing my eyes, there is darkness
Even though its just a peep

I savour the idea
That in the hours of the morn
I will wake up again
Refreshed, redone, reborn

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Porcelain: growing up a girl

And my fingers turn to glass
As they lay flat on my belly
I feel them cold and unmoving
The rest of me begins to colour and shade
If only I could move my fingers
I could smooth out the lumps and the bumps
As the rest of me fades to porcelain
I will not be the elegant ducks on the wall
But the gaudy fish everyone laughs at
I feel my body harden, lose its softness
To become brittle.
People will see me this way forever
My fingers are glass
Sweet smooth crystal
They cannot move
And the transformation goes on
The cracks and crevices become set in place
I will not be the slim elegant dancer
But the dumpy smiley milkmaid
If only I had my delicate hands to smooth it out
I could push it all down to my ankles to form a base
But my hands, resolute, glass on my belly
And I am stuck
In the back row
In the cheap seats
With the other discount ornaments
Grubby hands pick me up and put me down
Dust leeches into my grooves and edges
Not the elevated heights of beauty for me
Not the high mantel piece in the glass cabinet
Grubby hands, they pick me up.
They put me down
I teeter, I totter, I wobble, I fall
I break.
A thousand pieces of me
Spread out across the floor
I am a splinter on lino
Embedded in the flesh of a foot
Blood warms me
Fingers pluck at me
Discard me, the pieces of me
The broom brushes over me
Collects me
Disassembled
Bins me
As if I wasn’t at all

Everyday

The same woman is in the coffee shop

Everyday

I am in the coffee shop

Everyday

Our lives intersect
but we never meet
We are in a permanent state of never meeting
She looks at me, I look at her
Life plays out around us

Everyday

Take that couple
Who are not a couple
He is talking at her
I note the wedding band
His not hers
She talks work
He talks innuendo

Sometimes its the same words just different voices

Everyday

He is dispensing advice
Like an advice dispenser
About egos
I think he knows about egos
He leans forward, leans back

Which looks best

He is wearing a brown jumper
That never looks good
He blends in with the coffee
She is not getting the vibe
He is being nonchalant
Judging his chances

He takes a misstep

Notices someone else
But she saw
She wasn’t here for that anyway
The world keeps turning

Another one of us comes in

There are 3 of us now,
Another middle aged woman
Clutching a coffee
Sitting alone

Observing life

It is no longer a cool place
The vibe is dying
Literally
It is full of women who dye their hair
And not because they want to
Pale skin and garish lipsticks
They cling to a the ship of youth

But it’s sailed.

He looks around now
Realises his error
He should have taken her
Somewhere the sisterhood
Wasn’t manifest

This place is too lowbrow
The whole thing has cost him £6
For no return
He scowls into his coffee

The coffee does not react

We sit there like guardians
She talks on as if nothing has happened

Nothing has happened

Our coffees have gotten colder
He asks if she knows what he means
She is not a mind reader
I have heard the whole thing
Its not hard to know what he means
She deliberately avoids knowing what he means

Over average luke warm coffee

Six pounds, 35 minutes he won’t get back

The woman who is here everyday
We make eye contact
We have seen this before
We see this all the time

We see this

Everyday.

The commute

And the girls in Boots
And the boys from Fitness First
Convene before the Clinique counter
Who knows what they say

From above its like a river
People flow into the station
A tidal wave of brown shoes,

Grey shoes, white shoes, black shoes

Every pair matching shoes

Trip, slip, tap.

Tickets at the ready
They follow lines they cannot see
Ebb, flow, flow like the tide
They bend around the ticket machine
Over the waterfall stairs
That lead to the toilets

They constant rhythm of a beeping gate
Ticket holders seep along the platform
At first coalescing but then,

The lines grow ragged and thin

The front of the train
The back of the train

In reverse on the platform

There is the faint smell of coffee
And clutched newspapers
Doors open

They swish, they shush

Commuters ooze inside
Each one gaming for that favourite spot
Their coveted seat

By the window

Not by the window.

Mythical non-existent leg space
Space for a bag

If the centre of the station is a stomach
These are the chambers for waste disposal

Its 6pm and its convulsing

People chewed up,
Churned out.
Allocated, randomly

However conscious it might seem

There’s a late platform change

A tidal surge
From one place to another
Like a lunch being heaved

From one bin to the next

Its peak hour

Its like the station has diarrhoea

No one stays
Everything goes straight through
Sometimes fast.

Sometimes slow

But everyone has a movement

All played to the soundtrack,
of a security announcement
Don’t leave your bags alone
Even if that means leaving your children behind

Although they don’t say that

We all know thats what they mean
They blow up bags not children
Make sure your children aren’t dressed as bags

All of us can recite it, that announcement,

But none of us have ever heard it

There are stairs and toilets
And side attractions that we never see
There’s an information desk somewhere

We are altogether

And yet all alone

Except for the couple kissing

We all look away

And then like a sick child

Denied the bathroom for too long

The station throws us out of every orifice

We plummet out of holes into the darkness

Headed for the sewers of suburbia

Before tomorrow

When like a recurring virus we infect the station floors again.

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A stash of words

And I collect up the words
And put them in a stack
I stick them in the wardrobe
Right at the back

Words I have no use for
No place said out loud
I won’t be using them
Not even in a crowd

Words like ‘averment’
Ones I refuse to write
I’ve put them in the wardrobe
They are out of sight

I can’t tell you what they are
You can never know
I have made them disappear
I have made it so

And now when
There are things I need to say
I will have fewer words
Because I put some away

Now I will be concise
Brief and to the point
You can be all wordy
But I will not be drawn

I will say it shortly
I will say it short
My words will all have meaning
A sprint and not a walk

I think that I have said it
What I want to say
I have put them in a box
I won’t let them play

And yet I keep on writing
8 stanzas in the end
I thought that if I hid them
My writing might amend

But my pen just keeps on working
Like each sentence adds a thought
I can’t seem to stop
Even though I know I ought

I have had an idea now
I know what to do
I will burn the pen
And my notebook too.

A passage of judgement

And the sky went pink, vivid pink
Like all the bubble gum I had ever eaten
Had somehow come out
And been spun into clouds.

I stayed in bed

An unnamed woman,
She came into my room
She sat on my bed
I saw the indent where she sat

But I couldn’t see her at all

I felt her weight as she sat down
I felt the bed move
I turned over
Pulled the covers over my head

I tried to pretend she wasn’t there

I thought it would be easy
Because I couldn’t see her
But I could feel the weight on the bed
I knew she was there

I could feel the bed move with every breath she took

She didn’t say anything
She just sat there
She was judging me
I could feel the weight of her judgement

As heavy as the weight of her body

On my bed
I looked out from under the covers
The sky was still pink, vivid pink
I wished I’d closed my curtains

It was the middle of the day

I had nothing to say
No defence to offer
And she was just sat there
Waiting, like a cat for a mouse

I stayed facing the other way

And I couldn’t see her
But I know she was there
Judging me
I hid under the blankets

Waiting for the weight to be gone

But she was there
And so was I
I pretended to sleep
Then slept

And when I woke in the morning

The sky was blue
And I was sentenced
Without a word said in my favour
I breathed out

I did not inhale again.

The Jar Words

And the words jar

They slam into the wall
They veer left out of control
I overhear the clutter
But I don’t see them fall

They lie in a mess on the ground
A mixed up jumble of letters
A litany of characters
That no longer form a sound

I wonder what I said
As they lie strewn on the grass
Did it make any sense
As it popped into my head

Did I write it down all wrong?

Its a poets bad dream
When the words form oddly
And they just don’t end up
Quite how they seem

I am tempted to walk away
I look at the mess
Littering is an offence
All the signs say

Blowing down the street
My unformed words
A thought I had
But somehow couldn’t keep

Maybe the wind

Will suck them up into the sky
They will then find a better place
A better person
Fall on another poet passing by

We Cleave and we Cleft

Every weekend its the same
We halve and divide
There is only enough for one of us

To get through

The other sits inside
Chained to the mast
Trying not to catastrophise

We are two sides of the same whole
Like a coin that is flipped
One of must land flat

And the other must squeeze her nose into the floor

And sniff the carpet
I wished it wasn’t this way
I know it won’t always be this way

One day she will stride out of here without me

Proud and strong
And she will vent her anger
That I held her back so long

She will want me to explain
How whilst I walked in the sunshine
There was so much rain

Because they are never truly real

They never become new
Until they make themselves
Separate from the parts of you

I try and hold her close, but it is never enough

They don’t want.
I never wanted her to be
A mirror image of me

We must divide and separate
She must become her
And I must stay as me

We separate and come back together

We cleave and we cleft
We go right
Then we move left

We dance this dance together

One day she will be fully grown
And I will dance this dance
Alone

Book Review

Shamus Dust: Hard Winter. Cold War. Cool Murder.Shamus Dust: Hard Winter. Cold War. Cool Murder. by Janet Roger

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

No spoilers.
I loved the sense of 1940s London that this book invokes. I loved the smoky, sultry atmosphere the author created as she delved into the seedier side of a bombed out London. There are plot twists and unseen connections that surprise and keep you guessing. I really enjoyed this, I liked the detailed description of the surroundings and the closed in feeling of the environment that the author created. I didn’t guess the ending and I really liked the central character. The other characters are tightly drawn and the narrative is pacey and keeps you hooked. It has some meticulously written scenes, I loved the little scene setting details. The central character is believable and likeable and there is just a hint of romance, which never goes astray. It is slightly outside of the genre I normally read but it pulled me in and kept me reading. I really think its a 4.5 stars rather than a 4 star but can’t do that here. Highly recommended.

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Dismembered and Unjoined

The noise of the train is a kind of silence.
We have to lean forward to speak
Strain to hear each other

I think its deliberate

I can’t be this person today
The person that I normally am
She has up and gone away

I have disconnected
Dismembered
Unjoined.

All the things that join me up

I have let them go
To run amok on this train
Without consequence

I have released my fingers for example

Released completely
From their obligations to obey me
They are splayed knowingly somewhere else

Strung out on the seat next to me
Pretending to play a piano
That does not exist

Taking up a space that is not mine

A woman looks at me.
She wants to sit down
But I have ceded control

They can do what they want.

My toes, my feet
Have simply walked away
Gone into the next carriage

They have left my shoes
Along with my socks
Astray in the aisle

My lungs are heaving in great chunks of air

They hate the train smell
They are hanging out the window
Sucking in the moist morning fog

My heart is beating to a tune I have never heard

Thumpedy, thump, thump, thump
And thump again
I think about my liver

It might have remained loyal

But my eyes are resolutely closed
I am in a darkness
Against my will

My mouth is making shapes
My ears are on my knees
And my nose is running

It is more of a jog to be honest

But it is unpleasant.
For me
and for other passengers

My elbows are poking people I can’t even see

It is one of those journeys
Where I just don’t feel like me
The shapes don’t fit

Nothing makes any sense

My body has run amok in the carriage

And no one will speak

Train noise is a kind of silence.
It hypnotises.
Its a kind of social blindness.

As we pull into the station,
I put out a call to arms
Thankfully my arms respond

They collect all my pieces
Put them back where they belong

I may not be me

But I will be whole again

At about midday
I wonder about my liver
I wonder, is it loyal?

I am still not sure about my liver

Every word I’ve ever known

I have cut my nails
I have pulled out all my hair
Slashed the bottoms of my feet
And let them bleed on the stair

You have to look it in the eye
You cannot back away
You have to look straight at it
Say what you have to say

I pricked the end of every finger
And every single toe
I climbed into the bath
I am letting it all go

There’s no other way to get it
You can’t let yourself obscure
You’ve got to know you’ve got this
Rather than half sure

I looked at bloodied water
And out loud, I said my name
And then I simply began
Because I will never be the same

You cannot hold back
Give it half of what you’ve got
You’ve got to give it everything
If you want the lot

I just said them all
Every word I’ve ever known
And when I was finally finished
I was finally alone

I rounded them, caressed them
I let those words go free
Sent them out into the world
No longer part of me

Then I closed my lips quite tightly
I let my tongue finally rest
I am wholly ready now
I am at my best

I go back out into the world
Scarred yet fully formed
And I live my life

In silence.

In total silence.

And in my silence,

I will deafen you.

The ‘Me’ Muscle

I spread wide
And then I contract
Like a muscle

I release
Then hold back

I command the room
I take up all the space
I expand

Next day
I cannot find my place

I ebb and I flow
Then I flow and I ebb
I hide behind the sofa

I sleep
Under the bed

None it makes any sense
None of it feels really me
I’m never really sure

What you get
Is never what I see

I hear my own voice
I hear the words I say
I say them out loud

In my head
The voices never go away

I am not completely sure
If I am ever really me
Is there someone

Somewhere else
And I’m just pretending who I’ll be

The master word

I am just a word
Yet I hold you in my thrall
A master to your servant
I beck and then you call

You put me in a sentence
Say my name out loud
I call you when I’m lonely
And you bring me the crowd

You describe your mastery
Of language and of speech
But I am the master
It is me that you teach

And on a lazy day
When I am rather bored
I can make you write this
I am the overlord

I am not benevolent
I am not very kind
I take up whatever space I want
Whenever I am in your mind

I want you to forget me
Please don’t remember this
I am the master word
I’ll be back in a bit.

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The Umbrella Dance

All along the platform
Scarcely noticing the rain
A company of umbrellas
Are waiting for the train

Its like a sea of manhole covers
Who’ve upped and taken flight
Leaving gaping holes
To catch cars in the night

There’s a nip and a duck
A weave and a tuck
A subtle sway of hips
And sometimes just good luck

Some hold it high
Some snuggle down quite low
But one arm is always ready
To deflect any blow

Its like a giant turtle
With a long and stretchy back
A giant patchwork quilt
Yet mostly grey and black

Wait, there’s one with colour
That cannot be right
It snakes through the crowd
In the early morning light

And that one is a painting
From an artist we all know
She bought it at the gallery
She didn’t see the show

It’s a wily platform herd
A mass of classless cattle
Stood against the rain
Against the daily battle

He uses shoulders
She moves her hips
Its sensual and its practical
And their umbrellas miss

We all know how its done
We all know the trick
When the umbrella is too close
And you have to be quick

A dance among strangers
Before we all get on the train
An early morning ballet
That takes place in the rain

And the train takes the bend
And its lights flash us all
There’s a uniform drop
A shake, shake and a twirl

A giant sucking in of fabric
Like someone pulled a chain
A moment where we all get wet
Before we board the train

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Dawning in Essex

I saw trees
Spiked against a grey sky
In the distance
A horizon flat and even

I took in great gulps of air
And tried to belong
Under a muddy, grubby sky
In the glimpse of a full moon

I stood at a station
And told myself I could do this
When every moment was a struggle
I still went on

I gripped the greyness in my fist
And pulled it around me as I slept
I took that even line, and wore it
As a belt on my waist

I waited, I was patient
As I took stock
Of power lines
Skittered across an empty landscape

I listened to crumbled words
In the dawn in coffee shops
The stories of tradesmen
Who hesitated in my presence

I painted my nails in desperation
I gazed at the orange, the white
At the dazzle and the glitter
And I let it all seep in

Until the spirit of Essex
Was embedded in my soul
Not to replace my home
But to let me be here

And still be whole

Luscious words

Backwards on a train
I check my twitter feed again

I close my eyes
and words rush in

I let them cover me, soothe me
Its like a hunger

I want them all
I let them run through my mind

Great big luscious words
I tell myself I should write,

Spectacularly.
I let the lushness of those letters strung together cleanse my spirit

I should write
Prodigiously, a rich and entertaining word

Precociously
Precariously
Perceptibly

Precipitously-as if the cliff is rushing up to meet me

I lean back into the seat

I should shout,

Belligerently
Brightly
Bellicosely

Billiously -although I think that means nausea

I alliterate at all available apertures

If I want I can be

Quaint
Quiet
Quintessential
Queenly
Querulous

I do not accept the rules especially the ones that are

Remote
Repressive
Removed
Repugnant

and I will always be

Wilful
Wild
Weird
Wonderful
Wistful

as I roam, wide and far and free.
I sit back in the seat
and somehow the words change me.

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This girl thing, its not easy

And I scream out loud
Writing is performance art.
Being a girl
Is conformance art.
I shave my head
Cut off half a leg,
And still its not enough.

It is never enough.

The words they,
Obfuscate.
And I obviate,
any need for their guilt so pleasantly
Out in the yard
Dogs howl in the night
I remain out of sight

This girl thing is easy.

Makeup is like grammar
If so,
I write with a stammer.
A road full of rules
But nothing can stop me
Then, life, I am shackled
And routine has taken my-

I look for a saviour

Tall, dark, handsome and strong
But the things that he told me
Turned out to be wrong
I needed the money
I took the cash
I left him in limbo

I still, have a rash.

How did I get here
I’ll never know
I lived in conformity
But society bored me
I ran and I ran
But I never ran far
I ran in a circle.

What was I meant to be?

This girl thing, its not easy.

A stump of a girl, like me

And it felt like raindrops on my skin.
Until it blooded, bubbled, burst

Outwards.

Into raw, red, angrified pustules
Covering every speck of habitable skin.

Only to fail.

Fade!
Freeze!

And in its wake,

A

Seething,
Slithering,
Slime ridden,

Stump

Of a girl

Who? Me

Ate her peers for breakfast
Dined on her tutors at dinner

And ate the stars at supper

Spitting out the sun at the end
Cursing it for its vapid uniform intensity

A wrath enduring to infinity and the end.

Divide and multiply

I want to know why
When I undivide
Pay my full attention
I don’t multiply

I am simply whole

I unseat myself
I stand up
And shout out loud
No one hears me

I don’t under-stand

I stand up really straight
I don’t slouch
I make noise
I yelp, I scream, I call

No one responds

I unkind them all
Repaying all the kindness
I take it back
And pay it over

It does not work

I unhinge
And take the door with me
When all I had to do was
Was turn the knob

I want to fly

I need to resole
To find my spirit again
Not a simple make over
I don’t need to resurface

I dig deep

I decry
Let the pain slip away
I unwind
Closing the door to the breeze

Yet still I am ajar

A bottle
On a window sill
Liable to fall
To break

An infinitely impossible number of glass pieces

I recede
Plant myself firmly
in the ground
Hold back, then go forth

Redouble my efforts

I redouble
I multiply
And there is the answer
I spread out across the universe

I come apart

And I spread out across the universe
And it is joyous
To see the world again
To re-view

I give it my undivided attention.

I Drew Myself

I remember when

I became

Definite lines

Before then I was a half sketch,
With holes and gaps
Things could easily seep out
And they did.

Horrible residual bits of me left on the floor

I was a blur
I appeared at parties as a set of double lines
Nothing held me in
And people saw through me

And around me

I was small floral patterns on a pale background
A little bloom, a potted plant on a brick structure
The sunflower seed
The one that germinated in the shade

The spindly stunted one

Spreading spiky leaves
Out in the semi darkness
Clasping at drips of water
That were absorbed into mortar

But somehow between the dance tracks
And the last track

I formed

And maybe some of it was you.

But I drew the lines.
Real and definite and clear.
I dredged them out of alcohol sodden carpet,
And blood stained sheets,

As fingers clasped at my neck

I made my lines hold firm.
I took a bruise or two
I stole a brick from that wall
And replaced that flimsy stem

I shed those useless leaves

I stole every brick,
Every strip of wall paper
And my brightness shone out
above the wall

Clear, definite and real

And you

The sight of you,
the smell of you
Became a blur
Off in the distance

A faraway spot on a fading horizon

I can barely see it

even if I bring my hand to shade my eyes

A strange sooty spot

on the heel of the shoe that is my life

I clean you off.

I am definite and real.

Lines coloured in, and you?

You, I have forgotten,

Left behind on the doormat of life

A poet in the mirror

Today I met a poet
I don’t know her name
I saw her image in the mirror
I am not quite the same

When I read her words
They tore me apart
Thundered down the hallway
Stabbed me through the heart

Do you think its possible
That I might not be here
I dissolve into the wall
I might never reappear

I want to make as if
You can never truly see me
To go into the silence
And not exist completely

Because I have read her words
They echo in my head
I don’t know why she wrote them
They were not words I have said

And yet they came from somewhere
A place that I have been
I deny understanding
They are not words that I mean

Yet still she keeps on reading
At the top of her voice
Shouting ever louder
And I don’t have a choice

Today I met a poet
And I cannot pretend
The words that she shouted
They were mine in the end

Exo-skelete!

Rhythm

Beat-beat-beat-beat

Heart

Beat-beat-beat-beat

Have been thinking
Turning it over

In my mind.
The outside
Covering.

Soft and permeable
No use
In this harsh world

I cut myself

Bleed.

Drip-drip-drip-drip

Like a dodgy

Tap-drip-drip-drip

To prove my point
I want to-I
have made the word

up-‘exo-skelete’!

To go from this
Soft outer coating
To something

Armoured

To bury my pulse
Beneath a heavy
framework

My pulse

Dot-dot-dot-dot

You are questioning
my idea

dot-dot-dot-dot

Sat in my chair
this afternoon
I thought my bones
outwards

I expanded them
I thought them out
in fragments

Out-out-out-out

Through the pores of my skin

Out-out-out-out

Armour, body armour
On the outside

And now I sit here
Enthroned
Resplendent
Complete

An ivory tower
A tower of bone
A hardness
Worn on the outside

I wake from dubious
slumber
Assured of who I am
What I am

I stand to shout

But

Crackcrackcrackcrack

My bones are brittle
Old
It is not how I thought
It would be

I am a seething mass of blood and organs on the floor
The dog comes and licks me away
The rug is stained forever

And I am gone

Gone-gone-gone-gone

Self care and the zip

I look at my hand
Freshly washed
The faint smell of soap
I waft it through the air

I don’t want the faint smell of soap

I sit down
I am old
Tired
Yet here I am

I should have long since passed from this earth

I lay out on the couch
Prepare myself
I reach my hand
Forward, up, back

It is a violent action as I shove it down my throat

Deep inside
Down, down, down
I have made a cut
Fitted a zip

I pick out the food scraps caught in its teeth, let them slide down into my stomach

I momentarily,
Panic!
I always do
It is my hand

But its like there is something foreign inside of me

I unzip
Reach out
Through
Into where my organs sit

Down to my stomach, I have not been able to chew my food for a long time

I mash it with my hands
Squish and squeeze my innards
I feel my kidneys
Press them hard

They are calcifying in old age, All these things I must do

To stay alive
I push the food
Through my intestine
Its like making a sausage

Because that is how you make a sausage, squeezing it through an intestine

I consider
Should I ?
Will I?
It is possible

To pleasure yourself from the inside, but not tonight

I tickle my lungs
Smile
They still work,
Breathe in, breathe out.

My heart long since past its best, withered and drawn, pulsating to a soft dignified, dying beat

It is my heart
It will fail me soon
I squeeze, release.
Squeeze, release.

It is too old to do it all the time on its own anymore, I must attend to it occasionally

Squeeze, release
Squeeze, release

Squeeze

Release

Squeeze

Release

I find a rhythm, I pump it for maybe an hour or more

Then I pull back my hand
Fumble with the zip
Wrench my hand
out of my mouth.

I will live for another day, there is a secret to eternal life. Now I sleep

The Riddle Child

Hers is a passion
For things she doesn’t know
A curiosity philosophy
That helps her to grow

Mine is a caution
A safety net from strife
That somehow keeps her grounded
While she lives out her life

In a wonder world of knowledge
She seeks out the unknown
Looks for the answers
Unearths every stone

I sit in the corner
Looking out for danger
She strides right on by
As if I am the stranger

I’m not sure what she’ll find
I will never really know
She doesn’t share it with us
She discovers it alone

I want her to be careful
But my words don’t resonate
She doesn’t ever listen
She doesn’t stop or hesitate

In a world built by men
We sometimes meet in the middle
We talk and talk and talk
But still she is a riddle

Its been a privilege and an honour
As I have watched her grow
I love her more than words
But she’ll probably never know

And come back as a man…

I try and breath fire into my words
I try and find it deep down inside of me
As I hang the washing out

Again

You have to pay your dues they say
You are not a prodigy
There is no big break coming

You are just an oddity

Those people are truly talented
They spent time and learned their craft
In the hours you spent washing up

They were making art

You’re never going to make it
There aren’t enough hours in the day
You should just give up now

You should walk away

They sat at their desks
Pored over every word
You were doing ironing

They were being heard

I know you think you have a voice
You have something to say
But trust me when I tell you this

Housework doesn’t go away

The dinner it needs cooking
You need to clean their shoes
There’s no time to be a poet

You ‘re always going to lose

You should resist the urge
To put your words on paper
Theirs cleaning to be done

And it won’t wait til later

There isn’t time to write
Forget that funny life plan
Perhaps you’ll be lucky in the next life

and come back as a man.

The Chair Part 2

I have uploaded the footage to a website. Malevolent furniture.com. If you google that and nothing comes up then you know they have won.

THEY HAVE WON!

I am sitting on the floor of my kitchen, just looking at it. I wonder if it is looking back. It can’t, can it. I know it can’t. See, I am still sane and rational whatever anyone else says. I know chairs don’t have eyes.

NO EYES.

I have put the other chairs and table in the other room. It is just me and the chair now. In the kitchen.

I only really know some of what happened. But I will share it with you before I sit down in the chair. If it hadn’t been the same police officer twice I would never have known. He noticed how I spoke of only one child but in the picture in the hallway there are two children. Two children-where is the other one?

There was another abandoned car on the driveway-two in three months and he had ‘concerns’. I wanted him to sit down, invited him to sit in the chair but he wouldn’t. He stood up. He was not taken in. He lost patience with my evasive answers.

He made me go before a court on some trumped up charge. I told the judge, I told the judge I thought it was the chair.

The chair.

The judge referred me to the doctor and that’s how I ended up here. On the floor of my kitchen with the chair as my only company.

The doctor did not think I was sane. He thought I needed help. But I am sane. I do not need help, at least not the kind he thinks I need.

And you need to be careful. Its the chairs.

ITS THE CHAIRS!

I can say it out loud now because it won’t matter soon. When was the last time you went anywhere where there wasn’t a chair? Only it doesn’t have to be a chair, because they have different names but they all do the same thing-chair, seat, stool, they are all in it together. Shopping mall-seats, cinema-seats, buses, cars-all have seats. You work in an office right-all day-sitting on a chair. They are everywhere. EVERYWHERE. And they are in control.

IN CON-TROL.

So I tell the doctor this, I say, everywhere I go there are chairs, everywhere I GO. He denies it! Denies it in the face of all the evidence. But they are everywhere. You know they are. I refuse to sit in the chair in his office. He tells me my case is unique. I have an odd kind of paranoia. But I know.

I KNOW.

He furrowed his brow. I know he didn’t believe me. But everywhere-everywhere there are chairs. Chairs, seats, stools. It doesn’t matter they are everywhere. Bikes have seats, toilets have seats-dear god, seats with holes, its a very bad idea. I went to the library-chairs, the cafe-chairs, friends houses-chairs-they are everywhere!!!! Yet still the doctor did not BELIEVE ME.

After the first few sessions of therapy he realised he wasn’t getting through. He wanted to come to my house and see my chairs. Specifically the chair. And I am so clever.

SO CLEVER

My husband isn’t here anymore. Did I tell you that? We had an argument about the chair. I don’t remember the details but he left suddenly and I haven’t heard from him since. I think. But I know that you’re thinking-it could have been and it definitely could have been.

The thing is when I knew the doctor was coming. I KNEW. I rigged up a camera in my kitchen. I did it in the dark where I thought the chair couldn’t see. But then chairs can’t see can they.

CAN THEY? NO!

How do they communicate??? Have you ever walked into a room and the chairs have moved around. Was that them or did someone move them? Do you know? Can you prove it?

And then he came, THE DOCTOR came to my house. A house visit.

DOES NOT HAPPEN!

Doctors do not come to houses anymore. YOU have to believe this. He came to my house. The doctor, he totally DID. He came because the chair wanted him to come. Its like he was summoned. SUMMONED. He came in and looked at the chair-then all cocky and brazen-he sat on it.

HE SAT ON IT.

I know he was reluctant to, I can sense he was repulsed by it. Everyone is. BUTT

HE SAT DOWN ON IT.

But the thing is. I filmed it. I have the footage. One moment the doctor is sitting in the chair, the next he is gone. Like magic. WHERE DID HE GO? THE CHAIR?

The chair knows. THE CHAIR KNOWS.

KNOWS I have footage. So now it is me and the chair-in the kitchen. And I am going to sit on it. I know I am, because I have no choice. Because the chair is in control. The chair is in control of me. I can’t help myself. I have to sit on the chair. Because the chair is so in control, I sacrificed my child to the chair. Two children and now there is only one and where is that one. I can’t remember.

SAVE YOURSELF!

Watch the footage. Say it over and over, ‘No I will stand thank you.’ Make it your mantra, ‘Thank you but I prefer to stand.’ Don’t just sit down whenever the seat is offered to you. Fight back. Stand up. RAGE AGAINST THE FURNITURE!

BECAUSE.

Because the chairs are winning.

I can’t resist. I know I can’t resist. I have to sit in that chair. This is the end for me. But not for you.

SAY IT OUT LOUD,

‘Thank you but I prefer to stand.’

RESIST, RESIST, RESIST.

I have uploaded the footage. If you are reading this, you are my only hope. The chairs are winning and we are all going to die sitting down.

I am going towards the chair now. I am sorry. I have let you all down.

I am going to sit quietly now.

The Chair

Do you have malevolent furniture-how do you know?

There’s a wooden chair in my kitchen. Actually there are four, a set, around a little wooden table. We use the table and chairs at breakfast but otherwise eat in the dining room.

There are three of us. Which means there is one chair that is never used. One left over chair. A solo. A loner. But its become obvious to me that it is more than each of us just having a favourite spot. If you move the chairs, that chair is still the chair that everyone avoids. No one has sat in that chair. Ever.

It’s like it has human repellent sprayed on it.

Not a family member, not a guest. No one. Ever. It is an unused chair. It has experienced a total failure to fulfil its reason for existence. I wonder if there are other chairs like it. Elsewhere. In the houses of other people.

People I don’t know.

Even at parties, and we’ve had a few, that chair is avoided by those reprobates who hover in the kitchen, the ones avoiding the dancing and drinking everyone else enjoys. It is so repellent that I never even offer it to guests anymore. I have thought of selling it but then I think of it alone without its wooden siblings. I can’t seem to part with it. Plus I have high hopes for its reform. I have been thinking about it. I am sure it just needs to be sat on once and then.

Then everybody will want it.

Anyways I have decided this week I am going to break with tradition. I have invited my very obliging friend Bea around. And. I am setting it up so she must sit in the chair.

You heard me, I am setting it up, so she MUST SIT ON THE CHAIR.

She is arriving at 10 past eleven. Which is very soon. I have put the other two chairs in the dining room. I have put a cake in the oven so we must drink tea in here until its cooked. Me in my chair and her.

Her in that chair.

I look at the chair. Bea is so eager to please. It seems such a nice idea that she should be the one to break it in. I am not manipulative you know, its just she is the most obliging of my friends.

IT’S ONLY A CHAIR.

That’s the doorbell. Time to swing into action. I invite her in and head for the kitchen. So far, so good. I see her look slightly disconcerted at the chairs. I ignore it. I begin to make the tea. I have sat my scarf over my chair as a point of ownership. I can see her hesitate. Look at the chair. Hesitate. But I know she will not take my chair. She is too polite to move my scarf plus I must sit next to the oven to observe my precious cake.

I invite her to sit down.

She shuffles her feet a bit. I invite her to sit down again and point at the chair. She says she’d rather stand. I am not defeated. Not yet anyway. I put the water in the tea pot and wait for it to brew. We are both standing. I can see the look of reluctance on her face. She does not want to sit in the chair.

I will not be diverted, I will succeed.

I put biscuits at the centre of the table. She has to lean across the chair to get them. I see her recoil as she touches the back of it. It is an odd chair. We are at something of an impasse. Both of us standing, pretending this is not happening.

But this is happening and I will succeed.

She suggests moving into the dining room. I say no. My daughter is carefully placed there doing homework plus I need to stay with the cake. Honestly I tend the cake as if I am giving birth to a child.

I make the tea and put her cup down on the table. I put mine down and sit down in my chair. I sense her desperation, her confusion, I see it being overridden by her desire to please.

Her desire to be liked.

I can taste victory. She looks at me with a plea for reason. I pretend not to see it. I look into my tea nonchalantly. I take a bite of my biscuit. Nonchalantly. Triumph is within my grasp. That chair will be sat on before this cup of tea is finished.

And then she does it.

Slowly. But she does it. I see her reach for the back of the chair. Pull it out. Slide into it. My face breaks into a triumphant smile as hers distorts as if I have betrayed her. It’s a chair, I want to say.

Momentarily there is a vision in my head.

A child. My child, a child I know is mine but a child I no longer have is sitting in that chair. I am pushing her into it because someone must use that chair. That chair. I feel horror. Its momentary. It passes. I look at the chair.

The empty chair.

I blink and look into my tea. I feel sure of a triumph that eludes me somehow. I have won something but I don’t know what. My mind goes blank. Oddly there is another cup of tea across from mine.

I seem to have made myself two cups of tea.

How weird. I have put one on the other side of the table. As if someone were sitting in that chair. Which is odd because no one ever sits in that chair. There is something totally repugnant about that chair.

That chair.

I pour the tea down the sink. I get the other chairs back from the dining room. I can’t remember why I put them there anyway. I look at all the chairs in the kitchen. The fourth one, the odd one, always looks fatter than the others. As is its just eaten something.

I must get rid of it one day.

Later that day I have to call the police. There is a strange car parked in our driveway. I really should sell that chair I mutter to myself as I cook the dinner. Yet somehow I feel like it has a part of me, a part of my life in it, despite never having sat in it.

Mort-i-fied

I feel like an outsider.

In my own skin

As if I tugged it on over my organs this morning

Fresh and new.

I don’t recognise the face?

It is peaceful and calm

But there are parts that are not mine,

The nose perhaps.

Perhaps I will own the nose

But the rest cannot be mine.

I look at the wrinkled hands

They should be red from years of washing up

The water was always too hot

Red from detergent overuse

Flaky from hanging out wet washing

Yet they look pale and unyielding

The hands I decry as not mine.

The legs, more stumpy,

not long and elegant as I remember.

The toenails,

a variety of yellow and greens,

browns and grey.

Those are not the colours of a rainbow

the colour of toes worn down

years of shoes that never fitted,

shoes that were damp and fusty.

Before trainers were de rigueur.

I want to look at my breasts

They are covered by the dress

but I can see they are sagging

down and to the side.

These flaps of skin that once affronted me,

both literally and in metaphor,

they were so often in the way when I was young,

These saggy heaps of flesh are not mine.

I wonder at my ability to look so calm.

People mill around.

They are looking at me,

but not really seeing me.

I can hear them talking.

they are all talking about me.

Nice words.

None of it is about how I look.

I wonder what crazed event this is.

Is it a dream?

A place where everyone talks of how much they like you.

This is definitely not the internet.

Then someone hands me a program

I look carefully at the words.

‘Oh, I see,’

I say loudly but no one hears.

This is my funeral.

Therapy

I sit across from her. She seems more tense than usual. I feel calm. Still, on the inside, steel. Metallic. I can taste it on my tongue. This is not how it’s meant to be. I am paying her. She is meant to be helping me. I was afraid. I am afraid. I thought she might solve it. Remove it. Excise it. Instead I have found a stillness inside my fear yet again. I am out of options.

She hasn’t solved it.

So here we are. She is nervous with failure. I am calm because I am certain. My fear is rational. Even though she says the thing I am afraid of does not exist.

I am making her nervous. She is wiping her hands on the sides of the chair. It doesn’t mark but those are some sweaty palms. I don’t revel in it. I observe it. I am indifferent except to the idea that perhaps now she will finally agree that my fear is rational, grounded. I look at her. I talk.

I know by the end of the appointment there will be beads of sweat on her forehead. There will be the scent of sweat in the room. Human sweat mingled with her scent. I haven’t figured out what it is yet, that scent. Maybe she has a little bottle in her bag. Maybe she keeps it in her bathroom cupboard in the house she lives in. On her own. She has a sister but no one else, their mother died when they were in their twenties.

How do I know that? Pictures on the desk. Odd things she lets slip, the questions she asks of me. Do I have a sister? Yes, estranged. Can we explore that? I haven’t seen her for a hundred years. She smiles at the things I come out with. The little nuances around time that give the game away. How much of what I say is true? I am not being honest even with myself. It’s one of the reasons she can’t help me.

The accusation of dishonesty hangs in the air.

If I refuse to help myself, she can’t help me. My flippancy reflects my insecurity. Can we explore that. Probably not. I do the sums in my head. It is definitely a hundred years since I spoke to my sister.

I look at the doctor and keep talking. Perhaps the good doctor will end up in some nursing home that is poorly managed where the residents are all malnourished. Perhaps she won’t end up there at all. Perhaps today is her last day on the planet. It has started the same way every other day has started. A rushed breakfast, a quick shower, make up applied in the car. Coats struggled into and out of, hung up on the coat stand.

The desk is neat and orderly. The house is neat and orderly. Her mind is neat and orderly. Nonetheless perhaps her day will end early, before dinner.

I am not cured of my phobia. I am still afraid. I make her more nervous every visit. I am no longer worth the money. She doesn’t remember a case this difficult before. I hear her words without really reacting. I just talk. She wants to consult a colleague. Perhaps she can palm me off to him. She does not say that but I know. I can smell the sweat. It fills the room. The smell.

She shifts in her chair. She always does that at the half an hour mark. I notice it every time. She is discomforted. I talk without saying anything of merit, of value.

I have this fear. Irrational. A fear of something that does not even exist. I have read a lot of books, sat across from a lot of therapists. This one, her smell. I am not good with perfumes. I don’t know what that scent is.

I keep talking. Talking. Talking. She keeps not listening. Now she is looking at the clock. Shifting in her chair. Again. For a moment I see it, she wants to be rid of me, out of the room. Maybe she will tell her receptionist to ensure that there won’t be time for another appointment. Maybe this will be our last time together. Maybe there is just 15 minutes more before I am cast out into the street once again. Alone to deal with my fears.

I can see it in her eyes. She can’t help me anymore. I am to be abandoned again. I don’t want it to be her choice. I want it to be mine. The scent of her sweat fills the room. Is she going to say it to my face. Tell me this is the last time. Consult a colleague. I am desperate. I need help. What is it that she doesn’t understand? My fear is rational, real.

I stop talking. Ready to listen. Ready to hear the words again. The same words. She tells me I am afraid of something that does not exist. That I don’t need to worry. She thinks really I am just afraid of myself. She says it, those words, you are afraid of yourself.

There is.

I grant you.

Some truth in that.

Slow thoughts play out in front of my eyes.

I stand up. Ready to leave.

She stands up across from me. We are of equal height. She reaches out her hand.

I grip it, trying to grip it for just the right amount of time at just the right amount of strength. To ensure there is no suspicion to the very end.

Our eyes meet. I look at her. I know these will be my final words to her.

‘Vampires are real’ I say, ‘and I am scared.’

I snap her neck and drain the body.

I tell myself its not my fault. She should have listened. Its not like I didn’t tell her I was a monster. Its not like I didn’t warn her. She should have better security.

I get my coat and leave.