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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