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.

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.

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

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

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.

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.

A moment with the darkness

I look at the body. Everybody always said he was so full of life. Bubble. Pep. Verve. No one can believe he is dead. No one ever said I was full of life. I have always assumed that meant the flipside.

That I was full of death.

Perhaps in looking at him lying there dead, I am looking in a mirror. Is this how I look to the world? I get that these are thoughts I should not be thinking at a funeral. No one seems to have noticed I am here. You looked right through me. Its as if I am walking among the dead all the time. In your defence I want to be overcome with grief .  

But I am not.

I want to sob loudly and profusely. To let it all out. To do the occasion justice. But it is not my way. I have shed a tear. Just the one. A restrained one. Yet I tell myself a meaningful one.

I am stricken, in my own way.

If he sucked the juice out of life in his 28 years, I have sipped slowly in the corner in the dark. Where no one saw. I am not bothered. Everyone is wearing black.

Except for me.

I have chosen deep purple. Odd because I always wear black. I needed some way of differentiating. It is the most colourful I have been in awhile and I doubt my mother approves.

My mother never approves. Approved.

The word approved comes out in my head. Quiet tears streak my mothers face in an endless stream. They are all for him. I know what they think, what they are all thinking. Why take him? Why the beautiful golden child? I don’t pay attention to the end of their sentences. I want to scream -perhaps he got bored with your adoration? 

Your endless adoration.  

Perhaps he liked me most because I thought he was at best ordinary and at worst pathetic. Perhaps that is why I was there when it happened and you weren’t. You were somewhere else. Even now I think you are looking right through me.  

Instead of at me.

It is true he would have brightened this room in a way I never will. I walk with the darkness like a cloak. He walked in the light like the sun. It occurs to me that in that moment, the one does not exist without the other. The light without the dark.  

And then I realise the truth.

I look around me again. My mother hated me wearing black. Today of all days she dressed me in purple. I see again the stream of tears streaking down her face. Just for him? And you looked right through me. You didn’t see me. And now I hear all the words. I finally listen to the end of the sentences. Why take the beautiful golden child-too.

Two.

Two caskets. Two bodies. He was full of life, light. He has dimmed and died. I am full of death as always. Unchanged. I stand here. Unseen. Only I see now.

In some worlds the light does not need the dark.

Death changed him. It did not change me. I am gone to my corner to sip at my straw for eternity. As always, no one notices.