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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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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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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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

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