Compressing Water

And I just
 
Stepped
 
Out
Into the world
 
That looked the same
But was somehow
 
Different
 
Straggled hair
And dusty shoes
 
I wasn’t sure my legs would even carry me
 
I stood in the takeaway
And I felt
 
Normal
 
How it used to feel
I closed my eyes to
The stacked chairs and tables
I didn’t look at the shiny new stickers on the floor
 
I pretended not to see

Haggard tired eyes
Or hear the fraught

Kindness in the voices
I smiled
 
My face unused to the exercise
 
I went back
To a different time
In my head,
There was noise and laughter
The ghosts of happiness
Footsteps, light and free
Haunted the tiles

Where I stood

Adrift in a fantasy world

I sucked in air
It was like

Pressing down on water

My hands dripping wet
With nothing to show for the effort
 
Because whatever was here
Is gone now
 
I could only remake it in my head
I clutched a bag
Of soggy, greasy food
All the way home
 
I wafted the smell of hot chips
Through my kitchen
With tears in my eyes
I fondled polystyrene
Lovingly looking at the limp cheese
And chewing on cardboard meat
 
I remember this
Gone are the days of everything
I settle for less
When I buy toiletries

In half filled streets
Pale, sunlight starved, stupefied masses
Are making their way out
As if the zombies have been

Re-lifed
 
What happened when I was cocooned
In lockdown

Maybe it wasn’t real
Real was somewhere

Outside 

I think I have cabin fever
But no fever
Because then I would need a test
My words run on and on
For so long there has been
Nothing to say
No self improvement
 
For so long there has been
A quiet waiting
The only voices
The ones in my head
A quiet piece of music
A stiltified song unsung

Like pressing my hands

Down through the
thick
deep
water

A noise, lyrical and loud

But not a song

The world off kilter

And I feel all wrong

 
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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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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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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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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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