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.

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.

Words that count

She counts the letters in the sentence
Nine, ten, 13 equals 32
2 times 16, 4 times 8,
3 times 10 plus two
With the brackets in the right place
 
It gives her time to think of an answer
She doesn’t have
Calms her mind
She doesn’t have-
13, 6 times 2 plus one
With the brackets in the right place
 
What to say- nine
Her mind runs blank
Blank, five
Except for the numbers
There’s nothing
But the words she might say
 
I was ‘in the library’, twelve
I was ‘at the shops’ –ten
‘At the cinema’ –eleven
10 times 2 plus one
With the brackets in the right place
 
There is no escape –fifteen
One of her favourite numbers
Fifteen- seven
Confession –ten
He is standing there frowning
 
Frowning -eight
Of all the days, why today
Her period is late
What should she say
She stares at the ground
The words aren’t there –eighteen
Not as much fun as fifteen
 
What is the difference between 15 and 18
Between six and five,
One three
A moment, a mistake
Somewhere inside a tiny heartbeat
Heartbeat-nine
3 times 3
No brackets this time
 
I’m pregnant she says-eleven!
With the apostrophe
She says it in her head or out loud
She isn’t sure
11 -a prime
His mouth falls open
But nothing comes out
I was at the ‘family planning clinic’- twenty
 
She smiles, goes upstairs
No words come to him
He doesn’t know what to say
Silence.
A countless silence
 
She can’t stay here
Its words that count

 

The man in the van

It was dark. And cold. I clutched my coat around me. I walked in the dappled fug of the street lights.

The van slowed down as it drove past me. I focussed on staying warm. Ignoring it. It went past. I turned into the side street. Hoping.

Yet somehow knowing.

I had been here before. It only had to go right at the bottom of the other street, right again and it would meet me where that street intersects with this side street.

I walked on. I could hear footsteps behind me but I daren’t look. They might help. They might not. I walked slowly.

I saw its headlights just as I got to the junction. The van turned into the street. It slowed down. It was right behind me. Its head lights following me. Tracking me.

There were houses on this street. I could knock on a door, ask for help. Say what. There’s a man in a van following me. I’m not sure what they would do.

He would simply drive away anyhow. Wait for me in the next street. My husband was at home but I could hardly call him.

I could still hear the footsteps behind me, perhaps they would help. Perhaps there was safety there.

Perhaps not.

I walked. He drove. Quietly, slowly behind me. I walked just in the beam of his headlights. Deliberately. I felt in my coat for my gloves. I tried to forget the inevitable.

I could no longer hear the footsteps behind me. They must have turned up the alley. It occurred to me then that I should have done that. Taken the long way home. The safe way home.

Then he said something. It barely registered. Something like, ‘come here love’ perhaps.

I was momentarily rooted to the spot. I turned to look at him but was blinded by the lights. I felt my feet approaching the van even though I didn’t really want to. There was an inevitability to it.

What was I doing?

I saw his face. Looked into his eyes. I wanted to see kindness. It was not in the gaze that met mine.

It was quick. The neck was broken, the blood drained from the body in a matter of seconds.

I reached in and switched off the vehicle and took the keys. A trophy. The others said I shouldn’t. It was too risky,  but had they read the conviction rates.

I told myself it wasn’t my fault.

He should not have been driving alone at night. He should not have driven in the vicinity of a woman. He had most certainly approached me. He was not wearing a scarf. In fact his shirt did not even have a collar. What century was he living in?

I found it hard to explain why I did not want dinner again. I hid the keys in a pot with all the other keys.

I tell myself one day I will stop. But I know that I will not.

The Sewing Club: Needles at dawn

When she first brought the sewing pattern
We were all aghast
I’d never seen a sewing pattern
From that far in the past

We knew there had been witches
You learn that as a kid
But this was a step too far
This can’t be what they did

We laid it out on the table
We read it through and through
What she’d said was right though
It was all completely true

At first it seemed a problem
That we could not surmount
But we are women of endeavour
Who make their actions count

And so we found ourselves
One dark and stormy night
Some digging up the frozen ground
While others held the light

I take my hat off to Agatha
And her skills with the knife
She made it look quite easy
She is a butcher’s wife

Then it went to Molly
Who’s a goddess with a pin
Lucy’s quite methodical
She was first needle in

We sewed through the night
We sewed through the day
There was not a scrap to spare
We threw not a jot away

We finished in the early hours
Of the second day
We held it to the light
We could not look away

We drew lots to see
Who was brave enough to dare it
Susan wouldn’t do it
So Lexi had to wear it

We put it in the cupboard
Where it could not be seen
No one else must see it
Until its Halloween

Mary was a seamstress
Mary was a friend
Her husband was a bastard
She met a gruesome end

As trick or treat drew near
We knew we must be brave
As Lexi put on her Mary suit
It was like she’d risen from the grave

We knocked on his door
We knocked very loud
Mary was a trooper
We knew she’d be quite proud

We stood all around her
Our Lexi/Mary doll
He stumbled out some words
He was a spineless troll

We all heard him say
‘I thought that you were dead’
‘Guess you were wrong’
Was all Lexi-Mary said

And with that,

Out,

Into the night,

He fled

We took Mary off
Carefully unpicked each stitch
They discovered him the next day
He was dead in a ditch

He died of a heart attack
So the coroner decreed
The coroners name was Eleanor
Each Tuesday at sewing club,

She sits right next to me.

If spirits walk

If spirits walk
And angels talk

Who are the voices in my head

If what they say
Won’t go away

Do I hear the undead

Its a constant stream
A walking scream

That plumbs the depths of my soul

Keeps me awake
There’s never a break

I want to feel I’m whole

I sit in quiet
But I can’t hide it

The noise won’t go away

I cover my ears
But I still hear

The things that they all say

One day I said back
Cut me some slack

And the voices shouted louder

But I said hey
If you want to stay

You need to be much nicer

So we sat and talked
While my feet walked

There is harmony in accepting

I found some peace
No need to speak

There is nothing worth contesting

Now the words I hear
Are mostly kind

It was a path
I had to find

Just to get to me

The words won’t come

A poem about writers block and ice-cream

I want my thoughts to soar
But they remain firmly grounded
Preppy little thoughts
Half formed and unrounded

They say nothing
Not of value anyway
My best ideas deserted me
Gone off on holiday

Yet I have to publish
As if there’s something I have to say
I try to focus on the grammar
But the commas want to play

They’re taunting me,
A game of musical chairs
They move around the sentence
As if no one really cares

They say write until the words come

But the words are in a taxi
Going around the block
Laughing at the window
They know that I am stuck

I can see their little faces
Shouting scorn at me
They’ll regret it later
I’ll put them in a spelling bee

What happened to my sentences
Where did the grammar go
Why are my words in a car
Bellowing  No! No! No!

I don’t have an answer
My thoughts are not my friend
Thank goodness there is ice cream
Ate a whole tub of it – in the end

The persistence of Cupid

Strangers eyes
Catch
On a passing train
They don’t see each other again

He zigs
She zags
They miss each other
By half a bag

She is early
He is late
Their paths never cross
There is no fate

She sits in her office
He eats at his desk
Even in the lift
They’ve never met

She swipes left
He swipes past
Even with a phone
They don’t have a chance

In a world of isolation
Cupid has it tough
Slings his arrows where he can
But its rarely enough

He sits on the steps
He will not admit defeat
He will find an answer
A way for them to meet

He strokes his bow and arrow
He thinks its meant to be
A way for one and one
For them to be a ‘we’

Time passes
She is hit by a bus
Comatose for days
She does not wake up

He finds it hard to sleep
Takes a lot of pills
He does the same
Never left a will

Somewhere Cupid smiles

In a strange twist of irony
The hidden hand of fate
They are buried side by side
It is never too late