The fear of others, becomes the dismissal

Long before now

there was a time I did not write

could not write, would not write

I danced, I moved, I climbed, I painted

with our heads together like arrows, friends and I

toy rabbits, ladybugs, a glow in the dark star

would entertain ourselves with crayons and pastels

plasticine and Lego, wooden blocks, old socks, foil and glue

I built fortresses in the woods near my grandmothers

house where she looked out occasionally, a glass in one hand

erected camps in trees fallen in the storms

or beneath protesting furniture that wasn’t meant to be moved

turning into a gypsy tent, bedding, blankets, string

anything the imagination could seize and shake out into magic

I did not write

even then I felt

words were just words

so glib and easy

words like; ‘have a good birthday’ from

people staying absent

words like; ‘you know I care’ from

people not caring

I couldn’t spell, so I didn’t reply

I didn’t enunciate, so I didn’t call them back

the phone would ring in the distance, mournfully

if it got too loud, I turned the music up

all this by the age of ten

I was free of words, they were not my language

a song and the movement it encouraged was

an elongation of expression and urges

and later, a dance club, even at 14, seemed safer

than three sheets of echoing, empty paper

rubbing shoulders with strangers who sought like me

to raise their arms through the strobe lights in search

of something missing

not seeking drugs or sex but the fury and beauty

of dancing away their sadness

I didn’t know it then

acting upon instinct

the instinct to run, when you cry

dance when you want to jump

push away those who clamor for attention

stop feeling the pain you do, every single day

whilst some of my friends who were depressed

listened to The Cure and other sorrowful LPs

I scorned anything sad and

stepped into the light of disco, rock, electronica

in time I found there were other things you could do

to turn off the hurt

and I did them ALL, every damn one

There is an honesty to admitting to yourself

I don’t know what’s been happening, but I’m in pain

everything I should rely upon has gone or never been

I am alone and I am scared, I haven’t yet grown up

nobody will help me so I have to help myself but

I don’t know how

I learned it felt good to lie in bed with someone

even if they were nothing more than warmth and key strokes

I learned it felt good to give rather than receive

because you protected those parts of you, rarely revealed or wanted

I learned drugs were not a menace but a street form

of antidepressant for kids who couldn’t tell their hurt

didn’t know where to begin or how to heal the

emptiness and anger growing in their bones

I learned if you are crushed badly enough, time and again

you grow a skin of fur and you become a feral creature

not human anymore

but living for the night, pulse of music playing

brief flicker of excitement, when you forget being yourself and all that comes with that

the disappointment, the heartache, the rejection

you’re just a shivering wretch, gaining admittance into forbidden light

you’re just a body that can move and shake and vibrate

beneath the waves as they engulf the roar and scream

every morning I swam 25 laps

every night I ran in heels for the bus

every stroke of midnight I transformed into anyone but myself

it felt good, it felt more real than trying to

inherit the mantle of despair and unwanted closing walls

I climbed out and didn’t go back

I never wrote down a word

not even when I received

another letter stating things that were never real

words were lies, words were lies

I’ve always been drawn to truth

Somewhere in those years, something changed

maybe you get lazy, maybe you forget your way

or the pain becomes something you think is who you are

or the hurt is a coat you wear without knowing you do

I stopped swimming in the mornings

I quit dancing in the evenings

in my blood lay a virus of dormancy and despair

it grew and grew like a wild flower teasing out of concrete

until I’d forgotten my way through the elaborate maze

I was just another lab rat, waiting to live their life, turn to ash and regret

Now the irony is, I’m writing all the time

I write how I feel, I write how you feel, I write out

the hollow cries kicking from inside out

but words are fickle, they are not your friend

words convey what you mean, and equally they contradict

words don’t get things done

words are on pages, often unread

If it would work I’d burn my thoughts

watch them light up the night on the 5th of November

put on my running shoes

go to you

take you by the shoulders and shake

all my words out of your head

run with you down the highway

find the place we can be in my mind

get on the dance floor, pull you with me

try another communication

another way of getting through

anything but the languages that leave us empty

mistrustful, doubtful, not waiting for more

we’ve both been there before

at the end of a letter

shaking our heads

for all that was done, versus said

is often quite the opposite

you tell me, if I knew you, I would not like

the person I came to know

but you are wrong, so very wrong

it is in the imperfect there is wonder

I’m used to people backing off, going cold, erecting walls

it’s what I experienced every day

the fear of others, becomes the dismissal

there is another way

let me show you

but not like this

let me show you

in between words

with every gesture of my soul

give me this

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I wish I had never existed

The deepest cut

an-apple-rotten-on-the-inside

It doesn’t take much to knock a bruised fruit to the floor

watch it split apart like rotted glass, shards of damp skin in slow motion

try as I might, I AM that bruised fruit

try as I might, I cannot seem to recover myself back to where

once took for granted, the feeling of wellness

it doesn’t help when someone you loved abandons you

in the middle of your darkest hour

things like that aren’t supposed to happen

people who swear allegiance and loyalty aren’t meant to

be the ones leaving your side

such is the hour and fickle fan of illnesses devour

at least I know I’d never treat someone, that poorly

despite this and because of it, healing is slower

though I suspect anything less than fire would be

I didn’t know these things beforehand

the un-annointed do not possess future perspective

to see how illness strips your childish faith, cleaves you

bare and gasping

where family didn’t need to see me, even as I spent weeks in hospitals

it cut me to the quick, but it wasn’t the first or the last

maybe preparing the groundwork for your deepest cut

they say you get used to it in time

I never have

just as I never have truly understood the cruelty within some, who profess so hard to love

now, I am a changed person

I cannot make plans like I used to, thwarted by my body, haunted by ghosts

my illness is like a cobra, she stays quietly in the leaves

rearing up when I least expect or when I want most to escape

her possession of me, the way she knows how to tickle fear

with just enough venom until I am on my knees

I am sure some would say, this is therefore; psychosomatic

that it what they tell all women of hysterical turn

I saw in your eyes when I told the horror; your own disbelief

until doctors produced the proof, you still wondered

it became apparent to me, just like with sexual assault

being believed is paramount to recovery

alongside having faith in ourselves

I did not do a good job of the latter

finding myself more alone than when I started

and I thought I started pretty alone

I know I am a survivor and I was not destroyed

yet it feels like I was

when I look inside myself and find

so little left, a house without windows

it was only because of you, I kept trying

I told you that, I said, you were holding me up

when you let go

I fell to a place I did not know existed

I wanted to ask; Couldn’t you have just waited

long enough to see me through the worst?

but you wait for nothing except your own need

I had to find a way to stand even as everything crumbled around me

which is the biggest test I ever had and I failed it

I failed it again and again

walking through the lullaby of desiring to die for so many reasons

not least, the never-ending dance with sickness and pain

but somehow I did not die, I turned instead to stone

when people say I am strong now and ask; How did you get through it?

I don’t tell them; I am not through it

I still lurch and shake in the throes of unnamed demons and at night

I feel like an arythmic god has taken me and is spinning me

on high-speed like all my parts are made of jello

I want to ask that god; what is it you are trying to shake loose?

surely you know by now there is no more fruit left

not even the rotten kind

that fell and split and sunk into earth, a long, long time ago

it is only me remaining now; leafless, without sturdy branches

I cannot rely upon myself, I cannot rely upon promises

no longer a young, untouched tree with green shoots

I am damaged, broken and hobbled, by this specter and the unknown

as much as by those I knew and trusted

asking why to the imploring void; why are we stricken down?

to what do I owe my continuing? Even as it is, insubstantial

can they see in my eyes, when I pretend, I am trying not to gag?

my appetite spirited away by the scourge and never returned

I would die of hunger and not know it

were it not for some strange determination

I don’t know where that comes from

but as I stand, it must be a place within me

does not give up, as she did not, all those years ago when

the flames licked the top of my house and burned, everything I knew to cinder

I am not like the rest of the world; stronger for my poison

nor am I able to disguise my scars

if I were asked what recommended me; I could not answer

I would probably open my mouth and howl

because you can reinvent yourself, a million times it seems

I am just one incarnation, coming apart at badly mended edges

you, who are able to vault life in gentle sprint, must mock

I am after all, just a fallen fruit, lasting as long as she can

in imperfect, bruised skin

Not even ourselves

Why and when did people stop being interested?

as kids we would sit on benches and talk about our pain

there seemed then, such a mercy in the air

it hung like cobwebbed dew around us and

despite the hardships we bore, our friends were

our succor

Why and when did people stop being interested?

and grief was labeled an annoyance?

why does growing-up mean we no longer write

poems like this

do we no longer feel the same

or just hide it away?

and if it is hidden how does it stay so

with the swell and the surge and the blistering salt

I hear rain falling into a tin can somewhere

and briefly I remember eating out of cans in summer

my lips sticky with apricot

it was a luxury then and my grandmother carefully

spooned each peachy globule out and added ice-cream

I hated the taste of ice-cream and I loved

the feeling of lying high in a big tree smelling apple leaves

in those days

when tragedy struck

we children who are called resilient

had the hope or the armor of youth

and the cherish of our friends

I saw her running toward me across the fields separating our houses

her red hair and freckled face red with exertion

we ate stale cucumber sandwiches left over from her mother’s

garden party and she held my hand in her own

clammy seedy palm

as if I were a starfish

I told her of my disappointments and the ache in my chest

all those who had forsaken and gone their own way

with the wisdom of child she wrinkled up her eyes against the sun

told me what I needed to do was pretend I didn’t care a damn

because one day you’ll grow up and nobody will be able to hurt you

I held onto that advice like a piece of paper framed in my chest

but it wasn’t true it wasn’t true

and I wonder where she is now

if she has children

if she is the same kind of mother she was as a friend

if I could see her again I would say

thank you for giving me the hope to get to this point

maybe it wasn’t true, maybe adults fool themselves into

thinking they are not children with ageing hearts and

brittle bones

maybe being an adult is harder than any childhood

because you don’t have afterwards to dream of

and the future as yet unsummoned

with all your magic and all your wistfulness

seen through the eyes of someone not old enough

to know the reality

I would tell her don’t tell your children the truth

let them dream as we did just a bit more

where I can still hear my grandmother knocking over pots

as she makes an apple pie and the smell

of summer is all about us in a haze

and your red hair makes mine look blonde

and your freckles tan your legs whilst mine remain blue

and your hand in mine is the first hand of friendship

I would thank you for running when I called

because nobody has run since and I suspect

adults have ways of doing things

us children never quite understand

I’m thinking if I could choose a side

I’d go through time and clasp your wrist and run

into the high grass fields out the back and where

nobody would find us

not even ourselves

years from now

Erasure

Unrecoverable

Splinter

8.Boubat.-Portugal_-1956There is a thin slice of glass in my foot

I cannot see it

but I know it’s there

at night when

the fan whirls like a dervish overhead

and I play the xylophone between my legs

a storm blows in

like a warning and a representation

of everything felt and bottled up

old trees hold on, their roots tested

by the metal of young wind hurling

all order into chaos

we stand in our night-clothes

looking over fences

at destruction

she has a white line the length of her stomach

he has a scar hidden in his throat

mine is without and within like

a snake who cannot decide

which part to digest first

we three are the wounded lovers

with our perpetual thirst for

promises to ring true

devotion to stay where it was first placed

by the window in a jar of water

to bloom and scent the pulse of night

but such things rarely obey

wont of humans without power

the storm and her threading fingers

lays waste to our belief we control

even the tiniest morsel of this crochet world

…(l)…

when he married her

he thought she would obey

the tick tock of her laboring heart

stay steadfast by his side in the howling wind

but she was a maelstrom of her own

making

soon the wedge in their marital bed

was a dry river without resurrection

…(ll)…

she wanted

her husband to save her

when the doctor said C.A.N.C.E.R. and she turned

to the eyes of her children and they

looked away in painted terror

but he only knew how to put out fires

not the slow melt of all safe things she had

taken for granted 33 years

so they diverged

like a split oak touched by

lightning will remain

upright yet stranger to its mate

…(lll)…

and she was the string

between the wounded male and female

her own heart hollowed out

murmuring at night like a singleton

by the small hands of trust and promises

unkept

it was as her grandmother said

a poor thing to imagine humans

to remain steadfast

after all, the storm blew everything

even our very best intentions

whipping them into the air

until they were fragments of themselves

transformed what we knew

what we were familiar with

lending no safe harbor

for the weakened need to have surety

the only thing keeping them

upright

was their conjoined pain

a frayed ribbon between three houses

in the wildfire dead of night

where even

creatures who prefer darkness

stayed in their nests

for it was only then, in the tempest

they felt themselves capable

of surviving another moment

only then

shouting their grief into four pursing winds

writing pain along the narrow margins

of life and death

they lived another day

and on that day

wrecked and emptied

found succor in the equal fall of others

bending to pick up the debris of

their former selves

rent into splintered pieces

unrecognizable and sharp to the touch