The Lesson

Many friends of mine are highly intelligent.

they talk of having to ‘hide’ their intelligence as children, to avoid scaring others

I did not fit in either, but for much different reasons

a contradiction, most who spoke to me believed me to be very bright

but the lore of the highly verbal is just that. An ability to talk circles around people

sometimes the brain is empty behind the Rocky Horror Picture Show mouth.

Unlike my very smart friends, who excelled and won prizes

and knew uncannily how to do things before being taught, even welding, and that was

hard

unlike my first boyfriend who made all A’s whilst watching The Incredible Hulk

unlike my second boyfriend who made all A’s whilst masturbating to Farrah Fawcett

the only way I was ever on top was if I climbed, brick by brick.

I learned early on, not to compete

why would you compete if you NEVER win? If you’re always the slow poke, the last picked on a team, the one who has to ask again and again, the friend who can’t

get the gist of it and stays home reading comics.

Usually the most competitive are those who are naturally good at something and thus, recognize the taste of success

I learned slowly and badly, I couldn’t; knit, use chopsticks, play Atari well, do wheelies, skateboard or boogieboard, or vault over the box without

often falling

I had more ‘not good at that’ checked boxes than ‘excels’ and that never changed.

Some say, if you fail, keep trying, but eventually, if you fail enough sometimes you turn into

something else

a kid who is angry for other reasons too and has found a home in building that anger into a straw man

a kid who is fed up of coming last, of repeated failures and shame in sometimes still wetting the bed

being told you are an idiot over and over again tends to sink in

so I became a rebel.

If someone said; You failed that. I would laugh. Literally take joy in it.

FUCK YOU I would shout and run to the park and drink from whatever bottle was handy or climb whatever tree was nearest

I learned, you could get more positive attention from dancing and putting your hands down boys pants than

making an effort to fail.

Part of me knew it was wrong, I didn’t like boys, so why was I spending any time with them?

They didn’t like me over much either, I was; too short, too flat chested, not enough flippin enthusiasm

damn right.

Then I belonged nowhere

except under the hot lights of the dance floor, shaking out my grief or in a tree house pretending I was anyone but me

I ran so many times away from pain / I began to know the tune and hum it

in a weak moment I would return and feel-up a boy

for 3 minutes of false love

and in that wet, sticky repulsion

hate myself ever more.

sometimes even the child falling off the deep-end can see it coming

but nobody else could; they thought I was just badly behaved / didn’t ask why / didn’t try to intervene

I crashed and burned on the rocks multiple times, like a bad sky diving bird searching for her nest

wanting in one moment to excel, the next to set fire to

everything that rubbed my nose in it.

I absorbed failure like a nicotine patch

I inhaled it like cheap speed on a dirty toilet seat

when I lifted my legs to the ceiling and turned my head away

from the thrashing

the fuck you’s sounded really hollow

drugs weren’t enough to sake

my premature emptiness.

Of course, people are over-fond of

blaming the victim and saying; ‘you have choices’

which is partially true and partially bullshit, as we all know

deep down

it takes a village

or maybe just one person

to lift you to the light and when you’re 14

and saturated in pain without knife sharp enough

to exorcise darkness

it’s hard to grab on and ask someone to intervene.

When you came into my life

my first love, the one I lost everything to

including my shadows and a little cocktail sliver of self-hate

I didn’t know then, what an impact you would make

meteorite girl

I lost my virginity in your hands and

forgot the ammonia of boys and how they’d beg

to go all the way and almost want to pay you if they had

more than a penny and dirty underwear on offer

leaving you feeling worthless and slutty and defiled and violated even if

you kissed while crossing your own legs the entire time.

In your arms I realized my own skin, the honey softness

of your touch, a new language.

You were, the girlfriend of my best friend

you loved him, you loved me (on weekends when he was away)

I was your little secret and you stripped me one by one

of all my petty rebellions

until I stood before you naked and shivering

telling me; Get your shit together, because nobody

is going to do it for you and you don’t want to be

working in High Street Stores at 40 nor do you

want to squander all your talent on

cheap cider and horny empty-eyed souls.

I laughed then, I remember it, day losing light

your face looked older, wiser, molded by shadow

I wanted to press myself to your breasts and find

that special sound you made when I delved deeper.

But you took my chin and forced me to meet your eyes

a deep blue like the bottom of my grandmother’s swimming

pool where I learned to drown

It isn’t fair, you said, it isn’t right, and it isn’t your fault

but it is your responsibility

defy them. Even if you can’t beat them, even if you can’t

ever be as good as them, defy their expectations of you

make something of yourself anyway, and for those who

things come easy, realize you are twice as strong

for matching their ease with your effort.

I admired you more than anyone I’d ever met

not just for the shape of your curls and the way you stood

short and yet louder than anyone in the room

I admired your tenacity and how you had a really dumb side

that you could laugh at and we’d sit in your friends bar

underage (me) barely old enough (you) and I could

never get enough of watching your lips move and wishing

they could be pressed against mine til eternity.

When you left me for the boyfriend you always knew you’d keep

because I was a phase in your life and you were my everything

I didn’t hate you for it. I felt the terrible absence of your

hand in mine and how life without you was colorless and

drab like someone had sucked out all the joy and left only

skeletons of memory.

But I was young, I picked myself up and tried again

the first time in years, putting aside my acting out and anger

the rebellions, resentment at having so many

impediments and not being one of the golden ones for whom

everything came naturally.

I worked so hard I ended up succeeding, but that success

never made me happy the way you hoped it would.

I still felt a fraud

I still knew, if I didn’t work twice as hard as everyone else I would never

be their equal

I knew deep down my short-comings were

who I really was and that being ordinary is never something we aspire to.

It did feel good to fight back

against things people liked to say in cruel moments

about how I would never amount to anything, how I wasn’t half

the intelligent person they’d thought I’d grow up to be

I proved them wrong.

I did not gain confidence in myself because I knew the truth

sometimes you can tap dance so fast, people start to believe

the tune you are humming, but it’s just a magic trick

and you’re as ordinary and bog-standard as

chips in newspaper and clothes on a line.

Did I want to be remarkable? Special? Unique? Gifted?

Hell yeah.

Accepting that you’re ordinary, especially when you were never told

you mattered

is absolutely ego crushing

but I remembered how you laughed at yourself

and didn’t let it stop you

how you might have felt the fear and done it anyway

I took an incomplete leaf out of your book

one that I keep til this day, pressed against my bosom

remembering that people come into your life for a reason

sometimes that’s why they have to leave

for the lesson is rarely learned

without loss.

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Spindle

7d0ed5cd3d2e3d68eddfc2ef7d189b33Sometimes

love is a sadness

a mark against sun

warm rain

stored tears

sometimes on the best of days

you cannot find joy

love can hurt like a sting

reminder

never forgotten

It us better to have felt

all my pain and ecstasy

than feel nothing

and sometimes I see your eyes

graze over me

they are not present

you feel so little like a spindle

growing light of wool

It is as if you need

less oxygen

to function

and in those times, I want to say

oh love me as if we were dying

love me with all of you, not just some

fall as deep as I

but you never have

It isn’t your way

you are

sunlight hitting surface

to us beneath

the warmth barely gets through

and we grow thin

and restless

and hungry

14 YEAR OLD BOYS AREN’T THE GOSPEL – For Mental Health Awareness Week

Mental Health Awareness Week (this year the focus is body image)

14 YEAR OLD BOYS AREN’T THE GOSPEL

The year we held a Madonna competition I was flat chested
Boys said; Asprins on an ironing board
Girls said; You can’t dance with us
The exclusion felt … hot pink and slimy
I wore black elastic bands on my wrists to hide the snub

The year he asked me out because Zoe had said no
He said; Zoe is taller than you, you look quite SQUAT
He said; Zoe has tanned skin, why do you always BURN
He said; You give good head but it’s a shame you aren’t Zoe
I threw up in the bathroom to hide the shame

The year my best friend taught me how to binge and purge
She said; You’ll soon have a waist as small as mine
She said; When you feel sad put your fingers down your throat
She said; Skinny is the new superpower for girls
I quit dance class because I didn’t have the energy anymore

The year I tried to stop giving a shit
I said; Fuck it. I’m me. I can’t be anything else I WAS BORN THIS WAY
I said; I may never love myself enough but I’m damn well not going to destroy me
I said; Hate the image in the mirror, at least love the inside
I said; Someone will always want to put you down, don’t give them the power

The next year I still didn’t wear bathing suits, I still walked with my shoulders rounded
But I didn’t have raw knuckles and I didn’t survive on the opinion of 14 year old boys

A decade later at an art show we meet again, he’s going bald
He said; You look fantastic. I don’t remember why we broke up
He said; I always thought you were the hottest girl in school
He said; Want to fool around behind this Van Gough?
I quit listening and wished I’d learned not to at 14.
What you think is important then, usually is not.
Try to love who you are. Perfect is an illusion and 14 year old boys aren’t the gospel. We don’t all have to be Zoe.

I AM A TOTEM OF MY OWN BRANDING

pexels-photo-573298

I’ve been told I’m a chronic pain in the ass

after all, it’s easy to destroy a child in an adult’s body

with past-tense words

and now in the time I’m meant to be at my strongest

chronic has visited me and stayed a long while

on a good day I think; This will not be forever

but temporary has always been a long way off

the doctors love to tell us; It’s incurable, get used to

living like this, hostage to something unknown and strange

as if that’s a normal thing to do

but if enough of us live with chronic illness, it will become normal

and that is not a good thing.

Before this …

I took chances, because you think

I’m invulnerable, sometimes I can fly

health, you take for granted

though I truly convinced myself, I had checked the boxes

right weight, exercise, organic, vegetables, no pre-made meals

(well, this is what I told my doctor, sometimes a couch counts as exercise, right?)

if I ate a slice of pizza, it was a treat with friends

though I like root beer, I never drank it

maybe making up for cigarettes, smoked in my twenties

but I thought if I keep jogging, if I keep living healthily

I won’t be felled, because you ARE WHAT YOU EAT.

A few months before I got sick, I recall

feeling strong, climbing through snow drifts and laughing

boundless energy, working long hours, feeling intensely alive

people saying; you look so healthy, your skin is radiant!

Those are not things people say now, unless

I apply a lot of make-up, to camouflage my fraying edges

instead it is me, who declines invitations

I am sorry I cannot go with you to eat, even though eating out

is the number one leisure activity where I live

because my stomach is ruined and I cannot digest much

I live plain and simple (and boring), like a nun and I am numbed

to the pleasures of wine and sauces and garlic, spices and oils

not recognizing my bloated mid section in the mirror

from the girl who once was told

she had an hour-glass figure, with a wasp waist

could run for buses and catch them in three-inch heals.

I know everyone has their burden

but when you get sick and it doesn’t go away

life becomes a series of scolds and let downs

you find out who really loves you and who harbored an anger

used the opportunity of your downfall, to insert a knife

it is the cowards way of course, but freedom of sorts

for none of us need, that kind of negativity in our lives

there is a blessing in disguise, when you find your tribe

the people who care and know the real you

not wanting to tear you apart, because it’s easy to kick you when you’re down.

But blessings do not salvage, the hours you spend sickening

remembering how you were rarely felled in past years

strong of body, sound of mind, juicing and walking ten miles

everything is turned upside down, inside out when you find

a burnt fuse, at the end of your outstretched arm.

There is no cure, there is no future

when you live, in a jar for the jarring

for a long while, I blamed myself

maybe in part, because someone I trusted told me;

“It is your fault, you must have somehow caused it”

easy to throw stones, at glass houses

I was a glass house, with many windows

break one and I cannot repair it

the wind will come in and make of my space

chaos

the sun will come in and make of my peace

madness.

Those things that brought me joy, were gone

instead, the regiment of illness strode in and stood firm

you cannot feel passion, when you are sick

ageing in hours, rather than decades, trying to stay above water

it is hard to feel hope

you rely upon the kindness of others

which is hard to do, if you are not used to it

and when they lift you to the light, you promise

if I can recover, I will try ever so hard to never be ungrateful

but with every mercy, is a dark day in hell

those days take it all out of you, like a scourge

the sickening can age you, more than a nightmare

one minute you recognize yourself, the next you are unknown

vulnerability, of not being able to take care of yourself

the expense and fear

your world crumbling around you.

These are things you get used to and when you have fallen

to the bottom and can no longer get up

that is where the truth lies

that is where you can find

your true self and the end of fear.

They tried to tell you that you were insane

making it up, all in your head, something’s wrong with that

crazy lady who pounds her fluttering chest in vain

tries to catch the eyes of doctors, with beseeching side-glance

SEE ME! HEAL ME! SAVE ME! WHAT IS WRONG?

WHAT HAS HAPPENED TO ME? WHY DID I WAKE UP ONE DAY

SICK AND IT NEVER WENT AWAY?

And yes ! Something was wrong with me and still is

not my doing, not my causing, not my dreaming

despite you saying; You bothered us, when you called and were upset

no mercy, no mercy, no mercy, that is not love.

Helped me let go. Don’t hold on to negativity.

Oh doctor, get it outt!

and if you can’t, then give me the key, the saw, the pick

so I may survive myself and somehow continue on.

Am I to label myself chronically ill, or in recovery?

Surviving or dying or all of the above?

how do you define what doesn’t go and doesn’t kill?

Spending all your money on alternative treatments that

don’t even know what they pretend to cure

how do you describe one good day, followed by one in hell?

others won’t understand, because they are well

what I would give to return, to that safe water place

but even if I did, I would not be the same

you live years with a loaded gun to your head, everything changes.

I am not me anymore

I cannot see out of my left eye

I cannot lift heavy things, with my weak foreign arms

I can walk ten miles and not break a sweat despite this and be told

by friends and foes; OH YOU DON’T LOOK SICK

I am an apparent scar of contradictions and pain

I hurt every day, my stomach feels like

something is eating me from the inside out

it convulses and retorts and shouts

“you will never win, you will bathe in pain the rest of your life”

but I will still try

because I don’t know how to give in to enemies, I cannot see

and even as I cannot eat normal food

one day I am good, the next I am dying green

even as nausea, has become my constant companion

and bottles of pills and vitamins rattle in my pit

even as I fight to be gracious in the eye of the storm

and those I thought would stand by me, try to drown me instead

I know there is still a moment

I am well enough to remember who I am

never to find that peace of mind again

but maybe recover to another state of being.

I wake in the night covered in sweat and the disinterested doctor says

“get used to not sleeping, get used to all of this, it is what you must suffer and many others do”

as if it is normal to be like this, as if it is something we should not mention

I will never think it is normal to be hijacked!

I jog into the forest, because it reminds me I am still living, my feet still work

I fight with wilted hands, when they tell me there is no hope

that I should just consign my former glories to a picture album and put

my feet up for a fifty year occupation of sofas and couches and day time oblivion

because THE POWER OF ME can overcome the power of negativity and this I believe

as I see in the mirror a girl who doubts but stares back unblinking.

I have lost my will at times

I do not write as much,  I have less energy

the last time I had a romantic dinner was in a dream and I

sleep with a heating pad on my stomach every night instead of a lover

but I still pay my own way and my own bills

I have a pride in pushing back against status quo

DEFYING the prescription of HOPELESSNESS.

they tell me go on disability. Just give up

I am not going anywhere, but to the finish line

I learned

by losing everything and having nothing but

the sheer will and dim light of my existence

I can do this without those I thought I had in my corner

because I am stronger than I realized

and this grieves me, as well as reassures me

but I come from a long line of stoic, strong women

and it seems sicker than I am, that we should hate each other

because life, surely we have found out, is fragile

and love is all that makes sense

but even without love I will continue and not

let the flame go out.

Sometimes I ask myself why?

why not just give in? Take the knife, swallow the pill

to oblivion or some non-sign-posted destination

I don’t have children to protect

it would be easy to slip out of this world and its sword edge of pain

but somehow I feel I should protect myself

maybe because others did not

maybe because you defend yourself in the end

when everything else is fallen and you are still

somehow, standing.

I am weak and tired and prematurely aged into

a hunched over version of myself

hair greying with shock, skin is sloughing off and my

body is tied to the rhythm of a sickness that purges and gluts

I was told this kind of disorder was permanent

but nothing I have found, is ever guaranteed

so I have chosen to ignore this and believe

we can all fight and overcome

anything

even a death sentence

even betrayal

even silence

and when we know this

when we are strong for our weakness

realize our tears are just water and salt

burning the frustration of our visiting menace

then, we know nothing can hurt us, more than it already has

and we are free to dream

of a future without so much pain

where death stands to the side and lets us regain

some of our former dignity

for there is nothing dignified in sickness

and you don’t know me when you said I was glamorous

that is the last thing I am

I am beautiful for my courage

beautiful for my fear

beautiful for my survival

beautiful for my defeat

beautiful for my mercy of those who have no mercy for me.

And life is a wax and a wane

life is a torture and a friend

I am the totem of my own branding

I may live in a time where nobody else of my kith and kin remain

and once that would have filled me with pain

now I know you cannot rely upon

labels of safety

it is only by looking into the hearts of those

who stayed by your side when the storm hit

even if it is one, even if it is naught

you remain behind

the tempest cannot roar forever

eventually even agony ceases.

I wish now, to be everything you were not

to love others unconditionally

care for those who are in need

be the change I want to see

I want to find myself

at the end of all of this

I want to tell you, sickness

you do not win

you are just a miasma

I am a spirit with a soul

I will endure you

the me, of me, will remain

long after, to remember her worth.

Before this all began and through it, learned

only the fierce remain

only those willing to FEEL

and not those who run from feeling

with the ease of the damned.

Faith

My love

it is so hard to keep

faith

with every day there are changing shades from day to night

sometimes I am comforted by fireflies and evening moth

who dual beyond the porch, betrayed by flicker and swat

I imagine the patterns of her wings, that magic sting of light

so short their lives compared to ours, so rich and meaningful I would infer

sometimes it is the exclusion of pain gives me rest

when I can at last unroll my carpet and forget

carrying the weight all day, a vase of ache absent of flower

to place this nowhere and have it melt away

I lie in the bath and heady steam dissipates reality

in those musings there is only the delight of a girl

seeking her passion in lingered meandered imagining

and you come to me, full of health and unharmed yet

by cruel flint and staunch of your absent conscience

and you lay me down and make of me what you will

a thousand pieces of me broken and rebuilt

which I give with my all, for you were and you remain still

far more than sense can convey

in the hour of day when dreams are gone to sleep

I see the cruelty of your take and take and take

the hunger of your keep and how I was but a thing, in your

cabinet of curiosities to be taken out and squeezed when you

thirsted or when times were hard and you needed the succor of

kindness to tuck you in, nothing of you was sincere or loving

all that I held dear possessed the sound of my own breaking

it was as if I had become pupil to mistreatment

learned many times on illiterate whip of inheritance

children soon become acquiescent to disregard

I didn’t know how to be worthy and you took my pain

pinned it to a velvet card and called me Opodiphthera Eucalypti

my blush and powder, the soft rubbed fur and bleed of color

round and round my pattern and maze, sucking from thistle

the gypsy without, I live in silk and attraction to light

pollinating only the fruit of predators like yourself

as you pinch my wings with your greed and whisper

my lunar, my atlas, spin your silken web across my longing

for I have never learned my worth and you wish to

gobble on my spirit as you may an Autumn apple

the fragrance of your dissection

my love

it is too easy

to stay my life in wait of your call

watching others continue onward and myself find

nothing but the covet and anguish of a prisoner

if I had the strength to

I’d hurl myself against the glass

leaving a smudge of myself in technicolor

for children to press their noses against and wonder

oh what ever life could make such a kaleidoscope

and in these mixings of burning and yearning

parched by want and crushed to nothing

the dancer emerges broken and fragmented

to spirit into night her ether and the longing

she is free of her torment and bound to the wax and wane

of one who has rubbed against and been caught by

a terrible rope, woven with obsidian, the shade of pain

my love

it is too hard to remain

faithful

to your brand of hurt

and live in dying with every pursuit

I have long imagined I am already prepared

for the hour, the moment, pain exceeds its curse

and slipping like oil and water and vinegar bound

we change from solid to infinity and beyond

where only the stain of who we were and what we bore

that burning need to consume, that hunger for

all the poison within your sickening and how

never did you rest until the very perish was wrought

standing still like a girl reaching for

something invisible

my love

it is the fresh unopened rose

and her tightly closed promise

shall see tomorrow and claim

the glory

for I will not be there to witness

this new day and those trespasses for this comforts

me in such a depth as if every kind of anguish

were salved by the knowledge this too shall end

and you will dissolve in time

beyond the fragment of what has been

into the very air like things we cannot yet see

whirling and catching the air in relief

for moths have never lived long enough it seems

to know their beauty and how it is

for us who live sometimes too long

and rise to see another day, alone

Because you are not a stranger

Because you are not a stranger

usually I am too reticent, restrained, packaged away

in some hat box with a faded bow

to reach, to linger, to listen

I am a carefully tended garden without entrance

belies her wild interior and the need she has to be untamed

and still you spoke

tearing through the bower, the shrubbery, all my thorns

as natural if we had just been interrupted. having a long conversation

bounding into my life with that long-legged gait reminding me

of those California girls with skin you want to photograph

and ride on horses with until their cheeks get hot

no you are not a stranger

anymore than my French fatalism

is contrary to the opalescent sway of things

we all hang in some form or fashion

from our necks till light betrays our dreaming

and we must enter the sore lot of reality with something of

a bitterness

still tasting on our lips

that Chapstick kiss, faintly cherry

you have

known me before

we have existed before now

a familiar, in intonation and even

that shared day of birth

as if

the light

of the projector

and the quilt of screen

wrote us a history

far from dead ends that labor over hand outs

people who wear you down without

saying a word

with just the fatigue of their eyes

how they cannot see anything of that invisible world

we exist for.

You whisper; “with your eyes closed

you know the sound of my voice and its certainty

its pedantic, bordering on monotonous glee

because it is already familiar”

as something

grown before thought

had elected her bloom to

cover with fragrant reminder

every space of green with flower.

Sometimes even fear meets her match

in destined spots blessed by more than our

mortal hands

I think you have

some power of mind reading

when you turn the page

and set the needle to play

my tune of the winding road

I feel a circle

moving across my body

like a finger tip tracing

without permission and yet

necessary

the outline of my

shadowed self

brought into light.

You usher joy

spreading a scotch blanket

among simple earth and its undulation

though I would turn lobster red

obeying, the sun bleeds behind horizon as if

with the power of your intention

you had dimmed the switch.

Our hands wind together

yet

even if you hadn’t told me

even if I hadn’t known

your hands would have

given it away

as your mouth

a perpetual patient smile

looks to find

a way to speak

without words.

I would ask

what is your intention with my heart

like a concerned father

watching shifting eyes

only you stare back at me

unblinking and open

like a pearl within the care of its shell

it is always, you said, in the eyes

and I reply

how then did you know

before you found me?

when we had not yet

beheld the other?

To which you reply;

I wrote it first

I prayed for you

I dreamed it before

then you were there

holding me in your lonely eyes

like a lighthouse shall

dim only long enough

to light another wick

and surely

guide

sailors

to

shore

for the one who I know in my heart

knows me in hers

because you are not a stranger

and you never were.

Its shining watch

Then make me a tree

that I may reach through earth

lengthening root

climb up, take form

gather again, that moment shook

from memory never

where moon was twice its natural size

reflected in your angry eyes

sitting in idling car

my sticky throated youth

your still punching vigor

movement then, as taught immemorial

of lovers who are not yet.

watchful of your thin wrist

flickering just before touch

warm air, window down

languid stroke of time

painting all these years hence

something you have

absented from, like unpicked fruit

in turning, strange and unfamiliar

I dial that feeling

quite often

not fantasy, no

something real

painted over

turned to shellac, too hard to prize

open again

I watch her in time

the girl I was

wondering at her thoughts

as I know them almost

unformed and loose

like her hair, thicker and tumbling than now

the auburn xylophone of her back

I could fall in love with

each of us again

the blush of your pomegranate lips

how your dark eyes soak up light

extinguish it black

no wonder, I say … no wonder

yet, would I be here now?

if I had not

beseeched night in stolen lament;

if it is meant …  let her call

fate or you obey, though months had passed

a moment, as electric as fire burns oxygen

like fingers on your neck portend soft doom

female silhouettes of trees sway in night breeze

would they have whispered?

no don’t do it, don’t go, turn back

heavy keys in light fabric, jingle like steps

wide open un-rehearsed land rushing past

silence and folded roosting birds, holding their breath

it wasn’t lust

it wasn’t yet love

something other

we were always

in between, time and sense

every song written about

when you leaned, close enough

fusion then, a kind of glory

unspoken of to this day

sealing our fate

like flightless coin

run over many times

shall silver

in tarmac, make

an echo of the very stars

blessing

its

shining

watch