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.

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Mental Health Awareness Week

She doesn’t look sick…..

She isn’t sick.

But a black hole is eating her from the inside out.

The devour has no real description

It defies the usual ones, it has a wider mouth, deeper jaw, longer bite

The thing of it is .. the shame .. that’s the worst part

The little voice which sometimes sounds like your mother and sometimes sounds like every voice that ever said; What’s wrong with you? Why can’t you snap out of it?

Sometimes … a day will be piercingly beautiful … like the most beautiful song you ever heard and every sense will be electrified

And still you will long to fall on the ground sobbing

If they saw you they would ask; What’s wrong? It’s a beautiful day! Why can’t you appreciate life! Are you ungrateful?

And you would nod your head and admit; Yes I must be ungrateful. How else can you explain it?

For those who believe in God, you feel stricken, maybe you feel God is punishing you for some transgression with the black dog who never leaves your side

If he does leave then you know he will return and it is just a false waiting game, a pose of chess pieces with their fates already inscribed

They talk about other things that matter and feel empathy, sympathy

But when someone has a mental disease they are considered weak, inferior, selfish, inadequate

Wherever you go – there you are

Sometimes you wonder why it is you can write so much in November and nothing through July.

As if a giant claw had possessed your feelings and sank its nails deep into your marrow

When you date people you feel as if you should come with a disclaimer;

I may look pretty, I may have qualifications and a clean house, but beneath this surface please note … I am subject to changing and crying when the sun shines for no discernible reason

Sometimes in the middle of a party you want to run away from the crowd and bury your face in the grass out in the forest – feeling more alone than if you were locked underground in a prison cell

Often there is absolutely no way of describing this so you simply do not and that sets you apart as someone who carries a dark feeling without a voice

Occasionally someone will remark on the sadness in your eyes and you will smile as hard as you can to dispel it because it feels like a giant stain that everyone could see

If they cared to

Many times in subtle ways people will show you that they think you are weaker than them in the little methods of selection and choice

Family will condemn you and sharpen the quill when you are down because it is easier to kill a deer when it has fallen

You try to be grateful and you are, but it never seems so in the midst of sadness because sadness will devour any gratitude whole

And lovers will tell you … you’re not even happy to be with me are you? And you want to say, oh yes I am! But the sadness will envelop your voice and they will leave you … disappointed

There isn’t a week of mental illness, there isn’t a day for depression. There are years upon years upon years

And little adverts on TV about “If your current anti-depressant isn’t working considering taking (and paying) for another one to boost it!” Just fill you with impotent rage.

Often, you feel you are not worthy simply because you are depressed, it is a stigma that invades every aspect of your being, you believe you are not worth the same as others because of the darkness you carry around on your back

In the early morning when you lie in bed and the first rays of sun come through your window, you may forget who you are, and decide you are not going to be labeled or given a description, you are going to be

free

and that may last a while until the next time you feel like blowing your brains out

and then it’s the greatest betrayal you ever felt and it seems as if you do it to yourself

like a hand inside a black velvet glove

stroking dreams until they grow cold

Expansion

Gaining weight used to feel

dangerous

body parts blowing up, smothering familiarity

she wanted to be in control of everything and nothing could be controlled

so she took what she could instead …

her own flimsy pounds of flesh

the shrinking and expanding of time

denial and suppression, weezing like old men

enraptured by ballet dancer who starves herself to death

if she ignored her bodies longing to transform, she stayed small

and boys could circle her waist and say; you haven’t changed a bit! She could believe the lie and retrace time

could still be a slip of a girl, wearing her old clothes from when she was free of the demands of adulthood and blood, blood that did not rinse clear even when scrubbed

and this she did, for far too long, for fear of else

for what more was she? Not a mother, not since hurtling down the stairs, pushed by love, she saw her baby break into knots of placenta and gore

now not sure of whom she had become, in absenting herself it was easier, to dwell in the old shell and not

expand

comfort in knowing one’s exact circumfrance

and how it would feel to place a hand upon her flesh

a control without anything behind it, empty strawman, left without match to kindle, burn and diminish

she stayed the same whilst the rest of the world changed

grew wider, grew taller, grew inside and out

she was a fascimile of her damp past

it wasn’t until a sickening reduced her to almost empty

where she rattled and she clacked and she was hollow cheeked and pigeon chested

then her heart flickered on and off and she knew

the danger of staying still, was too great

she ate, though the taste was gone and appetite nil

outgrowing her own well known shape, she became something new

it was a frightening feeling to find what she would be

now that she had turned the corner and let the adult in

would she be like her mother with tiny little legs and arms?

or more of her father’s broad shoulders and freckled stomach

she was nobodies lover and nobodies mother

it hurt to cut herself out of the place she’d been so long, though long stale

and try to break out on her own, one unfamiliar piece at a time

in the bath she would gaze at her new body

bearing the marks of where she had visited

the underworld and the center of the sun

burning and drowning simultaneously

Her chest resembled the teets of a tiger, her thighs wide and strong

Readied to climb mountains, burst dams, forge expectancy

nothing else seemed important least of all

if she fitted into or fitted out of

the places she used to belong

this was a new version

she was going to gain more

than mere pounds and stone

she was going to quit starving to remain familiar

and learn the value of expansion

The necessity of being

Men came out

Women emerged

No children

The children were gone

What happened the first month?

Outside bars and cement

Away from gas chamber

When legs and arms, mere bone

Unshackled could move once more

How

Did you pick up your lives then?

Learn the grace of living 

No one has ever said

Something so horrific cannot be vented

It can only transform into fire

from survival we are born, once more

A second life

Not a child, not young

Nor unscathed, but covered in scars

They are our metal, winking silver and rose 

We do not stand in new bones

But those that know the feeling of kneeling

Begging for the end to come

And when it did not

When we survived

Despite their best attempt to smother

It is a land of ash and terror 

To navigate and put back together

Those shattered pieces of self 

Willing meaning from devestation

How? 

With the blood of ancestors, fresh

Seeing them led to their deaths

Courage in silence, in suffering

How?

When nothing is left but the last straw 

And it erupts into flame, burning everything you were

How?

Do you design again a day, a week, a year?

With a face enured by fear

Used to screaming in the dark

How?

To go past the horror and walk into a new life?

We do it by taking the broken pieces of us

Head in the oven, wrists slashed in bathroom

Pill bottles strewn about like flotsum

All our aborted attempts to shut the terror out

We take the gore and the furnace

The golem and the hangman

In our minds eye we stand among graves

Tasting human ash whilst behind us chambers cough out families

And if that doesn’t kill us 

Nothing ever will

Because when you stand on the far side of fear

Your heart extinguished and cold, a lifeless thing

There is only survival

We are the feral leftovers

We rebuilt ourselves from nothing 

Like from clay we came, so again, a second coming

To defy the proximity of evil

We are the ones who refused to cease

Standing when nothing held us up

But the necessity of being

(For all who perished in the death camps and all who survived.)

Inheriting the wind


Confessional poets

Are thought of in the feminine perjorative

Ironically men 

Confess their camoflage

When calling their characters Hank

That’s for you … Mr blowhard Bukowski

Or Billy Childish, nuff said, I suspect

Whilst this Plath enigma, I doubt shall ever be cracked

Anymore than the grey stones weighting sweater

Sexton either, what beautiful ankles and rouged lips

Even as she slipped, beneath the veil of sanity

Like a greyhound needing to outrun, even itself

Madness grows peacock feathers for weeds

Just another error in a misguided map

Thinking women lesser, colinders of experience

If I’d been a man I’d have 

Grown my hair like a mane

Been kind to my daughters

And changed the notion of authority

For my words would be exclaimed intensely feminine

Applauded for

A man having been 

A better woman

Like Bono and his award 

We give ourselves away

By the bouquet full

Whatever happened

To women inheriting the wind?

The growing chronicles #2 The broken glass


You had sat in the window ledge

of everywhere I lived over the years

light pouring through your

green glass making familiar

new destinations with known

you came all the way from Italy

when I saw the world through your colors

I saw the world differently shining into rooms

 

It had come down to this

either you or I

would break

you gave me preview

as fate will a look inside

what will happen, the night before

when you wobbled and nearly

tipped from your place

a warning

next time I will not be so fortunate

 

and I

chose to ignore

the peril

knowing

if not you

it would be myself

breaking into pieces

all over the floor leaving

shards of color ground to dust

through which another

world could exist

 

I swept you up

fat tears dropping

magnifying with saline

my apology

that it had to be

your sacrifice

not my courage

to beseech the spectacle of existing

and save another day

I may then

shatter with you

Softly by the spoonful

33879402735_73c9d87faf_kThere exist still

people who were born when the world

like a split fig, bequeathing aubergine center

was half the size

in a fabled time when

individuals could be appreciated

for more than their overt strip-tease

hot and pulsing on flashy poles oiled by media

consumption

 

my grandmother

with her perfect straight teeth

and flossy hair refusing to be tamed

called a beauty in her day

would never have held up now

a corn maiden left to rot in untended field

days then, of gentle reproaching and

beguiling unknown

how intoxicate to consider, what you cannot reach

where now, less possesses such mystery

in its hoard of foil

than generations guarding jailers keys to reaching secrets

you could think all your life you were set

in one direction like weather vane, divining nature

and upon the death-bed of your elders, find out

nothing you rolled in your palm, was true

not even the dice you flung impatiently forward

 

for now we have proof

and proof is not

like a closed oven door

raising cake or bread

proof can rob us of dreaming

and those imprecisions and improvision

making fantasies stick like early

peas fattened against their husk

 

now the only fantasy

is waking up to become someone else

soon they will have us inhabiting machines

thinking ourselves free

maybe the irony will be

in those metal cases our brains

will grow mercurial wings

we are after all, rather fickle things

thinking ourselves to immortality

as Icarus searched to quench

his melting dissolution

 

I don’t share this ache to overcome my nature

it is my wish to lay me down and sleep

fertilizing the next seed

so when they say eat your greens

if you do, you may be the one in six to reach triple digits

I secretly chew and spit into black soil

preferring the liquor of a shorter candle

if I lived that long

nothing of the world I once loved

would remain

 

Buddhists say

live in the moment, not past, nor future

but I am a backward bespeckled girl

with a tilted womb and trigger finger

I am a girl who was partially born

with patched lazy eye and pigeon toe feet

I inherited bunions from my father who

stole them from his grandmother

she was blind with cataracts and still able

to see clearly

don’t live in the city, she chided him

the country boy who sought

museums on sunday’s instead of church

you’ll always be lonely, she prophesied

and he was

staring out windows at tall buildings

with long faces, void of harmony

 

whilst I leaned more toward my ancestors

who tilled fecund earth with prematurely calloused hands

finding peace in silent prose press of peat

to nourish encroaching tides of meaningless

gabled society can bring

 

from my mother I gained

some wit and spark

but also the propensity to climb inside myself

so far I didn’t know how to trust

and when it rains and the weather shifts

its turbulence

my head aches with clamoring change

an internal disturbance like children

playing band with pots and pans

it was always the habit of myself

to disbelieve the town crier

hefting his false bell

handing out sugar for the children

and pills for heavy-lidded adults

back in time I stood

warming my small hands against radiators

gloves wet from snow thawing

capture of damp wool in sticky air

the psychiatrist said

did you come here alone and you are only twelve?

I wanted to tell him

how many times I learned the way forward

without hands or trace

but some truths are best kept

behind your surface

he told me something I have never forgotten

it is the unkindness of those familiar

scars us worse of all

than any cut from a stranger

yet still

grief is a thing of feathers loosened by seizure

as rain will envelope sound, cutting off from usual ways

we tread deeper into ungulate symphony

he said; somebody should have loved you better

and I watched

my gloves shrink ever so slightly

as loose wool pulled taut in warmth

just as I

will lean into glassy light composed of grainy prism

away from those who string their netted words

higher and higher in hope of catching

butterflies

 

it is summer now

the sprinklers in gardens come alive at night

catching mating dragonflies unaware

lightly slapping window panes as they arc

and fall

the cat will only seek to step

on cooling tiles when sun has set

and behind my eyes if you looked

a hundred cages stand emptied

where generations have flown

toward the sea and diminishment

 

I know

as I feel the tilt of myself shift like

long seated shadows will at last

urge toward darkness

the slightest ember could ignite

this fragile ballet of footprints and placement

as tables set for breakfast loam in nightfall

specters in deletion, we rise and consume

time and understanding

softly by

the spoonful