I don’t like you

A little girl

With golden hair reaching her tan

Told me, tongue to one side, half-licked lips

I don’t like you.

Afterward I asked

A disinterested person

Who was paid to iron my dad’s shirts and begrudgingly

Watch me until he returned

Why would someone not like me?

I hadn’t said this with some inflated belief that I deserved universal liking

But rather, an innocent question

That first time

Branding with the word knife

The girl with flax hair

Didn’t include me in hopscotch or skip rope

Ring a ring a roses, a pocket full of posies, a-tissue, a-tissue, they all fall down

She was the most popular and they chose her for Mary in the school play

Whilst I played a donkey, braying when gift bearing wise men arrived

The local woman who ironed my dad’s shirts

Begrudged making me a canned supper

I was a nuisance, playing in her dour house until 6pm every day

Throwing dirt on drab paving stones, pretending to be invisible

I don’t know why

She crossly replied

Her forehead wrinkled with steam

Curly hair rising, sleeves rolled up, sweat stains coloring

Maybe you’re a nasty little girl.

The next day when my father dropped me off on his bike

At the school gates

I walked the other way

I have been ever since

Learning to salvage myself

From unexpected spite.

If I met the peach-kneed Danish girl today

She’d likely have track-marks and bruised eyes

Turned out she was beaten beneath her starched frocks

Turning the wickedness back into the world

Isn’t that what hurt children do?

Perhaps it’s not wise to always listen to your elders

I’d warn the five-year old me

Playing with empty hands on the stoop of someone else’s street.

As an adult, when someone doesn’t like me

Which happens like storms and rain in May

Their voice reminds me of that first loneliness.

Children who stop believing in a kind world

Feeling sharp thorned scorn

Grow into adults who keep themselves sheltered

From the humans in wolf skin, prowling outside

Like castaway cries of surprise

When we think we are safe and

Still, we trip and fall.

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The next generation

This isn’t a pity poem

who the hell wants to read one of those?

but if I’m honest

which I’m not very often

preferring to put on a mask and sit mutely smiling on the outside

it’s sometimes harder to pretend and say nothing

than let it out

if I did let it out

what would IT look like?

am I really so bad for having an urge to share?

the empty feeling inside

surely that’s how we hope to fill ourselves

with something other than hot air or quiet despair?

one thing worse than peripheral is rejection, so usually

we stay quiet about how we really feel incase it’s true

nobody really gives a damn once you’re grown

how I got to this juncture is the easy part

a girl is born, her gender is already

a strike against her in a world easier on men

we don’t treat girls very well

maybe there should also be a rule against small families having smaller families

call it what you like, I call it diminishment

I was diminishing before I was born

when there’s nowhere to go, you usually strive to go up

but I was bad at direction, turned into a box turtle and hid in my shell

hoping someone would pry me out

that was my second mistake

generally it’s worth noting, people do little for free

if I could tell myself that I’d have said; Don’t rely on anything but you

you end up staying inside too long by yourself

before you know it, even the language you speak

taints your chances to pretend to be normal

I look

at photographs of other people

they are surrounded by people, fitting in like

well crafted pieces of puzzles I do not fit

I was the kid sent off to eat with other families, never my own

it felt like a kick in the shins then, and everytime since

feeling ackward in a crowd

because I didn’t learn how

to belong

so this isn’t a pity poem

i’m not chafing with self imposed isolation

not the girl who smiles when she’s crying, or maybe I am

or the one who feels more alone when amongst a crowd

everything is so quiet when that’s how you’re born

it takes a fortitude I don’t possess to break the cycle

erase the twenty years forming a tongue without social skill

I hear the sounds of a party rising over the walls

a party I could be at though, I know

i’d be pressed against the wall without a way out

though all I’ve ever wanted is to learn a way in

i whisper

i am irrelevant in this scenario

self worth is tied to others even as we know it comes from ourselves

i didn’t generate any faith

so I don’t believe in God or me

but I do believe in you

if this was a pity poem I’d ask

why you didn’t help me learn how to live?

though I know the answer already

you couldn’t do it yourself, what chance for me?

we’re cut from the same cloth, you and I

that’s why we both hide

like the man in the high tower

did he ever feel as lonely as I do?

why didn’t he need

the things I cannot seem to reach

it’s like I am stretching out for them

but the betrayal of beginnings and everything after and before, is too deep

we betray ourselves most of all

in trying to be what we just aren’t able to

a teacher once told me you can be anything at all

that’s a lie I know it

we each have chances and some of us have fewer props

so we stand ackwardly by the side

trying to be someone we’re not

until the inauthenticty feels like a curse

we revert to type even as we dislike who we are

this was set in motion before we knew

we’re just the next generation of lost

not self pity, no, more like a pain

a mere poem cannot do justice