SweptAway

10585_Shadow-iPhone-Photos-26_w1120Here in the quiet room

you can fool yourself for a moment

joy has returned

her skin like oranges left in sun

narrow feet catching dust, turning in their little arc

you want to tell her you notice everything

as if it were your job to record the very sum

using nothing but words and build from alphabet

exact reasons you still

catch your breath

yet for all the music beneath her skin

a familiar yet unfamiliar person within

she has been long gone just as she remains

a shadow against a wall elongated

like places you once lived in

turn strange

taking one more look around

before you leave

key on the mantle

watching tulips breathe

their redolent mystery

as the color of her eyes

was never a word to capture

something free then

flying

out of the window she left ajar

that day she stopped being herself

and you could return in a 100 years

just for the smell clinging to her neck

how she feels beneath her clothes

places you know like a hidden map

joy solved in one tightly held hand

like a sailor lost at sea

when she is far and away

diving for pearls in hope

one will be as black and magical

as her iris caught by car light

watching you, seeing nothing

even the whispers of who she once was

swept away

the room now bare and empty

readying for new people

running your fingers along the memory

heart in throat

seeing her turn

that beautiful smile

before she climbs

the narrow stairs

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FortuneTeller

People didn’t care

Just like with the Nightingale

The dead bird outside Starbucks

Didn’t warrant consideration

His feathers mottled by hot pavement

I felt

Bad I hadn’t noticed at first

But I’d been watching you walk

And recalling the depth of your coffee eyes

Whom of us lovers, has time

For dead birds

Finally a man thinks he’s brave to kick

Feathered corpse off to the side

Indicative of these times

I thought of the Happy Prince

Giving away his gold and jewel eyes

Enlisting a little bird to pluck

His riches to give to the poor

How I read that in school sitting

Elbow to elbow with sloe eyed kids who

Scratched their dry elbows raw

And the very same week we came across a dead bird

Its grave still beneath the weeping willow

Fastened by a Palm Sunday cross we’d kept unbroken in a book

Where children learn almost by hook and rook

Whether to practice compassion

Or not

I said to you; Oh look, it’s a poor dead bird

I wonder why it died? As if flung from the sky

And your eyes were hurt just as I knew they would

Because you are a grown child

I’d be bound to love

And we’d bury birds together

In every place they fell

Even if only a few care

Beginning in the playground

Watch them

Children will show you

Their future character.

The memory of clothes

The memory of clothes

Somewhere in a filing room with corrugated cardboard and dried blood

Her skirt of 06 is folded by a uniformed man

Who isn’t used to folding women’s clothes.

She’ll not be wearing it again

It’s evidence of a crime committed

Of a bad start and a hundred reasons why

Gut instinct should be heeded

Something she didn’t know back then

Packing and unpacking

The acutrements of a life

Worn a little faded and down at the sole.

Some days she’d sleep

In your oversized rock concert T-shirt

Smelling the distant indifference of your brand of love

Others, it’d be the outline of a coat hung in hallway

Reminding her of nightmares she thought left behind.

Wherever you go there you are

The psychology majors chimed in falcetto chorus

And they didn’t know she was running because she was so versed at standing in place

“Cheese” Smile for the camera, the paedophile, the friend who isn’t

That day she wore a pink beret and she’s always worn hats

To disguise herself from her own scrutiny.

You liked those scarlet hose and how her underwear didn’t match

You even liked the outline she left in your well worn yellow bedsheets.

Despite that she’s a ghost

Wearing hand me down clothes without label

Posing in storefronts

For feelings dipped in formaldehyde.

If she could step into a time machine

She’d escape her own bad tempo

Retreating to a distant past

Where the clothes she wore

Carried no memory

Or voices scolding over radio wave

Like a diver unable to exclaim aloud

When the white whale comes into view.

That’s all she sees sometimes

Outlines, shadows and snuff stinging her eyes

Snapshots of who she was before

The picture was over-exposed.

There she is

Running breathless down a stony beach

Toward nothing and no-one and still

There’s a peace in her eyes that’s absent, she makes up for

With midnight blue and eighties pink

Just like kids who paint their dolls and dress them

Ready to begin a new game

Never considering

What happens

On the other side

Of starting over.

They sell her size by the dozen

And other women wear it well

She’s ready to dissolve to the bottom

Like malt and sugar stirs with mint

And creates momentary confusion

Is it sweet?

Or is it bitter?

Try her on

She’s a glove that may fit

Or maybe

Your fingers will be too short, too long

Your palm a might too thick

With her Pantone of regret.

Two decades later & dye still runs

Backstage-Paris-Fashion-Week-1991-wearing-jeans-whiteAcid-dye denim might be

bad-luck or I

simply too old for

bare legs and

shocking rinses

(who the hell buys Manic Panic Vampire Red

seeks to re-cultivate original sin

desperate in disjointed

camouflage & need to impress

someone who is not watching?)

However, the real

surprise lay in

realizing I could shed

as many tears as a teen

who would not blink

at acid-dye-denim

or remember

when high-waisted was

in fashion

the first time around

when heartbreak felt

much, much

more hopeful

even if red dye

be it 1999 or 2019

invariably ran

transforming

tears

pink

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.

If you say nothing it doesn’t exist

You don’t need to tell the doctor why

your heart beats at 95 bpm despite

your quietude or

how the rose

once dried

lost its coral petals to dust.

You don’t need to tell the doctor how

laughter used to come unbidden and often

like a bright stream of rainbow fish

catching sun’s rays

til darkness spread her feathery fingers

blocking out light like a single word

can.

You don’t need to tell the doctor who

it was, left you crumpled and derelict

in throes of grief beside

the memory it was not always

this cruel or this bitter

tasting.

You don’t need to tell the doctor if

recovery is lost, for he guages truth

written across your face as any

horror shall permanently stain

an indelible fingerprint of

why

you say nothing and if you say nothing

it doesn’t exist

you can go on pretending

with your crossed legs and empty arms

the barren effigy of loss

rending its blades

behind your eyes as

you stare forward facing

a mannequin to your own life

insufficiently stuffed

to hold yourself up

straight

In amber

You, unmaker of peace, wear your hat jauntily to the side

a dandy at appearances

i am incapable of wiping the smudge of regret

away in time, before

everyone sees my imbalance and points with

blunt, corrective finger—

there she is, she’s deranged with grief

surely torn mad

not yet. Maybe sometimes. In the damaged fur, just a bit…

this lingering thing called hurt

a purple tie around my neck and I hide my succulent scabs

behind silk blush, with the covet of a lover

and you? You are the abuser who with

toothpick, flicks detris from your life as

effortlessly as anyone without conscience knows

how to polish their shoes with another man’s shine

sometimes I want to cut your throat

with a very fine Japanese knife, I keep unused

in my emotional closet and other days I want

to use it on myself, such is the pendulate swing

and thumbless gait of grief, a sifting vignette of those in our photo albums

who smile, so convinced of a radiance. The other

day I thought of your determine, growing like wan poppy from souless sidewalk

thin feet, high hips, impossible secrets braided deep into tangled weft of your hair

eyes closed from me, turning in simmering amusement, some unheard world beyond blunder

like a tuning fork set high, your mavidad, a seekers entreaty, the

sea pearls of your hope sewn tight in seemingly empty pockets

if we drowned, you’d die rich and I’d float to gulp the waste of dreams

frothing there among the manifold immensity

it takes just one word, the swallow of truism and fakery, a broken pendant, emptied bequeathment, the ransack of joy

to master stoism and a stomach able to survive the pitch and vinegar of disappointment

in my head I hear your voice, its fine timber cresting Finnish land

and

I am the sot

gathered for wedding and funeral

spun into skin

held close and released

breathe me out

let me loose

where undertow has no purchase

to be weightless and the insubstantial

a feeling, a letter, washed clear of intent

just the impression remaining

something I left behind

in amber