I remember how you looked,
with your sweet eyes and your peaceful smile.
Comfortable, in my arms, looking up at me. Cautious brown eyes,
Soft skin, gentle heart. I knew love then,
in that moment. It drifts, in memory. I hope you knew love.
I told you I loved you more each day, and I meant it. At five years,
I thought we’d made it. I loved you still, and in a deeper way,
A scarier way. Five years was a sweet, blissful achievement, and my love grew.
This, this the messiest of failures… still it grows. Even now,
when you are gone from me, still it grows.
But it’s a painful, haunting love, like a bruise it darkens,
And it hurts.
It’s an endless love,
A sleepless life, one long existence, a maze with no exit.
What shall I do tomorrow? I’ll read perhaps. It’s election day, so I’ll vote next door. I’ll cry for a bit. I’ll go for a coffee at Moca and read some more. I’ll imagine trying to call you, and imagine you hanging up the phone at the first sound of my voice. I’ll call Naomi, and see if she wants to meet. I’ll listen to some more episodes of ‘How to Fail’. I’ll read some articles for uni. I’ll email my supervisors. I’ll think about sending your relative a message on Twitter. I’ll write it in my head. I won’t send it. I’ll think about you. I’ll miss you. I’ll push those thoughts from my mind. Then I’ll cry again, and I’ll sob all my thoughts out, and I’ll analyse it all again, and I’ll find hope from somewhere. I’ll hate everything. I’ll hate myself.
I’ll sink into the pit of self-doubt and self-blame. I’ll play in the pit for a while, smearing the mud into my skin, swallowing mouthfuls of it, shoving it in my ears, my nose, the unspeakable places. I’ll lie there and sing loudly, drowning out the incessant blare of our memories as they run around in my head, stomping on my brain and my heart in their big heavy boots. I’ll see the top of the pit, a circle of light far above my head, like a white penny I could reach out and hold between two fingers. But I won’t touch it. I’ll stay in the pit, because in the pit, something of you remains beside me. Outside, I’m alone. But here, in the darkness, in the swirl of the hurt and the heartache, the pain stays with me – and by extension, so do you.
Upstairs, my brother plays ‘This Charming Man’ for the seventh time this afternoon. There’s an awful audiobook on the CD player I’ve commandeered from the kitchen; it uses text messages as content, and talks about The Temptations and Nina Simone as symbols of depth and obscurity. My laptop is refusing to update, again. I’ve added another book to my ‘read’ pile. The three-wick candle flickers comfortingly on the makeshift desk. I haven’t been able to bring myself to move back into my old room; we had sex on that bed, and I still remember your touch and your warmth, the silliness and embarrassment of it all, me standing in the doorway talking to my mum, you pretending to be asleep so she wouldn’t guess what we’d been doing on my childhood bed just moments ago. I still remember watching for your car from that window, a thrill of excitement in my stomach as the streak of bright blue made its way down the road towards our house.
So, I’m downstairs, in the room at the front of the house. I’ve tried to make it my own, but the bookshelf screams of my parents’ taste. It’s full of books about prayer. There’s a copy of the Qur’an and a lot of English classics. There’s a Clapton biography, a collection of Chicken Soups, a Douglas Adams box set, the novels of Annie Proulx. The bottom shelf is full of larger books; a Calvin & Hobbes omnibus, craft books, photography annuals, coffee table stuff. They probably haven’t been read in years.
It’s the photos on the bookshelf that I love in this room. Being the oldest child, there are more photos of me than of my siblings. They had more time for the camera, before the three others came along. Now they’re framed and scattered around the house, all the pictures of me as a tiny girl. I like looking at them. The joy on my face, the excitement I found in a dandelion clock or a new hat or a lolly pop stick. It gives me hope, seeing my young, unworried face. I had happiness before you, I suppose, and much of it. And this room, this little piece of the unchanging everyday; the library books, the pile of clothes, the oil burner, the yellow towels on the radiator, the table, the paper, the brown carpet. It’s a bit of normality, when the world within me crumbles.
the physical stuff of you
hands, eyes, legs, lips
bruise me sorely in their absence
I am a shell of myself
I’ll think of you when the twilight gathers,
I’ll think of you ‘neath morning’s shades.
I’ll think of you when noontime winks,
I’ll think of you when daylight fades.
And though the night be long and slow,
The waves of time will wash my woe
And by the breaking of the dawn,
I’ll know no woe on which to mourn.
I tried to forget you today, as I walked through the flower garden and saw the trees I climbed as a child. I tried to forget you as I watched the dog walkers flinging tennis balls for their bundles of white fluff and mud, so full of joy in the cold morning. I tried to forget you as I watched an old lady feed peanuts to a very tame fox through the wire of the enclosure. I tried to forget you as I watched the stag stroll across the deer park with antlers like grotesque muscular arms posing proudly. I tried to forget you as I sat in the café seat facing the window, as the crisp brown of autumn set into the skeleton trees. I tried to forget you as I kneaded dough, spread it with cinnamon sugar, and drizzled it with icing. I tried to forget you as I read poetry, printed from the internet, highlighting the best parts in green. I tried to forget you as I drank coffee, and tasted the fruitiness which told me it was the one I didn’t like. I tried to forget you as I watched the bats flying in the growing darkness, fluttering and ducking, black wispy shapes against the grey sky. I tried, and I tried. Perhaps, I’ll have better success tomorrow.
do you think of me? do you think of the sweetness?
a package arrived today, wrapped soft and tight in a time when it seems every door has slammed, every back turned, every heart closed. the thought of a gift, one in my name, resonates loud and frightening.
underneath the plastic, a knitted blanket. woven in shades of blue; turquoise, navy, teal, turtle green, grey, white.
the warmth of your arms, the softness of you, the safety of you – some of it comes back, knitted in the fibres of the gift, intertwined as we were. but, you see, this one will never grow cold, will never grow to hate me or seek to break me. it will never drop me like a glass into the river.
the blue blanket – do you suppose it remembers how I cried, and scowled, and angered? do you suppose it has kept those records, like you did? a blanket has no use for forgiveness, and so, my bed-mate shall it be.
the babies, Lily Ruth and maybe-baby-Bo,
crinkled faces petal fingers dot noses
that would press on my insides, stretch out my skin
and swell my heart,
the green-eyed golden hybrids of their father and I
excited eyes at the school gate, packed lunches, rosy noses,
runny noses. soft tiny ears.
chicken pox scabs, fussy dinners, gluesticks, glitter, grazes.
those little darlings.
tearful, as the sobs shake my broken body
I have to let them fade. like shadows in the dawn,
dew in the sun’s warmth,
memories in an old, fuzzed mind. sun-bleached paintings,
scars, spots, ink.
never to be, my children, my small loves. you will never
feel my heart against your skull or kick your legs
over your father’s knees. you have no father, no mother, only
existing in the dreams
I dare to dream, even now.
you will not smile for your family, over for tea and cuddles.
I have lost you, tossed you from the wreckage
of my own sinking ship,
and drowned, nonetheless.
Cruel neon man. How you sit,
A lighthouse crooning, a red crow
With thbthb feather
On a waving post. Stretch away
‘A dropping stomach, sir, a stomach that’s dropped.’