Ashley Lily Scarlett 2015
There was not a single time when I was wrong,
only those moments where I was told as much,
so it became fact.
When they would crush my confidence so small
it could be squeezed
into a miniature Vodka bottle.
At night I would suck down that harsh liquid,
so they could compress dreams afresh tomorrow;
distilled once again into that tiny space.
Over the years the nights became longer,
that vessel became larger,
and I grew accustomed to the taste.
You are filled with growth; you are filling up in a way that rebuilds your entire viability, reconstructing at the same time as you empty the old ways.
~magazine, hand made, hand cut, hand pasted paper collage
It was that pair of boots
Battered and bruised
That made me realise
I needed to have you,
Not the whispering touch
Of a finger crossing my back
Or the growing bulge
Of frustration and want.
But the coarse leather
And fraying laces,
That only a man
Who has bit on the thick
Belt of life, with
And a bleeding ego
Would dare to don.
Give them to me young, ambitious
And I’ll spit them out, like
Chewed out rubber toys,
But give me a man
Who knows better than
To be gentle, and
Fucks like he knows
You will not be
Image by Christine Renney
Trapped with insufficient light he tends to his wounds. Tracing with his finger tips, finding the hardened, healed and healing skin. The etchings on his arms are intricate, far too complex, and he can’t read them in the dark.
He clambers from the bed and sits on the edge and leans toward the window. Reaching out, he peels back the curtain and gazes at the road. It has been raining, in fact it is still raining. He can see it now, stalled just above the street lamps.
If he had something with which to write he would begin again, start afresh, but he doesn’t have a blade. Of course, there are other ways and he glances at the empty Coke can sitting on top of the nightstand. He could crush it and twist it and twist it until he had fashioned something, something pointed and sharp.
He stands and, turning, he moves alongside the bed. He stumbles in the confined space, steadies himself against the wall and feeling his way he grapples for the light switch.
He flicks it and in the harsh glare he sits on the floor. He looks down at his arms and studies the scars. He is trapped in a cube where it is too bright and he closes his eyes. And he won’t see the Coke can, not unless, not unless he decides.
“What do you want?”
I want to chew on your bones
to go back and stop her from going to that house in Brixton
you to bump into me in Mexico
to read all of the books
to be adored
to be ignored
to un-sleep with 95% of the men I’ve slept with
to give you a philosopher in exchange for a photographer
to discover what it feels like to not be in constant pain
everyone to just fuck the fuck off
you to tell me that the collection of dead wasps in my hands look “good enough to eat”
to dance on the train tracks with you like we used to, in the dead of night, drinking a bottle of Veuve through a straw, wearing novelty sunglasses and fur coats, shouting the lyrics to Losing My Religion and running away from track engineers and transport police
to go to the aquarium and count how many of the stingrays are happier than me, with their fucking smug little faces and all their smiley pals
to ask you what happened
to be your sorry-ever-after
to stop becoming emotionally invested in things that have nothing to do with me
to change your mind
to be formally introduced to the monsters that live under my bed and shake hands with the devil who pitched a tent on my shoulder
to kiss your knuckles before they find my face
to kiss your knuckles after they’ve found my face
to never speak another word
to go back to that restaurant in Alicante where all the food was on little sticks and at the end you take your sticks to the counter and pay according to how many sticks you have and the manager didn’t know that I had hidden six sticks hidden in my pocket so I’d like to pay for the six sticks of food that I didn’t pay for at the time
to stop faking it
to say that all I want is world peace and the end of global poverty because that’s what everyone is meant to say but I’m not everyone, I’m a terrible human being, and even if the world became a rich, plentiful, beautiful utopia we would still find things to argue about and people would die of greed and jealousy, and we’d probably still be fucking miserable because too much is never enough, it’s always more, more, more
to check if our initials are still on that tree
to hear you tell me that I’m electric
to hide under the surface of the sea, so that you know where I am but can never find me
to stop loving myself “less than the potential of one more night going mental”
to eat the belladonna first and trust that you will eat some too
to see myself through your eyes
to pinpoint the exact moment that everyone got so fucking boring
to stop being so afraid of living
to stop being so afraid of dying
to stop being so afraid
to just… stop.”
“I meant what do you want to drink? Tea or coffee?”
Featured image source here.
Did you remember
the peach I gave you
in the morning
before I went to work?
Did you remember
when you lifted me up
and spun me around
in your tiny flat?
Quite possibly not.
And now you can’t
because you’re dead.
Never is the longest time.
image © Ashley Lily Scarlett 2013
text © Ashley Lily Scarlett 2016
With every drink
and every disco dabble
the reckless demolition of
a mind that thrives
on vague ideas of happiness,
promises of something better,
and desperate attempts to
experience whatever it means
to “feel alive” while being
mostly dead inside.
Devastation comes with freedom
and my worst version of myself
isn’t worth my immersion and
participation is what is commonly known
as “having fun.”
Maybe some people
don’t suit fun or don’t deserve it,
but I simply don’t understand it:
my definition of having
a good time is as warped
as my vodka-vortex vision.
I have no hair to let down,
I ripped it all out.
I do not care for my safety —
everyone that I love is a stranger
I smashed the tiles
that I was meant to dance on.
I spend half my life trying
and failing to order more drinks
for people who I don’t know,
with money that I don’t have
long after the bell for last orders
has rattled my rib cage
and leaving after the lights have gone out
and staying after the staff have gone home.
I feel gross and I know I am a mess,
but I pretend that this is fun,
that I don’t have a drink problem
that I don’t have a drug problem
that this is what everyone my age is doing,
that I DON’T HAVE A FUCKING PROBLEM ALRIGHT?
and I am an exceptionally good liar
(as all addicts are)
even I believe me.
Do you enjoy it?
Do I enjoy it?
Sparkling powder on dirty cistern
on painted thumbnail
on shattered iPad
on kitchen counter with breadcrumbs
on dusty dashboard
on pirate dvd
on corner of stolen credit card
on someone’s wriggling stomach,
with unsuccessful lottery tickets
with a strip of the Evening Standard
with doctor’s notes
with fluorescent straws
with glass test tubes
with torn-up takeaway menus
with your brass house key,
up it goes,
up a nose that never asked
to be involved.
I don’t enjoy it,
but if you’re offering,
yeah, why not.
It would be rude not to.
I don’t want any of this anymore.
I don’t want to be like this.
I don’t want to fight
this person anymore.
I want to kill the bad half of me,
just strangle her while she’s in bed
with another stranger,
smother her silly
until she enters a sweet forever-sleep.
Oi, leave her,
just let her sleep,
she’s so tired.
She doesn’t want to wake up
to face the morning
Don’t let her wake up
and remember what she’s done.
Don’t let her.
Just let her sleep.
I fill the void with
two litres of cheap wine
and morph into a monster in a mini-dress.
Really though, one sip is all it takes
for the worst version of me to arrive,
uninvited, aggressive, ridiculous.
I want to strangle her
and I think other people do too.
Some guys do, in bed,
but I tell myself that’s different.
“Something’s gotta change.”
“I don’t want to do this anymore.”
“I need to change.”
THIS IS IT.
And so I quit, cold-turkey it, miserable, isolated.
Usually something bad has prompted my decision
so I just hide inside and want to die.
And the change is bad,
and the change is good,
and the change is very good,
and then I go back to my old ways and it starts again.
I hear them mumbling something about leopards,
and spots, and dogs that can do tricks,
and how an addict will always be an addict,
and that I’m going downwards and backwards
and upside-down at an astonishing rate
and they mention spirals and catastrophes
and concerned and worried and disappointed
but I’m not really listening because I don’t want to
I’m gorgeous and I’m laughing
standing at the bar
and knocking back another jar
all eyes on me
the version of me that’s the crowd favourite
everyone gets to see this crazy show again
and I entertain for free –
I don’t mention how much
my party-girl persona costs me
but fuck it
as long as we’re all happy
then that’s good enough for me
The next day I always feel
more panic than shame:
it is dread, utter dread,
and fear at what I have done and said,
and it’s terrifying.
I try to push it out of my mind. “It’s fine,”
I say, “it’s fine.”
I forget that other people’s memories
work far better than mine.
“Oi, Party Girl, why do you care so much about everyone else, but not yourself?”
“That’s just how it is.”
“Well, you should. Start caring for yourself.”
“Nah, I’d rather invest my energy in others.”
“But you deserve to be good to yourself.”
“The damage is done.”
“No it’s not, it’s never too late to change. You can turn your life around.”
“No I can’t.”
“Stop being so fucking pessimistic.”
“It’s like when people continue to put food out for their pet after it’s dead and buried.”
“Like shutting the stable door after the horse has already bolted and run miles away.”
“You’re not an animal.”
“Oh, aren’t I? I know a few guys who would disagree with you on that one.”
“For fuck’s sake. Fine, I give up. Destroy yourself. But I’m not going to play a part in your death.”
“Oh, thanks. It is your round though…”
“No, fuck you.”
“Large chardonnay with a dash of lemonade please, darling.”
“No. Why do you do this to yourself?”
“Because vodka is cheaper than dialectical behaviour therapy.”
“And I get to hang around with you fine people.”
“You’re the most frustrating person I’ve ever met.”
“Why thank you, kind sir.”
“If you were a bloke, I’d probably have hit you by now.”
“You’re so sweet. No ice.”
“In my spritzer. No ice.”
“Agh, okay, but this is your last fucking drink.”
“For fuck’s sake.”
“Thanks, you’re a real pal.”
“We’re all worried about you though.”
“Hey, enough of that. Now hurry up and get me a beverage, there’s too much blood in my alcohol stream!!”
It’s all fun and games until
it’s no longer fun?
it’s no longer a game?
you struggle to remember the last time it was fun?
you begin to think that drinking and drug-taking was never actually ever fun?
It’s all fun and games until you admit that it was never fun,
nor was it a game, but rather 12 years of socially-acceptable self-destruction made excusable because of my youth and troubled childhood.
“The fun stops here, kiddo.”
Something has got to change.
I think that “something” might be me.
Featured image source “You will drink and drink till you die!” from The Windsor Magazine, 1902.
the groomed conceited, clamor for knighthood
vanity a sole dance partner, spin drama in owed woe
hustle to the vibration, sculpt us eulogies
unlock our mirrors, we know fairy tales
this is a pomegranate, stuffed with deed
reasoned shadows waltz, poke the air with holes
cover our eyes in smooth
we are bright-eyed children of architecture
building castles for cherry pickers
stained in deed, over iced smiles we sit
on frosted cakes, pressured by consent
accidental tourists, in a ballet of archers
stick the boar
lance the sore
let it air
make us well
truth in place, of vanity’s trend
strike a pose, raise your rasping rattle
here comes divining hour, riding the backs of stallions
lathered rich in public vitriol
clamor aboard wicker man, ignore what’s taught
thrive in greed, swim unfeeling
in unseeing we lose human form
our edges, our souls, conceit is a treat
best eaten late before conscience rises to envelop
our distaste for true