poetry

My Own Ghost

I am being haunted by my own ghost;
after all, it is me and all my selves that I fear the most.

The spectre that loiters with intent
at the end of my bed is my own reflection,
clearer than any mirror.
She conjures a portal to our pasts
and cackles as she presses Play: there, by my feet,
a montage of my transgressions and overlooked indiscretions,
a projection of my ugliest traits and most deplorable thoughts,
all the things that I tried to bury deep but keep
on creeping up on me,
on display in perfect clarity for human-me to see
the worst aspects of me presented on a loop
through wicked, unsolicited reverie.

I have been disturbed, tortured, cursed
by the various versions of me that I hate the best,
the personalities that I present that never asked, never meant,
never wanted to be created but exist;
born out of malice,
mothered by hatred,
fed by abasement,
but, for now, diurnally sedated.

Sometimes solus,
sometimes en masse,
that old menace escapes
from the gaping crevasse in my brain,
they bring the noise, she brings the pain.
Ultraviolence through the night
and then, at daybreak, silence:
I am the only living creature on earth
but even I have abandoned me.
Only one more version of me left to destroy,
the best of the worst.
When she joins the rest of her selves
there’ll be no girl left to haunt.
I wonder what we’ll all do next.

Maybe when there’s no one left to blame
and you’re playing a losing game against your own brain,
it’s fair to say that I hurt me the most;
I am being haunted by my own ghost.

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poetry, prosetry

Advice For Alcoholics

ONE /

The woman with the ugly shoes
tells you that “alcohol and depression don’t mix.”
She is wrong. They do mix, well
deliciously and often.
You may be mental, but you are also a mixologist.
You make cocktails:
3 parts vodka, 2 parts lethargy, 1 part lemonade.
3 parts tequila, 2 part tears, 1 part orange juice.
3 parts whisky, 2 parts grief, 1 part diet coke.
You mix them together then pour the beautiful blend into fancy glasses
serve them with little paper umbrellas and a heartbreak garnish
or with crushed self-esteem and a tiny straw
depending on the day, depending on your mood.
You drink them down and you feel less dead than you did before.

TWO /

The man who always carries a bottle of Fanta
tells you something that his Jamaican gran’ma told him
when he first started this job
“You can leave the rum out of a fruitcake, but you still got a fruitcake.”
He is right. He tells you that even if you quit drink and drugs
you’ll still be sick,
you’ll still have problems,
you’ll still be inherently mad.
You tell him that if you quit drink and drugs
you won’t survive
you won’t be able to cope with life.
He agrees.
You agree.
You never see him again.

THREE / 

The woman with the silk scarf and kind face
tells you that “your mind is a machine.”
She says that your machine isn’t working properly,
that it’s broken and has been for a very long time.
She is right. She also tells you
that your body is like a car that runs on diesel,
and that every time you drink alcohol you are putting petrol into your car,
which fucks up the machine, your mind, the engine, your heart.
She tells you that it’s stupid to keep putting petrol into a diesel car
and expecting it to work and being surprised when it doesn’t.
Together you attempt to lift the hood, to look under the bonnet
and see what’s wrong with your machine, your car.
You are one trip away from a breakdown.
You are one key-turn away from being a write-off.
You stop drinking.
You fix your car.
But everything under the bonnet is still rusty
and all of your parts are in the wrong places.
You are beyond repair.
You belong on a scrapheap.
Then the wise woman abandons you.
You drink because she’s no longer there to tell you not to.

FOUR /

The man who is your friend’s Dad
tells you “never mix grape and grain”
after he has to pick you up in his car from a park
when you are 13 years old and paralytic on a Tuesday afternoon.
He is right. You think of this piece of advice often:
usually when you drink wine and then beer, or beer and then wine.
What was the rhyme? “Wine before beer, you’re in the clear”
or was it “Beer before wine, you’ll be feeling fine”?
Either way, it doesn’t matter,
you’ll always feel better
then much, much worse.
Grape and grain.
Embarrassment and pain.
You managed 52 days sober once
then reaped litres of relapses from your acres of shame.
You gained another admission to rehab.
You failed to attend.
You went back to your old ways.
You lost your friend.

FIVE /

The woman who stares at you in the mirror
tells you that you can’t carry on like this.
She is right. You decide to do Dry January again.
She hasn’t had a drink in 52 hours. She feels dreadful.
Your tendons tremble under the strain of her twisted muscles,
loaded springs with no release, no relief, and a headache sent by Satan.
You know that you will make up for losing one addiction
by indulging in others: coffee, food, cocaine, shopping, books.
You don’t know if you’ll make it to the end of the month without booze.
But the woman in the mirror wants you to.
She really wants you to.
She tells you that you’ve got shit to do, things to prove.
She’s rooting for you.
You’re rooting for you, too.

Standard
poetry, prosetry

Now You Are 71

In the darkness I swayed, numb and unsteady in platform heels, outside the place where you used to live, looking up at the window where so many hours were spent smoking, people-watching, daydreaming, counting how many motorists weren’t wearing seatbelts.

The lights were off: there was no one home.
This statement can be applied
to the apartment and your brain
in your final days.

I tried the gate:

locked.

Wriggled a shaking hand into your old mailbox:

empty.

Looked for the label with your name

taped next to the buzzer for Flat 1:

gone.

With my heart in my throat
I turned and walked away
into the warmth of the pub next door
where so many friendships were made
where your laughter once roared
where memories were shared
of you, an extraordinary man,
and glasses were raised
to you, my darling Dad,
on what would have been
your 71st birthday.

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prosetry

The F Word

“What are you afraid of?” she asks, pen poised over the page of her notebook that is otherwise blank apart from my name and date of birth written at the top.

“Nothing,” I say, “I am fearless.”

“Come on now, everyone’s scared of something…”

I roll my eyes.

“Well, the thing that I was most scared of has happened. And it can’t happen again. So it’s all good,” I say, sticking both thumbs up.

“And that was…?”

“My dad dying.”

She says nothing, just stares at me. She wants me to elaborate but I don’t think she deserves to hear about my father. She has done nothing to earn it. She writes DAD DEAD in capital letters under my name and draws a circle around it twice.

“How has your mood been lately?”

“As it’s always been: oscillating wildly between extremes with no warning or explanation, no pattern or logic, no control or constraint,”

“So would you say that you ‘blow hot and cold’?”

“Yes. Hot and cold. The people around me would definitely agree with that. Cot and hold,”

As soon as it’s left my mouth, her lips curve upwards and £ signs appear in her eyes. Having been perched nervously on the edge of her chair, she now settles back into the cushion behind her, making herself comfortable.

“I meant ‘hot and cold’,” I say quickly, panicked, “not ‘cot and hold.'”

“Why do you think you said ‘cot and hold’ instead of ‘hot and cold’?” she asks wryly.

“Because I’m tired? Because I’m still drunk from last night? Because it’s an easy mistake to make?”

“I think there’s more to it than that, don’t you?”

“What, you think that my unconscious mind has sneakily revealed, without my permission, my innate longing for a better childhood, has hinted at problems since birth, has invited you to ask me about my mother and whether I was loved as a child?”

Were you loved as a child?”

“I made a mistake,” I say, firmly.

“Do you think that you were a mistake?”

“Jesus Christ, it was a simple slip of the tongue!”

“A Freudian slip,”

“Yes. No! No. I don’t know,”

“‘Cot’ and ‘hold’ evoke, in me anyway, images of babies, or those first few years of life,” she says, “do you agree with my interpretation?”

“I guess so, yeah, to some extent…”

She waits.

I am annoyed that she would waste a perfectly good page of a notebook by writing only 4 words and 6 numbers on it. There is more to me than my birthday and my dead dad.

“I didn’t have a cot when I was a baby. I slept in a fruit bowl,” I tell her, now annoyed at myself for entertaining her psychoanalyst nonsense.

“And do you remember your parents holding you? As a little girl?”

I am suddenly struck by the realisation that I have not one single memory of my mother holding me, or hugging me, or kissing me, or playing with me, or letting me sit on her lap. None at all.

“My dad held me,” I said, “there are photos. In all of the photos of me as a baby, it’s dad holding me, looking down at my squidgy face, beaming with pride and love and joy.”

“And your mother?”

I don’t say anything.

“Did your mother hold you when you were a baby?”

I look out of the window at the dying daffodils.

“Are there any photos of her holding you?”

With tears in my eyes, I shake my head.

Through gritted teeth I tell her, “I meant to say ‘hot and cold’ not ‘cot and hold.'”

She nods, places the pen on the arm of her chair, and twitsts the ring on her middle finger while staring at me with a searching look on her face.

We see out the final 17 minutes of the court-ordered appointment in silence.

On my way out of her office, I hover at the door. With my back turned to her, I tell her that I am scared of things. That I’m not fearless. That I’m scared, I’m frightened all of the time. That fear is eating me alive. The being alive terrifies me. She asks me again what it is that I’m afraid of. I tell her:

spilt milk
The Blue Meanies / policemen
tomato seeds
voices crackling through walkie-talkies
my brain
the inevitable death of Sir David Attenborough
being sectioned
my mother.

Then I close the door and walk over to the bored receptionist, a shabbily dressed guy who informs me, in perfect monotone as if reading from a script, that I’ve now completed my mandatory 5 hours of therapy and that I am free to go.

A silver thought flits through the dark behind my eyes: could it be that I don’t just need help but I actually want help, too? I think about making another appointment with the same lady, a voluntary appointment, one that I would actually engage in, one that might help me, might save me…

The guy stamps a sheet of paper, an official document declaring me to be sufficiently therapied and henceforth released from the care of the clinic, hands it to me and says, “Go on then. Bugger off!”

I take the paper from him and walk across the waiting room, thinking about his words. “You’re free to go.” I’m free to go. Free. To go. “Free.” After hearing the buzz of the security lock being opened, I push through the heavy double-doors. I’m not free. Not at all. Not in the slightest. “Fuck fear,” I say to myself, “I may not be free, but I am fucking fearless.” I drop my bag to the ground and run straight into the path of a speeding car. My final thought? “Free at last.”

Standard
life, poetry

As You Lay Dying

I got our ‘goodbye’ wrong.
All of those rehearsals and I got stage fright,
fluffed my lines, fucked it up on the big night.

What I said: Please, Dad, don’t die, I’m begging you, don’t leave us, don’t you dare fucking die on me, we need you, I need you, Dad, please hold on, don’t die, please, don’t let go, don’t die, don’t go

What I wish I’d said: It’s okay to let go, Daddy, it’s okay, you can let go, I’m here, I love you, you can let go now, you can let go, you’re safe, let go

There is no ‘next time’
in which I could get our ‘goodbye’ right
so I’ve been praticising our ‘hello again’,
making sure it’s perfect for the day we reunite.

@treacleheartx

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fiction

SCUM*

They are cooking a roast dinner. She is rifling through the drawers, searching for her favourite knife, and he is behind her, smashing some meat with a mallet.

“Carrot,” she says, to no one in particular.
“What?” he shouts over the thuds of hammer on flesh.
“Oh, nothing. I was just thinking aloud,”
“About what?”
“About these carrots,”

He stops.

“What about them?”

She has been good today. No outbursts, no tears, no troubling comments, no injuries, no nastiness. She has washed her hair, and brushed it. She has been writing a lot. She has had a glass of wine. Hopeful of her good mood, he anticipates an observation about the carrots’ phallic nature; perhaps even a dick-size joke, a cheeky comparison, the carrots being tiny, himself being too big.

“Carrot,” she says again, picking one out of the bag and inspecting it.
“Yeah?”
“Carr-ot.”
“Why are you pronouncing it weird?”
“Car-rot.”
“Is that how they say it in France?”
Ca-rrot.”
“Why are you saying it like that?”

He stares blankly at the back of her head, mallet in hand.

As she turns to face him, her knife catches the light.

“Carrot,” she says, slowly, “sounds like a blend of ‘garrote’ and ‘carotid.’”

Potential For Violence enters the room and stands between them. The three of them share a long, tense twenty-seconds together in the tiny kitchen.

“Oh gosh,” she says, suddenly, “I think I’ve been watching too many true crime documentaries lately!”

She laughs, eyes down, embarrassed. She replaces the knife with a glass of wine and sips with a wide smile.

“Yep!” he says, relieved, remembering why he loves her, “sounds like you’re right, babe,” he quietly places the mallet down on the counter, “so let’s watch some comedy on the box tonight then, shall we?”

Potential For Violence leaves the room as quickly as he arrived.

“Sure,” she replies cheerfully, and goes back to skinning the bright orange cocks.


*Society for Cutting Up Men

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