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.

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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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prosetry

The Dream House

I should’ve realised that we weren’t going to make it on that sunny June afternoon when we were wandering around that big empty house in Essendon. Your eyes, those topaz stones I could never get sick of studying, were watching our future children playing in the garden (a boy first, you’d insisted, then a daughter). Your own face was childlike that day, so full of excitement and hope. You were babbling, saying things like, “Can you see yourself cooking me dinner in this kitchen?” You were envisioning a future that I couldn’t imagine, let alone see.

I tried. I wanted to want it too. All I really wanted was you but if having a kid or two was what I needed to do to keep you then that’s exactly what I’d do. But I was terrified. I was terrified of a tiny version of us growing inside me. Panicking over my sudden assumed role as “wife and mother” with no time to write, no room to breathe, no space to be. Internally screaming at the prospect of relentless mortgage payments. Fearing that our babies would inherit my sadness or my madness or both. Worrying about hypothetical meals not being served on time, accidentally murdering my orchids, forgetting to pick the children up from school and never getting used to the absence of silence. Frightened that I would be forever stuck in a life that isn’t truly mine, but reasoning that it’d be fine because I’d be stuck to you. Did I even really want you forever, or had I tricked myself into wanting what I was supposed to want? Had I merely deluded myself by dreaming someone else’s dream?

As I wandered around the house alone, I quietly considered which room I could end my life in if I chose to, assessing which fixtures I could hang from and wondering what the freestanding bathtub would look like with red water spilling over its edges. At least the crimson flood would complement the nursery which we are going to paint lemon yellow.


‘The Dream House’ is a rewrite of an earlier work.

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poetry, prosetry

Not A Mother

“You can’t say anything It’s not your problem Don’t get involved”

Sometimes I want to knock on your door
and grab you by the shoulders and shake you
and look into your eyes and say:

Listen to me I know it’s hard I know you’re tired but you’re doing it wrong

I’m not allowed to because I am not a mother

I can only watch (silently) and worry (secretly)
and I do every day because although it’s none of my business
although I’m not a parent although I shouldn’t care at all
although the crying always stops eventually
I was a child once

“You don’t know what goes on behind closed doors”
“Well, I do I can hear it Through the walls All day long”

And I wish someone had shaken my mother and told her
warned her of the type of future
that she was forging for her daughter
through her maternal ambivalence:

a future fraught with fear fear fear so much fucking fear
a future of pain and anxiety and confusion and doubt and misery and rejection
a future in which her daughter decides so adamantly so young
that she will never ever become a mother:

a future promising no future at all
promising nothing but fear

“Who are you to question someone’s parenting?”
“You’re right I’ve got no right I’m not a mother and I never will be”

I can only smile and wave and worry and pray that one day
your kid finds the tools from somewhere
learns the skills from someone
to nurture her own future
to forge her own way

“You can’t say anything”
“But—”

“Promise me Promise me that you won’t get involved?”
“Fine”

Standard
poetry, prosetry

She, in September

In all of her dreams
you are in trouble.

There is something about being in hospitals that makes her feel disgusting. The dirty handprints on the wall. The bloody cannula on the floor. The sticky plastic mattress. The smell of piss. The torn up tissues. The stranger’s identification wristband. The words WHY and HELP scratched onto the unopenable opaque window. The cameras in the corners with their blinking red lights. The stupid electronic calendar above the heavy locked door that said THURSDAY EVENING 18:12 PM 26TH SEPTEMBER 2019 26/09/19. She watched it change from morning to evening, and believed it was 2020. Also, the soap dispenser in the toilet was broken, but she couldn’t pee anyway because they were there at the window, watching her.

Who the fuck wants to live forever???

“I’m seizing up over here, I need my meds.”
“Okay I’ll call the doctor now, he’ll be with you in a moment.”
The doctor never came, the medication went untaken,
the seizures seized in her until she seized no more.
She woke up on the dirty floor.

She was fighting the men for 7 hours.
Apparently, it only lasted 40 minutes.

“What a strangely designed chair…”
“Yeah, it’s called a Rhino chair,”
“Why?”
“Well, it’s filled with sand so it’s extremely heavy,” says Claire or Cat or Clara or Cathy as she struggles to drag the chair into the cell, “it’s supposed to make the chairs harder to throw.”
“Oh,”
“People still manage to throw these chairs around though. You’d be surprised,”
“No, I really wouldn’t.”

Her town: all snakes, no ladders.

He brought her paper and a pen, knowing she’d want to write.
It was the single nicest thing he had ever done for her.
These items were not allowed anywhere near her.
He tried. She cried.

“So it says here you took 16 tablets, is that right?”
“Sixty.”
“Sixteen…”
“No, sixty.”
“Sixty?”
“Yes, sixty.”
“Sixteen?”
“SIXTY.”
“Look, if you’re not going to cooperate with us…”

Lightning on the left strikes the garden shed thunder above her head rattles in her bones purple toenails in puddles perfect rage enveloped she is cold and afraid and this doesn’t feel like home this doesn’t feel right this doesn’t feel safe but where else can she go?

Please just tell her that she’s gonna be alright.

She has never been so relieved to stand at the bottom of Highgate Hill, a sobbing Sisyphus with holes in her socks and shakes in her veins. She feels fizzy. When she was 18 she burnt her fingertips off. Her body is fizzing under its skin. On her 21st birthday she set her hair on fire. She spilled everything and she’s still not empty. She wore black to your wedding and will wear red to your funeral. Psht <<< that’s the sound of a can opening. North London has never looked so ______________. She thinks of you often and she hopes you are okay because you are not okay in her dreams. She feels fizzy and she is outside. She is outside and she is free.

She opens her notebook. The last entry says, “I lied. Apparently.” Then it’s just empty pages, a crushed Mayfair cigarette and a police memo with a phone number on it.

She is out. She writes:

I no longer have any faith in anyone, in the human race.
I need to leave, to escape, to find goodness again,
somewhere, in someone, anywhere but here.

She keeps doing things that are “out of character.”
She is too many characters.
She is full of villains and disasters.
She’s forgotten how to play the role of her self.
She’s lost the script.
She can’t be bothered to look for it.
(She is not even sure that such a script exists, because apparently, she lied).

They were there. They were real. She saw them with her own eyes.

She lied, apparently.

She didn’t lie. She saw them she saw them she saw them with her eyes.

She’s finally doing it, finally doing something for herself. She’s going to Mexico. Somebody said that she is “running away” to Mexico. She knows that her problems will wait for her in London, but she hopes the trip will make her soul feel better, stronger, less broken. She doesn’t recognise her self these days—she didn’t recognise any of them.

Death is a disappearing act. She thinks she will come back but she also thinks that nothing is ever certain until it is. And even when you are so fucking certain about something, like you’ve never been more certain about something in all your life, somebody will call you a liar and tell you that you’re mad.

Standard
life, prosetry

Strippers

1 / This whole “life” thing would’ve been a lot easier, for me and everyone else, if only my parents had kept a bottle of turpentine under the kitchen sink instead of premium Polish vodka. At least that’s what I tell myself I was looking for all those years ago.

1.5 / Rooting around in the cupboards, my hands covered in oil paint, a brush between my teeth, searching for paint stripper I discovered vodka instead. Art was long and difficult, and my desire to achieve perfection led to much frustration (ripping canvases to shreds, setting drawings on fire, etc). Alcohol was fun and easy and made me feel better: a revelation! Very quickly, drinking replaced painting. The painting went unfinished and the easel was dismantled (and then eventually exchanged for a £10 bag of weed).

2 / Vodka is a stripper in it’s own right. Here are some things that vodka strips me of: inhibitions / morals (some, or all) / worries / layers of my liver / senses (one, or all) / this fucking albatross (very temporarily) / memories / appetite / clothes (some, or all) / shoes (one, or both) / insecurity / fear.

3 / Drinking is affecting my work. Negatively. I feel that I’ve lost too many brain cells lately. I don’t know. But luckily for me, writer’s are “supposed to” have a drink problem so “it’s fine.” With every truth I write, every line I assemble, every poem I publish, I feel a little more naked. It’s like every story is a piece of clothing that I’ve been wearing for years and I’m boiling to death under all this fabric so I tell I story, I shed a layer, I get closer to the pure core of myself, to what’s underneath, to what’s inside. It’s frightening but liberating.

4 / Instead of stripping down, people today seem to be adding more and more layers to themselves, living further and further outside of themselves, silencing their naked truths, suffocating their reality with the strength of other people’s expectations. Perhaps the world would be a better place if we shed all the shit, stripped everything down, went back to basics, straight to the core.

5 / Your truth is all you have. Let it breathe.

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