There are only 2 ways to stop us
Sending each other drunk messages:
Quit drinking, or
And I’m not going back to rehab.
There are only 2 ways to stop us
Sending each other drunk messages:
Quit drinking, or
And I’m not going back to rehab.
There is something wrong with the post man
he forgets my house
drives away in that flimsy cart
humming to himself, oblivious of
my need, he be wrong
return and fill
the emptiness with
There is something wrong with the phone
it lays silent and sleeping
unlit and needful of
nothing rung or called
I shake it and stare
in the absurd notion
by doing so will cause
something done, to be undo
a knot we can pick
with stiff fingers and
all is well when
it is broken and lost
to the gravity of
flickering, mirrored, illusionist light
turning fear into something golden and bright
then just as fast, back again
taking away certainty
with deft slight of hand.
I don’t need you to kill any spiders. I can buy my own flowers.
I prefer to sleep alone. I have books for company.
No, you can’t read my poetry. No, I don’t write about you.
I am hard work and the end result may or may not be worth the effort but that’s down to your inflated expectations, not mine (I have enough of my own to deal with, thanks). / Rather than my favourite yellow roses, that I sit and watch die over a period of less than 72 hours, The One For Me would buy me a cactus: indestructible, quiet, steadfast, pretty ugly, unkillable. / The only thing that takes my breath away is a panic attack. / I cry over spilt milk and have a phobia of tomato seeds: concluding that I have issues with my mother, shoving coke up your nose and trying to get me to lie down on your sofa does not make you Freud.
I can’t afford to cook for two.
I will never be eating for two.
You will never know who I really am or what I really do.
I only bother to shave my legs for you.
I will break one or more of the following: Your…
a) heart b) nose c) bank d) spirit.
I wear my father’s old clothes: it’s too easy to conjure up his ghost, because I am him and he is me: I am dead to me: I refuse to live for you. / The Man of My Dreams is a man who reads: books, not The Racing Post. / I don’t agree when you call me pretty – luckily you say that rarely. / If you’re going to catcall, do it properly: your weak whistle succeeds only in eliciting further pity from me. / I can play Wonderwall on the guitar better than you can, even with my impractically long, elaborately decorated false nails. / Fancy cars will never impress me: walking is free.
I am wasting your time, just as you are wasting mine.
All these years and you still don’t know how I take my tea.
I dread every aspect of sex, though I talk about it frankly and frequently.
I never actually gave you permission to touch me.
Stop pestering me – needy isn’t sexy.
If you cared about me, you’d leave me be.
I’ve smoked JPS Silver for a decade. / John Player Special: John = what I call every man because a lot of the time, that’s his name, and because they always respond, because they’re all the same: / Player – Special = what every man thinks he is: / Jean-Paul Sartre = the man, the thinker, who I actually think about. / Silver, because it’s the only time a man ever comes second.
You think, by meeting me, you’ve won the lottery
but soon, all you’ll have left are rusty pennies (…you’ll see).
I will always have Bukowski.
I am happier by the sea but you won’t take me.
I don’t want your money.
I didn’t ask you to love me.
You are not a necessity:
I can turn you into a memory.
I was not born for loving
doctor said; It’s a girl
nurse thought; What a shame, life is harder on them
psychiatrist thought; She doesn’t want to be a mother, but let’s not tell her
grandfather thought; Another generation to abuse, watch her grow, but not too much
grandmother thought; Turn your face away. Do not witness, then it never happens
mother thought; I never wanted you.
when I carried you
you reminded me of a rock
I wanted us both to drown
except I would lie and float above
whilst you gulped salty brine
and free of your clutch, hail a boat
take myself somewhere, far from children
I never wanted
trapped by circumstances
anything to escape the confines of my day
I told this story many years later
by then I was
much older than my mother had been
when she gave birth
and in that jaundice saw
and shook it off
as any woman escaping shackle would
I do not blame her a bit
nor for her inability to love
though others she loves quite well
like folding napkins can be
I do not feel anger toward her
even when she turned her voice from
human to machine
told me to go hang myself when I was ill
“you are too dramatic and I am not
going to take any of your soap opera anymore”
I should have tattooed those words and others
that cut deep and left a permanance
all over my body
because I hear them in my sleep
but the needle was blunt and my favorite song
played in someone else’s room
and the breeze was fresh and I wanted to
like my mother
run away from pain
so I did not hate her because
she is as much survivor as I
just doing what she has to
to maintain some semblance of
it is not the fault of the broken
they cannot perform on cue or
find ways to put back together
though why she picked me of all the people in the world
that I shall never understand
I can imagine she would respond, given the chance
oh but darling it’s because you are not worth loving
you are a disappointment and a liar and all things foul
she thinks I don’t know
she is wrong for once or twice or always
such is the calamity of overestimating intelligence
I did no such thing; keeping my mistakes out like a flag
when she left me to drown I only partly did
then and now
just as others have also taken their leave
it is a bloodied procession of grief
she would say it is evidence of
my UN-likability and a pattern is a sign
I’m the issue, I’m the cause, common denominator
does she think I don’t hear those thoughts?
especially from myself
though in truth and without the need
for shrinks to proclaim
I know it’s neither
but some kind of family recipe
repeating itself in clumsy tragedy
I tried to stop it
but some things were in place before I got there
lucky really for bad luck
I wanted a baby of my own
she lays now in formaldehyde
along with my womb
the scar shines in the sun when I
walk to the kitchen in my turquoise panties
I think then of you my darling
the contrast of death and life
your flawless skin against mine
mottled with shorter time and longer
we were like two cats
let out to search for cream
except I fell in love
even as the rule book dictated
haven’t you learned anything?
I was not born for loving
though love was all I sought
it is the whimsy of the neglected and unwanted
such a cliché, such a burning shame
to follow a trajectory set before you knew
this is the path for idiots, follow carefully until
you too, fulfill the prophecy of fools
I think too often still
of the past, though it will never
save me and only devour
any compunction for peace
I dream of her telling me, she hates me
it feels like petals upon my rotten cheeks
I see her dark eyes retreat and in sleep
reach for her, like somehow
all the scars can be healed, though
nothing I say will ever make her believe
the truth she insists, is a lie
in fact she says;
I am one giant lie
from my name to my ethnicity and birthright
and maybe she is telling the truth
for I have lost myself in make-believe
and catching butterflies
since very young retreating to
what I could pretend and not what was
real and crawling toward me
with the unwavering tenacity of
if I could I’d rewrite the future
as I know what it portends
one or other of us shall die
the rest will grieve eternal in fractured silence
such as its always been
generation after generation
losing before truly lost
nothing repairs a pattern sewn
before you were born
and I, as I’ve told you
was not born for loving
though it consumes me still
especially when I am weak
which is often as
the sunlight will predispose me
thinking I see you reaching for me
taking all the pain back
returning your heart to where
as a child I placed it
high and gleaming
the greatest illusion of all
warding off my fear that
whitewash the sky my love
paint the steps
polish the lamps
this evening we will watch
the night flowers perfume
For context, read ‘Pablo’ here.
I went to McDonalds at Waterloo to buy a cup of Fanta to pour my vodka into. As I was doing so, an announcement sounded over the tannoy:
Please can ALL passengers and staff exit the station IMMEDIATELY.
A modern air-raid siren began wailing, echoing through the suddenly silent station. Everybody stopped what they were doing and stared at each other, unsure what to do. Whispers of “terror attack” rolled through the concourse first in rivulets, then intensifying in power, tsunami-like, as it gathered more fear, more panic. Most people up and left, scrambling for the nearest exit, pushing each other out of the way. The staff behind the counter slowly disappeared into back-rooms. The guy next to me took his headphones off and watched me unscrew the vodka bottle while listening to the announcement:
Please can ALL passengers and staff exit the station IMMEDIATELY
OFFICER *crackling noises* DOWN.
The guy looked up at me and asked, “Is this for real?” “Sounds like it, but who knows,” I replied, mixing my drink with a straw, half-anticipating the sound of gunshots. “Well, I guess we’ll find out soon enough, init,” he said, biting into his hamburger and putting his headphones back on. Then the tannoy shouted:
REPEAT, OFFICER SANDS, STAND DOWN.
I shrugged at the guy and he laughed, shoving fries into his mouth.
Outside, Southwark smelled of burnt rubber and sour milk. It turned my stomach.
I’d last seen her fourteen months ago. In fact, that was the first and only time I’d met her. I saw her every day in the postcard tacked to my mirror, but I hadn’t expected to see her in the flesh ever again. I was frightened of her because she looked like me and I am frightened of myself. I had assumed that she’d have been moved on, moved to a different city, to be pored over by fresh, foreign eyes. I was shocked when I entered the room and she was there, in the corner, right where I’d left her.
She was bigger than I remembered, which was a pleasant surprise. I watched the people looking at her. Well, they weren’t really looking at her, they were taking photos of her on their smartphones, looking at a version of her on a 5 x 3in illuminated screen. Nobody actually looked at her, even though I could hear her screaming, “LOOK AT ME! FUCKING LOOK AT ME!” from behind the glass. I was scared to get close because I had a feeling that she’d reach out and grab me and keep me and refuse to let me go. But as soon as I was in front of her, I found myself a nose away from her nose. So close that I could see a rogue hair from Picasso’s paintbrush stuck in the oil.
At one point, she and I were the only true living things in the room. Dali et al were dying around us, fading into insignificance before disappearing from the walls entirely. I found myself smiling because we share a secret. She knows what I know. I felt the presence of a security guard hovering on the periphery. I stepped away from her, turned my back and began to walk away. Dali had returned to the opposite wall. I thought, and genuinely believed, for some reason, that she was no longer on the wall behind me. I quickly turned around, expecting there to be a blank space where she once had lived. I was relieved that she was still there. I felt so bad for turning my back on her, for abandoning her. She looked to be in more pain than she was before. I felt that I’d betrayed her. I went back to her and stood close.
Lost in our shared grief, my focus blurred and I found myself looking instead at my own reflection in her glass cover. I was struck by how unwell I looked. My eyes, usually kind, soft, approachable, were glazed and full of terror, like a rabid fox. I looked wild. “Help,” I whispered, reverting my gaze from my own eyes to hers. I didn’t realise I was crying until a teenaged boy in a group of Spanish schoolchildren pointed at me and said, “Look! The Weeping Woman!” and they all laughed, then started taking selfies with the only other weeping woman in the room, the one on the wall in the corner, trapped behind glass.
Back at Waterloo, it was business as usual. A false alarm, it seemed. Exhausted, I got on the Tube and promptly put my sunglasses on despite it being late in the evening. Eyes are too powerful. I didn’t want to look at anyone’s eyes or have anyone see mine. I’d seen enough eyes for one day. Suddenly, an announcement crackled over the system:
Ladies and gentlemen, this train will NOT be stopping at Embankment due to a person on the track. I repeat, this train will NOT be stopping at Embankment because there is currently a person on the track. The next station will be Charing Cross, next station Charing Cross. Mind the doors.
A woman down the carriage tutted too loudly, and the drunk man opposite me slurred, “Fuckin’ people on tracks, man, f’fer’fucksake.” I closed my eyes and filed the day away with all the others in my brain, in the folder marked: Another Sad and Strange Saturday Night in the Greatest City in the World.
Some prefer before it happens
that exquisite wait
a languor of instincts
long nights imagining
how you will taste
can reality ever compare?
with the violent longing of what is imagined
a teasing elongation of want, unfolding
into one outstretched blossom.
I had closed down that part of me
craving clawing keening wanting
put a ‘for rent’ sign on my dancing shoes
hung up the coat of neglect where it belonged
still damp with tinge of youth
you told me it was that way too
when the calendar said – you’re now beyond the hour
to feel, to need, the touch of age too close
resigning yourself to occupations of the mind
swimming in your stifle
we found each other
you were the girl I’d been seeing when I closed my eyes
I had this pendant about my neck called fate
it seemed to be firing blanks
there was no chance a lily pond girl with shining cheeks
would step my way
but I have dreamed of everyone I have ever taken to my bed
that night as the bluebird stayed wakeful, clacking into sepia
I dreamed of you, sitting on the mattress in my mind
turning your perfectly shaped neck
and in that turn I saw my beginning
as if you were waiting in many forms and only one
for me to pluck up my instruments of courage
fortune favors the bold
your blood already coursed in me
I knew your lips, your eyes, your shoulders
as if intimately
we had begun that deep warbled song of desire
I heard the sound of your violin mouth
closing and opening on warm rushing air
perhaps I was watching from afar
perhaps I stood behind you, our senses enveloping
the proximity of chemistry
kissing without touching the pulse in your wrist
in time you would start to look my way
stay the true course of our wandering
I heard your voice calling, I ran as fast as I could
as if all my life I had been training on needles
for this very moment to come around
languid and slow motion half dream like
before it happened I was already seeking us
in the needs I had, told to no one but
who painted at night
the shape of you
Image by Christine Renney
The bookshop is busy and bright. Pushing against the throng Daniel moves toward the back of the store and down the rickety wooden staircase. Once below, he is able to breath again and, taking in the stale and musty but familiar aroma, he begins to relax. He finds making the short trip from the plate glass doors at the front of the shop to the basement so stressful. Daniel worries that he will be apprehended by one of the sales assistants, that they will demand to know what he is doing, why does he keep coming back and why does he spend so long down below?
Daniel has been coming to the bookshop every day for months now and he must have been noticed. But he hasn’t been stopped yet and no-one seems to care. And why should they? After all, the books in the basement have been forgotten and abandoned, left to molder and fade. And so why should he warrant more than a cursory glance and a fleeting thought.
Daniel is thankful for this. It means he is left alone to his own devices and he can read. It also means that at least some of the lost books will be rediscovered.
Daniel doesn’t have to worry about making the return trip for hours. He has a flask of coffee and sandwiches in his backpack and, if he wants, he can stay down here all day and quite often he does. Once settled on the old and cracked leather sofa in the far corner he loses track of time.
There are a lot of books in the basement. The shelving units run its entire length and the walkways are narrow, just wide enough for two people to pass each other sideways. But Daniel suspects that this has never been necessary, or at least not in years.
The shelves are tightly packed, mostly paperbacks and all have been read at least once. Most more than this judging by the creased spines and the dog-eared pages between the covers.
There are so many stories stored down here, so many ideas. It is an archive, an accidental one maybe, but an archive nonetheless.
Daniel wishes that he could reach all of the books but even if he were gifted an extra lifetime he knows he could not achieve it. But Daniel is determined to keep reading for as long as he is able, he is convinced that, eventually, someone will notice him, that someone will decide to care. After all, this is a bookshop and not a library and he is breaking the rules.
Occasionally others do venture into the basement and whenever Daniel hears someone on the creaking staircase he jumps up from the sofa. Although he is entirely hidden from view he tries to act nonchalantly, as if he is just another customer, casually browsing.
It is dank down here and poorly lit. No-one ever seems to venture more than a few metres into the basement. This time, however, he hears someone moving purposefully along one of the passages. Daniel is intrigued and, emboldened, he moves across until he sees her.
She is searching for a certain writer, maybe even a particular book but it isn’t there and Daniel sees the disappointment on her face.
Still she lingers, scanning the titles and occasionally reaching out and touching the books. Daniel moves closer but she doesn’t seem to be aware he is there and, turning, the woman stares right through him. And he realises that she doesn’t see him, that as far as she is concerned he isn’t there.
Staying with her, Daniel glides along the aisle until at last she works one of the books free and pulls it down. She studies the cover and flicks through it and, turning again, she doesn’t put it back. Daniel realises the woman is going to take it, that she is going to keep the book.