photography, poetry

THE CAUSE OF HER TEARS

Chris R-1037 Image by Christine Renney

He could always invent tragic
on epic scale
a lethal cocktail
brandy and toothpaste
mouthwash and painkillers
but he was the one
sick with regret

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poetry

Sandwiches

No, ​I don’t mind making the sandwiches

for our piss-up picnic in the park:

it’s strangely satisfying to slice

the cheddar for your Ploughman’s

using the same knife I hack

away at my wrists with, the one I keep

hidden up my sleeve on days when I’m

not safe in my own skin, the one I sleep

with on nights when you’re away and I don’t

trust my own heartbeat, the one I reach

for when I need clarity to shine through the insanity,

with its unfailing black handle and mirrored serrated blade.

Honestly, I don’t mind making the sandwiches

at all, babe.

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prosetry

Tracks

​By the time you’d finished reading the LOTR trilogy, the grass had grown over the railway tracks where we used to lie.

How I loved filling those empty hours with you at the train station in my town, in that same spot, off the main platform, over the safety barriers, under the concrete stairs.

Tuesdays and Thursdays. Autumn and Spring. Never the times in between. Always evening. Always vodka. Side by side, sky high, putting the world to rights. “What we think, we become,” you said one night. “I fucking hope not,” I replied.

I cried a lot back then. You let me. But you never let me get too close to the fast trains, even when it seemed like my mind had already hurled itself in front of one. You were splattered with the viscera of my brain, but through my words, my stories, my secrets, my ideas.

No one likes to have their train delayed, not by a technical fault, not by staff shortages, and certainly not by a jumper. We hate so much for our train to be delayed even by a few minutes and yet we willingly delay so many great things in our lives, out of fear, out of diffidence, out of our minds.

You did not delay in telling me that you loved me. That was a great thing you did. It was urgent, as if you’d been waiting your whole life to love me. I think that staying alive is delaying me from attaining the greatest thing of my life: nonexistence. I am causing my own delays out of fear, fear of the unknown.

I am not as brave as you. I used to be fearless – you know, that’s when you loved me. Now you are fearless, just as I taught you to be, and thousands of miles away, while I am still at the station and I am afraid.

By the time I’ve finished reading the 1Q84 trilogy, the grass will have grown again over the railway tracks where we used to lie.

Our initials are still spray-painted underneath the 7th stair, above where we used to shelter from the rain. The black letters look as fresh as the day you sprayed them, a decade ago. I remember the black paint on your white shirt, and how I pierced your ear and you pierced my nose, and we lay our heads on the tracks and listened for the heavy electricity coursing through the rails and cables, the static jolts of the approaching train, stronger and longer, nearer and louder. We’d move out of the way at the last moment and laugh for England as the police chased us away. We have grown too tired and too cynical to thrive on adrenaline and blind faith like we used to. London has caught up with us.

You said you’d always be here, there, somewhere, not necessarily visible but present, like maggots in ketchup. While I delay in finding peace out of fear of missing the madness, I will not delay in saying this: I am still here, there, somewhere, not necessarily visible but present, like the empty vodka bottles that are under the stairs, at the station, where we used to shelter from the rain, by the fast trains, by our graffitied names, by the railway tracks where we used to lie.

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prosetry

Watch

Minutes
These finite, constant minutes of mine–
he says we have to make ours count
but I just count them down
down
down
more concerned with surviving them than living them,
with tolerating them than filling them,
watching the spokes skip around the Death Counter’s dial,
studying the friendly face of my bedside clock,
knowing that the meaning of life is that it stops,
it stops
but not soon enough for me
(too soon for most though, apparently).

*

Our love died when I lost track of time:
we thought we had so much of it.
But while I’ve been writing this
the clock stays in my eye line,
and you’ve inched a minute closer to your death,
while I’ve leapt a minute nearer to mine.
Oh, we had the time of our lives, all that time, all of the time.
(It’s really nice knowing that neither of us will make it out of this alive).

*

In the hours when I cannot bear to be alive,
I just sit and watch my watch,
watch my future decreasing, watch my past growing,
knowing that I can always find comfort
in the movement of metal hands,
in the glow of green lines shapeshifting
in the corner of the darkened bedroom,
watching you sleep away your minutes,
while I think away mine.
Every minute propels us forwards,
toward a good thing, or great things,
a tragedy, an opportunity,
and our deaths, ultimately.
(It’s only a matter of time).

*

I stand outside the jeweller’s shop
and stop
and watch
the clocks–
High Street Hypnotherapy.
I light a cigarette and press my forehead to the glass
and watch the clocks, trying to catch one out for being too slow,
or maybe all the others are fast?
But they move like,
well,
they move like fucking clockwork
and so I remain with my head against the pane,
killing time in the rain,
in pain, killing time,
literally watching time disappear.
You’d call this a waste of a time
but it’s not, it’s progress,
it’s necessary progress,
staying alive until the time comes to die.
Now that I’ve typed this
I’m three minutes closer to that time,
and now that you’ve read this
so are you
(closer to your time as well as mine).

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prosetry

Fumar mata

It’s ten minutes to 7 and mordant sunlight is pissing through the gaps in the broken curtains. I can feel the gold light on my face and understand the meaning of the term ‘sun-drenched.’ I keep my eyes closed, letting my eyelids burn under the weight of the fulgent flood. I don’t want to be alive just yet. I am somewhere else.

I am back in Spain, at the villa, with you.

The sun woke us up every day, mid-morning, dancing through the net curtains, creeping up from the bottom of the bed in which we lay tangled and naked under white sheets, dozing, until I’d get up to smoke. I’d pull on your nearest t-shirt and go out onto the balcony, stretching like a cat, inhaling, exhaling, watching the ash fall slowly to the barren valley below, spotting lizards, gauging the temperature, watching the birds fly east towards the Med.

Then I’d sneak indoors, leaving you to sleep and start on breakfast. Cereal and a cooked full-English for you plus a mug of builder’s tea and fresh juice. Black coffee and a cigarette for me. We’d take breakfast outside on the veranda by the pool. I don’t know if it was apparent then that I had bigger dreams than you, but you were hungrier.

I had exams waiting for me back home so I tried to revise. I read Confessions of an English Opium-Eater and The Italian, you watched ‘The Hunt for Red October’ and European football. We ate fresh swordfish and the biggest prawns I’ve ever seen.

We shared our first bubble bath, complete with champagne on ice. We’d only been together for 8 months and I’d been away at university for 7 of them, so this holiday cemented a lot of things for us. You and I, proving everybody wrong. The Dream Team. Us against the world. You probably don’t even remember it now.

We drove for miles along the coast following the contours of Spain’s face and everything around us was unbelievably perfect, the tiny white chapels shining against the orange cliffs and the deep aquamarine skipping alongside us. Windows down, music up, we wore smiles and suntan lotion and our faces ached.

We stopped in Benidorm, which is essentially a caricature of Britain abroad, but as we walked in the surf I was thrilled at the prospect of walking the same beach and seeing the same stretch of horizon that Sylvia did so many years ago. I told you that Plath and Hughes honeymooned in Benidorm. You didn’t know who they were. These things were warning signs at the time, for when things seem too good to be true they usually are, but I was blind to omens and had vetoed rational thought; I was young and in love and blinkered, all I could see was you and our perfect surroundings and our perfect love.

Before we left Spain I bought 200 Benson silvers as they were a quarter of the price that they were in the UK. The sign on all the packets said ‘Fumar mata.’ Smoking kills. But so does love. Love kills. God knows you almost killed me. And sadness kills, too, perhaps more often than smoking, more often than love. Falling in love should come with a government health warning. There are no billboards or pamphlets to warn us of the impending pain, the inevitable tears. Instead of printing photos of rotting lungs they should print a graphic image of a broken heart. Love kills. You always hated me smoking. You’ll kill me long before the cigarettes do, of that I am sure.

When I open my eyes I am not in Spain, at the villa, with you. I am sad, scared and alone. I hear sirens, a train, the builders working downstairs. A door slams. I am not in Spain. I realise that we were there exactly 4 years ago to the day. You won’t remember it, I’m sure. You have new important dates to carve on the walls of your skull now anyway.

But how lucky I was to be loved by you. I don’t know if the sun smothered me this morning in an attempt to mock me or save me but, wherever you are, at least we are both slaves to the same golden star. Fumar mata. Smoking kills. El amor mata. Love kills. And how lucky I was to have been loved by you, to have loved you and been loved by you in return. How lucky I was. How lucky…

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poetry, prosetry

Pablo

I saw a Picasso painting and it fucked me up
because it wasn’t oil on canvas, it was a mirror.

Her pain was contagious, her skin all sickly and diseased, all yellow and green, her hair in blue and purple streaks, matted, heavy, left unwashed for weeks.

She was stifling her screams and catching her tears in a tissue made of broken glass, muffling her sobs with icy crystal shards, alone, in pain, insane, confined within the edges of a 60 by 49 frame.

Those eyes held stories of the lives of every person she’d ever known yet betrayed no life of their own. Black holes filled to the brim with untold horrors, her eyelashes holding back the weight of a thousand lies, a pathetic barrier between the tsunami of torture within her and the face that she wears for the world;

but it will not hold, it will not hold, the wave breaks the boundary, spewing poison, rioting down her cheeks and into a handful of glass, the tears fall and fall;

and her lover only watches on, making her a spectacle, a beautiful and tragic sight to behold, not one to be reassured, not one to be consoled. He studied her pain because he wouldn’t face his own, just as you study mine because you will not face yours.

She and I, we are the same:
a sight to be seen,
a suffering machine,
a perfect exhibition
of devastation and depression.

I immediately recognised myself as the subject of the portrait
although I know that you’d say, “No, that’s not you, not at all,”
but I’m so certain that it is me, I am so certain.

How did Pablo know me so well so many years before I was born? It seems that the only people who ever truly knew me are two dead men who found beauty in the forlorn.

And so I’m left behind
with these tidal waves of grief
and a disintegrating heart,
wandering around empty galleries,
and wiping away my tears
with shards of broken glass.

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