poetry

Reason

Isn’t it strange that I am your voice of reason
but not my own? And for good reason, too.
Me being your conscience seems so unreasonable:
there are so many reasons why I shouldn’t be,
why you shouldn’t listen to me,
and yet you do.
Words fail me. Reasons fail you.
You are not my reason for being here,
just as I am not the reason that you’re still here too.
There’s no rhyme nor reason to any of this.
No raison d’être to be found in our town.
‘Reasons’ doesn’t look like a real word anymore,
for some reason.
It looks like it should be the season for treason.
No rhyme, no reason.
No rhyme nor reason to be found in our town.

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epistolary

A Letter to The Girl Next Door

Dear Louiza,

You don’t know me, but you do.

We’ve never met in person, never stood face to face. I’ve only seen your warped figure through the spy-hole. I did try to meet you once, on one of my rare anti anti-social days. One of your thousands of parcels from Amazon arrived but you weren’t home to sign for it, so I did, and put it on my kitchen table. The temptation to open it was almost too much. Then the thought of you kindly collecting one of my parcels and secretly opening it to discover acne cream or a sex toy or a book about serial killers made me cringe, so I managed to stop myself out of neighbourly respect.

I waited until the evening when I assumed you’d be home from work. I changed out of my pyjamas, brushed my hair, put a little makeup on: tried to make myself resemble a normal human being, a young woman that perhaps you’d like to be friends with. I psyched myself up, picked up your parcel, walked the short way down the hall and knocked on your door. Nothing. I noticed that I was shaking more than usual, clutching the brown box with your name on it. I worried that my knocking wasn’t confident or loud enough, and although I couldn’t hear you moving around inside, I knocked again – a little too loudly this time. Nothing. Embarrassed, I scuttled back to my flat and locked the door behind me. Still holding your parcel, I resolved to try again after dinner.

I really wanted to be friends with you then. I gather that you’re about the same age as me, mid- to late-twenties. I hear you gabbing on the phone to your girlfriends and you sound exactly like my girls, the girls that I called my best friends until I pushed every one of them away and out of my life, with no explanation or valid reason. You order lots of beauty products off the internet. And clothes. And shoes. Never any books, not like me. But hey, I guess that’s what “normal” girls do, girls that I should be friends with. I was proud of myself for reaching out (knocking on your door), for being kind and helpful to a stranger when I could’ve just ignored the buzzer, for actively trying to make an effort to make a friend. I got ahead of myself, imagining you popping in to my flat for a glass of wine after work, us eating Chinese takeaway together, me borrowing your fancy clothes, us watching daft reality shows together, laughing into the night. I thought, “I could make a friend, I could have a friend.” And a “good, normal” female friend, as opposed to the shitcunt men that I currently call “my mates.” About 10pm, I knocked again. No reply. I left the parcel by your door, worried that if it got swiped by someone else in the building, it’d be my fault, but secretly relieved that I didn’t actually have to see you or speak to you, confirming my irrational belief that everyone is stupid, I don’t do friendship and I’m better off alone.

That was then. Now, I’m scared to meet you in person because I think you’ll look at me with a face full of concern, no, worse: a face full of pity. Twice now you’ve heard him kicking off at me. Shouting at ungodly hours. Chucking cans and furniture about, smashing glasses, slamming doors. Punching a hole in my wall. Me pleading with him to keep his voice down. Then you’ve heard me screaming at him, “GET THE FUCK OUT OF MY HOUSE,” and throwing his belongings out into our shared hallway.

You’ve heard the “aggghhh” sounds I make when I’m in agony, when all of my muscles are pulled and all of my bones feel broken and all of my organs ache.

You’ve heard the police at my door, you’ve heard the home treatment team calling out my name, giving up on me and shuffling away. You’ve heard someone trying to break my door down after I barricaded myself inside.

You’ve heard me coming home drunk at stupid o’clock, tripping on the stairs, dropping my keys. You’ve heard me accept a takeaway delivery 3 nights in a row because I was too weak and depressed to cook.

You’ve heard me screaming and wailing that I want to see my dad, I just want to see my dad. You’ve heard me crying too many times to count. Sobbing for hours. Banging my head against the wall.

I’ve heard you too. I hear you pacing in the kitchen. Four steps one way, four steps the other. On and on and on and on. Four steps left, four steps right. Four, four. Four, four. Sometimes you pause. I think, “Has she stopped?” Then four again, and four again. I wonder what you’re doing. Constant exercise – anorexia? OCD? Stress? Workout DVD?

I hear you having sex with your boyfriend. Usually between 4 and 5pm on Thursdays. Maybe that’s when he visits. Maybe it’s scheduled. Either way, the sound of you (pretending?) to come makes me feel uncomfortable but in a strange show of sisterly solidarity, I think “at least she’s getting some.” My boyfriend never came round to mine because it’s too cold and cramped and smoky and I don’t have a TV and rarely have food. You probably think I’m single and lonely. (I am now, but I’m okay with it).

I hear you arguing with your boyfriend too. Never as violent as my arguments, never as loud. But I hear your raised voices and I hear you lock yourself in the bathroom, then I hear him leave. I’m too scared to look out of the window and discover what he looks like, because if he ever hurts you, and I know what he looks like, I will hunt him down and kill him with my bare hands.

Last time, when it seemed you and the other neighbours and the rest of the building thought that that one guy was going to kill me, I could hear you banging on my kitchen wall, like you were trying to let me know that you were there and let him know that there’s a witness. “I’M CALLING THE POLICE!” you shouted through the wall. He finally left. The police never showed. Then, when I emerged from my flat some hours later, there was a note by my door and a big orange gerbera daisy with the stem cut short standing in water in a shot glass. The note said, “Hope ur OK girlie. If I ever see that scumbag round here again I’ll call the police for real. No man is worth ur tears! L (FLAT 21) xoxo” I cried and put the flower by bed and the note in my notebook.

Once I was staring at myself in the bathroom mirror, psyching myself up to leave the house as I have to do every time, even if it’s just to check for mail. Our bathrooms are connected by the same wall, just as our kitchens are; the layout of our flats are a reflection of each other’s. I was staring and muttering under my breath, when I heard you run a bath. I remember thinking, “You’re home early.” Then I kept on with my pep-talk, putting lipstick on and taking it off, putting it on and taking it off. I heard you turn off the tap and climb in the bath. Then I heard you cry. You were crying softly, but I could hear it as if you were in my bathroom, in my bath. I sank to the floor, wearing my coat and scarf and shoes, with my bag on my shoulder, and I listened.

How sad it was, that two young women, with barely a foot of wall separating them, technically only a metre or so apart, could feel so sad and alone on a Friday night when they should be having the time of their lives. I wanted to hug you but I couldn’t, so I sat with you (but not with you) until the tears stopped and I heard the plug be pulled and the bathwater drain away. Then I cut one of the yellow roses of the bunch I’d been given the day before to a short stem, put it in the shot glass you’d given me and filled it with water. I left the rose by your door with a note saying, “You are stronger today than you were yesterday, and tomorrow you’ll be stronger still! H – flat 20 xx”

I don’t know you, but I do. You don’t know me, but you do. And we know more true things about each other and have been through so much over these 3 years spent separated by a wall than some “real-life friends” may have over a lifelong friendship.

Thank you for being there, next door, and for not being there the day I knocked: if we’d met for real that day we might well have hated each other. After all, you listen to Nicki Minaj in the shower while I listen to Oasis, and I hear you watching Keeping Up With The Karcrashians while you probably hear me listening to true crime podcasts, and you order clothes from posh brands while I only ever buy clothes from charity shops but, without meeting, I know one thing for certain: I’ve got you, girlie.

With love and respect,
Your neighbour,

H.

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poetry

Things We Have In Common

Alcohol abuse
Arsenal F.C
Broken hearts
Broken knuckles
Dead parents
Disproportionate reactions
Drug abuse
“Eating is cheating”
Extensive (to the point of being alarming) knowledge of serial killers and their crimes
Emotional/psychological instability
Feeling stuck: in relationships, in this town, in our pasts
Fiercely loyal
Giving The Best Hugs™
Guilt
Main source of others’ entertainment
Professional troublemakers
“Rehab is for quitters”
Skilled in the art of self destruction
“Sleep is for the weak”
So much guilt
Uncontrollable rage
Both love me
Both hate me

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poetry, prosetry

Southend-On-Sea

We were standing on the old sea wall,
one Saturday night in August.
I was looking out across the grey
and thinking,
“You are not like me.”
I was impressed;
you impressed my 18 year old naiveté.
I liked your history, that you were older than me,
and the way you held me
and your money
and your energy
and the way you smashed the punch-bag
on that boxing arcade game
with such might that it nearly fell over.
New high score.
New adventure.
New boyfriend.
New life.
You were a good dancer
and you made me feel safe.
But there was a very real danger in you
and that appealed greatly.
I lied to my father;
told him I was with the girls,
but I was steeped in drunken debauchery
with you, by the sea.
(He caught me.
I never lied to him again.)
He was disappointed in me.
But then you made me happy,
the happiest I’d ever been
and it all seemed worth it.
But I knew, “You are not like me.”
You don’t read books,
you have a proper family.
We had the worst nachos in the world
and sticky, sickly bright green shots
that dribbled down our sleeves.
We had sex on the shingle,
in the shower, in the van, in the bed at the BnB.
We ran through the streets,
laughing, singing, thinking,
“We could do this. We could really do this. You and me.”
A drunken, drugged-up stranger approached us
and told us to “love each other endlessly.”
I was scared of love.
No, I was scared of loving you.
I was stupid, but smart enough to know that I should not love you.
But while the stranger spoke,
you grabbed my hand and looked at me, lovingly.
In that moment it was like we’d decided,
(without words, but with eyes):
Fuck everyone else, let’s do this. Let’s do this. Let’s do “us.”
He told us to “love each other endlessly,”
and we agreed.
And we did.
Until some years later
you ended the endless.
You ended the endless
on the day that I saw a photo
of you
and her
on Southend beach,
exactly where you had taken me
in those magic early days,
exactly where you’d promised
to love me endlessly.
Every once in a while, I think of that stranger.
Where is he now?
Dishing out impassioned advice
to other young lovers.
Dead in a doorway.
Drowned at sea.
What was fleeting for you,
was forever for me.
But I suppose I knew it
all along
that you are not like me.

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poetry, prosetry

Parapraxis

I worry that you lie awake beside me
Listening to me breathe
Wondering with whom and where I’ve been

And I am afraid that it’s his name that I speak
Aloud in the dark
When my brain is steeped in drunken reverie.

He features so regularly now
That the odds of his name escaping from my mouth
Are stacked against us on the nightstand

With the unread books,
The stolen looks
And the conversations you don’t know we have.

*

Does his name hang above our bed,
A mosquito net with human-sized holes in it?
Have my drug-induced murmurs hurt your heart,
His name a subconscious stab in the dark?

*

When I wake from my drug-addled sleep
Your side is empty, you have already gone.
I don’t know what damage has or hasn’t been done,
But I send you a message saying,

I had horrible dreams last night 😦

Hoping that if indeed I did say his name aloud
You’ll think that it’s all okay
Because I meant it in a bad, bad, nightmarish way.
But really,

I think my dreams about him are horrible
Because they’re not reality
And I really want them to be.
(I’m so sorry).

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life, poetry, prosetry

This Doesn’t Count

Do I dare immortalise you?

No, I dare not write your name in ink.

If I turned everyone into a poem
I wouldn’t have time to drink,
And if I don’t drink then I have no excuse
To see you, no courage
To speak to you, no bottle,
No reason, no appeal, no point.

*

I’ve fallen before
For the married man,
The invisible man,
The dangerous man,
The man twice my age,
The man who didn’t want me,
The man that Papa told me not to.

I tick off the clichés as I collect them
And write their names in black
On the back page of my book
Like pressed flowers grown in fields of promiscuity.
(That way, I can clearly see the repeat offenders).

Do I dare immortalise her?
No, I dare not write her name in ink.
The barmaid at the Anti-Social Social Club?
No, surely not.

Another day, another cliché
Committed by a mess of a human
Who’s allergic to inertia,
Susceptible to flattery,
Game for a challenge:
The actions of someone who is fine to die tomorrow.

*

Stop the world, I wanna get off,” she said.
With you,” I said, too quickly.
IT’S A SONG!” I said, caring too much,
Dropping the Queen of Hearts
I had hidden up my sleeve.
She flashed that smile of hers,
The one that scares and thrills me
And walked away, knowing she was winning.

She’s cooler than me, sharper than me, harsher than me.
I can’t possibly have met my match, not here, not now.
Not her, surely?

*

When I see her I fluff my lines,
Avert my eyes, die a bit inside.
She gets me into trouble.
She hates my boyfriend and lets him know;
Oh, I thought you were single! You act single,
She announces, talking about me, loudly, to me, in front of him.
She enjoys watching me squirm.
She digs me out about shit I say when I’m drunk,
And I only ever remember our arguments
When she tells me about them the next day,
But I catch her staring at me between the taps
And she doesn’t ever need to remind me about that,
No matter how many “Basic Bitch” drinks she serves me.

*

Imagine my surprise to see her on The Other Side one night,
On my side of the bar, planted at my side, with her hand on my thigh.
No, I can’t turn her into a poem. Then she’s important. Then she’s real.
Do I dare immortalise her?
No, I dare not. Then she’s Someone.
I can’t turn her into Someone when, to her, I’m probably another No One.
No, I won’t write about her.
I daren’t immortalise her.
(This doesn’t count).

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