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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Uncategorized

Conversation with a bigot

grunge-aesthetic-tumblr-girls-Favim.com-3855590

She’s got red-tights on and she’s got her nose in a book. It’s pretty a-typical.

The Bigot watches her drink her hot chocolate (with Almond milk, hold the whip cream, nix the vanilla) until she picked up her copy of SMITTEN this is what love looks like / poetry by women for women.

The Bigot made clucking sounds as he reads from the table over, the front cover of the poetry anthology written by 120 lesbian and bi poets and artists and eventually, unable to restrain himself, the bigot came over to her table (uninvited, as bigots usually are).

“Young Lady. Do you realize homosexuality is a crime against humanity?” He proffers in the same calm tone he might have asked; “Do you really like Hot Chocolate on a 80 degree day?”

She might be a little vain and a little shy. She might not like putting her face in the limelight but she’s met enough people like The Bigot to know how to respond. “Says who?” (She wanted to say a great deal of other possible replies, but holds her relatively well mannered tongue).

“Says GOD” said The Bigot.

“Have you spoken to Him lately?”

“I speak to Him every day.” (a self-satisfied grin)

“He makes that much time for you?” (raised eyebrows)

“He does.”

“Well that’s good then. I’m glad you have someone to talk to.”

“He would talk to you too you know. If you weren’t hurting him.”

“I’m hurting God?”

“All Queers hurt God. You go against the natural order of the world. God wants us to procreate and have families, God wants us to be happy. No homosexual is happy.”

“I think 120 poets might disagree with you here.” (points to book, which looks pretty happy next to a half-finished hot chocolate).

“They’re lost souls.”

“Lost from whom?”

“Lost from God. Shut out from God because of their behavior. Their choices.”

God doesn’t talk to them because they’re gay?”

“He wants us to love one another but obey the natural laws. Homosexuality is not a natural law.”

(thinks of stories of gay penguins or cheap shots like ‘oh but it feels so good’ and then decides it’s Just. Not. Worth. It.)

“Well you are entitled to your opinion (thinks; although I’d rather not hear it) Sir”

“You should be ashamed of yourself.” (I guess he’s not getting the reaction he wanted, wonders what reaction he expected?)

“I am not sure you can speak FOR God Sir.”

“That’s right you can’t.” – Young man, green waistcoat, brown eyes, standing to the right of The Bigot.

“This is between myself and the young lady” The Bigot is not pleased at the interloper’s presence.

“Not as long as it’s about hate it isn’t”

“You one of those fag men then? Standing up for bestiality and abomination then?”

“What if I were?”

“Then you Sir, would be a sinner.”

“Says you.”

“Says God.” (he sounds awfully sure)

“I don’t hear Him saying that.”

“He wouldn’t make himself known to you, if you were sinning Son.”

“I’d have thought that’s EXACTLY when he’d make himself known. After all why would He talk to YOU if you have all the answers? Wouldn’t He talk to the Sinner most of all?”

“Do you KNOW your Bible Son?”

“I know THE Bible Sir. I know the Koran too. And the Talmud. I try to stay up-to-date with things of importance. To avoid being a bigot.”

“You calling me a bigot son?”

“I’m saying the chances are it’s not God talking to you Sir, it’s your own fear and hate. I’m saying that if God exists He wouldn’t hate someone for being born unable to love someone of the opposite gender.”

“You’re just making excuses for criminal acts son. God would be disgusted at the lot of you.”

“Including the 120 poets in SMITTEN Sir?” I interrupt (pointing to the book, now next to a 3/4 empty cup of Hot Chocolate, I managed to get a few sips in).

“All of darnation if you intend on spreading that FILTH.”

I think of the words. FILTH. CRIME. HATE. CONDEMNATION. DISGUST. I remember a conversation I had with my grandmother who had unexpectedly converted to Mormonism a few years prior to her death.

“Grandma, I think I like girls.”

“Sure you do sweetheart.”

“No. I mean I really like girls.”

“We all like girls sweetheart.” (we DO?)

“I like girls in the way you like boys.”

A HIDEOUS SILENCE

A BOOK PLACED NEXT TO MY BED THAT EVENING, ENTITLED: Why Homosexuality is a Sin.

NOTHING ELSE EVER SAID.

I think of all the kids who had these and worse experiences. Of the kids who were kicked out of home. Of the kids like me who grew up to lose jobs, lose friends, struggle to fit in. I think of the hate that became okay to spout without any basis and without any defense. I think of the Supreme Court hearing the case right now about Discrimination in the Workplace and whether it should be legal for a person to be fired based upon their ‘sexual preference’. I think how it’s nearly 2020 and we’re STILL asking questions like that. I think of how I made the point to a friend of mine about how if it is wrong to stop people of different races from marrying, the same argument can be made against firing someone because of something they are born with. I remember my friend saying it’s not the same thing. it doesn’t say in the Bible that people of color marrying people of another race is wrong, but it does say homosexuality is wrong. I think of how that’s not exactly true and without being pedantic none of us really know the background of Sodom & Gomorrah but it’s a heck of a lot more complicated than ancient homophobia. I think of how women who menstruate aren’t forced to do so outside of city walls and how everyone eats shell fish but somehow that’s okay. How we pick and choose our hate. How we still as gays, have a long way to go and being only 2/3 percent of the world this will likely always be the case.

The Bigot has moved off. He was talking to the brown eyed man but I had tuned them out. Thinking instead of how maybe 20 years ago I wouldn’t have read a gay book in public I would have been too afraid. How there were still reasons to be afraid but I’d be dammed if I stopped now. Now I’d create the damn books myself if I had to!

The brown eyed man comes back to my table. He smiles a warm smile and says; “I’m sorry about that. I’m really sorry about that. I couldn’t keep quiet when I heard what he was saying to you.”

I smile and thank him quietly. What I really want to say is; Thank you for standing up for me. For all of us. Because so often people don’t. They don’t think it’s necessary. They don’t think it matters. They don’t think it affects us. Or that we feel any less safe than anyone else. Just like a black man walking down the road with a hoodie on. A gay may fear being raped or beaten for kissing someone they love in public. It still happens. IT STILL HAPPENS.

“I used to be a homophobe.” The brown eyed man explains. “I’m sorry but I did.” He sighs. “Until my daughter came out. And then I had to re-think everything. At first I was angry, disappointed, confused. Now I understand much better. I try to speak out for her. I want to be part of the change.”

I give him my copy of SMITTEN and I say; “This is a present for your daughter.”

“That’s terrific! But this is your only copy? You haven’t finished it yet?”

“I’m the editor of this book. I was re-reading it because it brings me so much joy. I’d be honored for your daughter to have a copy.”

I leave. It’s time to get back to work. The trees are beginning to look bare and the wind is picking up. My cup is still 3/4 empty and now it’s cold. But I feel really, really warm inside.

 

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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

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.

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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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