poetry, prosetry

Watch Me

The moon drags my mood in tides
I am a voyeur of my own demise
Watch me watching me
through eyes that are lined
with the salt of tears uncried
Watch me watching me
take a dip in the Ganges
and come up bleeding
Watch me watching me
slowly commiting
socially acceptable suicide
Watch me watching me
falling
apart

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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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life, prosetry

To Love X Y and Z

Most of her sentences begin with, “I used to.” She used to be / to go / to enjoy / to do / to love x y and z. Now she dwells, angry and bitter, writing furious lists of all of the things that The Thief has stolen from her. She used to enjoy painting. She used to dance in crowds. She used to wear dresses. She used to be smart. She used to do sports. She used to like the sunshine. She used to have real friends. She used to be pretty. She used to travel. She used to enjoy sex. She used to speak several languages. She used to throw parties. She used to make people laugh. She used to be skinny. She used to be popular. She used to be able to do anything. She used to be a daughter, a sister, a niece, a granddaughter. She used to be brilliant. She used to trust people. She cannot get over Her [old] [true] [real] Self; she misses Her and grieves for Her. The person she is now is not a person, rather a half-human living a half-life. But The Thief cannot be caught nor punished. Already locked up in the prison of her mind, The Thief paces day and night, making her brain ache while waiting for an opportunity to strike, destroying her dreams before they can be realised, converting her hopes into fears, stealing her life one memory, one chance, one possibility at a time. The punisher cannot be punished. You can’t hang the hangman. The Thief will only leave when there’s nothing left to steal. The Thief will leave soon.

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prosetry

A Brief History Of Tea

I used to resent making my father cups of tea. “Why can’t you just make it yourself?” He’d just stare at me until I skulked off to the kitchen, dragging my feet, banging the mug down on the counter, slamming the fridge door. A simple task but apparently asking too much of me.


When I was a teenager, a cup of tea and a spliff was the only way to start the day. Life could not move forward until tea had been consumed. Tea first, life second. Get your priorities straight, girl. Always tea first. Always tea. Always.


My first poem published in print was about a young girl who was addicted to tea and died as a result of her dependence on caffeine mixed with a disgusting amount of sugar. Addiction, death and tea: a portrait of my family. Nobody knew at the time that this morbid poem, written and published when I was 10 years old, was the start of my career writing depressing poetry.


All these years and you still don’t know how I take my tea.


When I was 16 I went to the dark side. Depression and psychosis were killing me from the inside out. Feeling so exhausted from the fight and zombie-like thanks to citalopram, while also knowing that I needed to do every single crazy thing my mind was telling me do, I found myself trying to find energy from any possible source. Crushed caffeine pills mixed in rum and gumming speed wasn’t enough so I decided to start drinking coffee.

I’d always said that I hated the taste of coffee but in truth, I had never tried it. I had a pal who’d dropped out of school and starting working in this failing coffee shop. I’d pop in to see him and down espressos until either my hands were shaking too much or they’d stopped shaking altogether, then rush off to do whatever mad thing my brain told me was imperative to do next. “If you don’t run 8 miles to this specific postbox and kick it with all your might using your left foot, your dad is going to die. Tick tock.”

I still don’t even know if I like the taste, but nowadays coffee seems more vital to my existence than tea. This somehow seems sinful, anti-British, maybe even anti-Dad. Father said that he drank a coffee in Rome in the 90s and it was crazy-expensive. He never drank a coffee again and never understood why I did.


Sometimes, when he was too ill to speak,
he would make a letter T shape
with his hands. That meant, “Tea, please.”


My first suicide attempt. Brother said We need to get her to hospital, I’m calling 999. Mother said Absolutely not, and confiscated the telephone. I was put on the sofa. I remember my head hanging over the edge, upside down, and my left arm lolling with it, my hand near the carpet. My organs were in my mouth. Mother said Drink this tea. I can’t speak I can’t I can’t I can’t I can’t keep my eyes open. Mother is ironing and watching Desperate Housewives while I am dying behind her. When I was conscious I could see the cup of tea on the floor by where my hands were hanging. When my eyes rolled back into my head they retained the image of the tea. Dark green mug, white leaves, flecks of gold. I couldn’t move to get it. When I was unconscious for too long, Mother poured cold water on me. Drink your tea, she said. Brother was not allowed in the room. I drifted, in and out, mostly out. The tea went undrunk. Eventually my whole body slipped off the sofa. I came to, drenched, lying on the floor, to the sound of Mother shouting at me and my brother crying in the hallway. I had wasted a valuable cup of tea. I slept for 3 days.


Me + D @ university:
Tetley when our student loans dropped.

Green tea when studying, using the same teabag 3 or 4 times.
With lemon if I’d managed to swipe one from Tesco.
Chamomile when we were depressed or had period pains.
Hot water when we were skint.


We never had coffee at home (too expensive). Running out of tea caused the entire household to fall apart. Mother had black tea. Brother and I had milk and 2 sugars. Father drank several cups in the morning while waiting for the pub to open. We learned to fear the empty PG Tips box. Life simply could not go on without tea. A frantic scrambling for loose change and sending one of the kids running down to Mr Shah’s would follow. Then the parents would get their tea and the order that existed in our household (albeit a very low level of order) would return.

I was glad when father drank tea. It was better than when he drank beer.

I was glad when mother drank tea. It meant that she would take a minute to calm down and wouldn’t be so angry for a while.


Today, I am the queen of tea-making. I remember how everybody takes theirs and make them perfectly to their individual specifications. I like seeing their faces when they take the mug and peer in, nod in approval, take a sip and say, “Corrrrr, that’s a lovely cuppa tea, that is,” and they are simply happy. It’s so British it hurts.


When I began making cups of tea for my father I was about 4.

Too tiny to reach the kitchen counter, let alone the kettle. Had to drag the red plastic step over and climb on it. If there was too much water in the kettle it was too heavy to hold so I’d tip it over into the sink and refill it with just enough for a cup.

Four heaped teaspoons of sugar. PG Tips pyramid bag. Careful, careful with the hot water. Let it brew for the correct amount of time. Add a little milk (blue top). It had to be a certain colour, the tea, a very particular shade of beige. Stir stir stir so that the sugar doesn’t get stuck to the bottom of the mug. That mug. It was huge. You used that mug for over 20 years. I don’t know where it is now but I hope that someone has it.

Careful, careful with dragging the mug over to the edge of the counter. Step off the step, carefully. Two tiny hot hands carrying the mug over to Daddy. “Thank you, princess.” Sometimes a critique. “A little too much milk in this one, babe,” or “Did you put sugar in this or is it all at the bottom?” or if I had spilled a bit on the journey, he’d describe the tea as being “low tide.”


I knew his mind was gone when he wouldn’t drink his tea.


Something awful happens. Make a cup of tea.

Something needs to be sorted out. Let’s all sit down and have a nice cup of tea.

Someone dies. For god’s sake, get that kettle on.

A lovely catch up with an old friend. Tea and biccies.

Bad news. Cuppa char. Good news. Celebratory cuppa.

Big news. Make the tea first then tell us all about it.

Sad news. Sit in silence holding onto your mug of tea for warmth and comfort.

New roommate, new neighbour, new colleague, new boss. Bond over a cup of tea.

Hangover. Drag yourself to the caff for a fry up and a mug of builders tea.

Hungry but dinner is ready in an hour. Have a cheeky cup of tea.

Visiting nan and granddad. Call them when you’re 5 minutes away so they can get the mugs out and the kettle boiled.

Work break. Tea and a quick smoke outside.

In hospital. Complain about the weak tea and get friendly with the nurse so she gives you extra milk and sugar.

Foreign country. Do you have any English tea?

Visiting friends abroad. Bring a box of Twinings Breakfast tea as a gift but drink it all yourself during your stay.

Break-up. How about a lovely cup of tea and a slice of cake?

Freezing cold. A cuppa will sort you out.

Heatwave. I don’t care, get that kettle on.

When in doubt: TEA.


After your abortion I didn’t know what to do
so I just made you a cup of tea and held you
while you cried.


The only words that father learnt in Polish (my mother’s language) were kochana and herbata. “Darling” and “tea.” All he ever needed.


Daddy used to write in my birthday cards,
“I love you more than all the tea in China.”
That’s a lot of tea and a lot of love.


I used to resent making my father cups of tea but now I would love nothing more than to hear him say, “Lal, stick the kettle on and make us a cuppa, would ya?” And I would. Happily. So happily.

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art, prosetry

Mind Full -ness

There it goes, her life, into the fire. Pages baptised with teenaged tears, up in flames. Overdue relief induced by finally facing up to the formulae of her fucked-up family. All of those secrets, shredded and scattered upon a stack of sticks. Her old self no longer sits on her chest, swinging her legs. Instead, she indulged in a long soak in a bath filled with petrol and quickly succumbed to the allure of asphyxia, choked by the black smoke of hundreds of burning memories. Her current self finds that she can suddenly breathe. The air is sweet. But it’s not over yet. She knows what she must do next but doesn’t know how. She finishes her cigarette and stamps on the ashes, the cremated remains of her former self, and as she walks away she wonders how to set her brain on fire and throw her heart on the pyre, too. But first: to remind herself that she is but dust and to dust she shall return: to ignore the possibility of her former self being reincarnated as a phoenix: to empty her mind of the vision of watching her history burn: to just breathe in that relief: to leave that life, that trouble, that girl entirely behind.

[For context, read F.E.A.R here]

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