Uncategorized

Conversation with a bigot

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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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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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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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life, poetry, prosetry, Uncategorized

Sunstroke

close up of couple holding hands

Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

Oh love

Your dispossessed erstwhile vowels

My clamoring for meaning

When we are both, slung over a giants shoulder

Soil carried to replace the old and build future

Timorously and then bold, holding bit between teeth, gritting and grinding down

Sensible molars, well protected in childhood

While voices of reason chime midday bell

We hear only the inside out sound of skin and bones
Our own scraped bare-faced challenge

Hot in the sun captured in bottles without secure tops

Ready to burst, I observe in the minutes lacing themselves forward

The steeped joy of owning this private glance into your fickle heart

Where many times it does not rain but still you never age, nor

Run out of the substance making you strong and bright

Like hammered silver bends only to the implement and wears its
bruises well

You are well. And I am well. Deep down. In the stir of our marrow.

Where we recognize that weather vein casting our fates together

Your pianists fingers crisscrossed against my loss of inhibition

Who am I kidding? I’m never absent from the purchase of passion

Long it has been the fiddle that gets my jig

And the moment is stretched long and elastic against mutual want

We breathe the same, dissimilarity leaving her clothes in the doorway

I cannot say after this long staring into you

Where we leave off being separate

The whisker and fall of our mutual song

Sprints ahead into unpaved road

And I am left with pictures

Of the young girl I was

And the woman I became

Beneath you and running through you

A river without dam

Claiming her hot land

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life

30 Things To Do Instead Of Dying

Unorthodox coping strategies, distraction techniques and self-harm prevention methods that I have utilised when I’ve wanted to end my life but decided to stay alive:

1. Instead of punching somebody, scrub the shit out of your oven

2. Sign every petition on change.org

3. Give yourself a tattoo

4. Grab a cactus with all your might. Spend the following hour(s) tweezing the spikes out of your hand: it’s less of a pain, more of a major irritation. You will not be able to think about anything else, trust me

5. Reminisce on celebrity interactions, like when you touched George R. R. Martin’s beard in the lift, or when Tyra Banks approached you on a street in Barcelona and said, like Regina George, “You’re really pretty,” and you turned bright red and ran away, or the other night with that SAS guy off the telly with the laugh that didn’t reach his eyes, and wonder why these humans are rich and you are poor

6. Meditate by a motorway

7. Edit the Bible. Modernise it. Swap the names of the gospels, add topical references, update the 10 commandments. “Thou shalt not manspread on the Tube,” “Thou shalt get that bread,” “Thou shalt not be attracted to Ted Bundy,” etc.

8. Steal your neighbour’s cat: would kidnapping a cat be called catnapping? take a catnap. take some catnip. whatever, just… cat

9. Go to Poundland, pick up any random item, ask a member of staff how much it costs, be surprised when they tell you it’s a quid, repeat, repeat, repeat, until you are asked to leave

10. Tell young homeless girls that you were them once, that it doesn’t have to be forever, that it can get better

11. Go to a graveyard. Challenge yourself to find the oldest birth date and the oldest death date, and marvel at the curious causes of death that were engraved on Victorian headstones

12. Flirt with an old man, make his day

13. Get on a bus at the start of its route and stay on it until the end

14. Organise your carrier bag collection into 5p, 10p, 20p and £1 bags

15. Fall asleep in the bath: wake up choking on cold soapy water: your body won’t let you die right now so don’t even bother trying

16. TTT: tramadol, tequila and tomato soup

17. Dislocate your fingers

18. Throw your phone into the Thames. Throw your whole handbag into the Thames. Fuck it, throw your clothes and shoes into the Thames, JUST NOT YOURSELF

19. Start a fire

20. Find someone equally helpless and drag them to the nearest pub

21. Go to an AA meeting: shit coffee, free biscuits, great stories

22. Cut your hair (a bit of it, most of it, all of it, just chop chop chop (your hair instead of your arms))

23. Bet on a horse. You have to stay alive to see what happens, to see if you win. When the horse loses or dies, you’ll have a new thing to be angry or sad about

24. Pop your finger bones back into place (so satisfying)

25. Write a list naming everything and everyone you are afraid of, then eat it

26. Indulge in primal scream therapy on Hampstead Heath

27. Plant mysterious and/or sinister notes in library books

28. Revel in the fact that you are not a psychopath (yay you!)

29. Bake a cake

30. Eat it too


This post is in aid of Mental Health Awareness Week (UK)

I DO NOT recommend acting on the advice above (apart from perhaps baking and eating cake): the above points are just some things that I’ve done during severe mental health crises instead of self-harming or attempting suicide.

This is post was inspired by the coping strategies that the NHS recommend to me when I’m in crisis, techniques that (while they do help lots of people and thank god for that) unfortunately do not work for me. If one more health professional teaches me “how to count to 10” or tells me to “hold an ice cube” or “scream into a pillow” or “go for a run” or “do yoga” or “snap an elastic band on your wrist” I will snap. So this post is a response to the (ineffective and patronising) advice that mentally stable people give to unstable people when all they can feel is rage and sadness and hopelessness, and all they can think about is destroying themselves. Because sometimes breathing exercises just ain’t gonna cut it.

If you are struggling with your mental health or have any thoughts about ending your life, please seek help: from a doctor, health professional, family member, colleague, teacher, friend or even a stranger. If in crisis, call the emergency number.

Do not feel afraid or ashamed to ask for help. You are worth helping and you are worthy of life. If you know somebody who is battling mental health issues, reach out to them. Lending a sympathetic ear, giving somebody a hug or sending a simple text message could save someone’s life.

Let’s all be kinder to one another. Let’s be honest, patient, supportive. Let’s be good, good people, good human beings.

Mental illness costs lives. Kindness costs nothing. ♥

Click here for a list of International Suicide Hotlines.

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