life, prosetry

On The Cusp

No bright light, no tunnel, no montage of childhood memories or “best bits”, no soundtrack, no loved ones, no dead relatives, no angels, no God. Just blood and guts and chemical reactions and la chamade and then             .

A freight train gradually slowing down, the application of the brakes, finally grinding to a total halt after a couple of miles. Careering forward towards that stop with no way to stop the stopping.

No thoughts. Inability to think about anything. Only able to feel your body in its entirety, the weight of it, its structure, how you [have always] live[d] inside of it. Heartbeats and skin and bones and muscle and fat and blood moving. You feel exactly where your organs are housed: they’ve always worked so hard without you asking them to and now they are slowly, slowly shutting down (over 1 minute? 10 hours? 2 days? you will never know and it doesn’t matter because time isn’t matter so it doesn’t die).

No control. You cannot think, so you cannot will your body to fix itself or will it to speed up the process. No cerebral functioning, at all, only corporeal dysfunctioning.

Feeling your body in a way that you have never felt it before. Such heaviness in your limbs. Your spine weighs a tonne. Your muscle melts off of you like ice-cream and then sets around you like concrete. Weight weight weight, the weight of your matter, and gravity keeping you tied down in whatever position you decided was your last, stuck in that way, feeling your body dissolve, feeling yourself falling off your bones. Unable to open your eyes. No thought to even try.

No sound, no background noises, no internal monologue, no voices, just nothingness, a vacuum, a black hole located in your centre, where your sternum ends, right between your floating ribs. No fight, no struggle, just being: you are in your body and it is slowing down, bit by bit, over an incomprehensible period of time, until it stops completely.

The brain does not go last, as we have been led to believe. The brain goes first. You cannot think, you cannot do. You just be until you stop [being]. The heart goes last. Dying is not peaceful or scary or wild or magical or painful. It just is. Like you just are and one day, you won’t be.

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life, poetry

Crash

In the split second / Before we crashed

I finally discovered / What it feels like / To be alive.

It is a peculiar existence / For those of us

Who only feel alive / When on the cusp of death.

In the minute / Before we crashed

He took off his seatbelt off.

He was not afraid of death / For he was alive / And he knew it.

He had lived for a long time / And had been alive all the while.

Death can do a lot of things / But it can’t undo

All that living.

And Death knows it.

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poetry

She

​She is no oxygen thief.
She isn’t stealing something
that doesn’t belong to her,
she is being force-fed it,
being gifted the same terrible present every birthday,
being given something that she doesn’t want
in relentless abundance.

She has had the same headache
for a decade, and can’t remember
life without it.
She doesn’t know the definition of ‘well.’

She looks forward to blinking
for the last time,
to closing her eyes
and never opening them again.
It’s exciting not knowing
exactly when this will happen –
aren’t you excited? You should be.
It’s a once in a lifetime thing.

She doesn’t want to breathe
but it keeps on happening.

The copper said, “No sudden moves!”
as he tried to decide whether to
get her off the edge of the roof
or get the carving knife out of her hand first,
thinking of the paperwork he’ll have to fill out later.
She said, “But all I have are sudden moves.
Isn’t my heartbeat just a series of sudden moves?
Isn’t yours?”
Her words got caught in the wind.

She balances on the edge
thinking about how we see the world,
and then we don’t –
or perhaps we do
but from another angle
in another realm.

She doesn’t like the view from here,
buried above ground,
and hopes that the world will look prettier
once she’s buried in it.
Unblinking, unbeating, unbreathing,
unfeeling, undisturbed,
underground.

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poetry

Brexi(s)t

when you want to live
but, at the same time,
you also want to die
you do neither:
you merely exist
like dirty laundry
and electricity,
like abandoned cars
and stagnant air,
like unwritten rules
and unused ink,
like your potential
which you feel certain
will remain
unfulfilled
whether you live or die.
but you also exist
in the same way
that tomorrow’s newspaper exists:
you need Tomorrow
in order to Be:
and you’ve got stay alive
if you want to read the headlines.

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prosetry

Watch

Minutes
these relentless, finite minutes of mine
he says we have to make ours count
but I just count them down
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 perfect 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 has stayed in my eye line
and you’ve crept a minute closer to your death
while I’ve leapt a minute closer 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 past growing,
watch my future decreasing,
knowing that I can always find comfort
in the movement of those metal hands
that live on my left wrist,
in the glow of those green lines
shape-shifting in the corner
of the darkened room,
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,
a nightmare, a breakthrough,
a love, a loss, and our deaths.
(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 watches,
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 written 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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poetry, prosetry

Blind

I held a staring competition
with the Sun
in a bid to kill my sight:
a romantic way
to become blind,
cleaner than acid,
tidier than gouging,
a funny story to relay
to the masses
when they say
“What happened, lady?
What happened to your sight?”

She was beating me 2-0
when I realised that even if I
blackened and burnt my soulless eyes
I would forever see
in my mangled, broken mind
you
you
you in that bed
and your tired chest
as it rose and fell
for your final breath
and your yellow lids
half-open
half-shut
snug
over your familiar soft-boiled eyes,
once expressive,
now blind
to my tears and my heartbreak,
to the world that you loved
and loathed with all of your might

I could be blind
but I’d still see
everything inside
my head;
I cannot unsee
Death holding out his hand
for me
to take
to shake
but you grabbing it instead
and leaving me there
so painfully awake
so painfully alive

Even if my sight had died
I know that I’d
still miss you every time
I blink
and if I
threw my pretty
empty eyes away,
chucked them into
the kitchen sink,
washed them down
the nearest drain
I’d see it all again
and again
projected in technicolor
on the walls of my brain

(and the Sun won the battle
against my sight
anyway,
I gave up at 4-0
in favour of getting
blind drunk,
the tried and tested
fail-safe way)

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prosetry

Moondance

Another spontaneous Saturday night, you and I, rock and roll and warm white wine. We share a moondance, barely clothed, twisting in the violet light and baring our teeth to the omniscient and unforgiving sky.

You replace the cigarette that dangles from my tired lips with an urgent kiss and I can’t quite believe that I’m here again. Every time is always the last time. In spite of how dangerous this situation is, we feel safe. You are bad for me but I feel like this is where I’m supposed to be, although you probably wouldn’t agree.

As we dance, a framed picture on the wall won’t leave me alone. We keep spinning until you suddenly reach out to catch a large silver moth in your hands: its wings beat louder than your heart and I pray that you will never trap me in such a way. The picture in the corner demands my attention so I go to take a closer look.

It’s a blue biro drawing of the crucifixion from an odd perspective. The wooden cross is captured in alarming detail, the sweat and blood on Christ’s skin practically glistens, and I can feel the rust on the nails as if they had been driven through my own palms. I am astounded by the intricacy. Some people don’t care much for detail.

I ask you about the drawing and you tell me too much: your schizophrenic uncle, the troubled artist, the tortured soul, brilliant but ‘not made for this world’, died young, ‘not cut out for this life’, ‘in a better place now.’

I may know you intimately, physically, but I am reminded of the fact that I know nothing about you as a person. I don’t know your birthday or what you do for a living, but I know your name and your address. I don’t even know your phone number. I can see that you are sad and I am sad for you. I realise just how much I want to know you, even though I shouldn’t.

You don’t stop. You let your guard down, more than you planned, more than I expected. In between lines of cocaine and lines of Hendrix, you talk about your late mother, your sisters, your childhood abroad. I just listen, amazed at your openness, pushing back thoughts of the panicked moth and wondering whether my selfish and stupid sins are worth Jesus’ sacrificial suffering.

You talk about carrying your mum’s coffin and, for a moment, I think you may be about to cry but words fall from your eyes instead, and I let you talk. You are too old for me. You are twice my age and I start to believe that you have suffered twice the pain. I tell you that it’s okay, it’s okay, I’m here, I’ve got you. I have a horrible feeling that you don’t remember my name. It’s okay, it’s okay. Your hot breath on my neck makes me believe my own words. We are safe.

Do you believe that you’ll meet them again someday, somewhere? Your mum, your uncle?

Yeah, I do. We have to believe it, don’t we, otherwise what’s the point?

I kiss your shoulder twice and I say nothing because there is no point. In that instant, all of your sweet vulnerabilities dissolve on my tongue and you revert to type, back to swigging Stella and pulling my hair. You bite me til I bleed and call me filthy names. You always treat me badly in the best way. And every time I leave, I tell myself that this is definitely the last time, that I deserve better, that I never want to see you again…

Barefoot, I walk home in the pouring rain, drenched to the bone, bad to the bone. The moon accompanies me through the silence of the abandoned allotments and over deserted wastelands of burnt-out cars and fly-tipped furniture, and as I feel the crunch of broken glass under the soles of my feet I notice that, tonight, these streets don’t scare me like they usually do.

I walk slow, I take my time: no one is waiting for me anywhere, I have no place to be. I get lost in thoughts of moths and masochism and when I finally get home I realise that all I have to confirm that any of this has happened are my scrunched-up knickers in my pocket, the bruises between my thighs and the everlasting vision of a man whose eyes have seen more pain than mine.

Earlier version originally published on The Magic Black Book – January 2016.
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