poetry

Sandwiches

No, ​I don’t mind making the sandwiches

for our piss-up picnic in the park:

it’s strangely satisfying to slice

the cheddar for your Ploughman’s

using the same knife I hack

away at my wrists with, the one I keep

hidden up my sleeve on days when I’m

not safe in my own skin, the one I sleep

with on nights when you’re away and I don’t

trust my own heartbeat, the one I reach

for when I need clarity to shine through the insanity,

with its unfailing black handle and mirrored serrated blade.

Honestly, I don’t mind making the sandwiches

at all, babe.

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fiction, prosetry

Teeth

She looks down and sees her bottom jaw resting on the ground by her feet. Carefully, she picks it up to assess the extent of the ruin but it is clear: her mandible has entirely detached itself from her head and now sits quietly in the palms of her shaking hands. It half-smiles at her, just as it had done so many times before at handsome strangers and bad jokes.

As if newly erupted from the grip of the ivory bone, her teeth form a sparkling semicircular row. She studies the teeth, noticing that where they are not laced with blood and saliva they are obscenely white, almost iridescent, like menstruating pearls. They look delicate and indestructible.

She begins to run and so does the blood: it trickles through the gaps in her fingers, collecting in the crease of her elbow before dripping on the pavement, leaving a trail behind her. The blood is gooey and viscous, and though it looks too dark to be fresh it keeps on flowing. A mess of bloody saliva pours from her jawless mouth, down her neck and settles in a sticky pool on her chest. When she tries to spit out the taste of rusty nails and panic, she discovers that she has no tongue.

The unfamiliar residential street is surprisingly busy for 3 a.m and she knows a lot of the people that she passes. She stops to ask everyone she sees to help her put her jaw back in place. She is met with bemused faces. She screams and shouts and begs but no sound emerges from her, just the occasional crimson gurgle. She looks pleadingly at the passersby then looks down at the jaw in her hands, motions fitting the jaw back to her head and then looks back at her potential saviour, praying they’ll understand. They look at her with pity and faux-guilt, apologise and say things like, “Sorry, dear, I’m in a rush,” “I’m not a dentist, unfortunately,” and “Oh, I don’t really want to get involved.” The fact that she can’t properly communicate to ask for help, or even find out what has happened to her, frightens her and causes her far more distress than the fact that her jaw has fallen off. She tries to communicate using her eyes; she is certain that her eyes must surely convey the horror, confusion and desperate need to be helped that she cannot speak aloud. But no: she is ignored and unsaved. Tears tumble down her cheeks, over her top lip and straight down to her chest to mingle with the rest of the mess of fluid. She tries to spit again but grows frustrated upon remembering that she can’t. She runs out of tears and sits under the glow of a street lamp, with her bloody, perfect jaw beside her, and hopes for somebody to throw her a tissue at least.

Sometimes she wanders about the strange town for hours, begging for help through her eyes, frenzied, covered in blood and clutching her jaw in her hands, rocking it slightly as if it were an injured bird. Sometimes she gives up after a few minutes and resigns herself to living a life of silence, with only her bottom jaw for company. Sometimes she smashes her jaw against an orange brick wall, sometimes repeatedly, hundreds of times, but it always stays whole. Nobody ever helps. She no longer truly believes that someone will eventually come along and fix her because nobody ever has before and she knows that if she expects nothing, she will never be disappointed, only ever pleasantly surprised. She remains mute and hungry and ugly and cries and cries and cries, but she never dies. She is, after all, built of the same matter as her jaw: she is delicate and indestructible.

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poetry

Mercy

Standing on the cliff edge,
two feet away from certain death,
I hurled the contents of the velvet box
into the Atlantic;

piece by piece,
broken-promise ring
by failed-engagement ring,
years of of tears and diamonds and memories
flew down into the sea;

now all that silver sparkling pain
is at the mercy of something bigger
and angrier than me.

(But why I don’t I feel as free
as I thought I would be?)

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life, poetry, prosetry, Uncategorized

What I should have said then

What I should have said then

when I couldn’t say anything

somehow my tongue

too tired from kneeling beneath 

as you showered in your glory

built myself into silence

slap by slap, brick, mortar, spit

learned by being told

what is the purpose of YOUR voice?

what worth do YOU possess?

Imprint by the imprisonment of conflation

 

you dictate your terms

do it because it will please me

do it because I tell you to

opening up places thought involate

for your greed of sin, my loss of self

one night you said

that’s why they called you Candy

you are my favorite sweet in the box

sticky like melting toffee

now get on all fours

and my obedience became my shame

wondering

what really stopped me bolting from stable door?

the lock? the key? the strange way disapproval becomes yoke?

 

what I should have said then

no

I’m not interested in violation

debasement

being your sex toy, staring in cheap reenactment

spreading myself like jam for your ugly glory

I’m not the girl you thought I was

acquiescent

silenced by faulty beliefs

incapable of much

too young to know better

grown in the dark without succor

I’m a fire bird

touch me and you will burn

 

what I should have said then

make your own porn

fill your own holes

blow up some rubber, get it on with yourself

but not with me

I’m not made in Japan, pink and plastic

I’m not a girl in knee highs, ready to blow and suck

I’m a woman

almost

and you

you’re just a pimple faced boy

who thinks too much of himself

wanking in the afternoon to full lipped songs

 

what I should have done then

is walk backwards

down the street of my fate

hand on my stomach

fingers in my mouth

hair over my eyes

not watching endings or beginnings

until I walked past the moment

we ever met

and kept walking back

toward the sun rising in the east

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poetry

The kneeling girl

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Though only 29 she had the eyes of someone who had been

staring at walls too long on her knees

her pupils, dark as they were

glazed over with loss of expectation no longer reflected

I wore the skins of effort, and the boots of climb, in my hands I carried keys

how can you have given up already? My inner query voiced

you can learn very soon and very young that there is nothing. Her dark eyes reflected in response

I wanted to gather her up and save her

I was after all, the one who tried to save people, it was the only thing I knew to do

and I couldn’t even save myself

the pockets of my dress, opened outward and everything I claimed

fell behind me like voices caught in a well

I knew they would accuse me of exploitation, “You only saved her because she was beautiful, you’re an old pervert, there’s always an agenda with your choices”

could they be right? Who will defend the mockery of the mute

did part of me hope upon saving her, she would turn to me and?

peel her orange skin like a locust and reveal her lacquered center?

I didn’t dare think on it. I wasn’t as they thought, an old pervert, glut on the lust of youth, sipping through a straw, the firm skin of minors

I’d never had expectations, what did they look like? Ink marks on paper, a map, a set of rules, runes, signifiers, the last message left in Roanoke

where did they go? Those four and twenty souls?

If I had been her age I might have put on Dreamweaver and lying on Indian pillows, we’d sip our Mathilde and smoke ourselves licorice into sleep

If I had been her age I might have reached over drowsy and foolish and lain my hand on her mango hip bone, jagged as it was, rising from her clothes

and if this was a fantasy, she may have turned to me, her heavy-lidded eyes, perfumed with fruiting intensity and let me inside

where ribbons of everything she’d seen in 29 years, hung like unworn dresses acting as flags on empty ships

and if I were walking her long strip of velvet behind me gathered twice about her neck like a looping string of pearls dipped in midnight, what song should I have sung?

she who lay beneath me purring herself into pleasures chasm, stretching herself about me like an elastic band with limitless rebound

then in that moment, our fingers, clenching and unwinding, pouring deep and still like frozen water catches its breath before tumbling forward

her voice in my ear, hot and fast, all the things never disclosed

it wouldn’t matter then what others thought

they on their high horses unable to stoop and reach in, the breast of earth and plant their hearts

the flicker in and out of light and day

her back like well oiled marble come alive, arching and soldering

her hair, matted and sticky, flung beyond the sheets, causing forests to make way, for her cry, an unseen bird among the trees, low throated and unceasing, releasing alabaster sorrow and pent-up cellos of crime

she would no longer stare at walls unseeing

she would learn in her youth, the rush of spring and renewal vibrating against her could feel

good and real, a returning silhouette, ushering memory to fresher climb

and I, who fixed people could

lie next to her smile, feeling in the air

a cage emptying

my own and hers

found in azure lake

dreaming of escape

kneeling until ground seized by

termagant gave way to infinite space

filled with starlight

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life, poetry, prosetry

Beneath the curtain

Peter Keetman Highway By Night, 1956 black and white road photograph

A man ate himself nearly to death

a girl starved herself almost dying

a bird hooked on wire by strong feet

sat away from the other birds

her wedding ring impinging on her swollen fingers

couldn’t be removed with soap and hot water

the nape of her neck pulses with effort

a shrill knock on the door of skin

you kneel in drab faux fur in the back of cupboards

smelling of moth wings, cedar and burned toast

charcoal fingers probing your eyes

the circuit fizz of bulb

trying to send messages through

barbiturates

dissolving

drowsy pain

Debussy plays

as cut flowers bow

in reverence and unending severed thirst

you go, I’ll stay

here in vase, waiver and quiver

etching lithograph outcomes of

left-over marks

sweat and tears and violence

villains without cause

beauty missing myth

when they say “you’re so beautiful”

I’d prefer they heat up a needle

stitch their mouths shut

it isn’t true

I have a russet horse for a jaw

a blue mountain for a forehead

my eyes are continually watering

with their attention

some words do not feel like kindness

they are broken pieces of yourself

irreconcilable

don’t call me that, can’t you see beneath the layers?

a scream is

not beautiful

you speak because words have become filler

for silence

and often for truth

the truth is I am an animal

my jaw continually muscular

you chew on this artificial

sweetener

pluck the instrument

hear your chord throaty and whole

a thrust and burst, losing suspension

this outline of who and what was

before condemned to silhouette we rush

into beckoning darkness

a faint smell of amber and myrrh

left on stale air

beneath long curtain

heavy with dust

(Photo by Peter Keetman, ‘Highway’ 1956).

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