poetry

My Own Ghost

I am being haunted by my own ghost;
after all, it is me and all my selves that I fear the most.

The spectre that loiters with intent
at the end of my bed is my own reflection,
clearer than any mirror.
She conjures a portal to our pasts
and cackles as she presses Play: there, by my feet,
a montage of my transgressions and overlooked indiscretions,
a projection of my ugliest traits and most deplorable thoughts,
all the things that I tried to bury deep but keep
on creeping up on me,
on display in perfect clarity for human-me to see
the worst aspects of me presented on a loop
through wicked, unsolicited reverie.

I have been disturbed, tortured, cursed
by the various versions of me that I hate the best,
the personalities that I present that never asked, never meant,
never wanted to be created but exist;
born out of malice,
mothered by hatred,
fed by abasement,
but, for now, diurnally sedated.

Sometimes solus,
sometimes en masse,
that old menace escapes
from the gaping crevasse in my brain,
they bring the noise, she brings the pain.
Ultraviolence through the night
and then, at daybreak, silence:
I am the only living creature on earth
but even I have abandoned me.
Only one more version of me left to destroy,
the best of the worst.
When she joins the rest of her selves
there’ll be no girl left to haunt.
I wonder what we’ll all do next.

Maybe when there’s no one left to blame
and you’re playing a losing game against your own brain,
it’s fair to say that I hurt me the most;
I am being haunted by my own ghost.

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poetry, prosetry, Uncategorized

The Wolf

wolf

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Again the telephone rings

Shrill and haunting

I would rip you from the wall

Hurl you where I could not retrieve

And break every electronic component

If it meant

I could not be found

Always I have desired to be found

Saved from emptiness

Saved from myself

And the loneliness that shouldn’t be inside

But remains despite this

And to spite me

And now when I am hunted

I turn inside like a wolf eating innards

The glove

Dropped in the pond on a cold day

The hand

Left to freeze without it

I want nothing of you

I want nothing of all of you

Except to be allowed to vanish

Except to be allowed to return

Another time

Not this time

Not now

But when I can finally see

That my loneliness is cured

That I am captured

That I am free.

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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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Uncategorized

In my duration

man person people old

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The man about eighty is unusually jaunty

His wife tries to disguise her pot belly

Glancing at others, thinking loud obvious thoughts

He wears a lapel and gold buttons adorn his cuffs

Head shining beneath unforgivable artificial light

Her forehead is stretched and keening years unspoken

But they are each other’s people

Greeting guests from out of town with the ease of familiarity

Strange birds and ordinary, they each hold up

A piece of their time

As we all do

And it scares me

To see in you, another era

Feel that invariable distancing

As you age faster and I stay

Conning the world I’m still a kid

Something easy to do with a neat figure and shiny hair

You can last in the artifice, make it your own

freckled fancy

Then comes a time

As I have seen in you

veins arching on the back of your trembling hand

When the game is harder

And you become at last

The age of you

Seeing the distance between

Then and now like a well deserved yawn

Dividing and multiplying

I have not the body of a mother

For I was never a mother

I have not the stories of ruling

For I never sought to rule

The spilled ink on my hands

Is the same shade as when

I did handstands on sweaty gym mats

In this time, I haven’t changed enough

While you are edging closer

To that moment when even

Adults as perpetual children

Must relinquish their tenuous claim

I see it stitched plain on your face

As if written with broad stroke

Both shocking and expected

We have so much in common

The years spent tightly woven together

But now you race ahead —

And I am still

Waiting my turn, curling my hair in

My pinkie finger

Caught between young mother’s
Whom I can never be

With my reducing, fluttering hormones

And women freed of children

Launching once again

Their second coup

Whilst I am tiring of freedom

I have stood with you both

Whilst being neither one

And the mask of me is not of my choosing

But a trick of light

Or memory

Betrayed rarely

As I thrive

In my duration

Not yet where you are

Not yet where you are

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poetry, prosetry, Uncategorized

Salem

woman in black dress holding animal skull

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We are not made in the image of our keeper

but divested of iron roots

fly liberated into soaken cloud

joining specter who, watching

sees our folly

silly human toil

petty argument, for the sake of greed

 

What the corn, what the seed?

Shall save us from subversion

by our bashless vanity

this possessed nail

dispossessed pleats

betwitched vein

Salem itches without choice

if bewitched, innocent

if possessed, invited inchantment

strange sexual undertow in all

 

Maypole season fitting in grass

grasping poker of control

children accuse stiffling, starched adults

who pinched their playtime to pieces

power wielded in fragmentary follow

no power! I have no power!

I’m a child!

 

So dunk, dunk, burn, hang, get it?

Get it? We’re the Tarot

the pigs fat marrow taking over carnival

with pantomime sriek

you witness, see us, take seriously

our untethered play

 

I spin

Witch, wizard, gargoyle, goblin, phantom, spectral

girl in bondage, corset of metal

what lurks beneath this town’s sheets?

white and starched

so violent, so lush

like saved up passions, positions

monsters lusting after our darkest parts

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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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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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