they say “don’t you dare
go getting any tattoos -
think of how they’ll look
when you’re old and gold-to-grey -
don’t you realise
these things are permanent?”
as though i am not
already etched with countless
blackwork scars and needled names -
i am a passport of people -
i hope they know that they too
are covered in a life’s worth of ink
i thought that i must have learned
what bitter was not from my coffee cup
but from your tongue, two syllables, and the taste
They say it comes and goes in waves
but I’ve never seen the ocean move like this
tossing, high tide speeding for the cliffs at
one hundred miles an hour every time I blink
I get pulled under every time and
I get pulled under every time
I fall asleep -
from time to time I do, anyway
it doesn’t matter, I spend my light
afraid to shut my eyes and when it’s 2pm,
Damn, I’ve done it again,
I’m afraid to let the flood back in -
I fall, asleep
They say it comes and goes in days
at a time
Inconvenient to you
In convenient terms:
It comes and goes when it pleases, pays
no attention to clock faces
At a pace I can’t predict:
I can’t remember there being a calm
before this storm.
when it’s no longer young
when the best of us fall asleep indifferent
to all demises, and our own
First, know this, I have not died.
When I disappear do not wander streets
with metal detectors hoping for
the sing of iron in my blood.
Don’t magnify me
I am as small as I ever was,
memory and myth are easily confused
(I too have thought myself Persephone
confused the fruits of lust and salt).
Do not set sail for me,
I know you’ll try turning troubadour.
Sleeping’s a waste of sunset
when you can become acquainted with
the living dark behind your eyes in swallowing another’s sighs
wishing that your mouth was dry.
Spacing my speech and knowing you
would think it art and make me gridlock out of
slowness in my thinking, queueing words until they
choke across the street packeted in exhaust fumes.
You flagged me down once but I’ve started
to tint the blinking windows
(what did you think all this was for?)
In the reconstruction
did you find a handy epitaph?
Surely I’ve said things worth a grave.
Surely I’ve said things you should save.
When you stop making me about you will you mourn yourself too?
only what you gave to me: yourself
as solid foundation for bruises and blackout nights.
There’s so much you in my bloodstream
but I can’t filter out all the extra
the bullshit becoming;
There’s no way now to sift back through the salt of you
before the dissolution.
But I hope you, shadow in my shadow,
(in the single pair of grate-scarred heels
in the cool licking fierce the back of my head
in the torn up lace
in the face).
I remember nothing of you
that isn’t coloured with me.
Mother please know me sorry
that when my tongue took the edge from the kitchen knife
I could not see, layered in many skins,
the onions weren’t what made you cry.
The acid spat across the countertops
was more for me than you, that when you should turn
to me staggering downstairs saying “Oh, don’t
you look lovely tonight” beauty became bile.
When I clipped speech and you got caught
in crossfire between my face and the glass:
“Maybe I won’t say anything at all” the truth of
it settled, boiling watched.
It might have been less cutting for us both
for you to think me plain and never care to notice
the lines around my eyes I painted loud
to all who glanced “I’m prettier this way.”
All served across the table as a snake in my ear
“Nobody will think you lovely tonight, without.”
Mother please know me sorry
that I once thought the same of you.
So sure I’ve turned it all to poetry
about the flick of ash and all the things we never said
but should I stop making light emotion
of our hacking smoker’s cough
I’d have to admit there’s no way to pen
what’s in my head, because they’re not really voices;
they’re not really words.
Should I make it scarce - how I “let out a breath
I didn’t know I’d been holding” -
we’d be getting real personal,
(and this poem’s not actually about me, after all)
right about now I’d be describing how
today, mid-afternoon, I spent thirty minutes
repeating my own name until I got it right.
How to put that onto paper?
It’s a tired metaphor
but if I stopped blowing smoke rings around my words
I’d have to start saying them.
when they held your arms behind your back,
made you scream diminished intervals
through dizzy caverns of stone
bouncing broken chords in rounds -
saints did sing, they knew the tune too well -
candles lighting in your eyes, for you for you for you,
it crossed your mind
are there those who pray for the stonework, too?
inside the guts of ghosts and gold,
where hope grows stale - candles lighting in your
ribs - to have so many strangers inside
(it must almost be like having a mind)
oh, there’s the heart
how strange to never have been torn apart
you felt the gargoyle in your stance
when they had their arms behind their backs
you took your chance