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Words To Live By 2020

Published by holly, 2020-09-29 11:57:58

Description: This book is the result of The Word Association’s second Words To Live By project – a six month writing course that benefits individuals who have battled long term mental illness. The project was supported by The National Lottery’s Community Fund and features a collection of poetry and prose from a gifted and diverse collection of writers.

Featuring the work of: Alison McIndoe, Memoona Ahmed, Rosie Elizabeth, Rhianna Levi, Michelle Barnes, Emma Lord, Colby Fierek, Jay Rose Ana, Oliver Bliss, Becky Leonard-Dixon and Nicola Longworth-Cook.

The project was originated and coordinated by The Word Association.

Cover image by Emma Lord.


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Introduction Leading the Words To Live By course for the second year running, has been a wonderful experience. This year we had the additional hurdle of the Covid-19 crisis hitting within a month of the course starting, but these talented writers did not falter. We transitioned across to Zoom and decided to not only keep the course running for much longer than the originally intended 12 weeks, but we also started a second group to further reach out to people affected by the loneliness and isolation that the situation brought. It has been such an honour to work with these incredible women (the course was advertised without a preference to gender but it just so happened that only women turned up this time!) each one of them has their own story and a unique voice, however they are united by a shared honesty, openness and fierce creativity. They are also amongst the bravest and most courageous people I know. Getting to know these women as writers, but also as friends has been a great privilege and I treasure the times we have shared. I am very excited to see where their work takes them next. As we also work with other marginalised groups, we have opened up the final pages of the book to participants of ‘Standing Proud’ our LGBT+ writing group who support the Words To Live By mental health group as allies and have penned their own poems on the theme of mental health in response to this project. Holly Winter-Hughes, co-founder and director of The Word Association and Words To Live By project facilitator.

Words To Live By I threw my web of words Wide into the wilds An invitation For you to learn, explore, savour, engage Permission granted For you to write A book Longing to be filled Stories Screaming to be told You came to me Some nervous, wide eyed And silent with anticipation Others overflowing with words The unspoken shimmered At the surface A map of untold tales And phrases seeking homes I painted paths to keep you safe Stepping stones formed from sentence But the gift was in you already Dormant Yet ripe with promise You lifted your pen And the world fell silent Blank paper lay ready to take the stain of ink Words fell from lips Words soaked pages Stories were shared Tears shed And bled into poems Feeding them fat and fulfilled You came to me with your courage and honesty You left me inspired The words wove us all closer

Binding the connection Connecting the bond You wrote through lockdown When the strange fractured the familiar You wrote when the mornings broke you And daylight bit like shattered glass You wrote even when you could barely breathe And shadows danced Seducing your minds towards the brink You wrote the world into technicolour You wrote your dreams alive You wrote to soothing safety You wrote to a stronger sense of self Friendships fused Words coaxed you open Words framed experience Words held you up You let me in And I remain humbled For the sharing and the stories For the brazen truth You came with optimism Brimming with untold tales You left as writers Head held high Words in print Strong women who inspire me daily Together we send your voices onwards Where they warm hearts Offer comfort Soothe Heal And roar Your words are wild and strong True and luminous Loud and heard They are indeed words to live by… Holly Winter-Hughes

The Word Association is a collective of writers from different backgrounds who are passionate about using their art form to make a social impact, offering writing workshops, and publishing and performance opportunities to marginalised communities.

WORDS TO LIVE BY ANTHOLOGY 2020 Featuring the work of: Alison McIndoe, Memoona Ahmed, Rosie Elizabeth, Rhianna Levi, Michelle Barnes, Emma Lord, Colby Wren Fierek, Jay Rose Ana, Oliver Bliss, Becky Leonard-Dixon and Nicola Longworth-Cooke Produced by The Word Association with

First published in the United Kingdom in 2020. © The Word Association and Words To Live By 2020 Each poet has asserted their right under the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act, 1988 to be identified as the author of their work. All rights reserved. This book or any portion thereof may not be reproduced or used in any manner whatsoever without the express written permission of the publisher except for the use of brief quotations in a book review. First published in the United Kingdom in 2020 by Bite Poetry Press. First Edition Cover photography by Emma Lord Design by Gerard Hughes Printed and bound in the UK by Biddles, Castle House East Winch Road, King’s Lynn PE32 1SF

CONTENTS 13 ALISON McINDOE 14 Words To Live By 15 Without Kindness 16 More Than Myself 17 Hadley Unit Morningtown Ride 18 Lockdown 20 Spring’s Grand Show 21 A Wish On The Breeze 22 In The Shade Of The Sun 23 Note To Self 25 You Are Strong 26 That Voice 27 Release 28 Beyond The Shore 29 Kindness Is 30 Meditation Through Miles 33 MEMOONA AHMED 34 What We Confided 35 Basin 36 Silence 37 Sandcastle 38 Brushing 39 Full Time 41 Milkshake 42 The Foothills 43 Restitution 45 Support 46 Wings 47 Bedroom 49 Passage 51 ROSIE ELIZABETH 52 The Final Goodbye 52 The Colour Of Life 53 Five Grans 53 Hell 54 Anxiety 54 Lockdown

55 Toenail Clipping 55 The Fairy Pools On The Isle Of Skye 56 School 56 Panic Attack 57 Mummy 57 The Spider 58 Spring In Malvern 58 Recovery 59 Digital Girl 61 RHIANNA LEVI 62 A Shiver Of The Spine 63 One Book 64 Sleep Visions 65 An Ode To Type One Bipolar Disorder 67 MICHELLE BARNES 68 My Earth Angel 70 Appreciation 71 Sentimental Heart 72 Dedicated To Yvonne 73 I’ll Be Your Friend 75 The Mask We Carry 76 She Was 78 May You Be Accepted 80 I Am Me 82 Be Free 84 We Really Got To Think 89 EMMA LORD 90 Kindness 91 Black Dog 92 Learn With Mother 93 Rewind 94 Limericks 95 Flesh 96 Let There Be Light 97 The Chosen One 98 Sunflower 99 Moon 100 They’re Speaking 101 The Voice

103 FROM OUR ALLIES 103 COLBY WREN FIEREK 104 Substance 105 Closer 107 JAY ROSE ANA 108 Shame 109 The Gift Of Anxiety 110 A Grain Of Hope 113 OLIVER BLISS 114 Here Comes The Bride 116 We’re All Friends Here 119 BECKY LEONARD-DIXON 120 Girl Interrupted 121 Where Does It Hurt? 122 More Than Myself 125 NICOLA LONGWORTH-COOK 126 Adjustments - April 2020 127 Shallow 128 Mindfulness Exercise 1


ALISON McINDOE (She/Her) I have always loved words. I am fascinated by the power and magic that lies within them, especially in poetry. Although I have dabbled in writing poems, I have never really dedicated much time to it (beyond the odd poem for my children or a birthday). This is why this course has been so wonderful - to have carved out time weekly to write has been rewarding. It has stretched me as a writer as well as giving me more confidence. I am proud of all the poems I am sharing in this anthology, and I look forward to seeing my writing develop further. I also think that talking about mental health in an honest and relatable way is really important and poems are such a good vehicle for this. When you have suffered from either a manic or depressive episode, or in my case both, then when you are well the experiences about which you write may reach out to someone who are themselves suffering. And it may strike a chord, resonate and, perhaps, provide some needed comfort. Such is the undeniable power of poetry. WORDS TO LIVE BY 13

Words To Live By Words inform me, Words that teach me, Words I learn. Words inside me, Words that make me, Words I craft. Words release me, Words that power me, Words I write. Words inspire me, Words that enrich me, Words I rhyme. Words excite me, Words that move me, Words I speak. Words engage me, Words that ARE me, Words I live by. 14 WORDS TO LIVE BY

Without Kindness Without kindness we would be monochrome. Muted. Mere imitations of ourselves. Missing that which makes us, us. Devoid of the vitality, the vibrancy, the technicolour through which our soul soars. Radiating its brilliance. Without kindness we would be dulled. Shrivelled back. A shell. Empty at the core. WORDS TO LIVE BY 15

More Than Myself (12.03.20) I made you, I grew you I am more than myself. The worries, the fears They are now more than myself. My joy and my laughter You bring out more than myself. Forever so grateful You made me more than myself. 16 WORDS TO LIVE BY

Hadley Unit Morningtown Ride 07.03.19 (night of 06.03.19) Sometimes there is pressure Sometimes there is pain All bound for Morning Town Many miles away. I won’t ever fall, I won’t ever break. But sometimes I will stumble When I’m wide awake. I know I am tired. I know I must sleep. Please just help me get there and hold the love I keep. I am on a train, Gathering speed outside. I hate the destination, It makes me want to hide. But I know I’ll get there I have no other choice. Please keep me safe and sound, Whilst I find my voice. My children are my future, My children are my past. I’m scared to death I’ve lost them This train I’m on is fast. So yes tell me to sleep, But hold me whilst I weep. My children are my true love I’ll sacrifice to keep. Sometimes there is pressure Sometimes there is pain All bound for Morning Town Many miles away. WORDS TO LIVE BY 17

Lockdown Lockdown Is not Locked Away. My children, their touches Punctuate my day. Yes, there are squabbles And moments of fight. But being without them, Was a pain that is not right. We sit entwined, We read, we laugh. I was surrounded by strangers Each on their own path. The food was delicious. Warm. Homemade. But queueing at the hatch Was like Prisoners’ Parade. Now we have picnics, Indoors and out. Eating together Is what home’s all about. The comfort of sofas And blankets to snuggle. That pleasure was deprived When my mind was a-muddle. Right now, we’re all blessed, Still able to connect. Even at a distance, Gives a yummy safety net. 18 WORDS TO LIVE BY

But for a while I had nothing, Not even a letter. Privileges returned slowly Day by day I got better. There were options to fill time, Though I wouldn’t sit still. I focussed on Tribunal Being “held against my will”. Time likewise now stretches Ahead of us all. We fill it with activities That absorb us, big and small. March grants us blue skies, And the warmth of the sun. But outside of that high fence Nature is more gentle, and fun. Time Locked Away Was a time to survive. This time now in lockdown, Is perhaps my time to thrive. WORDS TO LIVE BY 19

Spring’s Grand Show The first solo dancing with bravura, twirling, tumbling. Briefly suspended, before the breeze accelerates, into a chassé. Forward, forward, backward, back. Approaching en avant. Rotating. Pirouetting in unison as other tutus join. Single, double tours en l’air. Leaping. Turning. Skipping. Together floating. En tournant. Traversing the driveway, Head over heeling. Rising, Onto a demi-pointe. A pause. A changement of feet. With a grand jeté, Gathering from the wings. Patient among the grass blades, Awoken by a gust, Lifting, Ascending, Entrechat. April’s entrée du ballet. Spring’s Grand Show. 20 WORDS TO LIVE BY

A Wish On The Breeze A dandelion clock Has no need for tick or tock. And yet it has a special power To grant a wish, whatever the hour. It compels a pause on a daily walk, To bend and pick a long green stalk. To hold it aloft, ahead and high, And wonder how far the wish will fly. A tantalising beckon to play, A deep breath in, then exhale away. The seeds flutter off, some with ease, Twirling freestyle with nature’s breeze. A joyful, happy, yet simple delight, Blowing, blowing with all your might. The dandelion clock always raises a smile, And enthrals a mind for a nice little while. WORDS TO LIVE BY 21

In The Shade Of The Sun (20.05.20) The strongest sunshine at the height of the day, Casts the darkest shadow. Not the longest, no. But the densest, the most intense. Focuses of raven Starkly edged, Against swathes of vibrant golden yellow, And endless heat and luxuriant bathing. That warmth, that glow, Is muted within the black. Sure, some can follow the sun, Gravitate towards the light. But for others, The focal point of that raven spotlight is so intense, So sharp, That it becomes a cavernous hole. Harsh, Unclimbable. So fiercely deep that one is left. Left muted, isolated, dulled. Seemingly within touching distance, Yet left, Cold and alone. 22 WORDS TO LIVE BY

Note To Self The tendrils of stress Have crept in. Unbidden. Unseen. Unwelcome. Strengthened their grip Tight. Clenching. Once again contorting Insides into knots Foreheads into frowns Heads into drumbeats And eradicating any patience for small people. Making it disappear, Vanish. With the hunched shoulders The loaded sigh And the short words And the snap And the aaaaaAAARRRGH! Stop. Time to pause. Breathe. Breath is your anchor. Your impenetrable foundation. Breathe in and let it go. Close your eyes, Focus your mind, Away From the pressure, From the onslaught. Headlines and half-facts, And the wondering on the what-ifs. WORDS TO LIVE BY 23

Those tenacious tendrils feed on it all. But breath is stronger And within us all. Stress is but an uninvited guest, A temporary lodger. Its grip can be loosened, Relaxed, Removed. Breathe in, release. Breathe in and let it go. Just breathe. 24 WORDS TO LIVE BY

You Are Strong You do not dare to even think For fear that deeper you will sink. But the crevasse’s edge to which you cling Will be climbable - you have strength within. Deep down inside strength’s embers glow, It does not matter if progress is slow. You cannot see what we can view - That your daily battle doesn’t stop you. The fact you cling on, and are still here Shows your courage in the face of fear. The cliff edge looms - perilous and dark. Within its shadow existence is stark. The courageous climb in the depths of your mind, Exhausting. Weary. Energy left behind. Your focus is solely on the black rock just ahead But I promise we’re here, we have not fled. This is hard, horrendous; it doesn’t move fast, But, I assure you, this too shall pass. Please, please, just hold on, You are loved, you are worthy and man, you are strong. WORDS TO LIVE BY 25

That Voice There is a voice. A persuasive, convincing converser. For the most times it is but whispering and muttering. Faint sounds not easily deciphered, and to which I don’t Pay much heed. But other times. That voice! That voice megaphones into my psyche, Amplifying every deliberately chosen word in my sub-conscious, Echoing around the chambers of my self-esteem, Reverberating in my heart. Repeating, reverberating, Until the reverberating booms of conjectures, tangents and negativity Are all that I can hear, All that I accept. All that I believe. But, That voice is me. I am that voice. And I know that voice is not the whole of me, I am so much more than that voice. So I ask myself, Why do you listen to that voice? 26 WORDS TO LIVE BY

Release A tug-o-war heaves, pulls to and fro. Plays out within the mind. Thoughts. What has been and will come, ebb and flow. Should have, would have, could have, pitched against maybe, will be, hopefully. Ruminating, speculating, thoughts ricochet, rebound and ramp up. Bigger. Stronger. Louder. Assailing the mind. The clamour grows with thoughts wrestling for focus, for space to expand further, to accelerate without ownership. Until breath is noticed, allowed in. Until breath, slowly in and gently out, nudges the focus back and restores a balance, back to now. Enabling the rest to fall away. Through breath the cacophony of thoughts become muffled, then muted. A stillness settles, and from within arrives a tranquillity of calm, a mind lightened. WORDS TO LIVE BY 27

Beyond The Shore What ferocity of a mother’s love! To stand shoreside, waves lapping, and disentangle clinging fingers, Unclench squeezed hands And release. To stand immobile, and watch as her lifeblood embarks onto perilous waters, without her. Her heartbeat huddling among strangers on a dinghy towards a destination revered in hope, but yet unknown. That is sacrifice. What anguished cries must she want to unleash, as her heart screams, as the rubber vessel is buffeted upon the ever growing swell? The roar of the ocean with its promise of hope at its destination, a hope for her offsprings’ future that outweighs the perilous risks of the commencing voyage. She cannot dwell on the risks. She must stand, alone, ever-diminishing in her child’s tearful vision, yet stand strong. Strong in her fervent belief that this is the best, the only option for their future; without her. What levels of persecution and desperation have brought her to this point? 28 WORDS TO LIVE BY

Kindness Is (20.05.20) Kindness is Acting with no hint of fanfare. Kindness is Showing a someone you care. Kindness is Listening to what needs to be heard. Kindness is Understanding without saying a word. Kindness is Nurturing our planet and all that is in it. Kindness is Silencing your own inner critic. Kindness is Knowing life might be not as it seems. Kindness is Believing in you, and your dreams. Kindness is All. WORDS TO LIVE BY 29

Meditation Through Miles (6.7.20) Forcing off slumber’s clutches, Stretching through a yawn, Slip away, outside. And breathe. Onto the pavement - left, right, left, right. The air bathes my face, Fatigue falls away. And the clanging noise, the contorts of thoughts, The clashing angles in my mind are smoothed, Reduced, released. My feet drum in a balance. A weight unseen is lessened, loosened; tumbles away, Breath pushes it away. Heart - mind - breath - ground sync and settle, Again and again, Rhythmical, magical, And I breathe the day deeper. My feet pound like my heart and lead me, Beyond the gate, through the field and on. Acceleration. Exhilaration. Through an expanse of nature, Enabling an inner stillness. Restorative, Meditative miles, For which my soul is always grateful. Just me and the morning, Greeting the day full on. 30 WORDS TO LIVE BY



MEMOONA AHMED (She/Her) I’m a 20-year-old writer and student from Gloucester! I’m studying full-time for my degree in Experimental Psychology from the University of Oxford, but am writing every minute I can spare. Poetry and mental health are my passions, and you will notice that much of my work focuses on my experiences with anxiety and depression. I hope that one day I can change lives through my writing. Website: WORDS TO LIVE BY 33

What We Confided when we throw stones into the ocean, where do they go? who do they meet? what do they see on their adventure through the sphere? do they tell our stories to shoals of silver fish? the secrets we keep diffusing into space seeping through new undiscovered worlds where they do not weigh on hearts as they do here a thankless journey from us to nowhere to safety and recluse unimprisoned by air their lives exceed ours living on faithfully evading all search a couple million years then, when the time is right they’ll make their homes on the seabed no-one will remember them except us, when darkness comes when the ground we walk on shakes and opens and what we confided to the water returns like it was never gone. 34 WORDS TO LIVE BY

Basin There is little else The sound of the pain echoing In my boundless mind * The tears are one with The water swimming along Wayward like tadpoles * They grow into frogs In the strangest time machine Drowning in the drain WORDS TO LIVE BY 35

Silence silence and the absence of silence deciding which is the lesser of the two evils and settling on the shorter relief never fully satisfied on one or the other craving grass that is greener but in earth’s gravity no finding the fit the silence draws itself into airtight containers the song tips them over to fill red Martian rivers the fate is entrapment in infinity preserved beyond time flung out there amongst once-living balls of gas sucking in all that happens near swallowing up the sun and all its children to amass water and boxes free-standing crosses to mark their deaths on the fields of Neptune and calculate one’s own to research the cosmos of self-extermination whilst they send rockets from sanity to collapse it all, to have won to bury my bones and take the grey of my gloomed cloak to wear proud on their coloured necks whilst they conquer and I plead forgiveness for taking their world they built so well and turning it upon myself. 36 WORDS TO LIVE BY

Sandcastle I hold my plastic trowel in my little fist, and Build a castle whilst everything else falls down. There is a great mass in the middle, damp And around the sides there is a deep moat To keep the enemies out and the prisoners in. I dig this circle so many times I lose count. Then it occurs to me that moats should have water – I can’t leave it empty. That would be too easy. So, I grab my bucket, ignore the voices And run to the shore, deep enough to fill it, Far back enough that no-one will come running after me. I return to slosh the frothy ocean water into my moat. The sand absorbs, only becoming sludge. I will need more. I run back to the water, just as it recedes. I will have to wait for another wave. I fill up again, and add it to the trench, which has started to dry. I need to speed this up. A bright idea hits me – I open one wall of the moat, drawing a line to the tide, My hands hurt now but I have to finish this. It will be time to go home soon, and I can’t leave my castle Unguarded. No-one understands the importance like I do. When I’ve finished, I put my wet hands on my hips and survey The masterpiece. It could do with a few more towers And lots more shells. But I did my best. I hope they’ve all stopped arguing now. WORDS TO LIVE BY 37

Brushing the bristles – there must be hundreds of them screeching against enamel foaming from left to right every movement requires the strength of ten thousand lions the patience of a million tiny black ants near impossible for thoughts to avoid black holes and reflections in mirrors red mixing with white eyes sticking on eyes in the fraction of a second it takes for the brain to tell the arm to tell the hand to tell the fingers to curl and pull push and repeat my will is shattered let them rot, I think it would be better than having to brush. 38 WORDS TO LIVE BY

Full Time I miss you, Starbursts and book piles bananas for mobiles breakfast on a red table whatever’s on cable I miss distraction when my mind was smaller addition, subtraction my heart was a faller for a different land where buttering bread and drawing on my hand was Barbie magic. In my head now are complications what was once a village with a rolling stream is now an airport stranded in a snowstorm so no-one can leave but all are nervous confused and alone together flitting like flies in heat collapsing on each other to eat away at what’s ripe. There is a fairy princess in there somewhere waiting, wings down wand at the ready finding her is full time employment serve me a cheque every month for every seat she is not in is a deduction in my wealth. This wage is meagre for wading through Time’s Square WORDS TO LIVE BY 39

on New Year’s Day for a rumour of a girl who’s always moving evading me. Pay me more I demand it of you I want more from this search. Concentrate, you say? You’re clutching at straws I see her in it all but the believing? I’ll leave it to her It makes no currency with me. Bring her back to my arms for real not for a moment then, I will believe. I miss you distraction village with the rolling stream princess of Time’s Square on the loneliest day chasing and tailing and wasting away how much money will I make today? 40 WORDS TO LIVE BY

Milkshake Panic, it hits me desperately the gasps and cries and suddenly I pick up my coat and am out in a flash down on to High Street delaying the crash heading straight to the shop on St. Aldates where I take refuge in all my states in portraits of cows and chalkboards in smelling the wonder bouncing off the walls. I order a chocolate vanilla ice-cream milkshake and drown the intruders running free in my brain let the coolness cancel out the cold icing the pain as it slips through my throat. The thickest swirl of cream and milk transports me from my chronic guilt. By the end of the glass, life seems a hundred times clearer. The river that flooded into my soul recedes like tide in folds under ice cream and sprinkles where the demons are moored into bay plotting escape, try another day. WORDS TO LIVE BY 41

The Foothills We climbed up dusty pink steps, the colour covered in chalk, toward the sunset at the top where we could quietly observe the way the sky seemed to be sewn to the ground the city and its suburbs stretching like toddler’s playthings across a carpet of green and earth. Away across to the right we could see the sun reflecting off the great lake like a silver dish and standing out with its cream façade and towering minars we pointed out the Faisal Mosque shadowed by the foothills my father used to walk. From our point at Daman-e-Koh things seemed so small and appreciable; Islamabad a patchwork quilt firm to the corners of its cradle. I stood on the railing until the sky went black, wondering if anything I’d ever see would do justice to this beauty. Round and round the hill we drove and when we reached the bottom like all adventures go, we returned to the civilised world and the magic was no more. 42 WORDS TO LIVE BY

Restitution In retrospect There were a million things that I could’ve done Before I closed the book The injuries of my own design Were too deep to do anything but give Give into guilt Give into staring emptily at empty pages Inadequate pain, but complete pain What can I ever give back to the world That will make it right again? Tell me what to do or say Friend, I have no mind of my own I am invaded by twenty different persons Making room that was never there before Harvesting all manner of explanations But I’m at losses still Ask me Demand of me anything I will give what I don’t have Ask me For I am illiterate in the art of restitution Or at least one that suffices Circling back always To my ever tall prices Questions, questions Take me for questions Make me answer you But alas Forgiveness is a self-serving attraction And it will not serve you WORDS TO LIVE BY 43

Perhaps even if you see the broken behind my infractions You will not love that I feel responsible And that I will lie down at your feet Welcome fate The person who will always be owing And bargaining For what was untainted To return again We can never be what we were before I love you and I retain that But now I am simply here to give. 44 WORDS TO LIVE BY

Support I wail to my doctor, psychiatrist, counsellor, nurse chaplain, tutor, strangers on phones bus drivers, ubers, experts on call neighbours, teammates, baristas, landlords hall staff and cleaners; people on my course cuddly toys, books, photos on walls the friends that depression can afford my brothers, my mother dad home from work myself and my others a thousand crumpled mes I beg them all make it better. WORDS TO LIVE BY 45

Wings my fairy wings were always tucked away in the gap behind my bedroom cupboard to keep the spiders and the moths company cheap, plastic things but the most wonderful treat to slip my arms through those tatty strings and become someone entirely not me. I’d flutter to breakfast, lunch and dinner shake my pigtails in the glitter wave my knitting needle wand and it wouldn’t matter who believed. So, when they disappeared from their spot in the dust I lost the person inhabiting them. The spark that seemed to keep me alive vanished and in turn I never looked for it. 46 WORDS TO LIVE BY

Bedroom Are you okay? Yes, with a flick of the hair And a yoghurt-girl smile. Up the stairs, shut the door, And let the muscles sag to floor. Kick off offending sludge-brown brogues With nail beds at the collar claw. Are you sure? It is gravity, in the throes of passion and lust Flings us away from the spheres of dust Beyond the bedroom ceiling Where idle, the light hangs. A stiff white neck and a cloying bulb Flowers down from high above. As though one could bend around the wire And look fiercely at the brogues below. You know I’m always here to talk. Of what? Of who and what you know? That was cruel, another stone Weighs itself down on the bone. Smile and slap your knee instead Sit still until your eyes have bled. Let’s swap sandwiches, have some fun Roll down the hill ‘til all is numb. What’s going on with you? The socks commit fashionable fraud Found them in the hole in the wall Put them on the hands at first, Only shaking for the cold. Inside, a crater grows, and grows, Fed by every vicious thought. A bloody bracelet on arm appears One that won’t erase for years. WORDS TO LIVE BY 47

Talk to me. Or we could dance in circles ‘Til the body spins in line with head. Wrap up in the rug once more A rotting carcass on the floor. Rainbow underneath the lids Words lend no colour for this. Let me hold you. Hold upright, arms on arms. Two vultures, feeding on agony. From the window, from the mirror, See you in every corner. Let the tears roll down the pale skin Like rain in the hollow of a parched leaf. It’s okay. It’ll be okay. Close every day whispering this Daggers in the sickened flesh. No-one’s there, it’s just yourself Staring back, trying to help. Blood rises like tide fast Lapping at the criminal glass Leaves you covered in sparkling silt Bedroom walls were all you built. Now like the night with crow’s veil Loneliness hangs upon your sails. Descend to the ocean bed With all your ghosts Scream into the pillow Swallow more stones And lay to rest, looking Down at brogues. 48 WORDS TO LIVE BY

Passage I feel like the people of the cave waking from a two-hundred-year slumber, to see the fabric of the universe unravelled and rolled up like thread on a folded paper. A world that they thought they knew risen from the collapse of all reason. A blink of an eye, but in reality a passage of worlds not determinable. A dream in which I witnessed my own death, and so long believed it to be so. Truths ingrained in the very essence of my being bleed out of my hands – my blood is not blue, I learn; and I am - not you. WORDS TO LIVE BY 49


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