There’s a level of hatred, almost a skill.
To feel like the winter’s first bloom
(Small, alone in the frost) in the busiest room.
My phone emits steamtrain vibrations,
Memes, groupchats, “I love you”s.
(“Do you really?”, I think. I’m a cynical fool.)
To wield power, all power, to smile,
And to shine. But to hoard it in spite
Or your own tired mind.
Not even a selfishness in your embitterment,
Choosing, the choice well-presented,
To suffer, not grant yourself joy (and for free!)
It is something else,
To be achingly lonely because of yourself.
Of All the Life and All the Death.
I grew up in a desolate paradise. Hard, barren soils, tilled over time by eons of impoverished heroes with dreams and stories bigger than themselves form a thin coating, stretched over rolling hills. Over miles these slowly grow towards mountains, soaring granite peaks seeming black against an ever-changing sky. From lakes nestled cozily in the bowels of these imposing sculptures, sprightly and restless rivers are born, springing forth and rushing gaily down unsure outcroppings, before oozing into a gentle bay. A few miles away, this bay becomes our tyrannical master, the North Atlantic.
She crashes and batters our windswept, precarious lives. She breathes life into our souls and our homes. Her dance is a privilege to watch, where the act of watching is never a passive one. You cannot help but be changed upon witnessing her might. Her presence brings urgency and time. Tides and rains and winds and the ceaseless crash of wave after wave after wave – in the uncivilized world we have our own kind of clocks and calendars. Grammar, too, she gifts us. Sheer, jagged cliff edges jut out boldly, bravely, punctuating the never-ending aquamarine with bolts of frothy white wisps. As the coastline curves, inviting and tantalizing, patches of calm bring spectacular beaches, golden ellipses in an unforgiving landscape.
My home is brimming with life and rancid with death in equal measure. Turf-heated homes with butter-yellow windows are sprinkled over wilderness; within these walls, our native language, extinct in the rest of a fast-evolving nation, breathes her last, gasping breaths. Primary schools grow cold and rat-riddled – there aren’t enough children being born here, there’s no demand. In brightly lit, LED-bleached boardrooms too far away, politicians favor the building of yet another cycling path, another well-lit library in the capital. They do not care that my roads, our roads, are patchworks of potholes and death. They do not care that in our county, where nature puts on her most mesmerizing show, a white-haired widow can no longer get treatment for her ravenous cancer. They shut off the services and stop providing a bus. She has no natural gas, no banks and post offices for 20 miles, no doctor or hospital for even more. The lilting tones of her dying tongue will serenade her into stillness, as unrelenting and cold as the ocean that surrounds her.
Destitution begets emigration begets destitution. Her murderers have never been tried. They do not need to be - one look in guilt-ravaged, longing eyes shows that they receive their punishment with every lonely, homesick breath.
I gaze out my window as I write this. I see a coffee cart, a bespoke jewelry shop. I see streetlights and a railway bridge. I tilt my head downwards, and stare, repulsed, at the rusted butchers’ knife I wield. It drips with hot blood. A drop falls on my dress, and it smells of the ocean and a turf fire and my mother holding my hands at the beach in a storm so I wouldn’t blow away. It dissolves with the faint sound of our laughter. I could barely hear it, even then, over the waves. I am on the run because I have killed that which I love the most. Here they applaud me for it. “You’ve done well for yourself, given where you came from.” At home, the people into whose pulsating stomachs I plunged my knife – they too praise me. “God, look at you, starting in a place like this and making it big.” They call it “making something of yourself”.
I am cold and I am wet and a gale-force wind stings my eyes and my throat. I stand at the edge of the earth. I laugh, long and hard and free, but the sea has her own song, and it takes center stage. I could die right now and I would have experienced life in all of its richness – of that I am sure. I am something, and I am home.
First Impressions Count
“Howdy?”, “Hey?”, “Hello?”
Jesus, no, no, no!
Too youthful, too casual, too slow.
Is my hair alright?
Is my top too tight?
Check my teeth. Do my eyes mask fright?
Is the bus running late?
Do you think she’ll hate
My daft laugh and my clumsy gait?
“You I’m here to see?”
Christ, she’s talking to me.
Throat dries up, shuffle nervously.
“Will we take this booth?”
“Are you getting food?”
Am I chatting about what I should?
Am I chewing enough?
Or is this too much?
Should my eyes be on hers, further up?
I collapse in bed,
Breathe, pulse in my head.
Lie awake hating everything I said.
“So, how was last night?
Was your date alright?”
My friends crowd around, eyes bright.
Then I strangely find,
That to her I'd been blind.
Did I like her? Who knows? Never mind.
My Beautiful Thing
You are the weak dawn rays of Sunday, gleaming.
You are the first rich taste of coffee, steaming.
You are vivid tales of midnight wonder, dreaming.
You are stars on winter nights, ethereal-seeming.
You are chocolate cakes and dates, a turquoise ring,
You are autumn leaves, sea breeze, and when birds sing,
They sing of you. As we all do, my sweet darling.
You are a little bit of every beautiful thing.