so, what now?
i told you i loved you and you clamped your hand over my mouth.
i still love you; my mouth is still sealed.
will that change if the sound of trains racing across tracks drowns out the confession?
will it cease to exist if you turn up the music in the car when my tongue wraps around the last syllable?
i still love you; you still know of it.
is there no hope for us, after all?
your teeth marks are still imprinted on my clavicle,
your hands still bruised against my hip,
your saliva still mingled with the bile from my vomit —
do you truly think if we pretend to be shadows in the night, the sun will forget we burn as fire in the day?
what could ever be worse that what should’ve been?
could and would are two ends of a spear;
should is the centre that tips the balance.
so perhaps that’s why i cannot fathom
what has become of me,
simply because i should’ve been more –
should’ve had more –
than what is present.
you wind up in the same place
you swore even your corpse wouldn’t taste.
your memories burn under your fingers
because they feel so betrayed
at how you stole their escape.
you’re telling yourself it will be different
but you are still a ghost
while this home is still a grave
and the world is still haunted.
you’ve crashed to the ground
because everyone always said
even the sun wasn’t high enough for you,
but they never said there were stars in the sky
and their spikes would cut your wings.
so, you exist in the shadow of ‘should’;
and everyone winces when you walk by
because the scars on your back
are too ghastly to withstand,
because a clipped bird is just that –
a clipped bird;
not what it should’ve been.
millions of stories dance across my tongue; tragic ones waltz, joyful ones tango, wistful ones pirouette. the page is empty as i will these stories to somehow mold themselves together — to clash and collide — in some semblance of a retelling of what should be our history. alas, there are too many versions of this story: he is a battle hero – savage and restless – and i am the bashful maiden eager to clean the blood from his sword, he is the poet – tortured and brooding – and i am the songstress with words he could not yet put to paper, he is the king – just and righteous – and i am the fair lady who holds him every night until the sun rises and the clouds call of duty. only one version is true. only one is real; that i loved him and i have lost him. this version i cannot come to terms with.
how old is this tale? how poignant and cruel and merciless is this tale. how unjustly difficult it is to accept that i have known him like the earth knows the soil and he is as far from me as the sky is to the sea. how grief inducing it is to consider that the world we once walked as one soul split amongst two hearts, my ghost will haunt in search of him. so, i write the only tale that i can believe: i loved him and i lost him and i will find him until my feet are blistered from every mountain i scour, until my knees are bruised from every desert i crawl through, until my hands are raw from every boulder i tear apart in search of any trace of him. even the sky and the sea will collide one day, there is only so much that can hold them apart.
girl, woman, girl
the first time i realised
i couldn’t be saved
from this perpetual emptiness,
i collapsed to the floor
and wrapped my arms around myself
like a small,
there is nothing quite like despair.
there is nothing quite like
you cannot be rescued
you hide behind a cloak
that you wear each day
so they never ask
‘where that happy, happy child went.’
i am still her.
is she still me?
i don’t speak of the pain
because then i have to look after it.
so i paint my face
and i braid my hair
but everyone knows
it’s a cheap imitation.
when i think of the little girl
with my name
and my body,
i want to thrust her into my arms.
i’m sorry for what i’ve done to you;
i’m sorry for what i will do to you.
i wish you had stayed like this –
a girl who saw nothing in her face
except it’s purpose;
a girl who refused to define her life
by how much she felt wanted
no one ever wanted her either.
i wish we will never meet
because i’m ashamed to face you
because i know you will forgive me
because that is who you are:
good and kind and pure –
because i know i will ruin you
because that is who i am:
cruel and dumb and mad.
i’ve gone my whole life without love and it’s left a gaping hole in my heart that threatens to fester into a vicious infection; i walk around with shaking fists and a bloody mouth from biting my tongue but it’s tiring me all the same. how long must i exist as a ghost in search of a house to haunt?
winter, winter, why must you leave?
it’s december and the snowfall never slows,
it’s january and the ice never flows,
it’s february and the sun never rose.
i loved you best in the tempestuous winter
when time stood completely still
and our passion no storm could hinder.
when my gloved hands clutched your frosty cheeks,
with snowflakes kissing your nose,
and the wind sang our song for hours into weeks.
when you ravished me by the fireplace
whilst i giggled like a schoolgirl,
so overcome with an unruly, giddy haste.
we stamped angels into the blanched ground
where our bodies embraced,
whilst the stars hung high and the earth slept sound.
you held me in your arms as the children shrieked and played.
the ivory blanket licked at our feet.
the serendipity was something no price could trade.
still, the seasons will all wither and change and depart
and the earth will move on,
but this perpetual love will never leave my heart.
i had this dream where i collapsed against the staircase to heaven and a million others fell behind me like dominos. an angel came before me and held me up again; he asked me about you and i fell against the steps once more because your name is not an easy one to stand tall against. my voice was hoarse when i asked what of you. the angel smirked and looked down into the fiery pit tickling against my heels. when i looked down, your hands were clinging onto the clouds and your grief stricken face contorted into panic. i wailed like a little child, and only then did god summon me into his lair. i begged him to salvage you, i begged him to redeem you for your sins because they were all done against me and i would still put you in paradise again and again if i had to choose. “those are not your sins to judge” i warned god, so angry at his presumption that he could adjudge you for a hurt that was mine to shoulder. you see – you have slighted me and i would still trip down these stairs before i let them punish you for it. there is an extent of servitude, and i have crossed it long ago. god mistakenly assumed it was for him, but it was always for you. so, let me jump into this fire with you and eat the backs of the disbelievers just so you’ll never have to taste the flesh.
your last name behind my first,
our sin behind my last;
there are no silent letters
to cushion this pain of mine.
we hang an unsheathed sword
above the mantelpiece
but there is nothing domestic
about a house built above bones.
you come home with a suitcase and a smile,
with which you kiss me hello
but i’m tired
of having to look behind your back
before you close the door.
i love you
despite this tragedy
you refuse to speak of.
i love you
despite this anonymity
that consumes your past.
i asked you
where your roots were;
you pointed to the soil
and spat in the grass.
i guess i never realised
why you kept the shovel so close by.
when i watched you sob by the fireplace,
you told me your skeletons had fangs.
we never brought it up afterwards;
i went back to sleeping
with a gun on the bedside table.
you told me you weren’t the hero,
but i guessed you couldn’t be the villain.
(evil can’t kiss with a mouth so sincere).
so, i still believed you were good
even when you broke my wrist
when i came home past eight.
even when you scratched my face
when i picked up a foreign call.
perhaps, by then,
i recognised you had a darkness
lurking in the confines
of a padlocked heart.
still, i said you were grey;
i could still believe there was light.
so, when you’d come home —
with that suitcase —
i never asked
why your friends never visited
or why i never saw
a family picture
i suppose when someone gives you a home
with a ceiling tall enough
to sail the stars,
and a closet full enough
to wear a different shade a day,
there’s an obligation
to serve the platter hot
and never ask
why he let it go cold.
though i could always tell
there was something in the corners.
i’d see shadows leaping and lurching
and snakes hissing and heaving,
and all the knives in the kitchen
were speckled with stale scarlet.
the worst of it
were the skulls you kept
in the boot of the car;
always with you,
i likened you to a warrior
a man so burned
by a past
he battled out of,
a soldier coming home
after a lifetime of running away,
an enigma, so shrouded in mystery,
that i tried to solve a million times.
but even warriors
in their wake.
and even men
just to strike.
yet even soldiers
when the bombs hit.
even an enigma
is often a mystery
for our greater good.
it wont matter.
you will still load your bullets.
i will still pass you the gun.
you will buy me diamonds
i will trade you knives.
you will kiss me with that bleeding mouth
and i will smile before i sob.
i will never ask what i should,
but we will both know what it is:
how many lives were lost
in the warpath
for our white picket fence future?
‘is it truly so horrible to believe you could be loved?’
no, but it is unimaginable to believe that i would accept it, and that is the worst of it all. behind every word i will scour for a ‘but’ until i run out of connectives to rationalise the very idea. you will say you love me; i will shake my head in turn. you will clasp my hands in yours and, dear god, my palms are sweating so profusely that you will lose your grip. you will whisper my name and i’ll pinch myself every time a consonant wraps around your tongue. everyday, i will sit and wait for when i see a crack in this whole charade so i can finally lunge for you and claw you to shreds. it is easier to turn a belief into truth than a fear into hope.