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 sang 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?
an explosive chemistry
once so bright a face;
my lover – golden hearted.
my hands – arsenic.
‘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.
noun, verb, adjective.
there is something so viciously uncomfortable about grief. you are a distant cousin at a funeral; the wife wails whilst her son clings to the coffin. what can you do? nothing. you are a nurse in the delivery room; the husband grips his wife’s hands, telling her “it’s okay, next time. next time.” what will you say? nothing. you are a fly on the walls of a teenager’s bedroom; her arm bleeding out on the carpet, her phone beside her with not a single number in it that she can call to console her. what will you bring her? nothing. nothing comes from grief, nothing can heal grief. it is the patriarch of Emotion. anger is fleeting, waiting for an admission of guilt to dissipate. happiness is fickle, able to be warped in just a second. sadness is minute in it’s importance; you are sad when the heroine plummets to her death in the film, you are sad when the coffee falls on your suede coat, you are sad when the guy you liked walks out of the broom closet with the woman from HR. so, which of these can ever be victorious in the face of grief? you will spend decades without it, waiting for it to hit you, but grief is smirking because it has been with you the entire time.
in truth, grief has governed my life. i have known it since the moment i was pushed out of the womb. grieving for the sins of my parents, grieving for the pain of my ancestors, grieving for the loss of the future. i know grief like the back of my hand.
i stand outside a café with my friends and they chuckle and chortle and my feet go numb and the world goes cold because grief has just revisited and now i must tend to it for the rest of the evening. it’s the night of the school dance and i waltz with grief because it’s the only one who ever truly wanted me, meanwhile the couples caress each other under the poor lighting whilst a shitty pop song plays at a nearly inaudible volume; it deafens me, though. i’m sick to my stomach and i have to leave the hall. grief was growing impatient. i’m waiting in line at the cinema and the father hoists his little girl on his shoulders and she shrieks with an unadulterated glee; i swallow down bile and my hands shake when i grasp the ticket. grief was already bored and needed a trailer before the film.
it’s perhaps most ironic that, sometimes, i grieve grief itself. what has become of you? whose pain is this? how long have you carrried it? how long must you? who has hurt you so immensely that you can only exist in sharp aches and dull throbs? when will i be rid of you? the last question is so haunting that i shake my head to rid myself of the thought. there has become a point, between this biting loneliness and seething rage, where grief has turned into a friend that i hate to be around yet who’s call i always pick up whenever i receive it. i will never switch off that ringtone. grief will never stop ringing. i will always wait by the phone like a dog by the door. grief will never truly hang up. one day, i’d like to cut the chord itself, but i’m not allowed to walk around this house with open scissors.
from the moment our eyes met,
my homeland was doomed.
we steal slices of time
from across the barbed wire.
i trek down to the border
and i tell the soldiers
to point their guns to the sky;
if there is a God,
i will kill him
for this pain that exists within my lover.
my legs swallow a bullet each time,
and the lashings from the flag
burn my back like coal on a grill.
i will meet him at that border
until i am a ragged corpse
of skin and bone.
i will meet him at that border
until the vultures peck away
at my flesh mercilessly.
i will meet him again and again
until the soil swallows me whole
and my tears fertilise the land.
he is my homeland.
he is my occupied nation.
he is my liberation army.
he is the ground beneath my feet
and the sky above my head.
they ask me,
on the stand,
will you rise for the anthem,
or fall for your beloved?
i ask them why one must either
i have risen; i will fall.
isn’t this much inevitable?
they ask why i won’t join him.
how can i?
he sleeps under a different moon;
he wakes to another sun.
where my veins run red,
his bleed blue.
i love him like a child in the rain;
recklessly, passionately, uninhibited.
i betray my people whenever i utter
his bittersweet name.
he would betray his people
if he ever held me even once.
we have both risen; will we ever be prepared to fall?
i sleep under the shade of the hoisted flag
whilst the songbirds coo in the distance.
i do not make my return to the border that night.
dinner for one
i know how this will proceed. i will continue to hide my blush with the menu as i peer over the collection of entrees in order to catch a glimpse of eyes that will turn to girls beside me. i will continue to chuckle loudly in hopes to synchronise with a laugh that sings for a beautiful girl with blue eyes and soft hair. i will continue to grin until crescents form in my eyes yet the full moon will only rise on the face of a girl with a gentle mouth and a pointed nose. i will continue to twist my hands in my skirt whilst my stomach lurches like a ship at sea as i wait for a conversation to bloom; he will still never look at me. not this one nor the next nor the one after that. a million eyes will look through me and a million hands will pass inside my soul to reach the hearts of those around me. i will be this fragmented, wasted remain of shameful want and pitiful desire. they will ask my name as an appetiser that must be consumed in order to achieve a dessert. i will continue to slash a smile into my cheek; if i bleed over these white table napkins, will he realise this pain leaks from my pores even if i pat it down with the blotting paper? will he patch up this gash that threatens an infection of deplorable desperation? will he wrap his checkered tie around my broken arm and cradle me like a child who has just learnt that the world is somehow smaller than the womb?