Trigger Warnings

I want to preface this with saying that although I wrote this, I use trigger warnings for common triggers online, and respect other people’s triggers when they tell me. What I’m trying to say is that often triggers can’t be predicted, and in real life, we have no such warnings. I hope that comes across.

life doesn’t come with trigger warnings

Alan Kurdi
a wee Syrian boy lying dead on the beach.
the photo went viral online
was on newspaper covers across the world.
it was a distressing image
enough to trigger
but yet, there were no trigger warnings.
– just his tiny, bloated body
for all to see.

life doesn’t come with trigger warnings

tiny things can trigger
– seemingly innocuous things
a song, a smell, a colour, a taste
a touch on the shoulder.
even ‘soothing’ things can trigger
– baths, beds, hugging and being held.
when everything is a possible trigger,
how can we possibly know what our words or actions will do?

life doesn’t come with trigger warnings

so why should art?
some things are obvious
– graphic violence, sexual abuse, suicide.
things which upset most people
and trigger many.
warning for these things is only right.
but where do we stop?
when do we go from being sensitive
to ‘overcautious’, ‘overprotective’?

because still, life doesn’t come with trigger warnings.

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Marriage

they say:
marriage is the joining of
one man
and
one woman.

they say:
it’s been like this forever
why change things now?

they say:
the Bible tells me so.

they say:
gay people have rights anyway
just in a different way
(though if I had my way
we’d go back to how things used to be
before all this fuss).

and then I look at her
and think of us, in church, before God
then as old ladies
children grown.

and wonder:
how can love like this be wrong?

Seeing life through a lens

she saw life through a lens
photos were taken at random
making memories.

the lens had a life of its own
zooming in on awful things
and ‘click’
a photo taken
a memory made.

if she was patient
the lens would retract
giving her much needed respite
until next time.

the lens also had filters:

one made everything look perfect
her friends liked that one.
but she knew it was false, plastic
she hated it.

another made things look unreal
almost like a cartoon.
sometimes she liked this one
a break from reality
for a while.

her favourite filter though
was the one
that turned the photo to a negative.
that, at least, was truthful.

Church

In the beginning, church was community.

It was sharing
– a meal,
stories,
journeys,
lives.

But I think that sometimes we forget

Because, somewhere along the line,
church has become a building
(falling apart, and
filled with committees).

And we’ve missed the point

You see, I believe that God
will not be put in a box,
to be brought out on Sunday.
That praying before a meeting
isn’t the reason God’s there
…She just is.

And I believe that Jesus
Loves us.
– not some of us
– not part of us
But all of us.

So, I’m sick and tired of being told that I don’t belong
– of people quoting scripture at me,
hoping to convince me that I’ve
got it all wrong.

Faith is not certain
it is not safe
after all
it’s not called a leap for nothing.

On ‘doing things’ to combat depression

They say ‘Get up. Do things’.
So you do them, a puppet without strings.
They say ‘it’ll help’,
but say nothing of the guilt felt
when you don’t manage,
the damage
caused by advice – well meant,
but when you just feel spent,
when you can’t get out of bed,
when your limbs feel like lead,
there’s judgement there,
and it’s hugely unfair.
Cos when every day feels like groundhog day
you don’t get a say.

Nights are the hardest
when living is the farthest
thing from your mind.
And they say ‘relax. unwind’
– but your head is spinning,
your patience thinning.
They’re not in your head
so how dare they tell you to ‘just go back to bed’?
After reliving your worst moments
over and over, lent
to you by your overactive brain
– you still feel the pain.
And they tell you it’s not real
but not how to deal
with it, except ‘don’t think about it’.
Which would fit,
if you were in control.
but you’re not, so you play a role
– tell them you’ll try
and try not to cry.

Days turn to nights, nights days
‘Get up. Do things’ they say.
But when every morning is a fight
and you battle through nights.
You’re wounded, tired
but wired
– on high alert, despite the confusion
safety is an illusion.

It takes a lot to convince you
to ‘Get up. Do things’ too.
But they say it’ll be good for you
and you’re not the expert, are you?

On terrorists

you, with the pale skin
blue eyes
blonde hair
how could you possibly be
a terrorist?

I mean, terrorists
have brown skin
brown eyes
dark hair
call their God ‘Allah’
and follow the Koran.
(no matter that the Koran teaches
peace and love
– so how can they actually be following it?)

you are British, not ‘British born’
‘British born’ means
‘born here, but still doesn’t belong’

you are not a terrorist
you are white
so you…must be a ‘lone wolf’
must have a mental illness
(no matter that
those who ARE ill
are far more likely to be a victim of a crime
than commit one.)

you are not a terrorist
though you have committed an act that has terrorised.
people will make excuses for you
thanks to your religion (or lack of it)
the colour of your skin
eyes
hair
how is this fair?
oh, that’s right
it’s not.

A letter to my younger self

Hi there.

I know things haven’t been going so well
you fell
and don’t know how to get back up.
your cup
not half empty, but half full
(of poison you want to drink)
but don’t sink
– don’t fall down that rabbit hole.

I know he stole
something from you
and you don’t have a clue
how to fix it
that you don’t fit
in with your friends
and just want it to end.

Now is the time to tell
how and where you fell
this is not for you alone
a stone
lodged in your chest.

I know you’re trying your best
and you are good enough
it’s just tough.

And I understand that you’re scared
to bare
all
you’ll stumble and fall
again, ashamed
but you’re not to be blamed
(and I know you won’t believe me)
but trust me
talking is best
and you won’t have confessed
to something awful
cos it was unlawful
what was done
you were just the unlucky one
it happened to
it wasn’t about you
so whisper, talk, shout
but get it out.

The cup

scrabbling barefoot up the wall
not afraid to fall
you’re invincible, after all

you hear her call
“ya midden, get back here!”
no fear

of that
you drop
down the other side

think and think of the best place to hide
granny’s is always a safe bet
grandpa’ll not be home yet

you’ll risk the ‘granny’s pet’ refrain
which is a pain

but that’s nothing new
and there might be a few
biscuits in the tin.

you dart across the street, let yourself in
the house, a haven
granny’s used to saving
your skin
and though she mutters about sin
to strike fear
you turn a blind ear.

comforted by her presence
you say you’ll do penance
though you never will
you’ve had your fill
of confession.

still, you say you’ve learned your lesson
and she smiles
at her favourite grandchild
draws you into a hug

– then takes you by the lug
marches you across the road

this doesn’t bode
well

the cup that fell
still in pieces on the carpet

and mum’s all het
up
that cup
a gift from dad
when you still had
him

no wonder she’s mad
you go out on a limb
say sorry, start to cry

wait for her to fly
into a rage
but she’s no longer on the same page
and the shouting does not come

instead, she seems numb
‘oh, what a muddle’
she says and pulls you in for a cuddle

you don’t deserve it
but you take it.

you think of him
how you miss him

those feelings you have to hide
to keep inside.
an unwritten law
gift or flaw?

Life support

you say it
you burst that bubble
leave me in trouble
cos I can’t believe my ears.
something steers
me south
your mouth
usually eloquent
stutters now, words spent.
and I know what you think
cos you’ve found that chink
in my armour,
it must be karma
or something more
in store
for me
and my knees
are skint from praying.
we were just playing
at being grown up
our cup
full to overflowing
but we’re going
nowhere fast
nothing lasts
the ball’s in your court
while I’m here on life support.

Seed

a small seed
our love grew and blossomed,
became wonderfully vibrant.
and then began to wilt, as all such things do.

diligently, we nurtured it, fed it,
tried our hardest to halt its withering life.

but neither of us
ever had particularly green fingers.