“reach for the stars”
or so the song goes.
but what about those of us
stuck in dark holes
under the weight
of all our nightmares?
what about those of us
lost in the muddle
of everyday life
not reaching for anything
except the next fix?
the next great thing?
the rope that will pull us up
so we can at least see the stars
and maybe, one day, reach for them.
I try to deny it
try to hide from the truth
like Jack, a man in a box
the pink of your socks
(a nod to your love of all things colourful)
the minister says his bit
about loss, and some shit
about you being somewhere better.
I ring and ring
but you don’t answer your phone.
your small hand in mine
we crunch through leaves
I walk, you dance
tugging on my arm, pulling me along
you bend to pick it up
-the perfect leaf
bright red, shiny
it matches your wellies
twirling the stalk in your fingers
you talk of dinosaurs, monsters, fairies
the real and magical jumbled on your tongue
I try- and fail- to answer questions
but that doesn’t matter
and we keep going,
the two of us, walking, dancing
talking our way up the road.
I’m not saying I’m nervous right now
but I’m hurting.
cos when I say my nails are bitten to the quick, I mean it.
as a child, I bit until they bled,
found comfort in the pain.
I am someone who deserves to hurt
so I did.
cutting and burning and carving my way into oblivion
– an addict, jonesing, waiting for my next fix
now, with the slate far from clean,
I pray for absolution
fight the compulsion
ignore the cravings
but there’ve been so many ‘last times’ I’ve lost count
fifteen years of roads paved with broken promises and disappointments
and still, I deserve the hurt I cause,
so why should this time be any different?
despite the bravado
the concern shows through
what should you say
what should you do?
are there some secret signs?
you struggle to keep it together
as words associate
cos really sectioned
and you cut yourself up enough these days
“What a funny looking circle,” I say
and I catch hold of your hand.
It is small and sticky in mine
and I wonder -briefly- where it’s been.
It is afternoon and you’re all ready for a story
Once upon a time…
As I start to read
a hush falls over the class.
Then, out of the corner of my eye
I see him, prodding at you
to get a reaction.
And you sit there,
pent up aggression
leant to you by your angry mum.
There is something courageous
in how you hold yourself so tightly
and I wonder at such strength
in one so small.
“you’re too old for this”
that’s what they say
or at least that’s what you hear when you pay
your habits, too abhorrent to mention.
you see the stare, and the glare
as your hurts are laid bare
but it’s not fair
-this is how you cope
how you kindle that spark called hope
and it may displease
may cause them to tease
but it’s your body, your rules
so, though they’re cruel
in their judgement
you just sit there, words spent
as they dole it out
and go on about
as if that matters
and you’re shattered
tired, yes, but broken too
by their ‘assessment’ of you
because adults don’t do that, do they?
it wasn’t me, I’ve been stitched up
but it was me, and I have been stitched
it didn’t feel like me when it happened
someone else’s hand, arm, leg
I left them to it.
I mean, what are a few more scars amongst so many?
especially on a body that’s not mine.
the pain brought me back to myself
assessing the damage, I see it’s bad
I try to care, and fail spectacularly.
but then reality sets in.
someone will have to know
a private act, gone too far
and now I must face the consequences
reactions: pity, disgust, fear, and perhaps the worst: empathy.
will they numb before stitching
or do I deserve the extra pain?
like it might make me think twice
the next time.
but it wasn’t me, it never is
I’ve been stitched up.
I have walked in your shoes
they are worn, old news
-papers plugging the holes
and the gaps in the soles.
life, paid for not in sweat and tears
but in blood
or in mud
as you kneel by the river
or by your liver
(but you’re only a social drinker)
or by eyes on tracks
as you dream of falling through cracks
but not of the impact
never the impact
on those who care
who could hardly bear
as your hands shook
you relive. you swallow
your sorrys hollow
as the actions don’t follow
I have felt that urge not to stay
I have learned the price you pay
so believe me when I say
I have walked in your shoes
but I have new shoes now.
We call them ‘meds’.
like a friend.
For most of us, meds are old friends,
who we arrange to meet every day
(but miss a few
here and there)
Meds have personalities.
Some are daredevils, walking a tightrope ten feet up.
Making us sick to our stomachs.
Some are dull, going on and on and on…
Until we can’t keep our heavy eyelids open
And some absolutely love meeting for food.
Forcing us to eat and eat
(just to be polite).
But, sick tired and fat,
we hold on to that spark of hope
– try to kindle it.
Because maybe, just maybe
They’ll work this time.