Teeth

the dream, it began
with one of my teeth falling out
and the others were bent like gravestones
toppled and tilting in the weak mush soil
of bleeding gums

the room had blue tiles
half-bleached white in an
aching permanent noon
like a bathroom
in an asylum
in a film
(in a dream)

the mirror was cracked and hanging at odds
my hands were burned and blistered
and my fingers twisted, broken and set
trees and branches, rusted nails

i touched my face and the skin melted and dripped from it
like paint that takes three attempts to open the tin
(with fingernails, with a knife, with a chisel)
something festering and silently toxic

one by one, the remaining teeth came loose
my tongue agitated the rotten stumps
but there was no familiar pleasure
in the final twisting free

i laid my broken teeth
with their blackened roots
to rest in a red velvet pouch

and knew that i was no longer
beautiful.

I Miss The Girl I Almost Was

i-miss-the-girl-i-almost-was

i miss the girl i almost was

she sits lightly on the edge of the bed
at 4am and brushes my hair back from my
face with a touch like spiders’ footsteps

her breath is like ice and
her wishes are weightless

she wraps a strand of promises around
her fingers and kisses me goodbye again
with lips like polished crystal

she waits for me at crossroads

she is always cold

– – – – –

I know I usually post poetry without much explanation or context, but I want to talk about this one a bit.

First of all, anyone who knows me well or reads this blog regularly will notice the weirdness of the use of the word ‘girl’ in relation to myself. It’s not a label I feel fits me at this point in my life, partly because of my age (are thirty-six year old ‘girls’ really a thing?) and partly because I rarely gender myself in this way at all and feel very much ‘they‘ rather than ‘she’. That said, for most of my life it was like “Well, everyone else looks at me and thinks ‘woman’ so I guess that’s what I am”, regardless of how I actually felt about myself. So yeah, it feels a bit strange for gender-ambivalent me to say ‘girl’ but I wrote this poem quite a few years ago and I don’t want to change it now, cause for whatever reason it felt right at the time.

The fact that it’s not recent is also important. For a long time, I didn’t feel like I was really over the eating disorder that had been a big part of my existence from childhood until my early twenties. It haunted me like the ghost of something I could have been, which is what this poem is about. I’m happy to say that I’ve recently started to recognise that I am genuinely, fully recovered. I look in the mirror and see what is actually there, not some terrifying shape-shifting nightmare of myself. I enjoy cooking and eating food and it is not attached to any feelings of guilt or shame. I used to wonder if I would ever reach this point, so it’s a big deal to realise that I have.

I guess this poem is a tribute to someone I might have been but also to someone I was for a very long time. The people we’ve been are the building blocks of the people we are and I wouldn’t be who I am today if I hadn’t also been that person.

21st November

21st November

you danced wild around the fire
all flames and pale skin in the biting cold
then you shivered beside us
grinning, eyes flashing dark

we climbed the hill in time for dawn
your hair dyed acid green
face shining through a delicate rain mist
i’ve always wanted to, you said

you told us the extent of it
which we kind of knew, but not the immediacy
the streetlights had halos that night
cloaked and painted, you carried your burning torch

you asked if i would find out what everyone thought
because it would upset people coming from you
i always was good with the difficult questions
i told myself it was still theoretical, or at least not imminent

last year you had a party, just because
you said, we’ll have another one, after
we didn’t speak of what was still to come before
there are warm sacred places that will always belong to your smile

For Garry, the most beautiful spark, who burned briefly but brightly.

This Is The Body That Is Rarely Seen

this is the body that is rarely seen
because i drape it in loose swathes of fabric
not because i hate it or because i’m ashamed of it
but because i despise other people’s reactions to it
and i don’t like the person i become
in response to their assumptions of an overtly feminine sexuality
that is not an accurate reflection of who i am

i do not like being angry
but at least i am no longer angry with myself
i apologise to my breasts and my waist and my hips
for everything the world has decided they represent
and for my uncomfortable rejection of what they simply are
what they have no choice in being
now that i am less in control of their dimensions

you can stare at the colour of my hair
and the ink beneath my skin
and the metal studs and rings in my face
and you can stare at the sticks i use to walk
and i can take it because it is not so different
from when you stared at the weights i used to lift
and the empty spaces on my plate

in the summer when the city feels like a pressure cooker
and i dare to wear weather appropriate clothing and have a body in public
you can keep your fucking mouth shut
because my legs and my shoulders are not an invitation to comment
because it is not a compliment
but i refuse to hide from the world
just because you cannot accept that you have no right to define me

As If You Bleed Miracles

and she sinks

because no-one really walks on water
even though she was stirred to rise by god
and her faith gives her breath to waste
all divinity, magic and blissful denial
as she dredges the sea-bed in dead jade green
for broken glass to tip a spear for your side

as if you bleed miracles

– – – – –

This was originally written about ten years ago, maybe a little more. It’s about someone and something very specific and describes the reason why I have absolutely zero time for people who claim religious motivation for actions that are purely selfish and only serve to further shatter someone who has already been broken into pieces.

The alternative title was At Least Jesus Loves You but I didn’t want it to come across as a dig at all Christians, which it absolutely isn’t. It’s a dig at one particular person who I can’t even bring myself to refer to as a Christian. It’s also not a dig at Jesus, who is not my deity of choice but probably a total dude.

As for the person who didn’t bleed miracles, he is not unbroken but beautifully rebuilt with gold in the seams between the pieces, which is a miracle in itself.

Prosopagnosia Is

so i taught myself to memorise faces
d i a g r a m a t i c a l l y
like delicate wireframe sculptures

the tilt of a chin
the meeting of lips
the curve of eyelashes sweeping a blink
the angles of hairline-browbone-cheekbone-jaw

my own reflection
a formula wrapped in dysmorphia
painted on canvas scrolls and carved into stone

the mirror is a biblical master
a vengeful god

but a photograph
is hearing my name whispered
in a language that was excised from my mind
by a quiet stranger who follows me

always arms-length behind

– – – – –

For information about prosopagnosia, or face blindness, visit ProsopagnosiaResearch.org

To Anyone Who Has Ever Been Told To Calm Down

you are allowed to be angry
when your heart pounds and rushes like a stampede
or a hailstorm and your hands shake as your fingernails sink
deep in your flesh and you don’t even notice the vapour of your
blood as it boils in your veins, never forget you are allowed to be angry

you are allowed to be angry
you have permission to imagine your bare fists bursting through bone and
your teeth tearing muscle from tendon, even in a world that insists
you prioritise dutiful silence and imagined responsibility over
yourself, never forget you are allowed to be angry

you are allowed to be angry
when you take another deep breath and gather words
tip-toeing softly on eggshells because god forbid you become
uncontrollable and inconvenient even as you are biting your lip until
iron and regret flood your mouth, never forget you are allowed to be angry

you are allowed to be angry
you have permission to embrace and nurture the seeds of your revolution
even as the freezing expectation of should wraps you in paralysis and
you split yourself in two again because whatever gets you through
the night, never forget you are allowed to be angry