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hole

I watched him die
slowly
six years,
three quarters of my little life
I watched my mother die
next to him
although her body did not decay.
I watched her
ripped apart by love
spit and stamped on by love
I watched her clean up
puddles of love’s vomit
heard her drown in it
wailing for release.
the cries of grief are not made of rocks or sand.

I watched my brother
my sister, die
over the years to come
and I watched myself die, too.
how could you expect us to live
after seeing what life can do?
the rancid stench of sickness
stuck heavy like petrol in our air
the honey of hell
dripping off our tongues.
and what could be done?
we could not ask
Mother for help
because she died that night
just after he turned into yellow stone
she died as his mind bled out his ear
as his eyes, still blinking, became foreign
she died as she fed him (dutifully)
raised us (dutifully)
cleaned him (dutifully)
stacked supermarket shelves (dutifully)
told everyone he was sick and dying (dutifully).
and so it was that she died,
dutifully.

all those little deaths will kill you,
eventually
and you only realise when you ask yourself to love
and there is nothing but a dried up hole
in your heart, where love is supposed to live.
then, the fleeting offer of degradation
seems prettier than the promise of forever.
“you fools don’t know that forever will be what kills you!”
screams the hole, the little mouth
such a loud voice for something so
extinct.

what if he dies those
long little deaths
before my eyes,
dragging me down to hell
as my father did to her?
and I, the fool in love
will I sit dutifully as he dissolves and churns, alone?
a whole life’s sacrifice for love,
only for him to die on me?
my
this psychology is so complex
withered roots tangle and kiss in my
little mouth of little deaths

learned the lesson that love is pain
love is death
love is grief and anguish
and put my theories to the test more than once
proved tout a fait
so suffer, screams the hole.
good reason dictates life is worth it,
suffering only a lesson
just neurons and nerves
but good reason cannot answer to
fear that feels bigger than all of existence
to pain that sets my face on fire,
turns m limbs into twigs and
my breath into acid.

but will you die on this hill, girl?
will you take that left fork
and cut off you arm
to stay alone, safe?
it’s what they all sing about
love, love, love.
and I know now that life is lovely
at the very least
and that good reason
it dictates love is not
always loss.
but I have to feel it
to believe it.

I have to open that gate
oil the rusty hinges
find a compass through the noise
and chatter of death,
let my feelings marry my reason.
life is not living if
controlled by fear, after all
and maybe it is a bird that I need
to string to my wrist
and guide me home.

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lace

god, I love you
I love you so much
I still love you from
my child’s heart
my impassioned child’s heart
that held no judgement
or fear of rejection

still the waves
of grief come,
softer now
leaving delicate seafoam lace
high on my cheekbones
instead of
throwing my body
bloodied onto the rocks

would that I could
whisper some magic to
shave a year off of my life
and hear you for five minutes
your picture is so still
it hasn’t moved in years
and I accept that
I can’t feel safe without you

but I still mourn
your love for me
and I so hope
it was as unconditional as I
remember
because hers never was

strawberries

you are part of me, yes
but you seem so
far away and surreal
not quite a fairytale
not quite a fantasy character
from my little picturebook,
but you have lived only
in photographs for so long
that the thought of you
somehow existing in my reality
is almost laughable

you could almost have been
my imaginary friend
or a once-loved doll
from the toybox,
lost to the years and
faded now in adulthood
with nobody really
too sure on the
specifics of your life’s breath

I remember the sting
of dettol on my grazed toes
that I got dancing
through steps and wild
strawberries,
the first week we moved
the scars are long gone now,
but I bristle in joy
each time I see a strawberry
growing on the side of the road.

I remember my baby heart
turning into stone
when you sucked in your
last laboured breath
tucked into clean white sheets
your bones are long buried now,
yet your soul’s suffering
is still taking up
too much space in my mind bank

should I surround myself
with strawberries and slippers
brown LP sleeves and men who
grumble and laugh like you
used to do, before
you were dying?
will these things
ease my inheritance of your pain?

only that I had
been just a little
bit older
perhaps you’d be
an anchor instead of
the salt sea breeze

holly

just a road like any other
suburban to the very core
full of grey paving slabs
and comfortable family cars
each house square and dignified
with just the right amount
of curtain twitching.

the shrubs are lined up
outside the short brick fences
each one alike in its nature
each front garden path,
trodden in with memories of
grown up children and
school mornings past

the holly bushes of the house
that once was ours
seem to glitter in
the dim night light,
but not looking nearly so
inviting as they did
all those years ago.

I steal a sprig from the front
a perfect thing, its points
all frosted with white
some fairytale thing,
it seems it my hand
a little piece of green is all
but dripping rich with
vibrant memories of the plainest
days

plain,
but so wonderfully pure
so wonderfully formative
so like a dream,
that I scarcely can believe
they belong to me at all.

joy hits me
heavy in the chest
with a fist
as I look through
painted green window frames,
still existing as they ever did.
and my sadness
comes off the roof
as mirror-like summer heat
or through the old brick chimney
smoking logs that we burnt
for three whole Christmases.

ashes

year after year
I drop
cigarette ashes
and salt water
on your portrait.

is this not
a potent enough
concoction?
is this not
the spell
that will work?

my arms are dirty
with the
tea stains
you left behind,
no
vanishing solution
to clear them.

my lungs
and heart
they perished
along
with your
yellow skin.

but mine
emptied of
organs,
travels onward
despite complaint.

there was
no need
to breathe in.
no need to
beat.

the lesson
was learned
then,
in a hot room
of lilies
and machines.

the fifteen holes
in organs
rotten from suffering
tighten into
scar tissue.

they are
you
as I am
you.

I will
visit again
soon.

mud

grief makes
your heart
sick
not sick
enough to stop beating and
kill you,
just sick
enough to suffer

grief makes
the veins collapse
makes them sticky,
so they
punish you
lest you forget
what you have
loved most
and lost

lest you forget,
as if you could
when you feel your
blood choking you
again
and you wonder
why you
are sentenced to die
so slowly.

vitiligo

beautiful boy
you are gone
but I will not
let you die.

the sickness of death
so heavy
the black rain winds
that so many others have written

would be easy
to concentrate on.

my friend,
you were not sickness
but for a tarnished
group of moments.

the pain of your absence,
leaves us open-surgery hearts.
but the steadfastness
of your soul

pumps scarlet blood
to each fingertip.

still you sit
underneath my window,
your breathing turned to droplets
laughing so hard

the cigarettes fell out
of our mouths.
still we dance
for hours and hours

to average white-boy beats
(I always knew you could make better).

you could never
vanish from existence.
how implausible
to imagine.

as if
your vitiligo arms
could cease to be
in the world.

no, they are here.
just as the rest of you is here.

beautiful boy,
I will not let you be gone.
because the world is too small
without you.

the vigor of life
so light
does not matter.
you have only slipped away

into the next room.
and so it will continue to be

until I see you again.

happy 25th birthday finn

(I used a line from the Henry Scott Holland poem “death is nothing at all” that bears some relevance here. points if you can find it)