Liz,

I don’t know how to start this letter.

I’ve spent hours; countless papers sprawled
across my bed and in my bin; that perfect opening line.

I wanted, in a sentence, to remind you; reflected
a thousand times against the glass walls
and above the pool table at 3:00 am beneath the ground;
in that Sodom that cut
through the drunkenness and left us sober and retching in the heat.

But I don’t want to talk about me;
I want this to be about you.

I want this scrap of ink to be nothing but a question mark for you.
I want you to tell me how you’ve been;
where you’ve been;
why I haven’t seen you in months.

I want you to tell me that you are happy.

I want you to tell me just how broken you are;
tell me about the sieve you call a heart.

Let me know that you are damaged, damaged
beyond redemption and driven by bitterness,
by hate and shame for your failures
and mine.
Tell me about the ones that fester in your stomach.
Tell me about the mistakes that can’t make their way out of your throat
and will never be confessed.
Use your fingertips to mouth your wounds and,
I swear,
I will absolve you of them.

I need to know that you are impossible
and that your hate starts in the half-wakefulness;

I need to hear about the summers
and winters that you’ve sweated and shaken through.

Tell me about the old scars,
about the dark,
about how you’ve covered yourself up with tattoos, tattoos that speak of music you’ve always had your doubts about.

I need to know that you sometimes look in the mirror
and struggle to look yourself in the eye.

I need to know that your pupils are distended and broken
and that tears slide along your skin.

I need to know that no one can make you cry like you can.

I need you to tell me that wine in my journal, stout on my sleeve and rum in the drawer beside my bed doesn’t really mean anything.

I need to know that you have found something
beyond the ghost of the girl I knew
and that there is hope for me too,
to survive who you were.

I need to know that there is something after confronting your ghost,
curling through the flagstones of foreign cities.

I need to know that every step is going somewhere;

forwards,

backwards,

left,

right,

ascending to Heaven or descending
to God and weakness;

that I am not held in place by chains like those which your spectre rattles.

Listen to me, Liz;
I need and I want and I need and I want and,
honestly,
I am desperate for dreams.

Dreams that I dare to steal,
dreams that I can pluck wildly from the dawn;
dreams that are capable of hanging heavier than your chains could ever have a hope to.

I need to be something more than this;
more than a caricature that shudders around a pen and screams out ‘No!’ above a Guinness.

And ‘No!’ is all I am, Liz,
all I know now that you’re gone.

No! to life, to holiness, to the locked door of potential;
No; to Edinburgh, to Norwich, to London and Greenwich and Paris;
no to Liverpool and Manchester;
No; the austere governments keeping us apart;
no; the zero hours that hold you;
no; the children crying in the doorway between murder and life;
no; the British missiles in Saudi hands;
no; the bald slavery of the rotten monks;
no; to Mary, sleeping rough on the streets of Wigan.

I don’t believe in marriage, Liz; you know that.
I don’t believe in marriage, but I would marry.
I would choose the chains if I were chained to the moments that we knew,
between drunkenness
and hangovers
and glasses of water from a bar that sells Trooper.

I’d marry your dreams, if I could; dreams of artistry,
dreams that go beyond stained tables
and tablecloths
and old men leering from behind their coffees
and solitude within the crowd.

Did I tell you that I saw you,
hours before we first met,
with pale skin and red hair and metal in your face?

Did I tell you I saw the ghosts of you above the pool table?

Did I ever tell you I think about you every time I bite my lip?

Once I’d seen you, I knew;
Knew that there was a bluebird inside my heart.

All the poison made sense, in a moment;
I tried to drown my bluebird in whiskey
and rotgut and whatever else I could find.

I muted incessant cries
and chirping with slurred words and glazed eyes
and lazy smiles.

And I heard its silence,
Liz,
like it was screaming.

I heard the silence one morning and tore my chest apart.

I broke bone and ruptured muscle,
split flesh and spilled blood onto the floor
and wheezed air and gagged on the smells of my own stomach –

Liz; I found my heart and it was empty.

Not even the skeleton of a beautiful creature,
just hollow.


If you liked this poem, why not check out some of the longer prose stuff I’ve written over at Smashwords? It’s all completely free, so I can hold onto some vague anti-Plutolatarian ethos. If you’re looking for more poetry, in a similar vein to this one, why not read Coal Carthage, one of my most recent pieces about my hometown?

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