Unspoken

I said “help”

with closed lips.

Did you see my need
in the ways my clothes hung off my body
the way how I stood
like an old coat rack
that spends its years wasting
in a charity shop?

Was there a sign
in the late texts
that rattled your pillow as you slept
and the morning calls–supposedly innocent
only two hours after?

Was my desperation evident
in the absent prayers of general weather;
my eyes which could stare for hours at night time
the journeys I took inside my self in silence,
where my daydreams made more sense than reality
how I found it easier to speak to walls in my head
and rolled in uncomfortable fits of fidgeting and breathing
whenever I spoke to you?

You asked me: is everything okay?

I said
“no”

But my mouth didn’t open.

 

Pity

For the first time in my life
I felt the 
                 Pitter Patter
of tiny hopes
in the form 
of a smooth
brown hand

Soft.
Like a freshly baked scone
also warm to the touch.
I sat with the child
while he read to me
as he did, 
his stubby fingers brushed against mine
half-clenched over the jagged edges of
his faded purchase
half-holding onto me
for approval.

With that touch
arrived the
                     Pitter Patter
as I began to need
like the wanted monsoon
after an early hosepipe ban,
his hand felt welcome on mine:
a stigmata of friendship
a sign of my peace.

The want for me 
to love something bigger than myself
came in the form
of a stranger’s boy
watching me serenely in the library
as I listened
to hear him read.

Falling

Once, I fell.

It wasn’t the frivolous fall
of times recklessly sleeping
only to stumble
–plummet
and wake in the
debris of bed sheets
and night time;
with the moon informing me
it was all a dream.

It was a fall totally different
from rolling in tarmac in playfields
or the psychedelic mess of ball pits
or the ethereal, almost spiritual
lolling between blades of glass
so that when you stand
daisies fall in your wake
as if your very shadow is
celebrating your existence
and you walk proud like a bride
and deliriously forget
that many years ago
you already divorced your life.

 

Once, I fell.
It was like an ill-fated plane that no one cared about
the signs of its doom clear,
like the bold steps of a crazy-paved floor.
The traitorous engine;
drunken pilot;
the scrap of metal on the runway;
all ignored
because sometimes, it feels good
to witness a downfall;
and wait in the wings of the airport,
binoculars ready
to capture the disaster
and replay it in your head.

So, I fell
and crashed and exploded in my mess;
carrying all the stories with me
that I wanted to keep secret,
but there is only so long you can run from God.
My heart was torn open
and the evidence littered the floor;
like a black box in the cockpit
my heart told the truth:
the safety checks that were vital to the survival of myself;
the junk that I carried around that made a puncture in my step
the careless people that watched as I began to limp
but did nothing to help.
The sin I carried like thunderclouds on my head
which pushed me
and spun me like the winds of turbulence
and I could do nothing
but stare
as the contents of my black box
was scattered before my eyes
and all those who had been fooled
by my pretence and lies.

 

So one day, I fell.
I was wreckage on the ground
the pictures had been taken
the revelations told with haste
the evidence laid bare in board meeting
of the drunken pilot that
destroyed a vessel supposedly going heavenward;
my presence was erased from
the departments I took part in
and my absence was felt
like a weight in the stomach.
I was left in this state
and almost washed away to shore…

 

But I noticed something.
A quiet rattling at first
the noise of childhood,
of beaded toys
and laughter
and the beginning of life
I found someone beside me,
knee-deep in my mess
welding the wings together
examining the engine to set it right;
windows were fixed
and tar mopped away;
This someone filled me with fuel again
worked all night
and didn’t go away
until I was better than before.
My someone, my Jesus,
filled me till I was running over
taking off,
and ready to fly again

Night

The night fell upon us when she disappeared
I saw the world through the mist of my tears
The veil of sadness before my face
The oddity of loss and the strangeness of absence.
It felt like a red cloud in the middle of the sky
Or a missing star from Orion’s Belt

The night fell upon us when she disappeared
Cocooned in white linen;
Clean towels on a marble hospital bed
But she was healthy in hue:
Rich ebony; deep mahogany
My grandmother. Black Gold, wrapped in white radiance

Very much like a bold moon in the midst of a night sky.

The moon was full on the night that she left us
I looked up to the sky and asked God why
Why He took her then, on such a clear pretty night
And a hot sunny day
But the moon was comforting
It oozed peace, the same kind that crossed her face
As she lay there, almost sleeping, on the hospital bed.
She was so peaceful
Too peaceful to be alive
Too peaceful to feel the illness of life and the sadness of living
When someone you love has passed away.

The moon was out that night

An object that reflected the brightness of the stars
the offspring of the universe
Like a matriarch
Like grandma, injecting others with smiles

Or like a Pearl
a beautiful emblem encased in the black crust of an oyster
Iridescent darkness; glorious light
A comforting mix
A contrast of completeness

I was happy that the moon came out that night.

It reminded me of a pearl—and it made me think of grandma.

 

Pearl Jackson
04.04.1924—25.04.2013
See you on the Sea of Glass, Grandma
xXx

 

 

Lament

Once, I told you everything I knew.
I believed you could too.
Then an absence came
like a monsoon
to fill the ever widening gulf
that was always there
but remained unseen.
Once, you struggled.
You asked me about my life
I told you scraps
and you picked at them for a while
before leaving dry crumbs
on the cold pavement floor.
Once, you struggled.
I asked you how you were
because my blood was numb
I just wanted to know how you were
and you said
“I’m fine.”

Fearful

Silence.
.
.
.
.
A noise to rattle the catacombs in my head
make me dizzy with fear.
The kind of feeling that weighs the body down
black treacle. Thick and imposing
too heavy to control
to move beneath.

Silence.
.
.
.
The one word to scare me
enough that I’d shun everything
crowds were my enemy for fear of that moment
when there’s now’t to say
but they all look at you as if you’re supposed to know
To be witty and articulate and make people laugh
they look at you because they think you know
what they think; what they like
you’re supposed to know
how to salvage their conversation
before the pulpy shreds of it
stick and merge with the floor

Silence.
.
.
My crutch and my crucifix.
Bullied by it
Taunted by those who said my mouth was too slow
because I was cursed with bullets in my speech
and my tongue was useless
a-a-and it w-w-was d-d-difficult to f-f-fight ag-g-g-gainst those
thick words; plosives and sentence starters.

Silence.
Became my favourite way of speaking
when I found the comfort of your eyes
and how soothing a sound it is
when your silence meets mine
Listen to me breathe
So I can feel your heart on my spine
as we sit
in
silence.

Woman

There is a woman that upsets me.
She calls herself ‘rubies’
readily adorned with the praises of men
then looks at me in disdain
her counter-onyx friend
the blood in me bubbles at her
like the poison in a cauldron
congeals, crystallises, readily broken
an imitation of a precious stone.

I’m not like her
because I have a voice
I talk too much
I don’t know my place, not what it’s like
to obey, to bow my head
to shut up.

My tongue, she said, will be my downfall
one day it’ll unravel from my mouth
roll onto the floor, red and fleshy
wrap itself around my neck and choke me
because I dress like trash
talk like trash
look like trash, dark and bruised
I’m not a woman like her
I’ve been too many places
around estates and tower blocks
through parks and forests
forever haunted, like some animal
in want of blood
or something precious.

There is a woman that I hate.
She is like a dolly dog
always happy and willing to please
she gets carried around in a bag
by people who think they own her
made to wear frilly things
pink things
things to mark her femininity
and she loves it.

I would rather be the wolf
running naked through the fauna
digging deep under the ground
to my secret trove
of diamonds.

Knotholes

We said we would wait for God
before we did anything.
We ate our meals with a third seat between us
vacant, so He could sit and observe
our pure conversations
stilted devotional rhetoric
church banter
musings of creation;
amongst the blades of glass on the table
filled with apple juice
that cast chlorophyllic shadows
across the white table cloth
and reflected on the silvery pools of knives and forks
which glimmered in blank response.

You used to telephone me in the morning
so we could pray together;
at night for Bible study.
Visits round mine consisted of sitting by the coffee table
Bible open,
and our bottomless eyes staring at newsprint
becoming entranced in the thees the thys the thous the therefores
It seeped through in your prayers, this language
to take me back to a buried age–
your words fell upon me till I was foetal and surrounded
hands tied together, noose around my neck, shackles on.
Men calling–

WITCH

–to my face.

Our Bible was imperative to our meetings,
the paper thin, like the skin of a cocoon
fragile, wings of a moth
pure, like doilies on wedding tables
family, friends and anonymouses crowding around us
as we dance, Bible confetti snowing down on our heads
Bible petals falling on a consummation bed
dotted red with consummation blood
red turning to auburn, auburn to chestnut
the wild of me as we interlock, hidden in knotholes in the forest
and back again, to meet the disappointment
of cyclical blood: burnt umber,
the ashes of my hope swirls like dust unearthed
from a rug.

Trivial things of married couples
arguments, torn wedding dresses
reconciliations in bathtubs
counting down menstrual days like prophecy
until you can try again.

You and I failed to get there.
I remember staring at the ceiling
as it swam in my wetted eyes
and feeling forbidden blood oozing down my legs.
We were still young
and illegitimate.
Our Bible open above us but cold and foreboding
every swirl of the letter was like a dismayed Eye.
We were on the floor, by the coffee table. Behind us,
was the vacant chair
where God should have been.

The Scar

You held me like I was fragile
close to your chest, a pulsing heart
black raiment hugged my body
my prison and my shield

Would you still want me
if you saw the scars
like leeches patched to my arms
the rippled tiger-stripes
on my legs
seemingly drawn on with a blade
and insanity.

I know you love that Other Person
with the holes in His hands
and the crescent of broken skin in His side;
I know these markings remind you
of love and sacrifice and good things

but is my body good enough?
Will you love me,
knowing these things that I have done
where I have come from
and who I want to be?

Can I come as I am?
Or is my world
too dark and too deep
for you to tread?

Draughts

Black and Red were my favourite colours.

There’s something about red;
the colour of anger
passion
strawberries, cherries, lovehearts and lipstick.
To me it signified blood.
The way it oozed down my brown arms
so slowly,
like a scarlet clad army
marching across muddy terrain.
It felt good to do this to myself
because I was lost
and locked up in my own madness
I was calm and collected
on the exterior
but in side lay the Jack
waiting, just waiting to jump out of the box.
Few people knew of my secret
of times in the bathroom stalls at school
with a blade in one hand
and my soul in the other
whilst girls outside chatted about
random things and everything
and I, only separated by a wall as thin
as a cubicle,
stood in a whirlwind of distress.

 

I loved Black because it healed and concealed.
The battle scars along my arms and legs
caused stares and questions
so instead I doused myself in black
I was a dirty scrap of paper
washed in fresh ink to beautify.
I was hidden.

I wanted my room to be black so that I could
cocoon myself in pity
I wanted my bed to be black
so I could crawl into a ball
and return to the womb
because slumber was the only time I was happy
when the night fell and the blue sky
was turned black
I thought of death
hanging bodies
mutilated corpses on my floor.
I was terrified. This colour that gave way to such images
was the colour I wanted to be
and to immerse myself in.

These spirits of death and decay followed me
until I was left entirely alone
with no friends
and no one to call.
It was just me and God.
And in that loneliness I could hear Him
calling to me.
When hurricanes sweep your life
and your possessions are flying about your head
when screams are ringing in your ears
and your house, the very foundations of your being
are cracking and crashing to pieces
you cannot hear the person calling your name
to bring you to safety.
It’s only in the eye, the silent circle of calm
that things finally make sense.
So as I stood in the eye of the storm of my life
I heard God. And His voice was sweet
like a hummingbird
whistling to the forest.
I began to return to Him.

With this newfound friendship
I became best friends with two colours:
Black and Red.

 

Black is onyx.
Black is the darkness that enshrouded
the Son as He waited
behind the stone of His resurrection
the onyx that waited in this garden
with two guards beside
and turned into a pearl
when He was risen.
Onyx stands for my resurrection
from a sinner
drenched in death
to one saved by grace
and saturated with the whiteness of
His righteousness.

Red is blood.
Red is the blood that dripped
from His brow
as He hung on the tree of death for me

when it fell to the ground
in a shower of rubies
and hit the soil
that was unworthy to absorb it.
Red is the love that He had for me
whilst I mutilated the body He gave me
and carved graffiti on
His temple walls.

Red is His compassion
that whilst I cloaked myself
in darkness
and observed my blood
trailing down my arm,
He observed and He cried
and He bled, to remind me that
mine should never be shed.
Red is the fruit of the spirit
that He wanted me to bear
and the spiritual gifts
that He gave to me
to write about the things that have come to pass

Red is His Passion.
Red is my Passion.
And with this passion
I will praise Him.