Surgery.

When I look at you, my love,

I see you made up of wool and speed –

Of fast talking and laughter rolling  –

you are a million cups of tea and the taste of it

gone cold, you are a warm place to crawl into.

I don’t see you like you do.

If I was to draw you, I would draw a blur

passing me by.

I would edge it with red crayons,

or gold, or orange,

that tingling heat I feel when you brush past –

our little fields of electricity

crackling against eachother –

that’s how I would draw

the feeling of almost touching.

Don’t ask me to speak of your faults –

I don’t see your broken parts, the things you hate –

that scar on your forehead is a place for kisses

and frowns, and books read before the sun is up.

The puckering flesh on your shoulder is

a night time map  –

I brush my nose against it in the dark –

your scent taking me back to sleep.

Don’t ask me to hate it.

And the tumourous mass that clings and grows,

that you hate to look at, hate me to look at, well,

when I touch it,

when you let me touch it,

when you are asleep and I touch it,

ever so gently,

I can feel your heartbeat.

Impossible to hate something so full of you.

Don’t ask me to do it.

I don’t want them to cut you up.

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Faltering

Every day I wake up with the same question: How broken do you really feel?

Sometimes questions follow me around – for a month or two the question lies there, my first and last thought, and at my most distracted moments, my only thought. I sometimes believe it is my unconscious voice, the part of me that needs to make itself heard, gently pulling at the sleeve of my mind, hoping to receive attention.

How broken do you really feel?

It’s easy to lie to yourself, but it takes self management. It takes thought and control, it takes effort to tell yourself lies. And sometimes, if you let your guard down for a moment, perhaps when pausing at the start of a blank page, another voice begins to speak.

I understand my Psyche in a very distinct way; there is a little girl with holes in her eyes who lives somewhere inside and then there is my outside self; the woman with all the labels. Wife. Friend. Sister. Daughter. Even mother, maybe. The little girl has claws and teeth and tears for hair sometimes, other times she is quiet and grown and gentle. When the woman with all the labels starts to lie, starts to pile things up, the little girl begins to ask questions:

How broken do you really feel?

She’s invested in my brokeness – she is made up of it. She carries all of my scars on her arms, all of my wounds. If I ignore her she starts to rage; she cannot be ignored. She must be loved, placated, tendered into kindness – without attention her teeth will grow and her claws will sharpen and before long I will have a beast inside me tearing me up and it will be my fault. I have not listened to her. I have not listened to her questions.

How broken do you really feel?

It’s not a threat but it is a warning. Look at me, she is saying, Look at me again.

Do you feel well? Do you feel broken?

Can you be honest about your pain?

When the woman with all the labels tries to stick those labels over her, she begins to speak, the little girl who needs to be loved. Her healing is my healing. Her scars are my scars. Can I be honest about my pain, my fears?

It’s the only way to keep her safe, to keep me safe, to keep us both safe from the infinite whirlpool of depression. It’s a long way down. Better watch your step.

So I am listening. I am trying to listen.

The diagnosis.

I am defining the terms of this fight,

my love,

I call them out from the sidelines – write them on your arms,

carve them on your heart:

I will not shout, I will not cry, I will not hold you if you die.

A little rhyme to know it’s not quite serious,

but just enough. Our hands lie together on

the starting line, chalk on my nails, on top of your IV tube.

My darling, don’t fall now, just as we begin.

They’ve pumped you with poisons and water ready to run and fall and

run again, and here I am, ready to smile and laugh and pretend

this is all a friendly match.

Nothing to fear. Nothing to lose.

But you must run like hell,

my love,

run like hell.

I’ll wait for you at the finish line.

Meet me there.

Teeth and Claws

‘I am all teeth and claws today.’

My mother says it to herself as she hobbles

to the kettle, the medication,

the chalky pills she’ll chuck down inside,

hoping that they calm the fire in her bones

and the brutality of her tongue.

She’s mean, but she doesn’t mean to be.

Tiredness makes her cruel in the evenings;

‘Should you be eating that?’

Her snide voice enters my mouth alongside

the piece of chocolate, piece of cheese, piece of

comfort I’m consuming and turns it to bile.

I gulp.

I say nothing.

In the morning she will be all contrition –

‘You look lovely today, I like you’re hair -‘

But teeth and claws are drawn tonight

and she’s scraping away at my skin, picking off the fat,

licking her lips on delicious bites.

I am meaty, ripe for first blood.

I will lie awake tonight,

my fingers smoothing the bulge of my stomach

my mind turning in on itself as I ravage,

drawing out my own bloodied teeth

sharpening my old trusted claws to tear myself apart.

I will forgive her in the morning.