Now the words come tumbling out; a sharp exhale before you jump into a mercury plunge pool. After months of them calcifying inside, holding on to them like a babe clings to its mother, suddenly emptiness is all that offers to take their place.
‘Hold out your hands,’ she says
and places the silver key on my palms,
it fits across both perfectly. ‘It can
open any door you choose, anywhere.
Keep it close, always.’
So I swallow the key. Safe in my belly
it stays, and safe from my memory
until every door I face
declares it’s locked.
It can’t be. It can’t be.
The memory stirs and I try to regurgitate.
It doesn’t work, and the doors laugh.
From inside me, the key calls out.
The doors are silenced by my voice.
I swallowed the key
and became it.
dusk creeping into my skin
but i’m not ready to sleep yet.
i can’t be petrified and forget
the smell of petrichor
as i walk through the long grass
in the mornings.
if it were another’s words
there would be no question that i would fight
but the fractal, small measurement of tar
blocking my ability
to raise fists,
forces me to kneel down and weep
as earth is piled over me.
it’s a shadow in my brain
a lurking, creeping, whispering thing
that doesn’t shy from light
but swallows it
if I do nothing
if I do nothing
if I do nothing
it will block me in. block, block, block
if I step into it, let it feed off me
and find my blood is its poison
my pulse is its poison
my heart is its poison. beat, beat, beat
it will shrivel up
and become nothing more than a stamp-sized portrait
reminding me that it rules
a memo note
it happened, it happened
but still I can stride
I can’t inhale the salt anymore,
I’ve become immune to it.
The course crystals on my tongue
might be grains of sand, fragments of places
history has long forgotten.
They’ve found me, and I am alive.
So they are alive.
The faces in the ocean, bloated, pale,
give me envious looks.
I chose to swim away on my own,
they chose to stay.
Refused the fresh air
so they could mingle, lungs full
of false laughter and smoke.
Mine are clean.
My heart is a trinket box
previously filled with costume jewellery
lovely in its own way
but I have sensitive skin
and you know how metals react with sensitive skin
I wore it often
thinking that I always would
claiming the style matched my own
even on days it turned my skin green
or threw up a rash.
It wasn’t until after a decade had passed
that it occurred to me I’d been avoiding
the obvious truth.
No matter how much I adored it
it was not a true match.
We weren’t compatible
in the way I thought
and gradually it had spilt out of my heart-box
leaving me empty.
enough to be filled
with something truly precious.
Not a trinket
not a necklace
not another box.
A living beating pulsing heart.
I’ve got eyes on my hands and they’re watching you.
They’re watching you even when I’m not.
I can’t stand to, you broke me.
Buried me under rags made to look like fine silk,
curse words uttered so sweetly they might be compliments,
palms to my cheek masquerading as gentle caresses.
I can see that change in your eyes
even when I don’t care to look.
Notice your posture straighten, lips purse.
I can look away, but the eyes on my hands
stay focused, recording your every move.
Frequency; time, date. Evidence.
The sofa in your attic room
is a long slab of dough;
I sink into it every time
I melt into the fibers
and hide there
until the storm
has passed over our heads –
the rage of alcohol
infects the whole street,
though the radiation-green trail
is a red-handed print from my house.
You tell me I can’t stay here
They’ll find me anyway,
better to turn myself in.
Part of me thinks you’re right.
Maybe my years of hiding
I’m supposed to be an adult soon, anyway.
Do adults really run
from their family?
You say you don’t know;
you’ve never had one.
I look at you, confused.
An empty room