White Walls

I’m thinking. Beware.
The best thing about my mother’s kitchen
is that the walls were white when we moved in;
within a month they embarked on a journey
to a well-deserved tobacco yellow.
I walk in and she’s sitting, Virginia Menthol in her hand
(I got her on those when she had a cold);
the smoke rises straight up then it swerves,
I lean on the door.
She guesses, “Wine,” and cuddles me
when I kneel to cry on her lap.
She puts a fag in my mouth
and I soak it through with salt.
“Cry, baby,” she says and I do until
there are no more tears to be shed.
She pours whiskey and says, “I told you not to stray,
don’t drink anything else when you’re sad.”
I want to tell her, “It was bad, Mama. They laughed at me.”
but she doesn’t know the quote
and I don’t want to translate it.
She puts me to bed and kisses my forehead;
I wait until she’s gone and cry for an hour until
my sheets are see-through and my lashes
are brush bristles caked with the sea.
These walls I’m between now are too clinical,
I sit in the shower, my tears too thin to roll down,
they stop on my cheekbones. I want to lick them.
I want to tie my heart to my ankles
and jump in a river of my tears.
I want my tears to fuck and have baby tears –
I’ll raise them right, they’ll never disrespect a woman.
I want my tears to be soothing but instead
when they finally fall they burn my breast,
they cling and I claw at my skin.
These walls are too white and I ache;
in the mirror, my lips are moving and they say,
“It was bad, Mama.” I shut my eyes to stop the sound,
my skin is raw, my mother would put honey on it
and kiss it with her thin lips;
she would tell me that the night is the mother of counsel
and I would wonder if the mother of counsel had blue eyes.
She’d call and ask if I’ve eaten and I pause
I don’t know how to tell her that eating alone in public
makes me so nervous I feel sick
that the laughter of people around me
is always about me
that the fork is as heavy as my heart
if I could lift it I’d plant it in my chest
and grow into an Iron Maiden –
shut so tightly no one could hear me cry from inside.
She calls and asks if I’m happy today and Mum!
I can’t tell you yes so I tell you I’m fine
and you pause because you know I’m lying,
you tell me everything will be fine and I pause
because I know you’re lying.
She tells me to be strong and I want to scream
because I am so weak my bones are melting in my skin:
a puddle of marrow and shrapnel from a war I never wanted
and lost before I fought it.
I’m thinking. Beware.

Travel Writing; The Intertextual

or Bed Sans Breakfast

Did you know that there is a hollow I like to crawl into and breathe?
It rests at the end of your sternum, and it fits my chin perfectly.
I travel lazily up your skin
as if the warmth will stay forever, as if days wouldn’t turn into nights.
I travel to it like a Disney princess who has not become a Disney princess,
like a Snow White whose organs are threatened,
like a Cinderella who has been abused,
like a princess before she was subjected to unnatural proportions
and to forty personality tests on Buzzfeed,
to the legacy of having to lie to children about that time when the dwarves and I –
I travel like a pilgrim who believes but doesn’t but does but just think!
think how amazing this temple will look on Instagram!
There’s an old story where I come from about a mean old lady
who wore nine coats at the end of winter and shed one every day, convinced spring had come
she died because she miscalculated and I travel with all of the coats in the world
stuffed under my skin to keep me safe; I feel like a toy on the highest shelf
in the last aisle and not because I’m precious but because
no one cares enough to get a ladder and reach me;
I’ve been there all my life, the last of the toys that people ask about
and are turned away – all the employees are people with degrees
and I want to shout from my shelf, but I’ve been there for so long
that my mouth, the one they sewed with red string has fallen.
I travel like the blind, clueless wandering with my arms out;
my eyes are shut and the voices behind them shiver with anticipation,
my hands search for me, I have learned the planes of your body,
the Elysian Fields, the afterlife of the righteous, the plains of togetherness
hidden in the evening air; I feel I could travel until the end of time and even then
when my eyes open and yours are on mine, I would finally see for the first time.
I travel across your ribs like fingertips on a keyboard birthing this poem,
my lips are chapped when they follow and I fear I will lose myself through the cracks;
I can see self-consciousness pouring in the hollow that is reserved for my chin
I can see dismissal and I can see my lips when they linger, dry and concerned;
your hand on the back of my head keeps me there:
I rejoice in not having to take another decision – I lick my lips.
I travel your jawline like a daredevil on a thread above a pit of snakes;
your smile moves me and I slide into your collarbone
I feel so content that if I were to fall, I’d rise like the snake queen:
a happy Medusa, an icon for fertility and happiness, a mad reversed world!
I would depart from the Gorgon and settle for Georgian,
Blake and Keats and Burns would carry my poetry inclined snakes to dinner
and we would sit and eat and drink and I would sleep on a bed of Romantics.
I travel like a body falling in a dream and when I come back to your skin
I feel decades have passed; we are still in my bed and your hand is warm on my back
it moves in slow circles and it occurs to me that perhaps you’re travelling too;
you run your fingers through my hair and I curse Ariel for not breaking Eric’s hand to use as a comb;
I wonder if I would give my voice up for a man, and I don’t have an answer stronger than no.
I travel like a suitcase through four different airports, hauled from one to the other
but when you hold my chin and you kiss my lips, chapped and with unsealed cracks
that could allow me to lose myself, I feel like my hand is a handle and you’re taking me home.