The Monster

There’s a monster in my chest
He beats my heart like drums
I’m choking on this blood of mine
That’s pooling in my lungs.

I feel as though I’m drowning
And my vision’s turning white
Blur before me, avalanche
Tell me that I’m right.

There’s a hole inside my body
Where you’ve eaten me away
I squint through colour, motion, shame
I stumble to the end of days

Jerusalem falls around me
The soldiers at the wall
Have laid siege to my temple
Just a day too long

It’s October, when I crumble
Flames burn away my gold-tinged skin
I fall like Autumn leaves
And whisper curses to the wind.

There was something here, once
A beauty to be had
But I lost that, oh years ago
When everything turned bad

I am the image of no one.
The sky is empty tonight
My limbs are dead around me
And my neck is flecked with blight.

I zone out to rope and medicine
And vomit down my front
There are monsters haunting me
From which I turn and run

They’re down every hallway
Handprints on every wall
They’ve cracked every floorboard
Pandemonium feels so small.

My body’s not my own now
I’m blood and flesh and shame
That’s why I call him Monster
For I do not know his name

Tears rip through my eyelids
And spill right down my face
This isn’t what I wanted
This boiling, burning place.

But I see him when I close my eyes
And count, so slow, to ten
I choke on black and empty space
And whisper my amen.

I’m begging you to save me
Just pull me out of here
I don’t know if I want to die
But I do want to disappear.

I want you to rest me easy,
Cotton, for my face,
Press til I stop kicking,
And over me, say grace.

Purge the evil from this vessel
And rid the monster, yes
I s’pose I’ll meet you in the elsewhere
It’s not for me to guess.

A Request for Gabriel

There’s a place that I call home
Just beyond the sea
Underneath the cotton clouds
An island far from me

My lover stands there waiting
And the land is touched by god
It’s Genesis over again
My name is Eve will you be my friend

We’ll say no to snakes of old
And be the ones legend foretold
We’ll be all human no mistakes
So take me there before I wake

There are times I close my eyes
And listen for the angel cries
I know that you don’t look how they say you do

No golden curls for boys and girls
Hair like light and eyes like pearls
Four wings and arms entrenched in sight
I’ll stare right back you can tell Him that I tried

Look past my face and see my words
Blessings please, I feel so cursed
I don’t know what it means to be
But I think I’m just done with being me

So take me to the island
My hand’s open arms outstretched
A close ending’s not what I want
But it’s really not farfetched

There are tubs of raven ink left
And three quarters half the pages
Would you write it for me?
Make an opus for the ages

I’m not quite The Redeemer
But I sure can try my best
Try not to sin when I see Bathsheba
But I’ll die like all the rest

And that’s not what I’m fighting
Conventional is what I crave
But I won’t get that here
I don’t think I’m quite that brave

Eighty years upon this rock?
Saying I can is empty talk
I don’t want to break this promise

Cos Gabriel, I know what happens
I know, I know how I end
The broken nib, the broken pens
Send me, send me my godsend

A forest of green and grass and tree
A view of ocean, sand, and sea
My Adam laying next to me

This is what I asked for
My heart’s already there
If I ask you everyday
Will you answer my prayer?

Will I be there when I wake?
A fresh new start, worlds apart
Eden’s here I’m out the dark
And the sunlight feels so warm on my face
Is this, what you meant by grace?

From the Sirens Who Fell in Love With the Sailors Instead

I’m hanging between your fingers
Like a puppet on a string
I’ll do anything that you wanted
I’ll do any goddamn thing

I used to stand still like the rocks
But the oceans were stronger than me
Storms came and waves hit
And now I lay in the sea

I’m brittle sand at the shoreline
Shape me into what you want
I’ll do anything that you wanted
You won’t believe there was fight in me once

And one day I will be happy
Underneath the sea
Let waves crash
Let storms brew
Above and beyond me

The rest rest with dirt past your elbows
And soil above their heads
While I’ll choke on fish bones
In my salty seawater bed

The ocean has made me a promise
A pact and a truce if you will
It’ll take me beneath folding waves
I promised it that I’ll behave

No turning back
No turning back

I’ve swam out quite a way now
My feet are touching the floor
You won’t find me my darling
You won’t see me anymore
You can’t rescue me this time
You can’t rush through the door
I’m opening my mouth now
The damage is already done
Don’t wait for me at the coastline
Listen, please, just run.

Heidi

[Wow I managed to write a song that wasn’t about a subject matter entirely horrendous. Unrequited love is more conventional, at least]

There are words between my lips
Words that I dare not say
I think of love and years
Of recalling yesterday.

I may be foolish but not stupid
Yes I fell in love with a ghost
I’ll try and purge you from my memory
Yes I’ll do my utmost.

Maybe that’s what sets me apart
From all the other guys
Who slept with you one winter day
And fell in love with your eyes.

They didn’t look away quick enough
They fell into a trance
And thought Heidi’s really lovely
I’m sure she’ll give me a chance.

No, me I know your power
I was out the door that night
I thought about you as I crossed the road
At the green traffic lights

You make my mind so silly
And you make my heart cry loud
But I know that it is fruitless
I’m just another in a crowd.

There are realms of guys who love you
In every town and every place
That you’ve ever graced your presence
In silken skirts, lipstick and lace

I’m really not that special
I’m mediocrity at best
Unexceptional to you
Yes I’ll fade into the rest.

Some days I think about you
If you’re cov’ring something up
That’s why you pick up people put them down
Like we put down coffee cups

Is there a hole inside your ribcage?
Where a broken heart does beat?
And a voice in your head that tells you
To throw yourself a thousand feet

I may not be as pretty
Or have the same way to cope
But Heidi please just listen
Just know you’re not alone

You deserve a nicer world
And you deserve a kinder mind
An inside voice as lovely
As the one you use outside.

I don’t expect one thing from you
Not a smile not a kiss
Oh I just want you better
You’d be terrible to miss.

The Hands of Time

[The following was my entry to a short story competition hosted by Leeds Trinity University. I’m delighted to say I received third prize, and some very lovely feedback from the author Martyn Bedford.]

 

The heavens burn like they’re going down in a blaze of glory- a battle waging above the clouds of an Autumn Munich sky. Lotte stares out, past the curve of the earth, glassy-eyed with her lips parted like she’s whispering secrets that get whisked away by the wind before they reach me. I say her name softly and she tilts her head to face mine. There remains an emptiness behind her eyes that stays just long enough to scare me.

“Lotte,” I say again, hoping my concern keeps out of my mouth.

She says my name back to me, smiling weakly. My worries don’t meet my lips, as she’d want, and instead they fester in the bottom of my throat like honey, spoiling like old fruit.

A gust of wind forces its way through the city streets, leaving a symphony of rattling cans and whistling windows in its wake. Up on the rooftops we get the worst of it. My short, lemon coloured bird’s nest of a hairstyle does little to protect me from the chill. Not for the first time I find myself wishing I’d brought a hat. A lock of dark hair sticks to Lotte’s face and I grace my fingertips to her cheek as I brush it off. Her eyes flicker down as if I’d left fingerprints there and she brushes her hair behind her ears, looking back at me with an expression that feels almost like mischief.

“Out here?” She says playfully.

Relishing in rare light heartedness, I shush her and we giggle. I remember the times we went to the cinema, back before everything escalated and we found ourselves having to resort to rooftops and alleyways. I wish I had a camera- a big one with reels of frames and film. I wish I could record her laughter, capturing the crinkle of her eyes and the pull of her lips and the flash of Hollywood glamour, right here in our little corner of Germany. I’d replay it forever – a looping reminder that there’s still joy to be had- in her, in me, in all of this.

I don’t like the films they show anymore. Lotte isn’t allowed in there anyway.

“Your face is so cold,” I say.

“Almost as if it’s October.”

“You can come back to mine, you know – anytime you want to.”

Her face falls and I curse myself.

“I can’t…”

“My family like you, always have. They won’t mind, promise.”

“And my family worry about me…” She looks down. “And I them. You know how it is now.”

There it is again – the caveat to all our plans. The head of the waterfall that she tells me about. The new rules and the new words and Anton Weber clad in a pressed uniform and a superiority complex acting as if he spent a day between 35 and 38 sober, telling my mother to keep her daughter away from Lotte. She’s never referred to by her name, of course. They call her all manner of things I know she isn’t. They call her a thing she is as if it’s an insult. As if her being a Jude, spat with whatever level of venom the hurensohn feels like expressing, negates everything else about her.

Lotte is a better person than I could ever hope to be. If she hadn’t spent every day of school having her hair pulled and her clothes torn and her skin scratched until she stopped going she’d have got the grades to go to Heidelberg and she’d be out of here. She’d have left everyone who cursed at her in the dust. In the aftermath of Kristallnacht and the legislation that came after, she told me it was a good thing she had left. Imagine, she’d said, if I had got the grades and found out I was banned from going anyway.

I couldn’t even look her in the eye on the day the news came out. The headlines stained the paper with a terrible permanence that felt like it was written in more than just ink. It’s only a month ago now and it feels like everything’s has gotten worlds worse since.

“It’ll get better,” I tell her. “It’ll be okay, in the end.”

She takes a second to register it. Then her eyes light up with anger and frustration, lips pursing, eyebrows upturning. I startle.

“No, it won’t,” she spits. “You’re so stupid.”

She draws her knees up to her face and hugs herself close, making herself as little as possible and she looks out to the horizon with a fierceness that rivals the spilled reds and oranges of sunset.

“You’re so stupid,” she repeats, quieter this time. “You’re so stupid and hopeful and wrong and I wish you were right but you’re not.”

She lets go of herself and she slumps, barely keeping herself propped up on her forearms.

“I’m sorry,” I say quietly.

“Don’t be,” she says softly as she looks down.

A pregnant pause fills the air between us.

“I should get going. My family worry so much about me now.”

“I understand.”

“Really,” she says earnestly, an unwarranted apology flooding her face. “I wish I could stay.”

“No, no, Lotte it’s fine. When I say I understand I don’t mean it like… passive aggressively. I mean it as in… y’know, I understand.”

She laughs, “you do.”

“Understand?”

“Like no one else,” she says, taking in my expression. “C’mon, you think I’d be on rooftops in October if I didn’t think you were pretty special?”

I blush at the tone of her voice, letting my eyes flicker away to stare intently at the edge of a tile and hope she’s looking away when I look back. She isn’t, a flirtatious smile drawing her full lips wide and her sooty lashes narrow slightly. For a second, I can’t take my eyes off those lips, drawn in by cupid’s bow and vermillion. Then she moves closer and I close my eyes and she’s kissing me.

She tastes like sugar and she feels like home. Cold but delicate hands cup my face. A finger traces my jaw. It’s been months since we’ve done this. It feels like years ago and yesterday and I’ve thought about it every night and now it’s happening and it’s here and God, it’s better than I remembered.

Eventually, she pulls away, pressing one last, quick peck to the corner of my mouth before joining me in gasping. I feel a smile creep on my face and she grins back at me before looking back to the sky and taking her own turn blushing.

Carefully, I undo my hair ribbon and tie it around the exposed skin of her neck. My hands are frozen with cold, but I manage a wonky, pink bow.

“How do I look?”

“Pretty,” I say. “As always.”

She leans into me and of all the horrible four-letter words flitting about the country she whispers to me the prettiest one. Then with one last squeeze of my shoulder she’s gone, footsteps disappearing behind me until they meet the clatter of the metal stairwell. I think over the words we exchanged, trying to find between them the ones we didn’t.

It’ll be okay, in the end.

She hasn’t been gone for more than a minute, my stomach already aching in her absence, and I realise the only thing I want more than her is to be right.

 

Summer Wine

A line of kisses down my front,
The stitching from my head to heart,
Where you live amongst the scarlet,
As if I knew you from the start.

Your skin’s the shade of fresh milk,
The top – the froth beneath the lid,
Spoiled, with bruises like,
The fruit the farm hands hid.

If your neck is peach your hair is lemons,
Squeezed for the finest lemonade,
Tart – not bitter – the colour of summer,
For dizzy dreams beneath the shade.

I lay beside the fallen trunk,
Delirious from pollen and drunk on wine,
I’m in heaven when I’m here with you,
Wishing for a stretching, endless time.

But your eyes flutter open, widen still,
Push willow leaves behind your ear,
I’m sorry, I really should get going
Into the evening light you disappear.

The Prettiest Plot in the Graveyard

[I wrote this as a song, but you can read it as a poem too if you’d like]

 

Maybe a daffodil will grow from the cracks of my skin
Blooming just adjacent to my lips
I hope the buds stay open longer than my eyes
I hope that moss will cover my closed lids.

Bury me between two sturdy tree trunks
A willow or an oak with bluebells there
Crawling up the bark to reach the heavens
In an intimate, a longing kind of prayer

Gardeners will guard my grave like angels
I’ll take dirt stained jackets over wings any day
The clean, bright world above has always scared me
But I know I have to go I cannot stay.

There are things I cannot tell you so let the questions die with me
Don’t wonder why I’m going all too much
I’ve told the answers only to the September wind
Don’t listen to its whistles, feel its touch

Plant roses round my gravestone til you can’t see it anymore
I want to commemorate the living more than me
No one’s ever happy thinking about dead girls
So please hide it – I don’t want the world to see

I want their eyes on nature and on beauty
On the curve of crimson petals and daisy-grass
I may be gone but keep my inch of the world pretty
And through seasons and through years I will last.