Missing: Creativity. Last seen 15 years ago

There, below the skin, sleep keloid scars. They run across the insides of my hands, on the quiet side of each palm.

Death lies underneath the smooth shiny witness. The embryonic bones of brush strokes and pencil marks that miscarried. The imprint of a pen and the touch type calluses never made.

I pull pull at the skin. Thirsty and dry I see overworked tools that bled for a life. Lines guide my nails. Incisions follow. I wonder what lies beneath the scar tissue.

Maybe brush, pen and keyboard will conceive something from a dusty blueprint. And maybe I won’t find keloid scars. Maybe they’ve only ever been coarse scabs that need to be picked awake

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The abattoir

Her head swung, sank down to her knees.
She fell on her side like a felled oak and all the grounds of the earth thundered.
The dry grass under her weight died another dainty death.
The red stopped seeping eventually
But by that time the inch thick layer of liquid
had reached us all.
Hind legs and feet looked on, safe
While front hooves grew sticky and red
I could not abandon her,
Watched paralysed until they nudged me away.
I heard the axe chop cut kill her over and over.
Later they skinned her.
Tore hide from flesh and hung it
in the back of the abattoir.
I could smell my turn somewhere near the future.
I looked down and saw mother’s life coating my left foot
And a cry left me.

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Finding me

Does anyone know how they arrive at a destination that prior to one’s arrival seemed so implausible? Days used to plod along and life was ok and I thought we’d just keep going. Ok so it was a bit awful sometimes but generally things could always have been worse and yeah I thought life was liveable.

Only it wasn’t ok.

I thought I was happily married. No actually I really did believe. I wasn’t pretending to friends and family. I didn’t feel I was living a lie because when big things that were fucking awful happened I told a few people but in a ‘haha can you believe this guy?’ kind of way which in hindsight undermined the severity of the situation. Somethings I just absorbed the misery through my skin and felt it poison then become part of my blood stream. I survived by holding onto tomorrow. And to the memories of a distant past. And that made the today of it all, the constant tension, a little less piercing. But you know the funny thing is that despite seeing myself as ‘happily married’ I sort of suspected that I was not happy. The me in it all had disappeared and didn’t matter because the married part of who I was had consumed my individual sense of self. I battled to make family and marriage and home work even as my husband sought to destroy it all. I gave me away. My happy was irrelevant. My despair and sadness just sat in the pit of me and I forgot I existed. I didn’t know that I mattered and had a right to happiness. It was all about him.

Now I look in the mirror and see myself for the fist time in years and I see lines and 15 years of trauma written across my face. I see ageing and time lost. And I fret and see no hope of love because I’ve lost the commodity of youth. And I fight with myself not to look back or forward but to see ME in the mirror now. Limb by cell by thought I pull myself out of the grave I have been buried alive in. Each day I hope to see a little more daylight. Each day I hope that I will find who I am again. I hope too that it happens before I die a real death so that I’ll at least have known and loved myself a little in this lifetime of mine.

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Maze

Leaves conspire against me and cling to the shadows they cast. The future is impenetrable. Like the fog he conjured up in front of my face. Dusk is moments away. I look up and see half the sky bathed in a tangerine pink haze. The other half is a tragic indigo. It mourns itself. Should the rain fall right now the drops would be tears and the water would wash away the meandering stains on my cheeks. I can not get out. Beyond each corner is a wall of forest green blocking my escape. I was in too deep. I didn’t know how to exhale because he’d had his hands around my throat for such a long time. Eyes bulged and the veins at my temples squirmed like worms under the skin. He let me go. Chose not to murder me. Seemed bored by it all. By the small deaths. I still couldn’t see clearly and walked right into this network of traps and illusions. I look up. I’ve missed it: the sky blinking. Now all of a sudden it is nighttime. And again I can’t see the woods for the trees, the leaves for the maze, the night for the dark. I can’t see the way out. Still, I must forge on.

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Mother tongue

I have no other tongue but this one.
No rising intonation singing a tropical song
Then turning in a flash to lash.
No deep belly switching of codes
No knowing eruptions.

It’s root was severed
like Beloved’s head.

Slashed.

In my babe’s mouth tears fell as blood
and my tongue
swung
low.

I grew a phantom.
Pink and white it blossomed.
Hungry for all the crannies and crevices.
It sought out walls and confines.
Found it could move and throw words out into the world.
Singular and wide
my tongue held onto English sounds.
Comforting and complete
not fragmented and impenetrable.
We adopted each other in the ether
while mother and father
tongues turned away.
Each to their own
leaving me an orphan.

My heart dances to soukous
but moves deaf to Swahili.
Shona is only a thundering vibration.
I still speak with a timbre.
My voice still finds it’s way home.
But my once new sprung tongue
is of this isle
And when it lashes, thrashes and loops
It is unashamed.
My tongue is mine own
And I claim it fiercely.

Inspired by ‘Epilogue’, Grace Nichols, The Fat Black Woman’s Poems, 1984

Beloved ref to Toni Morrison novel of the same name.
*Shona is spoken by Zimbabweans
*Swahili is spoken by Kenyans. It is also spoken in other East African countries.

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01.48am

Retrograde plays in the pitch
Palm rests centre of rib cage, fingers upon my breast
And I vibrate with each out of sync heart beat.
Under each eyelid I can see each rise and fall.
I can hear my own silent song
Base notes strong and faithful.
Stretched limbs let the sounds take over.
Blake’s echo fills the room, swirling and at once I am under the wave
Warm and suicidal I let the water slip like syrup into my lungs.
I surrender to the arrest.
Then the tide subsides
And the black summer’s night returns.
A hollow velvet.

It is time to tune out, to sleep.

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