Your name

There are many names for pain
every poet wrote of sadness
Rupi, Beau, Najwa, Azra,
Cristina, Noor, adhocscrap.
These are the names of sadness
and hope, and strength too –
I don’t get that bit so much
I like it, but I don’t get it –
but their pain is mine
exactly mine. I get that part
On the other hand,
there is only one name for joy,
and it’s a secret, and it is lost.


How are you?

I sometimes wonder if honesty is selfishness. It’s easier for me not to filter what I say, not make the difficult judgements about what to withhold. I know that what I’ve said has hurt sometimes, and I know also that I’ve diminished myself in your eyes by showing you all my shame, all my desperation, all my humiliation. And despite this indiscriminate and devastating openness, still there has been so much misunderstanding, and so much hurt from that misunderstanding.

So has honesty worked? I can’t say that it has.

And yet. There are many unique aspects to your place in my life, and one of them is this: from you I withhold nothing. You are the only one. Probably the last one, too, as I say I don’t know if this has been good for us and I don’t think I’d try it again.
Sure, there are things I don’t talk about, polite fictions I maintain, because you’ve said you’re not interested in knowing those depths. But if you asked – you can have anything. Know anything.

So maybe if I was kinder, or more generous, or less selfish, I would tell you:
I’m doing fine. I think fondly of you, but it’s over, and I’ve moved on. It was good, even great, and though I wish I’d handled its ending better, I accept now that it’s over, and I’ve moved on.

But that’s not the truth.

The truth is that everything changed with you. The truth is that it can never really be over. The truth is that every time I see you – every time, all this time later – I am right back in that room, with the length of your body against mine, your head on my shoulder, and your soft voice in my ear whispering your secrets into me. The truth is that I’m lonely with everyone but you, and only with you am I found, and the last time I was happy was before you turned away. And still, after all this time, the only time I know peace is those few occasions when we meet, and have time and space to sit, and your soft voice is in my ear, saying anything at all.

So if I say I’m fine, it means I think I might survive the grief, and if I say I’ve moved on, I mean I’ve moved on from you to the emptiness of after you, and if I’ve accepted it’s over that means I’ve learnt to live without hope.

If you asked, that’s what I’d tell you.

You don’t want to matter that much, to anyone. You need not to matter that much. Telling you all this would hurt you. Maybe next time you ask I’ll have the strength to keep it to myself. Or maybe you’ve learned not to ask.  Maybe that’s for the best.

The beholder

How to write about loss
and ordinary days?
The banality of grief
and the terror of knowing that
the sun at
the centre of my universe
is a cold and guttering spark.
The flame that my glittering
moth-winged soul desired
was a smoking, stinking lamp.
But why could you not take the beauty
that I clothed you in
and wear it, glory in it?
So utterly convinced that it was not for you
that you had to tear it off
throw it to the gutter
and then deny it ever existed.
While I was on my knees in the mud
weeping and searching for the pieces
all you had for me was a shrug:
“well, if you like playing in the dirt…
I have more important things to do”.

But I didn’t make that garment for you.
I tried, but I never
could make one for anyone else. No,
all I did was find it,
and see it, and love it. And
I saw you and loved you for it –
a capital crime –
which had to be erased:
you are not the you I saw,
I am not the me I know,
there is no love; only fantasy,
delusion, and a momentary infatuation.
Or: denial, fear, old deep hurt; two small
children crying in the dark in their separate cells
inside our ribs; but mine saw yours; and yours
it was another trick.

How can I stop wanting you?
I can’t believe
weakness is all there is,
or that safety lies in no hope.
I see your cruelty and your frailty,
yes, and I see all your defeats and your
desperate hopeless pride, and I taste
like metal on my tongue
the humiliations I’ve embraced;
but in another breath
the next clock tick
a shift of the light
and there you are
the you that lost the war
the you that could be
that still is, in there,
and in me.
I see that too.
I can’t stop seeing it.

Unwanted gift

Thanks to
My stubborn flesh
And thrice stubborn catcher
the gravity
At the cliff is
Weaker now.
And so I’m stuck
With this unwanted gift
Tried to return it
But it was damaged goods.
It never worked anyway
So I’ve always said
And market surveys confirm.


I lose you again and again.
That crashing, world-splitting realization that you are gone,
that cataclysmic rupture in the walls of denial. A
tidal wave of grief and loss pours through.
I drown for a day. Two days. Three days.
I know I’m going to die, which calms me a bit.
I go over again all the ways and cross them off one by one – too messy, too traumatic for others, too painful. How can I make it look like an accident? Too much trouble. Stumped.
My beautiful catcher shines a torch onto the mud-drenched debris field I’m sitting in, and pulls me to me feet, and I cycle through
I can live because I no longer hope for anything
I can just live in the moment
I have finally, finally, this time, given up on you
I have grown past this grief, and can love you without needing you
I try to hate you and move on to spite you, but that one never works, so I keep going past that and on to
The pain will never go away, but I can handle it, I will just live in pain
I’ve let you go
I can never let you go
I’ll try to live a life that you’ll approve of
One day there’ll be someone else who makes me feel the way I did with you
I lay these planks over the mudflats and try to walk on them, and for a while things settle down and even, a few days, I’m happy. Two weeks. A month after the end of the world. If it’s a good run I make some plans. Any plans at all are a novelty.
I dare to think – what next? How can I live my totally altered life? I’ve learnt so much, surely it can be a good life? I have wisdom now. All I need is a goal. And then
I realize
is you.
And you are gone.
And I lose you like it’s the first time the unimaginable end of everything happened. Again. And again.