I learned that even the worst times will end. That after a day of struggling to breathe, there could still be a moment of stillness, and the beauty of a sunset could be the only thought in my head. I learned to expect it, and wait for it, and rely on it. When I was curled up on the floor unable to do anything, still there was room for a little voice saying “I know how this goes. I’ll wait it out. I don’t know how long it will take, but I can wait it out.”
In the seconds before waking each day
I think of you with joy
know we are connected
know we are together.
And I remember you are gone.
The crushed hope of the previous day
comes back, even while the hope for today
is forming. Knowing it’s doomed I birth it anyway.
I open my eyes each day
to a world blurred by tears
and my first breath is sticky with grief.
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.
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.
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.
The sky tells me it sees me
And tells me it doesn’t care
It’ll watch my bones return to the earth
While it gently ruffles my hair
My stubborn flesh
And thrice stubborn catcher
At the cliff is
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.
Don’t remember me
Don’t ask me if I’m ok.
Don’t pencil me in
or get back to me.
Don’t think of me.
Don’t wish me well.