My house is haunted by a little girl, a waist-length tangle of brown hair, and wide eyes the colour of an angry ocean. Her mother tells stories about those eyes: lids thrown like blinds from the moment she was born, greedy for light and life, tricking the nurses into adding hours to her age. I feel those eyes upon me a lot these days. No one else knows that she is here, but in those rare twilight moments when I am permitted my own company she follows me with questions: Where am I? she asks me, and: tell me a story, and: remember when? I don't know, I tell her, and: I don't know any, and: not anymore. Then she clenches her fists, her tiny body rocking with disappointment and rage. You lost me, she accuses. Maybe, I say. Bring me home, she pleads. How? I ask, even though I know the steps to this waltz, can see the circles worn into the floorboards and feel them in the soles of my feet. Open your eyes, she says. I am. Where is your wonder? Your awe? I gave them away, I tell her. So find more. I shake my head. Open your eyes. They are open! But all I can see is pain and fear and suffering and emptiness and death. Open them wider. It hurts. They cannot open as wide as yours. Be brave. I am not. Tell me a story. My eyes flicker to the bookshelf and the books I can no longer open. To long-expired daydreams left to curdle and rot. How do I tell the girl who loved nothing more than stories that I am too afraid to navigate them? Be brave, she says, but she has never choked on the words of a page, never drowned in the images of a screen. She has yet to learn that she is not the hero. That sometimes the hero leaves people behind. That you don't know until you turn the page who will be lost and who will be left to mourn them. And so she can't understand why I cannot turn the page. Please, she begs. Please, I echo. My house is haunted by a little girl whose greedy eyes, wide and angry like the ocean, devoured so much she forgot how to close them, and became a woman who could only look away. @amnotpoetry
This is the poem I can't write. I've never hit the backspace so many times, never scribbled out so many lines. This is the ball of yarn I'm not sure I'll ever untangle. The knot I've left unbrushed since childhood, but now it's so matted, it breaks all my scissors and combs. Look at me hiding behind metaphors because I'm afraid I'll cut my fingers on the point. Because the point is that I use other women to determine my self-worth. That I'm never sure if I'm good enough unless I'm the best and there is always someone better isn't there? That another women's success feels like a personal attack, and shit I don't want to talk about this but I think we need to talk about this, because every time I see a provocative woman I hate myself, and I hate her a little bit too. And I get the feeling I'm not the only one who uses an outdated rubric to determine their grade. The only one who needs a grade to feel they have value. God I want to scrub this off so hard that it stings. This inky stain ignored for so long it's become a tattoo so ugly I'd rather pretend it's a birthmark. Like envy was the sin assigned to me by God. Some days I look in the mirror and think I'm beautiful, not despite, not in comparison to. Just truth. And then I hear an old coworker telling me the hottest women are the ones who don't know it. A chorus of lamentation about my fat thighs. All the careful reminders that boys will jump when offered something better. And there's always something better isn't there? Now I've taken you down to the bottom of the well. This is where the echoes live, the place where I point fingers at corpses. Where I use other women's bodies as stepping stones to try to escape. Because we all want to escape. But this isn't a birthmark. And I don't believe in sin. Or God. Or unsolvable problems. So why the hell do I believe that anyone could be better? Or worse? And I think I'm scared to write because I don't know how it ends. I wish I knew how to translate thought into feeling. To transfigure conviction into belief. But I don't. I don't.
I started picking at the lock again the one I know I'm not supposed to pick the one I try to forget exists until I find my fingers bloody victims of the tic tick tick tick just need to hear the mechanism click but the keyhole always shifts one moment a beckoning silhouette of an evening off from the kids flickers into likes and follows blink and it's parental approval followed by a dick and then just as quick we're back to stranger's clicks and maybe a sugar fix or the eyes of the friend I haven't seen in years but I keep dreaming thinks of me and oops we're back to dicks and now skinny thighs but nothing fits and yes I've tried the trick with the credit card and one with knives and I'm afraid to go down that road again and so I'll carve myself a key of words and I know it will not work but at least the whittling keeps my fingers from picking what can't be picked @amnotpoetry
I got a case of the empties and no I don't mean a box of two dozen bottles smelling of stale beer waiting to be returned to be filled with fresh beer or shattered and melted forged into shiny new bottles maybe crafted to carry something different I mean the single empty bottle forgotten in the basement or under the patio or by the creek behind your house I mean the case of twenty-three waiting by the door until it's full enough to move on I mean the case of eleven also waiting because it was scavenged to add up to twenty-four I mean the case of five eleven twenty-three again case after case after case dangerously rattling for a gap that keeps opening up until you finally go digging in the basement under the patio by the creek but all you find are the bottles in old photos of your dead grandparents and the friends you never see and you can't recycle a memory so you keep searching through the places you used to drink together laugh together be together and nothing ever gets filled or broken down into anything that can carry something new I got a case of the empties a glass-sharp rattle begging to move on while I wait inside the door in case that single bottle decides to show up @amnotpoetry
keep yourself distracted do your CBT be on alert for distortions tune into reality have some self compassion make yourself a tea lock the bathroom door while the kids watch tv prioritize your committments schedule in a break sneak away when daddy's home and walk down to the lake see the violent dancing waves frothing as they crest imagine the water rushing in to fill the hollow in your chest blink away temptation and watch the swallows soar carefully count your breaths as you balance along the shore walk that tightrope line all around the bay see it stretched beneath your feet every single day kiss the kids goodnight get ready for tomorrow journal all your gratitudes into guilts for your sorrow wake with the dawn smile and try your best do it all again eventually there'll be rest write another poem but try hard not to whine tack on a clever ending and everything will turn out fine
Once more the venomous refrain comes to plague my weary brain: I am nothing. I am nothing. I am nothing. But I have found within each poison note lies concealed the antidote: I am I am I am So if upon your ears alight her onerous whispers in the night: You are nothing. You are nothing. You are nothing. Find the truth within the lie and perchance upon your lullaby: You are You are You are @amnotpoetry
You can also find my poetry on Instagram:
A random list of confessions:
-I read books out loud when I’m alone. And by read, I mean “act out emphatically.”
-Sometimes I tell my kids “no” when they ask for a cookie, and then eat one when they aren’t looking. It’s kind of a power trip.
-I struggle to read fiction about violence lately. And cheating. And prejudice. And death.
-I struggle to read or watch anything lately.
-In grade 9 I had a crush on my stage manager. Until now, I’ve only ever told one person about her.
-I think superheroes are the problem, not the solution.
-I’m pretty sure you don’t like me. You think I’m an annoying flake. Not you as in anyone specific, just specifically you.
-I think you’re right.
-I’m still sore about not beating my ex-boyfriend at Mortal Kombat after he assumed I hadn’t seen the movies because I’m a girl. “You wouldn’t get it,” he said.
-I didn’t read most of the books in university and still managed a decent grade. Most of the books were about war and rape.
-I’m very sensitive. Half of me thinks that makes me a better person, half thinks I’m just weak.
-I think you think I’m weak.
-I know you think I’m a disappointment because I decided to graduate without my honours. “A waste of potential.”
-I think it was the right decision.
-I want to succeed as a writer so you think it was the right decision.
-I think it was the right decision.
-I don’t trust my own opinion on anything.
-In grade 3, I brought a snow globe I loved for show and tell. I put it in my pocket and it broke during recess. On the bus home everyone thought I peed myself and laughed, but I refused to tell them the truth because I was so ashamed.
-I talk about myself so much not because I’m full of myself, but because I’m so empty and I think your validation will fill me. Probably there’s a hole somewhere I should fix.
-I’m not sure if this is a poem about me or you.
-I’m not sure this is a poem.
-I think raisin cookies are better than chocolate chip ones.
Before the pandemic I attended community potlucks. I folded my anxiety into a handkerchief, something to fiddle with in my pocket, as I planted the seeds of friendship. After the pandemic the potlucks were cancelled. Some members came out anti-science and my seeds have all failed to yield anything more than broken confidence. Before the pandemic I made my first ever parent friends. We met at the park most mornings, shared meals once a week, and took turns filling oxygen tanks. After the pandemic the housing market got so hot they left the country to cool down. Parks and tanks are left empty now and my lungs are learning to adapt. Before the pandemic we had library and market days. Familiar places, friendly faces, comforting routine and connection. A safety net of welcome and belonging. After the pandemic we found desks, stalls, and smiles vacant. I stretch my anxiety around my neck, a scarf to protect against the chill, and let my husband do the talking. Before the pandemic I didn't have many friends to talk to, but I called my Granny every day. After the pandemic I watched her get sick. Her number doesn't reach her anymore. Before the pandemic panic attacked once or twice a year. After the pandemic it has learned to hunt in packs. Before the pandemic nausea, dizziness and pain meant I was coming down with something. After the pandemic they mean that I am awake. Before the pandemic my husband and I talked about growing old together. After the pandemic he wonders if I'll make it through the week. Before the pandemic I believed in a future. After the pandemic. After the pandemic. When is After the pandemic? Before the pandemic there was no Before or After. Before the pandemic I didn't need to wait for an ending to begin. Before the pandemic is gone. And all we have to work with is now. At least that much hasn't changed.
If you want to check out the visual version of this poem and a lot of other poems that haven’t made it on the blog yet, make sure to check out my Instagram account @amnotpoetry.
Mid-autumn shrinking of days:
waves of midnight blue
lapping an island of grey cloud.
I watch their constant approach
and retreat, and think of how
my Granny used to call them the
longest days of the year.
To wake in the time-shrouding
darkness and not to know
whether you’ve slept early or late,
to pass the hours in a smothering
dimness that seems to seep
into the tiniest crack and expand
so that every interaction,
every experience, is muffled and flat.
I pretend this embrace is a comfort,
isolation an inspiration, but it is not.
I want to make beautiful things,
to weave words into brightness
that can outshine the fog,
cleave the day in two the way
my Granny’s phone calls used to.
Yet here I am complaining
about the weather because
the days are just too short.
Or maybe they’re too long.
Or maybe my Granny was wrong
and the days aren’t longer or shorter,
but heavier, so that even though
we carry them the same distance,
we are consumed in the effort.
And her calls made them so much
lighter because, for a while,
I didn’t have to carry them alone.
I dive so deeply into days
flooded with motherhood
that by the time I surface
the dusky light burns my eyes
silence pierces my ears
and my atrophied lungs stutter
starved for oxygen
I tell them to pace themselves
but they are ravenous
in out in out in out
until I am drowning in rest