first rainfall of Spring 

at 12 the sky opened and flushed the rivers dry.

I waited for the lights to change,

sodden tights wrapped like seaweed around my ankles. 

Look up – I inhale the raindrops; they flow down my throat. 

I turn myself inside out, I am suspended,

arms reaching up, blue tissue paper skin clutching for the shoreline.

i run my fingers along its brittle edges

my icicled fingers trace words into the swell,

waiting for the next big freeze to pin them there: 

I love you, love you,

do you –

question becomes its own undoing,

undresses, slips in beside me

two fists,

two halves of a whole,

twin tear drops on your cheek

I lean to wipe them away 

and wake tangled in ropes of my own dripping hair. 

how can you stand yourself; on a birthday  

the days are getting longer again. you watch the sun set from the window of a room that is not your own. the leaves are on fire. you burn with them. 16 years old; when did you drop out of living? do you even remember it happening? it did. you observe the life they tell you is your own and it’s been so long. you remember when the days were short, other windows, other lifetimes. you are not the same person now as you know (think) you used to be and doors have all slammed shut. the leaves burn. another birthday. think oh god when did I get so old. who was I last year? where is she now?

The Origins of the Vanishing Woman

We live in a world of vanishing women.

Tracing shadows on our bedrooms walls with one hand and holding, in the other, the history books we hid under our school jumpers,

We are wondering, why?

Why is it that the only women worth reading about are pretty

or witches

or dead.

This is what I mean when I talk about stolen voices.

 

From our very first words, we were told to be quiet. Loud, but not that loud – fast, but not that fast – a healthy mediocrity. A mediocrity of knees that stayed together and mouths that stayed shut.

Ladylike.

The proper little miss, who knows how to keep quiet, and keep still, who takes up no more space than she absolutely needs to.

 

The skirts that ensured we would not come too fast down the slides or go too high on the monkey bars, kept us in uniform lines of crossed knees and held hands.

A lifetime of observation,

of sitting on the sidelines,

of waiting your turn.

 

I wonder, still

Where did you expect us to go?

What room did you leave for us other than inwards?

Folding in on ourselves to conserve the space we never knew we had a claim to.

You trained us so well.

 

So well that at fourteen we were all so eager to hike up our own kilts and stuff tissue paper down our own bras, smile those painted smiles from behind painted faces;

We did not know we were circus animals.

We were so quick to giggle through pouted lips and check cell phones behind biology textbooks, did not realise that ladylike, now,

Meant sitting in the back row.

 

And then at sixteen, we kept smiling

As you stuffed us full of fluoxetine and birth control, and cheap vodka

So we would forget where your hands ended and our bodies began, and then ask us

Why?

 

Why didn’t you say something

Do something

Anything?

 

Because we are biting our own tongues now, don’t you see?

 

Because my voice sounds like his voice, a parrot of the opinions you shoved down our throats and I keep catching myself asking, Can you say that again please?

Slower?

What was that?

Sorry? Sorry. I’m sorry.

I bookend my sentences with apologies for mistakes I have not let myself make

And we are jumping at our own shadows.

 

And watching old women pick at dressing-less salads

Drinking ice water, applying anti aging cream at seventeen –

Why are you so surprised when our entire lives have been an act of self preservation?

Grew up too quickly and then clung on too long

Maybe I am just screaming see me.

See me before I am old and wrinkled so I can mistake your desire for interest, and we do not have to realise

How scared we all are of being lonely.

 

You ask me why I talk so much.

I am making up for those years I forgot how to;

I am becoming one of those witches.

 

Good.

 

I hope I scare you.

God knows you deserve it.

a lights out love poem 

A lights out love poem

For those of us who stretched ribbons between streetlights and clung to them, drowning, tattered life lines of pink and satin.

Those of us who struggled to create lifetimes out of dark corners, who tucked wide eyed glances into handbags and pocketbooks, caught and pinned them to cork boards like butterflies. They are still there if you look – in cigarette cases and tubes of lipstick, folded up so small you could mistake them for a shadow.

I always look.

I tell you, for you, I would number every streetlight between here and Aberdeen so we know just how much of this country we lay claim to. I will stretch the dark spaces until they are all worn thin and tear at the edges. So you won’t have to love me with the lights on.

I will couple held hands with twin beds and stretch this tightrope so tight it is hard to catch our breath. So that when it snaps you can blame me for tugging and walk away unscathed. The way I planned it.

And this time next year

I will tie my hair with pink ribbon and pretend I am not still caught up in the way you used to say my name.

And some day

And I will lose track of the streetlights. I will sit on a bench at sunset and watch as one by one they all flicker

back

to life.

duct tape

The walls in my chest were mirrors and duct tape.

I pressed shattered glass behind my eyes

So I could reflect you back, so

When you look at me,

Look past me, see

Only

Kaleidoscope, emerald,

Strands of your hair, still tangled

Projected

On my bedroom walls –

See you behind them

Some part of you, still

Waiting

Aching, the memory of your hands

Cold, pressed into my skin

As I pressed back, pulled back

For what

I don’t know, for

A warmth I have forgotten.

I say, I am not trying to make you into a home

Even as I pack my bags – empty

Cardboard boxes,

For you to fill,

I tell you

I did not mean to make you God-like

Through my stained glass, I look at you

I

Wonder which of us is saved.

what do you have to show for 16 years?


what do you have to show for 16 years?

no. not these years.

let these be my lost years. my years of in between-ing, of sunday morning, too-strong coffee; sip, sip, drip, drip, down, down into nothing. into stale. 
let these be my wandering years, stifled years of second hand dresses.
years where i slip in between

sixteen years of day dream believing and fly away hairs. sixteen years to dive for daydreams, and sixteen years to surface empty, empty pockets, empty glances
sixteen years of lonely classrooms.

for seventeen to be my dancing years.

for seventeen. 
for really living