Usually, I’d reel off
a positive quote or two;
offer some advice from an Oprah book,
but now I don’t know what to do.
I can’t exactly justify “follow your dreams”
when there are none left to pursue.
Everything’s on hold to protect the vulnerable
and old; plus, the world doesn’t revolve round me or you.
So instead I want to use my words to heal
because I can’t use them to inspire.
I have faith they can be a grateful balm,
though never as powerful as water to fire.
And I accept that. Because I am lucky.
My situation is not dire.
I have breath in my lungs
and a jump in my step and energy that won’t expire.
Unlike those on the frontline,
who are stressed and stretched, hurled
into this mess unequipped by a nonchalant
government that sat back and watched illness unfurl –
and NHS staff, helpless, watched spareable lives,
bodies, like dead flowers, curl.
There’s a quote from The OA that says an angel
“is dust pressed into a diamond by the weight of this world.”
That’s what our NHS workers are; angels.
Perhaps next time it won’t take
nearly losing your life in intensive care
to realise what risks are at stake
and the sacrifices that have to be made
and the courage, for our nurses to wake
and walk into work every day.
Next time, Prime Minister, you might not refuse them a fair pay.
There are going to be times in life when you are knocked down. When you’ve sunk so far into the abyss that you wonder whether there’s any point trying to get out, only to be disappointed after putting all of your effort into climbing a few metres up, and falling back to the bottom all over again a total failure. Might as well stay down, right? Wrong.
You withered from me
like a change of season.
I grieved and thoughts of you fell
like leaves; soon brushed
tidily away from my life.
Though, I still find traces of you –
little crumb-like memories –
their welcome overstayed.
Not all of them are murderous
as you. Some are nostalgic flames.
Flames I must overthrow
for my own good. Embers of desire
I must put out and put down,
afraid of what would recur
like an unforgiving forest fire.
I wish I could freeze
every memory of you
and shatter each one into nothingness.
Even though I am sure they would thaw
and seep back through my skull.
My Achy, Breaky Art
I have suffered a great deal
for my achy, breaky art;
lost friends, watched my father
disappear like Bertha the brown pigeon
who once was here but flew south for the winter
and never came back – a bit like Harold Pinter
who died in December 2008.
I’ve stayed up late grieving over a love
that never was; got up at 3am to write
like Plath, only to discover it was
self-destructive and daft.
Ran away to London to become an actor,
struggled to pay rent or eat or laugh or feel alive –
realised the acting bit isn’t hard, just the
trying to survive.
I’ve felt depression
grip me by the throat with warty fingers;
rip me into the mud, choke me in slow motion
with gravel and soot, slam my larynx shut
and stop me from speaking up.
I’ve doubted my talents, said sorry
for my successes, diluted their worth;
blocked out my family’s kiss-on-the-cheek concerns,
witnessed the roars in return of: “YOU’LL NEVER DO IT!”
yet, somehow, even if they were true,
I’ve sat there: calm, centred, cross-legged, smiling,
and, considering every hurricane I’ve been dragged through,
gracefully still – armed with the words, “I will.”
By Owen Baxter
You’ve been missing from me of late.
A distant memory tells me that you were there, once.
Bright, longing, wanting – then you slipped away
I don’t know why you left me.
Only an anthology of poetry could unriddle
that mystery. I cannot fathom what I did wrong,
if I did anything wrong. . .
I recall your eyes,
so heavy, so light.
So healing to look into.
A dilemma I couldn’t immediately solve.
But when I wanted a solution,
you faded; evaded without resolution.
Perhaps it was me. Too pushy.
Too insistent. Too much blind love
and not enough careful thought.
I love too much or not at all;
that’s where I fall.
Am I sick in the head, criminally insane,
or do you draw your joy from my pain?
My love for you comes in storms.
Short-lived, excessive, then calm.
Until my next dark cloud.
Like a slug
Festering between sweaty sheets
Reaching for water
To revitalise the dead garden in my head.
I receive a glass, a lukewarm well
Of thickened liquid that tastes like dust.
My legs struggle out of my sheets,
And I rise. My spine a rusty bike chain,
My head as secure on my neck as
The Leaning Tower.
I rise. And apologise
My unmade bed, my unwashed clothes.
And I forgive.
Over and over and over.
Our lives aren’t Pokémon cards. We need to stop obsessing over one-upping each other as though they are.
For most of us every day is a battle between comparing ourselves to others and not caring at all. In a generation of social-media-overload, the temptation to spend hours scrolling through Instagram finding reasons to be jealous of other people’s prettily filtered lives is ever prevalent.