What’s wrong? Can’t you stomach the meat of my raw words?

Why should I melt into pretty poetry

just to make myself heard?

Find different herbs to soften delivery,

heat them on the slow cooker,

turn down the temperature to a simmer,

my heart charred with this slow burner

till I feel as alive as a used piece of furniture,

one that supports the curvature

of your collapsing backbone

as you sink me ever deeper

into your salt and pepper flavours

and I’m sick of how your cooking tastes.

When I force down each mouthful

I’m chewing on hate

and this is too late to salvage,

no amount of running under the cold tap

would ever turn these ingredients back

into their natural state.

Yet here I am, and here I’ve fucking been,

I wait and wait for the texture to change,

trying to sieve through the mush in my brain

whilst I choke on this hate

that’s now starved of patience

from watching you carefully decorate this opera cake.

Repeated layer after layer

and I’m placed in the centre,

a showcase for the shop window display

and how much staying here do you expect me to take?

Your tongue spins sugar lies

made to sound like appreciation

but you’re a self-obsessed chef

dressing deconstructed plates with destruction,

spreading poison

with your rotting food and garlic breath.

You should have learned to savour this

but instead it’s death by leftovers.

The Greatest Showman

The Greatest Showman

Monday’s papers sing your praises.

‘What a show’, they say,

‘what a final performance’.

Hear the echoes of an applauding audience

as you exit through the stage door.

The crowd wants more of your play pretend,

a curtain call to delay the end

of your tour de force,

but I’ve seen this theatre piece before.

It’s deja-vu, I don’t need to read the reviews

when I watched you write the script,

editing out the bits where your heart lived

and calling it a work of art,

calling it method acting,

like you were just playing the part of the bad guy.

Carving your lines into my chest

for it’s so easy to forget

where the breaks come, where you pause for breath

before cutting out the section

where I had your respect.

Now I’m nothing but a prop in your creative process,

one you dressed in full costume

and cast as the princess,

kept in a tower

like the damsel in distress you wished I would be,

one that needed saving and would never be free

until you rescued me.

But this is the Disney story that never made it to screen,

where the hero and the villain

are two sides of the same person

and the princess doesn’t know which version to believe.

His charm is all that everyone else sees

but with her it’s coercion, it’s invisible chains

that succeed in depriving her of liberty,

threats that prevent her ability to leave.

He tells her she’s easy, that when she speaks

to male friends it causes him anxiety

and why did she like that guy’s picture on Instagram?

He bets she wouldn’t care if he killed himself,

she wouldn’t give a damn, and that a week later

and her legs would already be open to another man

as she tries to convince him

to step away from the train tracks

but he says he can’t bear to be without her

and with another apology she decides to take him back

because as he says,

if she loved him,

she wouldn’t just give up like that.

His monologues win him an Oscar

and five stars in the national newspapers,

he’ll definitely be remembered

and she’ll never forget what he said

about where she’d find his dead body in the valley,

about how it’s her messing with his head.

Fed lies that spun a spider’s web

that make her blame herself instead,

speeches that made him famous,

convincing the world that it’s love in these pages

as she internalises all that hatred

and for biting on his bait again

he’s offered a residency in the West End

for his perfect portrayal of the heart broken victim.

So as the fans queue for his autograph

she’ll don her disguise and quietly slip past,

return to those train tracks

and follow them till she reaches the station,

booking a one way ticket to a new destination

as she’s plucked up the courage to say it’s not her role to fix him

and this time she’s prepared for the tricks.

Like every good actress, she’s grown a thick skin

and as the train leaves the platform, the lights dim

as she takes her cue to curtesy,

raising her head to watch the credits roll in.

Puppet Show

Puppet Show

If there is no God, instead can I

grant myself the strength to do what is right,

help myself decide

which piece of my fragile heart

I should be guided by.

It doesn’t know whose side it’s on,

where to stand to be on mine.

So much does it love,

but so much it is lost at the same time.

Would it be letting go

of the most precious thing I’ll ever find

or is this a lesson

in treasuring moments while they last,

learning to leave what no longer serves

my best life.

Or is it you, walking away from me

because I don’t deserve this gift,

have I not cared enough and in the right way,

have I been too afraid to give it my all

or did I give all I could by two months in

and the rest is my passive acceptance

along a road I’m not meant to live,

waiting for the end

like I can’t start my own beginning,

like I can’t be my own higher power.

You’ve Got Mail

You’ve Got Mail

Dawn; when the wild birds

serenade me into waking,

for even at 5am there are war wounds to nurse,

new peace treaties to sign.

The words I write are wet from last night’s rain,

folded into a paper aeroplane

and dried by the wind as it journeys to your door,

where you’ve sat up waiting for the news pages.

Today’s headline is ‘Growing Pains’;

the weariness when the hard work comes,

when our love hits the breaking wave

and we’re thrown in new directions.

We become the weekly crossword puzzle,

finding the missing letters of how we fit together,

the clues by which we are defined.

Turn to the classifieds, all that’s seeking and selling,

the ones you’ll read over morning coffee

with tired eyes from yesterday’s late to bed.

There’s my scribbled message in the margin,

my simple advert for a better life –

‘If I can keep you, I’ve already found mine.’

The Night I Spent Staring At Beer Mats

The Night I Spent Staring At Beer Mats

I sip my glass of reality slowly, let its carbonated contents satisfy my thirst for presence, so sick of sinking into places I don’t belong. Arms, sofa cushions, the spaces between words – I haven’t figured out a way to stop getting stuck. I’m here, world, and I’m trying to sit still but this seat isn’t sturdy, it shakes with the strength of self-destructive thoughts and I’m scared someone else will swallow me. “Research suggests counting in situations like this”, he says, “it’s supposed to help with the grounding”; but he can’t focus to count past one and all I can count is the number of times I’ve needed to shape-shift – become smaller, softer, less secure, silent. So I stand, we leave, and I try to subtly avert my eyes from what you don’t want me to see. Or is it that you don’t want me to be seen? Outside, the sky is speckled with stars like the freckles on your skin. I start to join up the dots.

When Vulnerability Calls

When Vulnerability Calls

The sense of muffled footsteps, then a knock at the door,

gentle but persistent like spring rain,

pots simmering on the stove.

You don’t go,

though your job is thirsty work

and my parched throat, drained of liquid sound

that now trickles through my veins, adding weight

to limbs pinned fast to frozen ground.

Your palm turns the handle, the familiar twist

I check three times before nightfall

in case the ghosts visit,

whispering sweet nothings through the walls.

You all seem the same, at first charming,

lighting flames to torch the halls,

taming the spirits to trust the floor

like they could melt my muscles malleable,

like their words could make me move,

escape the labyrinth for the chance of absolutes

to find you stoking an imaginary fire,

breathing in the smoke of untruths.

Ten Years and Counting

Ten Years and Counting

It’s like you have always been there,

tucked away in an inside pocket

of the back of my mind,

a fidget item for these hands to find

when my head disconnects,

under anaesthetic from the neck down

though I’d have rather felt the burning sensation

from your quick disintegration,

the pain as you were wiped away.

Now a small dressing covers all that remains

of how you stuck to my skin.

Nurture wins the genetics debate

for I won’t miss your DNA,

my colours never ran in the family.