Little Bird

Little Bird

We walked down the road, to the bottle store or some such place, I can’t remember, anyway, there was a plastic packet with blood in it.

I thought it was a small bird

How cruel

Little tiny feathered body, it flew straight into the packet

And then strangled itself trying to escape

Plastic closing in and little talons and beak ripping itself up instead of the packet.

I’ve been sitting on the stairs outside the house watching that little bird mummify itself for months

At first I watched from my bedroom through shifted curtains on the second floor

I wanted to be closer to it

I moved to the lounge so that I could sit on the couch and spend my hours in comfort

Still the brick and glass and wooden frames separating us was too much

And now I’ve sunk into the concrete (you hang your shopping bags on me while you’re looking for the keys)

Blinking became a weakness

I leveraged my eyelids with toothpicks in case I missed something

Eventually I taught myself not to need sleep – only a few seconds every minute – but at some point every day the world slanted into obseletion and the toothpicks snapped and when the lights came back on

The bird wasn’t there

But come morning you were back, and it was the same every morning

  1. hop along the street on twig legs
  2. fly into the big tree that stretches over the house
  3. jump down onto pavement
  4. inspect packet with twitching head
  5. lie on belly and crawl into plastic wrapping

you can never get out while I watch

I spend every day and night sweating on the stairs as December tiptoed around me

Clawing at the pavement while sleep hooks itself at my navel and pulls

And then one day sleep didn’t come and I saw it

I saw a little bird that could have been you

You had never been struggling, never been strangled by bad decisions

You were redecorating

Tiny little tv set and blue lounge suite arranged neatly inside the tiny little house in that plastic wrapping

And I felt so foolish.

After that you didn’t come back

I waited for a week, two weeks

I’m superstitious so I didn’t wait for the third

Instead I went home for the first time in months and lay in bed, remembering how to close my eyes

There was nothing left to say that anything remarkable had happened on that pavement

Except for me

Sharpening burnt wood to carve your likeness from memory

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So, I know this girl

I’m not going to talk about how beautiful she is, even though
she has the softest hair
blue eyes as bright as fairy lights and a
the kind of smile
I’d like to pour over a cake

But I’m not going to talk about how beautiful she is

even though she is a well of love

She is well and truly loved because
when mine dries up
I can dip my heart into hers

But I am not going to talk about how beautiful she is
but I am really having trouble trying not to talk about how beautiful she is

So let me focus on something else

You are loud

You are stubborn
You are

filled with this inexhaustible amount of sweetness

As if your body was made of liquorish
and those who truly love you are allowed to taste it
but know to lick it and leave it so that you have something left

To keep you standing upright

But even when someone takes a bite, swallows you whole and shits you out
you offer them another piece because you think maybe
they need it more than you do

But I am not going to talk about how beautiful you are

 

Even though
Your love has kept me warm when I couldn’t find a blanket
and I have seen you rip off your arm so that you could hug me
and hold someone else at the same time

But I am not going to talk about how beautiful you are

You have a funny loping gait
that kind that reminds me of a BeeGees music video and Michael Jackson’s moonwalk
all rolled into one

And I have seen you afraid
But only because you thought you couldn’t love someone enough

Well, that is not the case
Because the only person you couldn’t love enough is

Stephen Hawkings
If he showed up at your gate you would turn him away faster than it would take him to type help.

 

So there’s one bad thing about you – you hate invalid scientists

But

You really do have a touch like warm sunlight streaming in through the window after a hot shower

But I am not going to talk about how beautiful you are

 

Even though
you have your darkness, and it seems all encompassing
it is basted and marinated in the sweetest candy
that leaves the rest of us hoping
Hoping to dip our hands in to you like the special occasions sweet bowl at my aunt’s house

But I am not going to talk about how beautiful you are.

My insides may be made up curry powder, toxic waste and lemon slices

But there is a little place
round about here
filled with salt and vinegar chips, sour worms and red wine
That’s just for you
And if you need it, I will break off a piece of my spine, dip it in caramel and give it to you.
Yes.

You are really annoying.

Morning hits and then you’re out

bed linen trash in the corner smells of dick and pussy and great and faked orgasms and

a week of intimate arms and another decade of lonely togetherness lived just two days after that

 

the lull (numb) of closed eyes behind charged retinas and the clicking of finger joints and the cracks and breaks of neck and spine and coffee cups moulding with yesterday and the stack of books on my bedstand yet to to have their fingers spines back neck cracked

 

I bathe regularly (every two days)
yellow earbuds in my dressing table drawer just next to a year of used batteries

Clothes asleep on the floor until breathing buttoned body moves skillfully inside them and then

 

judging light turns its back on my failed reluctance to surrender myself to sleepwalking

Red fingernails instead of cleaning the dirt that lies beneath and then chipped nails instead of cotton wipes and acetone

 

Cigarettes and people and beer and cocaine and marijuana and love and hate and coffee and pizza and masturbation and sadness and second hand clothing and shoes not brave enough to be worn and conversations of semi-articulations
swallowed whole

 

So sleep in me

As my fantasy is walked to sleep and swallowed down throats held by hands desperate to re-allign themselves

I pull back the covers and invite you into my bed

And Sleep

still as a board between my changed minds

And sleep in my depravity and sleep in my happiness and sleep in

my skin too loose to keep me from rolling out

 

How would I know that I loved you if I didn’t hear it confirmed from my own mouth
if no heads nodded and if I myself didn’t drop notes with the word yes written on them a thousand times just so my footsteps continue to fall left right or right left if I was feeling particularly conscious
We walked down the road, to the bottle store or some such place, I can’t remember, anyway, there was a plastic packet with blood in it.

I thought it was a small bird

How cruel

Little tiny feathered body, it flew straight into the packet

And then strangled itself trying to escape

Plastic closing in and little talons and beak ripping itself up instead of the packet.

There’s this thing inside of me and it’s clawing it’s way out of my stomach with the eraser end of a pencil
Clenched so tight in my hand the words crumble as I stumble
trying to drop them onto a page.
At this stage, it’s 2 o’clock in the morning and I’ll be talking to myself until dawn and smoking myself hoarse because of course I couldn’t force insight

I can’t help but look back at the roller-deck of cards rolling down my back cause the poem is there – I can feel it more clearly than you can see an inflight movie

 

Moving you seems to have taken precedent.
Cause I could write a poem just for the clicks
but that would be with my left hand
in my right is my third eye and to do that I’d have to press it in
and swallow both arms until I’m shitting wedding rings
because I am not ambidextrous.
So I’ve chopped off my left hand and use the stump to wipe down table tops
cause I want a clean surface for when this shit drops
I don’t know when, or how, or what I want to say but I know there is a poem here
So I’ll wait
Because yes
I have been to the cavernous depths of experience
and nearly drowned myself in them
but I learned to fly on waterwings
I learned to look at that little girl that would grow up to be me and tell her
it’s cool, it doesn’t mean anything.
Feel what you feel

And the irony has not escaped me – I am fully aware that I am writing a poem about writing a poem
it would be too easy to say this was a metaphor, what should I go meta for? but there is this magnet pulling me

Towards an undefined destination and I will slip and trip over the smoky grips of hands clawing at my ankles
but this is it
I can feel it
So I’ll wait
because I know there is a poem here

I’ll wait, I’ll sit for hours while the thoughts grow sour

at the back of my throat and all I want to do is reach in and grab them
rip them out and slam them
onto the page in front of me
but that page is still blank

 

So I twiddle my thumbs
light another cigarette
walk around in circles
and pray that my roommates don’t hear me talking to myself.

 

And it’s only 2’oclock in the morning when I decide

get lost in not knowing what’s next.

So from now on – I’ll be engraving each word I want to erase into the soles of my boots – with my right hand

Because every single verse I don’t want to write has already travelled a million distances inside of me
 

There is a poem here.

I’d like to take you on a journey from birth to death.

No, not from living to dying but from

baby to friend.

And this I guess is my soliloquy, to you from me,

because I finally see that you are inside of me.

 

Mom.

You sat me at a table and laid out a blank page,

you gave me a crayon and told me to map my own way

You held my little hand as I

scrawled back and forth and when we were done you

kissed the page with red lips and pinned it to my heart to guide me.

No compass should chart the winding routes I take or the journey I make,

you just gave me the pallet with which to colour my slate.

 

And all of this time I thought I had been following that map,

but really?

I had folded it into pieces and put it at the back of a drawer,

to come back to for sure.

I held it inside but never really saw because blinded

by possibilities, I never checked for more.

 

And now, stuck to the floor

I can almost reach the door if it wasn’t for this last stage

this last phase of the game,

call out my name because as I realise now

You always check the reverse side of the page.

 

So this little girl, she went back to that drawer.

She slid it open and the hinges had whined,

and she hoped against hope that it was still inside because

it had been years since she had decided to backtrack the tracks of her life’s trajectory

up until now

it had all been perfunctory.

 

Perfunctory.

 

That means shallow and without much reflection and just like mirrors

I was surprised how much of me was rooted in deception.

 

 

But now, I have taken that map,

pinned it to the ceiling so if I want to read it I have to reach up

because I’m done with kneeling.

 

And that’s on you.

You gave me the height without those high heels.

You held my hand as I dangled off the edge of a precipice and that kiss

that you pressed to the page we drew together,

well I have taken that kiss and pinned it to my lips.

 

So every word I speak is no longer a cheat, and yes

that did come with a few slaps on the cheek

but you’ve always experienced the show from a front row seat I think interactive

is an understatement.

To say the least.

 

Cause you got sprayed with the spit and the shit of my fits,

picked on and called on to take part in the pit but now

move a few rows back.

Just sit there and sit.

 

No longer stationary I run

between earth and sea and back and forth across the course of my topsy-turvy mappery

and now I want you to see

through my mind’s eye how you and I have travelled from point A to point B.

 

You

held your baby at your breast

took in every shuddering breath.

I drenched your chest

with tears and you absorbed the fears of a childhood earmarked by the throwing of spears

whose only intention was to lift the suspension of my belief in myself.

 

You told me to keep my hands up, baby hands up.

Remember to wipe from front to back.

A little girl on her black plastic bike all garbed up

in mom’s nightie and tights.

A little too baggy at the time – but she grew into them

and never really out.

 

Because even as a preteen, teenager young adult and in-between

she was still playing dress up.

And did I mention I messed up?

Maybe I didn’t fess up.

Blame it on the dog

or a number of other excuses through which I stumbled

tumbled from a practiced tongue that nearly

always got me out of trouble.

 

At the time, mine didn’t fit quite right

so I tried to zip your skin up over mine.

Fingering through your wardrobe was like paging through the chapters of a book

I had always wanted to write but

could never muster up the courage to ask to borrow.

 

Because I was DAUGHTER. I was Titled.

And therefore entitled to type with unbridled maniacal insight over a page

you had hand written for yourself.

 

But you kept saying – hands up, baby hands up.

And no matter what, I always got a postcard.

 

I was in, and you were around and then

I was home

and you were out of town.

All the landmarks were the same

but land never really marks the place.

 

We crawled after traces of names left in spaces drowned out and tainted by previous exchanges

ecstatic when static

but trapped by the placid.

Our routes were mapped on thin strips and it took a while to come to grips

with the fact that our maps were Photostats

disappearing crayon replaced by varying shades of black.

They crisscrossed, converged, ran parallel and diverged but were always submerged

in love.

We viewed each other from below and from above but never

failed to see through each other.

 

We may have been ghosts in the night but

we bumped shoulders left and right.

Our fights to survive were not isolated plights,

they were always underlined by the ebb and flow touch and go of the clasped hands

perched on the shoulders we gave each other.

 

We

were light as a feather.

But weighed down inside metal shells

buttoned at the collar

zipped at the crotch

and always, always

waterproof around the eyes.

 

So while my hands were up

– baby hands up –

your hand lingered on my cheek and I curled my body around you

like a fern in the spring and just like John Martyn says

you came to see me and I see the things that you bring.

Cause I wanted to relieve myself of the relief of not being myself,

but we both learned there is no escape

and the only thing to do is shake the fear of being that sits on the self

behind the peanut butter

and the bottled MSG

and the labelled disparity between you me

 

but you pushed those aside

and saw how scared I was of just being me.

 

As a kid I had a habit

of breaking my own hand just so you would grab it

but what I didn’t see when I looked away was

that you were holding it anyway.

You

have been the strap that I used to snap my bones back into place.

I have straightened out that leg I pretended I couldn’t stand on.

 

So now…

I’ll lower those hands you told me to keep up

but only so that I can take yours.

And together we’ll walk tethered

to the past but only

so that it keeps us on path

towards that end

which is already inside of you and me –

that ever-changing, evanescent, ever-present

Point B.

 

Now our maps are no longer photostats

and nor are they pinned to the ceiling,

now

they’re fingerprints

etched into the backs of our hands.

 

And that kiss? The one you pressed to my lips?

Do you remember it?

I have swallowed it.

 

You are so far inside of me

that if you ever dangled off the edge of a precipice,

I could get to you faster than the ink in my pen drips.

 

Yes.

Our skins may be less than seamless,

but seams, seem less meaningful when you need seams to breath

and it seems to me that our point B’s

are in all of our seams.

 

So

if you ever need to hold my hand

if you ever need to borrow my shoes

 

 

they were already yours.

She is a bullet in high heels running
headfirst into herself,
ripping through layers of wool and skin.
Stop.

Slip panties from tree stump legs.
Count breaths by dead rings/Count sweaty footprints
faster than they disappear across the hardwood floor.

She is no Dorothy.
Here there is no yellow brick road,
only carpet burns from pulling herself by her fingertips.
Looking back/ No Kansas,
only the trail of discarded clothes
leading up to her like lizard skins.

Blink.

Naked in the dull light of now,
her breasts hang like bare bulbs.
An itch at the nape of her neck, she turns herself inside out.
Loose threads catch on wrist bones and unravel, slowly
seams split,
giving way for lungs to inflate.

I am putting you on speakerphone because I’m

about to WhatsApp a friend who’s gonna conference me in

on a Skype call with a guy she met on LinkdIn

who had liked a WordPress blog of hers that linked him

to her Facebook wall where I had posted a picture

of the both of us and commented

“whores”.

 

My Facebook timeline is

just a guideline

to my growing insecurateens

sewing my insecurities

in cupped hands whose fingers intertwine with the unknown
desperately trying to keep soil from slipping through.

 

Being content ( insert inverted commas)

– is measured by my web content  –

in knowing I am connected getting

an email from someone I have never met because

somewhere out there

in that intangibility, the net

 

has more versions of me than I can check.

 

And the challenge

is to be them.

All the time,

Without fail.

 

 

Now,

for the purpose of this allegory let’s call me she

so that I can maintain that personal

distance

that has stretched me thinner than my iPhone screen.

 

She is a bullet in high heels running

headfirst into herself.

Pedantically, she

restocks the kitchen shelves with a collection of memory

shells arranged in alphabetical order to hide

the disorder she digests daily only for a brain draining dose of soul diarrhoea

She

shuts the bedroom door failing

acceptance?

 

 

 

I prescribe apathy.

retarded by her smart phone and a 20yr old nappy

She clings to the shit she should have learned to expel by now,

“but couldn’t care less”

Flabby arms and back fat and the sweat on her pants

from when she last sat, that

is how she thinks people see her.

The problem is

that she thinks people see her when in actual fact

she looked back first and couldn’t hold her gaze.

 

It’s been days since she last looked up from her shoes.

She can tell the left from the right by the scuff marks she’s added

through the vintage filter on Instagram.

Her waking life was lived

between hits of the snooze button and the plan

was to go out walking –

to see the bright lights and the busy streets and

let the psycho-geographical contours of her heart beat guide her.

 

Now

she doesn’t leave the house.

She shuts out the day so she can see her screen better  –

you know, cause she might misplace a letter

on one of her broadcast messages.

 

She carries around a R300 umbilical cord to keep her baby alive.

The one that sucks the life right out of her breast,

attached at the nipple

always ready

in case she receives a friend request.

 

She is Y

She can’t sleep or breathe without a full battery

She is Y

She monitors her heartbeat by the beep of a message tone and

She is Y

She only likes herself when someone else likes one of her photos.

 

Generation X and Generation Y…

As it stands, we’re only one letter away from the end of the alphabet

 

But I’m sure we’ve nearly perfected it…

Perfected this art of living breathing transparencies
You should see me, be me, click me, free me

Never Look Away.

 

Staring down one end of a cut off power cable she loses her sight in

eyelashes like a forest at the end of a road
and she forgets to look up.

 

 

 

 

She forgets to stretch out her hands and compare her
veins to those of the leaves falling at her feet
She forgot to ask you whether you prefer coffee or tea

 

But she’s already got your BBM pin

So

 

before your hand rests lightly on my shoulder and then falls through

Like a foot in the dark when you think there is one more step

Stop

look up

 

Blink

 

Breathe

and don’t forget to stay in touch

 

What’s Next?

I don’t always write
it’s hard.
Sometimes I sit for hours and the thoughts grow sour
at the back of my throat and all I want to do is grab them
rip them out and slam them
onto the page in front of me but that page is

still blank.

So I twiddle my thumbs
Light another cigarette
Walk around in circles
and pray that my roommates don’t hear me talking to myself.

Poet
I say to the mirror
Let the cursor write your life

So I guess I could turn my breast reduction into an abcd rhyme scheme or
use metaphors to explain my scare with STD’s because

Yes. I have been to cavernous depths of experience
and I nearly drowned myself in them but
i learned to float on water wings and to
pull myself up by strings gripped in my teeth but

that is not what this is about,
and those are poems I should definitely write but they’re not right
for right now.

This is about what’s coming next.
Everytime I sit at my desk the words get stuck here start here lost there
and I forget that

all of me is written by mistake
3 o’clock in the morning, surrounded by cigarette butts
tripping over smoky hands that grasp at my ankles as I try to run
towards an undefined point.

This is pages of crossed out words and arrows pointing to nowhere
italicized doubts that I breath into every journal
the lined pages of which both excite and disappoint me

This is writing about not knowing what to write about but
I’m still writing.

Distance – Spoken Word Poem

So, I write a lot of poetry and I have recently fallen in love with spoken word poetry. Here is my attempt, I’m not sure how well I performed it, but let’s see.

Words:

I sit in a room, on a floor, three stories up in a building built brick by brick in the eye of a needle

because brick by brick is what i need to weigh down the stitches

and rooms lie adjacent and across

just a stones toss from the shot that reverberates through a glass

we make it in but we never make it out

words are like stones, yes

they hit and they cut but they grow old with moss

but lift them up and a world lies beneath

the terror stories of your territories unsheathed they breath life into that glass that lies in the eye of a needle that lies idle until you and i stop biting the rim of our idols

I sit on my floor as you do on yours

we sit three stories up

i said, we should free our stories up

and notice how the word terror is so central to territory – the fear of psychic space is the integral component in our main opponent which is only the fact that we feel the need to own it

because even from three stories up, there lie floors above, and I look up at you and you look up at me and we judge

me by the length of my pubic hair, you by the fact that you are here and not there

I’ve got back fat and arm fat and all kinds of stomach fat, and I’ve heard that one before, if I flap my wings hard enough I might just take off

And so if I do, do you know where I’ll land? Back in that glass held fast by a shaking hand that neither lifts nor puts down and only holds another when we break fast
we’ve grown a moat around us, and that’s just to stop us from drowning

because if our feet cross this threshold, the world around us starts compounding

because some feet cross the threshold, while other feet hit the beat of the humdrum thrice shunned… it was just the way you asked

we walk in circles, and our footsteps bang out beats in our brains like a metronome, judgement and condescension being its most notable cornerstones… it clings to us like condensation, a ring on the table is anything but stable

and even as i walk, back to my building in the eye of a needle, i can feel a thousand needing eyes watching me, telling me, that the distance between you and me, is scarily and evidently,

no, as a matter of fact, reverse that

our distance lies in proximity

when the change in my pocket, becomes change in your hands, well, maybe then we can inhabit the same land