He’ll stand before you and he’ll cry, just to prove that he’s really quite a nice guy. After that, he’ll serenade you – because that’s what you do to avoid a coup. Sure, he murdered hundreds, probably more! But he only did that because he was poor. Often, he’d burn Christians alive at night, because every Emperor needs a little candle-light. He killed his wives, but so what? Those bitches deserved whatever they got. So did Britannicus, his unworthy step-brother. And don’t get me started on his mother! Some say he was crazy, foolish, and mad. But to me, Nero really wasn’t that bad.
I love you like
an addict loves coffee
that deep-seeded need
that buries all rational emotion
I breathe you like
you’re part of my routine
part of my being, you run hot
through my veins
I wake up only
to seek you out, only
to feel the burn of your lips
branding my skin
I need you like
an addict needs rehab
knowing you are wrong for me
knowing I just can’t quit
[First published by The Drabble on 3 October 2016 and can be found here. This version has undergone some editing.]
who does not want kids
who is not vilified for loving men
and women and everyone in between
who has tattoos
just because she wanted them
not because they mean something
who swears and has sex
and isn’t condemned
for wearing short skirts and a crop
tops up her Go card with her
equal wages and catches the bus
to the abortion clinic where she is
not harassed and takes home
a box of doms and a new prescription Pill
A tap on my shoulder can take me back
to plates smashing against walls and her eyes
ringed black and blue, like an off-coloured dart board.
One touch and I am shaken, transformed
from a level-headed woman to a young girl,
small and hiding in the closet, waiting.
The blame game was one she and I often played –
her first: face and arms a colour palette
of bruises, handprints, and mild burns;
her fault, he said.
Then me: making a fuss, making him hurt her;
my fault, she said.
A voice raised in drunken exclamation or a laugh
pitched just a little too high turns sour in my ears,
transforming into ugly screams and cries – his, hers, mine.
The sounds get louder and my chest gets tighter,
my shoulders tense and my limbs get heavy
as I wait for the tears to fall and the fists to fly.
The kitchen sink and I were intimate friends, it knew me;
my hands cleaned it, my tears rolled into it, her hand pushing my head against it.
For every scrap or bump I received, he gave back to her tenfold,
and so the wheel continued to turn – her, me, her, me…
so much yelling and crying, scream at me – to go, to stay.
So I sat in my closet and waited.
living on the east coast
they say I identify
for the benefits –
the same ones they get
but under a different name
of the blackfella way
are deemed more right
whitefellas tell me
more often than not
that I’m an impostor
they strip away
peeling away the layers
until they are left
with nothing but
I’m good at sitting by a window and staring blankly at an iridescent sky / I’m not good at looking people in the eye
I used to be a dreamer, dancing through life without much care / Now I worry about which path to follow next, and I long for times gone by
I am talented and honest and good / I am not talented or honest or good
If you held my hand, I would look closely at our touching skin, confused and disorientated
Then I’d close my fingers tightly around your hand like it’s a knee-jerk reaction while still not feeling a single sensation
I like it when the sun goes down and the world is shrouded in darkness and mystery / I don’t like mysteries
I know a lot about very little / I know nothing about quite a lot
I admire the ways in which the earth can give way to such beautiful things / I don’t respect that as much as I should
I believe in fairytales and magic and the power of love / I don’t believe in myself
She stood on the station platform,
Bouncing on the balls of her feet.
He switched channels flippantly.
Her hair flew across her face.
He had the sudden urge to buy a blender;
Only three small payments of $19.99.
Behind the yellow line, just as she was told.
Bright colours flashed on the screen,
Filling the darkness of the room.
She could hear the train, but couldn’t see it.
A chill ran up his spine.
He left the room to get a jumper.
The train was fast approaching;
She stretched out her neck.
He hummed a jingle as he reentered the room.
A man stepped in front of her, blocking her view
And stepping a foot over the line…then his second.
He finally stopped on the 7 o’clock news
“Jenny, get back here.”
He fluffed the pillow behind his back.
“Why do I watch this shit?”
“Hey, Mister! You’re not supposed to cross the line.”
Another mass shooting in America,
A new cub at the zoo had been born.
She reached out to him before the train…
He stared blankly at the television.
“Young girl dead trying to stop man from committing suicide.”
a heaviness sat on her chest, pressing
leaving behind a darkness that marred
that pierced a black hole in her chest
a relentless hole that sucked all emotion up
into its void; the good, the bad
and the ugly.
no tears leaked from her eyes, though
a faint ache pulled on her heart and
a bubble of air lodged itself in her throat
she tried to swallow it down, only to be left
with a sharp pain in her lungs
and a heavy lull in her chest.
the man she saw before her
was no man at all
he laid too still, too peacefully
folded up in the carved-marble box
ready to be bolted shut and locked away
until it grew old and dusty.
the white rose she held tightly in her palm
was pressed against her nose
the small hum of his breath as he slept
echoed in her ears
an echo of what used to be
and would never be again
she inhaled a shaky breath
the floral aroma of rose petals
flooded her senses
she closed her eyes
and finally cried.
I could stare at them for hours
Whether they’re flouncing about the room
Or lounging lazily across their couch
Dark eyes fixed on the television screen
My eyes linger there too long
They turn to face me
Perhaps feeling my gaze
They make me nervous
But a special kind
That sets butterflies loose in my stomach
I look away
Not wanting them to feel uncomfortable
With my impenetrable gaze
My body angles towards theirs
I steal glances every now and again
Their lean stature with strong shoulders
Sharp, elven features
A jawline that could cut glass juxtaposed
With high, delicate cheekbones begging
To be bitten into
Long hair running down their narrow back
Black as ebony
Their gown just as dark
A corset binding
Their slender waist
Long fingertips glide across their lips
Painted a deep red
I imprint their image in my mind’s eye
I make them laugh so I can save and store the tune
Their arm touches mine
For a fraction of a moment
And time stops
I never want it to resume
hiding my self from a conscious world
a world so used to caring about the way
a woman looks a world that judges her
on the shortness of her skirt
the height of her heels
the thickness of her thighs
wrapped up in cotton and wool
warm inside the self-made cocoon
shielded from critical eyes
hurled into a never-ending procession
of make-up and matching prints and tidy
straightened hair I swear
if that boy never looks at me I’ll die
even though secretly dig his sister
covered in clothes covered right up
because the feeling of the fabric against my skin
is more comfortable than the feeling
of another person’s flesh touching mine
being told from birth to look to act
like a lady
placing my self-worth in pieces of fabric
shamed because I spend my money
on material items they say that
money can’t buy happiness
but cloth-covered self-consciousness
is the only happiness I have