Content warning: references to self harm.
Had I planned this a bit better, I would have started twelve days before Christmas and been able to fit the song a little better. Or possibly I would have gone for the twelve days after Christmas — I’m never sure which it’s supposed to be. But planning isn’t my strong point, as I only decided to do this a few minutes ago, so you’ll have to forgive me for that one.
Next month it’ll be two years since I released Crossroads Poetry, as absurd as that seems to be. It’s well over a year since I released Broken Body Fragile Heart, too, and while I had all sorts of plans for other collections, my failure to write more than a handful of poems in the past year sort of put paid to that.
However, since it’s now been so long that most people will have forgotten that any of these collections actually exist, I decided to do something special. In the lead up to Christmas, I’m going to blog every day (hopefully), and it’ll take the form of giving you one of the poems from Crossroads Poetry and a couple of paragraphs talking about it. I think. Hopefully this is going to work out. I may bring in a few poems from the other two collections if I find I’m utterly lacking in poems I want to share, but who knows.
The collection costs £2, and I would consider it a wonderful Christmas present if anyone would like to buy it, but I’m not doing this as an advertising campaign: I wanted to share the poems and remind you that they exist, and decided to make it festive. A sort of poetic advent calendar. (Maybe I should’ve started on the 1st. OH WELL.)
All links and information relating to Crossroads Poetry can be found here (under the “Books” tab).
The first poem I’m going to share is quite a personal one — well, they all are, it’s hard to get away from that in poetry. It was written in November 2013, which was a particularly bad time for me. I’m prone to having a bout of poor mental health in mid-late November, and I’m beginning to wonder if maybe I have SAD, but this was the first year it properly hit me. At the time I was also struggling a lot with my anxiety and with the urge to self-harm, which I’d been dealing with for a few years but hadn’t told anybody.
My main method of dealing with it would be to draw on my arms to distract myself, but it wasn’t perfect. Eventually I confessed to my mum what was going on, and made a renewed attempt at quitting — something I’m proud to say I’ve mostly succeeded in doing. I still have bad days, particularly when I’ve had a change of medication recently, but on the whole, those days are in the past.
Which is good! But they’re still a part of who I am, and not something I’ve talked about much on this blog, so sharing this poem is a form of confession for me. It’s saying, this is how I felt two years ago and I won’t hide it anymore.
(It shouldn’t be a surprise to anyone that I found it terrifying to publish these poems in the first place — a lot of them touch on things I was very afraid to say out loud, which is like 90% of the reason I write poetry.)
Anyway, this poem draws a lot on imagery that seems very appropriate to my degree. For those who aren’t aware, ogam or ogham refers to a form of writing found in early Ireland, usually carved into rocks, formed of straight lines. It’s an odd one, but you’ll see why the imagery is appropriate, I guess. It fits with the theme of the collection, which is about turning points — liminal moments, crossroads deals, souls sold and reclaimed.
Without further rambling, here’s the poem.
— — —
These coloured doodles are knotwork –
why then, these cuts are Ogham prayers
carved laboriously into the stone arms
my sculptor saw fit to give to me.
Raw and pagan, they glow scarlet
with warmth and dead-blood scabs,
scraped off by the claws of wild things
that care nothing for my healing.
This regression is the juxtaposition
of ancient and medieval, war and art,
ink touching against the edge of blood
and dyeing it with unlikely colours.
Sliced into me are new-formed patterns
to reconcile these bloody anachronisms;
combined with me are the inked escapes
and they are all the blood I have.
— — —
Thanks for sticking around through my long periods of absence this term. I won’t promise a more cheerful poem tomorrow, but I’ll try and give you something that doesn’t relate quite so closely to one of the worst patches of my life in terms of mental health. (2013 was a bad year, though, so many of these poems dwell on these more negative aspects.) As ever, any comments are more than welcome. Merry Christmas, I guess?
(Yeah, good one Miriam. Give them the angsty, depressing poem as a Christmas present. That sounds like a great idea.)
(It’s possible I didn’t think this through.)