I almost forgot about today’s Poem-mas post, and then when I remembered it was already getting late, but I’m not above staying up late due to an arbitrary commitment I made to the internet and which absolutely nobody will notice if I miss, so here I am. HELLO INTERNET. YOUR TASK FOR 2016 IS TO PERSUADE ME TO GET A LIFE.
Anyway, after some dissertation funtimes this afternoon followed by a nap I didn’t really mean to take, I’m in the mood to share a poem that doesn’t even touch on any of the ideas I was trying to write about earlier. Which means no fairies, no angels, nothing vaguely theological, and nothing that relates to mythology. Surprisingly, that rules out quite a lot of my poetry. Or perhaps that’s not such a surprise after all.
I decided to share a poem from Broken Body Fragile Heart, just to shake things up a bit, but I had to think for a long time about which one to share. This collection deals with a lot of things I didn’t feel able to say out loud: it’s my way of sharing secrets, hiding behind poetry so that I felt like I got them off my chest without having to actually say what happened. Explaining the context and background to a poem would for the most part defeat the point.
So I thought carefully about it. Very carefully.
The one I’ve decided to share is a bit of a tricky one, because it relates to a particular person. I no longer know this person. (It’s the same person about whom I wrote Kiss At The Crossing Place.) It’s more than two years since we last spoke to each other, and so even if I felt compelled to ask for his permission before sharing this, I couldn’t. But that lack of contact is half the reason this poem was written.
The problem with ending a friendship is that however good your reasons were for doing it, you still lose the friendship. This one was toxic and it made me very miserable for quite a long time; it affected my relationship with other friends and also with my family, I think. It messed me up. But at the heart of it, somewhere underneath all the messiness, was friendship. Was somebody I told everything to. Was somebody I cared about, and who was a part of a lot of my memories.
After our friendship ended, I wanted to be angry and full of hate, because that made it easier, and it meant I didn’t miss him. Unfortunately, it doesn’t work like that, and it took me a really long time before I realised I needed to mourn him and our former friendship before I could move on. I spent too long being angry to really acknowledge what I’d lost. (I wrote a poem specifically about that, called Pyre, which you can read on Protagonize.)
This poem was written a while before that realisation, but it kind of draws on the same feelings, and on the way I found it difficult to let go even though it was definitely 100% over, beyond the point of being able to fix things.
I’m not going to name this particular ex-friend, or talk about what happened between us to ruin our friendship so totally. I imagine everyone’s got a similar story, even if the details are different, and maybe this poem will speak to some of you despite the context being vague.
— — —
A Distant Ghost
There are so many messages I compose
but never type out and never send to you.
Like the fact that there’s a short story,
a prequel to the book I lent you to read
(I can still see your fingerprints
there on clean, white pages)
and I think you’d like to read it
because the narrator is the musician
you wish you were, but never will be
because you’re not good enough.
The band I’m listening to reminds me
of your music and the way I sat
in the doorway of your hotel room,
singing harmonies to overused pop songs
while you played guitar and watched me
as though you could see the chord sheets
in the paper of my sun-neglected skin.
Except they’re better than you,
and my voice doesn’t come through
in the silence with uncertain harmonisation
a little too low for my alto range.
And my character isn’t you anymore,
because I love him more than I ever loved you,
but you’ll never read the words I use
to paint my pictures of this new unknown man,
because I closed the book in your face.
I don’t want to hate you anymore.
It’s exhausting and I was never any good at it,
and here in the silence I play with my bitterness
and shape it into words that I won’t send to you
because I don’t want to help you
and I don’t want to hurt you.
Maybe you don’t have my number any more
and if I texted you they’d just be words
from the mouth of a distant ghost,
and maybe you write messages to me
and delete them without sending them
because they’ll only make me angry again.
Or maybe you still write me songs
and play them to a silent room as though
it never mattered whether I heard them.
(But I think probably you don’t.)
— — —
With any luck, my post tomorrow will be both more timely and more cheerful. See you then!