incoherent old words

May 13, 2012

looking for the person i used to be, the things i used to know about myself or writing or living in the old words. i have documentsupondocumentsupondust, and i used to be able to write without- so much fear.

loss and how we live with it. i did it blind, then.




all the way up the hill
I watched the cars down
past the trees, the small buildings
the steep curve

distant traffic at the foot
speeding through the intersections,
hairpin bends below

where I saw a boy sprawled across the road
skateboard in the gutter, all limbs
wrapped in a grey t-shirt

the shouting passers-by, the women with blankets
Josh from the café on his phone, running out
to meet
the oncoming cars, the coming police
the man and his murderous car
pulled up in the drive, child on his hip

traffic stopping, veering

all the way up the hill, bag pulling
down on my shoulders, dragging me down
weighed by coat and cumbersome heels and ugly jeans heavy
awkward weary furious body

I wondered how it would feel
stepping out into the road before the snapping cars,
too late to stop

letting it all drop, once-
for all- flying backwards

crumpled on the tarmac, limbs crushed,
only pain, only a black coat, only a body
letting it all go in the smack of a car
books flying everywhere, bag burst, split zips
screeching tyre marks all over the pages of Worthen’s
Anthology and Merwin’s Rain in the Trees, damp with ripped sheets
and torn hair and who knows what, blood, wet, the dark things inside, not sure
as I’ve never died before but

that satisfying impact
ploughing bones apart like dominoes, the wet slap
of a sack of raw meat, swung back
oh my body’s babel
I’d do it

I’d do it for that second

that terrifying release from the stranglehold of the mind
saying live live live




that was 2008. I don’t write like that anymore. I didn’t write like that often, back then- this has a little more grey clarity, functionality, in it than most of the things I was writing. but I still like the last few stanzas. the wet slap of a sack of raw meat, swung back. my body’s babel.




from what I’m reading, i’ve  been splintering and mending and splintering long before this. it’s good to remember that; I may feel like I’ve reached another smashed plate, another spiderweb of splinters and hairline cracks that stretch forever into the distance, breaking and cracks in the head- so damn difficult to mend-  but I’ve been doing it forever, and I’ll be doing it forever. it’s not new. one day I’ll look back and see what I’ve written now and remember. I suppose this is why I write. reminders that I am not just Now. I’ve survived, grown on. I can keep doing it.

I was so much more vivid then, in university. colours and bloody dripping words and I wrote without thinking about it at all, words just out the way one breathes, words pulled like a string out of my head and dropped onto the page, and I remember that, I do. I don’t have that colour anymore I don’t know where it’s all gone. I don’t know how to write without being afraid of all the things I’m not writing because of it, all the things I’m losing because I’ve found one thing and am following it. I don’t know how to destroy boldly. I need to learn.

destruction and creation are Janus-faced. to create is to destroy everything that could have been created, all the possibilities. that paralyses me. am I doing the best thing. is this Right. as if there is the Best Way to do something, the sheer perfection that I keep missing and by putting another word down- it will be the wrong word, and I will have destroyed it, and lost it, and perfection will be gone. Rightness will be gone.

that is wrong I know but I don’t know how to not believe it-




paralysed with silence
and the swallowing absence of words that always sink
through the inside of my throat when I think of it

I corpse here,
faced with unmoving fear, still
and huddled in my head, unable to step further down
these corridors,
these spaces opening blank
and vacant as a building locked in darkness,
echoing with the gaps of something missing.

this is the absence of something more than breath.
there is nothing I fear more than failure.

it is the death where the dead is the inside of myself
scraped into my hand

trembling like dust in the corners of elevator shafts,
forever rising up and down, in silence
inside the shaft of my unspeaking voice




that’s 2007. First year of university, before my voice picked up the edge of panic and became frantic and frenetic and brittle as glass and as manic as I guess I was, so sharp I hurt myself on the edges of my thinking and bled colours.

working through the pages of 2010 now; apparently I got even more incoherent for a while. clever, and meaningless, and lengthily incoherent. it gets to be hard work reading here because there are too many scrambled images packed into one sentence, like I picked up a whole box of pictures and shook really hard and then pasted what came out onto paper. noise without substance. see.




speak, little monster, speak.
winter comes near and your soul groans.
speak, and do not be afraid
even if the things come tumbling out like bones in a storage locker
like the cold house weaving in winter in the shakes of wind
in the whistlefrost and the permadew
and the reasons that make him stay behind.

you have no hips now, and they do not bear children
up and underneath them, ridden on white horses
given no ponies, I think no yankee
will doodle on this page. what a lark.
your voice
makes me vaguely nauseous
and it is only the impending doom of a sinking ship, a dipped croissant
that makes me want to see the back
of your turned, fair head.




what the hell is this about, Valerie. and there’s more of it, pages and pages more of this particular- headspill. apparently I just needed to make noises. a lot of it was about or to God, as well, but most of it is more or less violently cluttered, whether or not I was saying anything in particular. my head was scattered and unfocused and everywhere and it shows.

apart from- some things. one or two pieces from 2010 are still so full of darkness and silence it makes me sad to read them.

aha, early 2011. apparently I was aware of the noise I was making.




i am learning to be innocent and kind
no I am not. i am learning
to be more focused.

I will probably not be too focused here.
I am learning the difference between being focused
and not, between writing like I have somewhere to be
or something to say, and not
because I am simply taking out the small packing-case of my head
and pulling many-coloured umbrellas and portcullises out
and stringing words gently along until they tug behind my boats
hang off my legs like angry children, demanding solace
or demanding games. I have met too many angry children in my life
and their solaces are easily procured
their angers easily calmed. Small children are like trees
no, they are easier to understand than trees.
today is a day to throw all words out into the air like rice
cooked and landing lumpy on the face as they rain back down again.
today is not a day for sweeping sentences, the long brushstrokes
of words and intent, words and intent.




2011 is much the same, although I become even more prosaical as I go, and all the poetry I write becomes prose with vague line structure. Becomes conversation, more than anything. and- we’re in 2012 now, and the separation between Writing Deliberately And Thoughtfully and Writing Because I Have To Get Things Out is a bit bigger. I have two versions of myself saying the same thing about words, written two months ago, and one of them is full of wild imagery and repetition and has its roots in fear, and the other one is prosaical and deliberate and pushed. Have the pushed one.




i defy
you, cold and ordinary fears
you, custard
of sword-swallowing words, the fall-apart and the not-know
the quiver of will this work this time will the magic hold
each arrow can I still write
each target a faint and far-off thing, a word, a hope
write me

this time there will be words there will be ink
making the page dirty even if it costs me to put them down
even if when I speak my throat dries up and the horror
takes over my hands what am i doing what have i said what is this
who are you and the words must out, and sometimes
you hammer things flat with the flat of your head
against the stubborn backs (they are your own)
and sometimes from your hand life falls like snow
and words become true, and real, and right
and altogether more real than you could have hoped

and like now you batter them flat with the heel of your shoe
and tell them behave, I am master here
even if you will mutiny, you will stand in ranks
I will have mastery, I will subdue
there will be a poem, even if it is
not very good

even if it tastes like prose
and if I have to hammer my soul flat I will
and if I have to make myself submit I will
there will be words, even if I dislike them
and there will be truth, even if in the saying
I lose an eye and an arm and a leg

a resolution and determination a disagreement
a loss of things that could be, every time I lose
the wild horse every lost advantage can I still write  no
today it says no

but write me out until I give in




I don’t know. apparently I don’t- write as automatically and fluently as I did before, or as brightly as I did before. and writing now is habit more than anything in a brain more vague and less focused than it used to be. I may have done myself a disservice by going to university; it seems to have killed my brightness.

I think I’m too tired to think anymore.

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