For You My Lamb

What would you do
if violence were forced upon you?
bloodstained sands
steel wolves ravaging lambs
compel you to flee this land

An aegean expanse
the danger it yields
leaves you breathless
whitecaps meet a forlorn hand
two lights vanish in a stillborn sea

Fall of Orion

Artemis’ arrow
of the golden shaft
lightning that
broke the sky
cleaved off Orion’s
shoulder as
Betelgeuse turned
supernova

His club tumbled
from heaven
into the Atlantic
tearing our world
apart

All that remained
was a velveteen sky
in mourning
and silence

The Trickster and the Fool

Grief is a trickster, an emotional succubus in the guise of an elegant belle encouraging you to stay with her for a moment, to feed her your hurt. Catharsis for the soul transforms into codependency. She is the head of Algol, unable to survive without you, and so you continue to wane, living in her orbit a brief while longer. You birth an ocean of tears and lay amongst the shifting sands of your heart, never settled. Between despair and mania, a rage that forges steel, creating gargantuan jet-black monoliths to remind you of your loss.

The mask slips and her crooked smile follows you wherever you go. Her whispers taunt you long into the night, she is inescapable. Her claws etch into your skin the sacred commandments:

You will worship me

You shall not love

You will fall with me

You shall not laugh

You will give your soul to me

You shall not live

You become a slave to Grief, it infects and clouds all rationale. Memories warp and rearrange themselves in accordance with Her plan. Distractions for the mind while the body exhausts itself. In the blink of an eye, you’ve built a world together while chasing a false horizon. Maybe, in secret, you hope to reach the other side of the shore, where colour seeps into the nothingness and even Grief’s insidious warmth can’t touch.


Wondering how much time has passed in this mire is insanity unto itself. Time is a social construct. It existed before we gave a name upon it; we defined it—A way to measure the past, the present and the future. An ever forward march, once so predictable becomes indecipherable. You are here, but there is no now. Just an ever expanding darkness with you at the centre. No longer troubling yourself with its unfathomable size. Only one question lingers: is this it?

***

Then it comes—an unseen hand tipping the scales in your favour. The sun brushes against the horizon. A feast of colour emerges; watermelon with swirls of peach and honey. The sky a kaleidoscope of butterscotch and bubblegum. And the warmth, so considerate of your skin as a mother does when swaddling her newborn. To see this golden dawn racing across the land, illuminating the sorrow and melting away the shards of suffering you’ve so dutifully collected. Several crystalise and shatter, dispersing and lodging themselves into the many fissures of your mind. Too resilient to disappear but well-hidden, a mere regretful reminder for a future you.

At last, the pain softens, and your chest loosens. The relief in taking that first breath and savouring how divine it tastes. A choir of synapses sing in harmony. Thoughts, dreams, and experiences flood into you. This isn’t it. There is more, so much more. You raise your arms and roar at Grief that you have the power to change, to grow, and take a tentative step into the unknown. Grief has stripped so much from you and you’ve clawed back so much. Only one thing remains:

Hope.

A world outside Grief exists, along with others who have carried the weight of loss and are on the same journey as you. Reach out to them, connect, be the first to trace a new path so others may pursue.

Your future is no longer tied to Grief. She will perish and be reborn as something different as you too shall rise again.

In life, nothing is eternal, so treasure the here and now.

Frisson

Image result for record player gif

Music saves

It elicits auditory awe in me

A beautiful melody

Can harmonize with my heart

And syncopate my soul

The beat washes over me

I’m baptised in sound

Dancing on the precipice of bliss

Drown me in a sempiternal solo

Let me live forever

With this feeling Of frisson

Waifs and Strays

A nation in flux
Failed by its protector

Freedom fighters
Facilitated by the free world
There’s always a price

Waifs and Strays
Walk the streets
Visiting friends
In pieces

They drop bombs
We drop like flies
Swatted from your mind
A noxious atmosphere
We can’t cry

The Longest Journey

Here I stand before you
Birthed by the stars themselves
Their effervescence immeasurable
I traversed the universe
Taking in its majesty
Until I found home
This pale blue dot
Laced with rock
Its beating heart
A fiery core
That no one but time
Will ever tame

I have been many things
Though I did not know myself
Until a self came to be
A product of evolution
Now I am me
The culmination of
A thousand ancestors
And a family of three

The sum of my life choices so far
Every decision I’ve taken
Other potentials erased
Divergent paths
New possibilities
A branch of lightning
Illuminating time

Like a clock
I will forever move forward
I can gaze back
Yet I can never embrace the past
My hands will slow
And my gears will rust
Eventually
I will cease to be
But if I’m lucky
Someone else will continue
This journey for me

Bereavement: six months or one hundred and eighty-two days later

20140123_155516Today marks six months since my mother passed away from cancer. A thick fog is only now lifting. Both my physical and mental health have suffered. But I’ve found solace in writing and this has been a cathartic exercise. Today is the culmination of a journey years in the making and one where I’ve yet to take the first step. This story contains references to death, cancer, mental health, self-harm, and suicide. I’ll post a second and third part on Wednesday and Friday, respectively.

“I’m sorry, she’s gone.”

I already knew. It had been five minutes since she took her final breath. I mirrored her—motionless, cold, empty. That was now my mother. A stark contrast to the hour before. All the reading, preparation, and conversations can never truly prepare you for what happens when a loved one passes. So I kissed her forehead and uttered the words:

“I love you, Mum. I’ll be with you soon. I promise.”

I never saw her body again. Though this was a choice.

What lay before me was little more than a container that had its contents spirited away. My attachment was to the person, not the body.

I spent the following twenty minutes speaking to—being consoled by—a nurse, though little registered. Everything from time to sight and sound just bled into each other. I remember being on the train back home, watching people as they go about their business thinking; do you see me? Am I sad? I knew I wasn’t crying but a wave of anxiety rushed over me. How was I being perceived by the outside world? I had expected a tsunami of emotion but anxiety, that was it? I wondered why now of all times when it was perfectly reasonable for me to cry; I didn’t. I couldn’t.

Later I would vividly remember not crying at her bedside because I felt it rude to do so. An ICU is full of people close to death, each with their own story of suffering, the last thing they needed was to hear my cries. On reflection, not a normal thought process but one I imagine protected me. At least until I got home. Alone, I cried and I wouldn’t stop for days but I guess to understand what had just occurred I’d have to go back.

This was the second time someone had given her the diagnosis. The first time was on Good Friday back in 2008. Osteosarcoma of the right tibia. In 2015 there were just 551 new cases of Bone sarcoma in the U.K., making up less than 1% of all cancers and Osteosarcoma makes up 30% of all bone sarcomas. So it accounts for just 0.003% of cancer cases. Osteosarcoma is most common and in teenagers and young adults. So as she said:

“Even with this, I am a rarity.”

A wry smile and a joke. That was how she approached her illness.

She had christened it ‘Frank’.

Her prize for adopting Frank was six rounds of chemotherapy and a brand new titanium tibia. Did she have any questions for the doctor?

“Will the scanner buzz me at airport security?”

“Yes.”

“If I’m short of cash can I sell the leg?”

“No.”

Ten years and many side effects later—she was facing down a second diagnosis. She didn’t name it this time, but I called it ‘The Bastard’ for posterity. The Bastard, for all intents and purposes, was an enemy in an unwinnable war. She received the test results in June 2018 with the news that cancer had taken hold in her spine. Having metastasized, it had a shopping list of organs:

  • Stomach

  • Lungs

  • Breast

  • Brain

That last one? Yeah. That was a real fuck you to someone who had already lost her ability to walk outdoors without the aid of a wheelchair. Someone who had lost feeling in her extremities because of Peripheral Neuropathy. To have dealt with all that for ten years and now have her brain consumed by this was heartbreaking. It was only a matter of time before she would lose all motor function. But something unexpected happened. After receiving a high dose of steroids her motor function returned. It had only been a week, but the difference was night and day. She could raise her arms, sit-up unassisted and could even take a few steps. The sense of pride I felt at seeing this woman, who against all odds was once again back on her feet was immense.

It was enough for the doctors to allow her home but even with this progress, the path only went in one direction and had one end. Now there was an invisible clock hanging over her head. No one knew how much time she’d have left, it’s not an exact science. Though with this improvement and some chemotherapy the doctors estimated six-nine months. Best-case scenario? Up to two years.

It was late July, summer was in full swing. England was marching on in the World Cup and though we marked her 54th birthday in the hospital, we could now have time at home. Planning how best to spend the time she had left.

And in my deepest desperation, I did something that most people end up doing at least once in their life. I prayed to a God I had never believed in. I prayed she would be around for my 32nd birthday and that we’d get one more Christmas together.

In the eerie silence of the chapel, if I really listened—I heard a ticking clock I couldn’t see.