Marsailidh Groat - 2
Reflections on a Familiar Journey
Each time I return, I am struck by the absurdness of this city,
by the vastness that once seemed to swallow me whole,
so huge I thought I would disappear, lost
in its mass of streets and boroughs.
It has been so bright that, at times,
I’ve had to peer cautiously through half closed eyes,
and at others, been smothered by a darkness
that clings so greedily I lose all sight of myself.
People here are fast, fierce and passionate,
brought here by ambition, or lust for discovery.
It is a place of extremes; of lavish extravagance
and crushing depravity.
World famous icons seep into the norms of everyday life,
until a reminder is brought by a child or visitor.
I have inhaled deeply, choked on smoke,
lost and regained the excitement, the wonder.
I have fallen in love,
been so inspired, and so broken,
wandering through streets both new and familiar
as the world watches through a screen.
The snake eyes me greedily
Scales glistening with a grotesque comfort
Persuasive, knowing he need not speak
Eyes glinting with smugness, admiring
His willing fruit.
He lies in wait between meals
Coiled in the dark; he never waits long
We follow a pattern, like his skin
The tongue flickers from his mouth, as though
The air is sweet, but scorching hot.
And, one by one, to escape
I watch friends flock, with the precision of soldiers
As though it were the easiest thing in the world
Into his mouth
Willing and unquestioning.
Far, Far Away
The child that craves fairy tales
and believes the stories she is told
has no reason to be sceptic.
She feeds the fairies in her schoolbag
and makes an enchanted forest from a few trees,
a dragon’s nest from a pile of leaves.
She questions everything, hides nothing,
and does not want for truth or honesty;
they are assumed, with no reason to doubt.
Is it strange that my goal should be to regress?
She seems very inspiring.
She seems far, far away.
Trees in a park
Bound by roots.
We love, in passing,
Or at the cutting of a cake.
A dread, deeper than
the loss of a friend
That we should change,
Together, and still
not know ourselves. Then, we
wore beads, and you
chased me, my name
Difficult to pronounce, my attention
Harder to hold. And now,
with countries between us, and years
that would shift mountains, I feel
a loss, a dread, a fear
that one day we should
Grow old, and
Every time, before pen meets paper,
A crushing paralysis seeps through every muscle,
Until the physicality of the act becomes impossible.
New words come and sink artlessly beneath skin,
Through veins, hit bone,
Like a surgeon holding a knife, and cutting,
Not with the motive to cure, but dissect,
To feel the separation of tendons,
Not to liberate, but inspect,
Until every layer is cut,
Each specimen reduced to its most basic form.
Skulls don’t speak languages.
Bones don’t paint pictures.
You offer words older than yourself
and carry books thicker than your skin.
I relish the sting I can cause by mocking your mistakes,
because it is my job to be cruel.
It will be years until I ache for you the way you do for me,
that I might catch your attention,
that we might really know each other,
because how could anyone else understand?
I’m scared of how distant adults can be,
scared of the habits we could learn.
Do you remember when you bit my toe and drew blood,
and I pulled the flaps of skin apart like a mouth
to make you laugh?
Do you remember when I told you a secret,
and you tried so hard to tell it,
but you didn’t have the right words?
Please forgive me for the times I didn’t listen,
didn’t play with you.
I want more than ever to hear
about dinosaurs now.
Such an eye for detail; the colours red, gold, green,
Intricate portraits and fine embroidery, meticulously.placed,
By someone with a keen eye,
And impeccable taste.
Metal, glass, crystal, gold,
Twisted in on themselves,
Cut, carved, manipulated,
By hands that couldn’t afford them.
I wonder how much it costs to have them cleaned?
And if these padded floors,
Could provide much more comfort,
Than the cold, hard concrete outside.
Whether my feet were cleansed on my entrance,
From the dirt I carry from the tube.
Somehow, I feel dirtier than before.
Where I come from, extremity is encouraged;
my eyes seek the brash, the bright, the vulgar,
while my face contorts with the sourness of a taste.
We have the privilege of arguing over who has gone too far.
Far away from here the line is clearer, crueler,
where books are burned and speech must be careful.
Letters build words the way actions make personalities,
and stars form constellations.
Here, we fought for our language.
Voices that were overlooked for so long
pushed their way to the forefront
demanding to be recognised.
Now, we are inundated with trivia,
artless narcissism, self obsession,
and, when we look to express,
There are no words.
Once, you were very young,
and your skin was soft and pliable;
every step was new, and so there wasn’t time
to be scared of uncertainty, as long as
the warmth of your mother’s arms were nearby.
Grown ups would carve messages into your body,
and they would stay there, even if
their words were soft and their touch gentle,
because what else could you know of the world
than the words of those who had already seen it?
Don’t sit like that. Your father’s told you before.
How soon did you learn
that your body isn’t yours?
Did you have long to play in the mud,
to look out at the world
rather than down at yourself?
It isn’t ladylike.
He isn’t drawing pictures because he’s a boy.
A small child, dressed in dungarees,
asked: why is the screen blurry?
He needed glasses,
couldn’t see the shapes on the page
but how could anyone have known?
He’s more interested in the cars and trucks.