my daughter fell in love with her gingerbread boy.
black gumdrop eyed sugary smiling gingerbread boy.
giggled as she lifted him from his plastic wrapping.
whispered secrets to him. stole wet kisses
and licks of sweet flesh. left her toys unwrapped
under the tree and snuggled up to him in her sheets.
woke up the next morning screaming.
he was missing a limb. with a mouth full of crumbs
she cried. baked a new leg (paler brown
and lumpy) that she glued on with icing.
swore to him that she would never hurt him again.
i told her to play with her dolls. that gingerbread boys
were only meant to be eaten but she told me
that was how she knew she loved him
– that she wanted him to kiss and cuddle
more than she did in her stomach.
one night i walked into her room to find her
cramming her tear-streaked mouth with sticky brown flesh,
promising that the next time she would love harder.
Friend provided me with the first two lines and asked me to figure out what happens next.
When I am done, I twist the words up, make a rope from nothing more than tender nervous sentiment, and cast it out into the sea. I wait for them to find their way to you; a line stretched spider-silk thin, which you could brush off without thinking. But still, I hope. At night, I dream of your hands and the way they curled against my skin. I think of you standing along the shore, finding a thread gleaming faintly against wet sand. That you will pick it up and hold on.
he wakes to find
the endless jack –
– hammer silenced.
squints in the light,
palms and whiskey.
a wish. chases down
the thought of dark hair
and thin red lips that
curl in the corners and
realises he can breathe
without the stone ache
of loss hanging down
his lungs. he gargles
water, eats his eggs,
throws it all up.
it continues. ulcers
from too-hot food.
his feet, popping and
swelling without his
onions and painting
his kitchen red before
finding the tip of his
he thinks he can
make this work.
becomes a fireman
and is always the last
to leave a burning house.
his eyebrows are permanently
singed, he is a patchwork
of burns until he is fire –
– d for being a danger
to himself and the team.
he is back to the bottle
that night, wrapping lips
around glass like lovers
who will not part from
a kiss for air.
his skin stretches
tight against his bones,
yellows, he hacks
a cough that rattles
in his lungs and spits
something red out when
he sees a woman
dark haired, smile
a slash of scarlet.
his heart presses
against his chest.
– the protest of his
joints, gut, liver –
comes crashing down
but above it all he feels
the weight of stones
hanging down his chest.
I imagine that when it moves, it creeps. Slinks in and hovers around so we don’t even notice it until someone starts to cough, like the haze when it’s in season. Someone else will offer a tissue and then we go on. It’s the only explanation for why we don’t say a thing.
I listened as she listed out the names of all her friends – elite students, all of them – and finally she stopped and said “I’m not even shocked anymore, just tired.”
The time I swallowed a hundred and fifty pills and woke up in the hospital, my mother said “it’s cos you break up is it”. I told the psychiatrist the hospital sent, and then psychologist they made me see after, and I told my mother and I told my father but no one wanted to believe that while the breakup had been the trigger that everything else had been snowballing for years because no one wanted to believe an eight year old could not want to live.
My father told me that the only unconditional love in the world was a mother’s; which meant that when I scored badly for O Levels he hardly spoke to me until my A Levels could redeem my failure.
My students tell me at least one girl every batch succeeds.
One time my mother said something in me must be broken because everyone always fights to live.
Almost every scholar I know suffers from some form of depression or anxiety. Sometimes I want to point at them and say “Look Ma, this is what you wanted me to be.”
How was a child suppose to put to words that what scared her wasn’t death, it was the absolute crushing certainty that life was going to crush her.