So, new poem. I’ve been umming and ahhing about whether I should put it up before I have a video to go with it, because it’s very much a performance piece and I’m not sure the words stand scrutiny on their own. Then again, I’m always criticising performance pieces whose words don’t stand up to scrutiny so fair’s fair. It’s also the most personal piece I’ve written since We Were Making Fairytales and it’s on an important subject so, if I wrote it to help, best get it out sooner. In terms of how it’s performed, basically think John Cooper Clarke’s Evidently Chickentown (one long machine-gun burst without a breath in each verse), interrupted by the few lines in the middle, which are delivered slowly and I hold my breath after “hold it” for about 30 seconds before continuing.
Obviously content warning for suicidal thoughts, please be aware.
Those of you who’ve known me a while will know suicide has been a simple fact of my life for a long time. I have two friends who killed themselves (this is for them), in both cases choosing the railway line for their final breaths. My best friend tried to kill herself three times, at least, over the course of a decade and a half. My wife and I have lived with suicidal thoughts for decades. As have many other of my dearest friends.
I’m 44 and I would now say I’ve reached the stage where I have suicidal thoughts, on average, for about an hour or two a day. Which means for the first time in about 30 years, I would say I am “well”. As well as I can ever imagine being. What I would love is to live in a world where I can say that to an audience and not have people shuffle on their seats, or to someone I know and not have them look away. Because we live in a world where it’s acceptable for an almost stranger to share a hundred details with me about their kids, and my wife and I can’t have children and even after several years of therapy, thank you person I don’t really know you just made this a three hour day, but when they finally turn round to me and say, “And how are you?” if I reply, “Stranger, I’m just counting the gaps between lorries” that makes me the freak. And that’s not OK. At all.
So, I hope if you read this and you have been there, you will know that you are not alone, and if you read this and you haven’t been there if ever someone needs to talk, you’ll shift a little less on your seat.
I cut myself the pain was real
I prayed to God it would not heal
But God’s a fucking charlatan
I sought relief from harlot hands
They fucked me, blew me, fisted, pegged
They whipped me till my skin was red
Repeated till my insides bled
The numbness fucking grew instead
The shit fermented in my head
I know exactly what you see
Each time you accidentally
Allow your eyes to fall on me
The skin my sickness gives to me
You like to say this too will pass
But sometimes pain is built to last
I’m not being rude but try to grasp
The thinness of the paper mask
I know it seems a thankless task
In platitudes please do not bask
Swigging kudos from a flask
So take thirty seconds, please, just half a minute and if you only hear one thing hear this.
No I do not want to die
I do not want to leave you, hurt you, traumatise you you you
Even the word you is a drill that will not stop but will not fill me
But when each breath is saline spreading skin from flesh
The only thing I want to do is hold it.
You’ll wonder did I leave a note
It’s every verse I ever wrote
It’s every word I ever said
It’s every rhyme you ever read
You had the clues and still you missed them
Cos you wouldn’t fucking listen
The silences the vacant looks
The times I had my head in books
I couldn’t make it to the door
I curled up on the kitchen floor
With guilt I felt when I was sure
That even though my flesh was raw
The whole world needed you much more
The tory victims, working poor
The millions destroyed by war
Each headline an interrogation
Every loss a condemnation
You wonder why I play the fool
When playground whims from vicious schools
Are codified as social rules
The pool of pain the fetid lake
The only thing this world won’t take
Tomorrow please for pity’s sake
Be the day I do not wake.