Poetry: Selections from HLR
You see things and hear things that “aren’t real”
[apparently, according to everybody else
but it’s all real to you]
Your eye keeps twitching; you need magnesium
[you can’t remember which and it
doesn’t matter one bit−fuck it,
let it, let it twitch]
You cannot seem to do crosswords anymore
[you make mistakes then furiously
scribble out the whole grid because
You turn to books, to literature, believing that
reading will save you
[when you open your favourite novel,
the print on the pages don’t resemble
You want to write your sorry little heart out
[but your words aren’t words either and
you admit that you are a waste of paper]
Your brain isn’t working properly
[which makes you incredibly
angry−your brain is enraged at itself]
You try to slit your incredulity-choked throat
[and barely make a mark−
your Daddy’s penknife is too blunt]
You try to stab yourself in the stomach
[your body stops you from creating
You are alive and stupid and angry and your
brain is broken and you are so tired
[of your brain / body / rage / of being
tired / of everyone / everything /
all of it]
Your anti-psychotic medication isn’t working, it
doesn’t work anymore, it’s not working
[“Well, obviously,” you say,
sarcastically, to nobody]
Nevertheless, You Are Left-Handed
Earlier in the day you had an overwhelming urge to chop your fingers off.
Mainly the thumb, index and middle finger of your left hand.*
[like the feeling of them]
[attached to you]
Your skin makes you sick.
You want your skin to stop touching you.
You want your skin to get the hell off of your body.
“GET OFF ME!”
at your skin
at your skin
The neighbours probably thought that the men had come back.
They probably thought, “Oh God, that mad bird from number 24 is kicking off again.”
They probably held
*The only thing you do left-handedly is hold a pen to write. You do absolutely everything else with your right hand. Women used to be burnt at the stake for being left-handed. You learnt how to roll cigarettes your right-handed father’s way and were taught
right-handed normal scissors and punch in orthodox stance and stand on skateboards the way your right-handed brother does. Nevertheless, you are left-handed. It says so on an official document.
You keep doing things that are “out of character”
[you are too many characters]
You have “forgotten how to play the role” of Your Self
[your brain murdered all of the goodness in you]
“Did you lose the script?”
[you are full of villains and disasters]
“Have you even bothered to look for it??”
[you’ve been typecast / categorised / put in a box]
“Are you sure that such a script even exists???”
[from now on, you will always be cast as:
the bad / evil / insane one
the waste of [[police]] time
You believe in one for sorrow.
The sight of a solitary magpie
determines your mood
for the rest of the day:
one for sorrow and you are sad.
The superstition ends there.
You do not believe in two for joy.
On Saturday, it will be three years since your Daddy died.
You read somewhere that once you reach the three-year anniversary of a loved one’s passing, the death can no longer be referred to as ‘recent.’ The death is officially considered as having occurred long enough ago that any grief one may still be feeling can no longer be used to justify typical grief-induced behaviours (angry outbursts, crying in public, actively mourning, the death having a noticeable, significant impact on your daily life, etc.). After the third anniversary, grief can no longer serve as a valid excuse for any of your questionable behaviours or negative emotions.
You are supposed to be “over it” by the third year.
You will never, ever get over it.
You dread the prospect of November.
You are sure that November dreads your arrival, too.
You had three nosebleeds today, allof them highly satisfying, each equallylovely. The free-falling drop of claret that lands on your newspaper at the junction of 21 down and 29across is such a lovely surprise.You like to look at the patterns thatthe blood paints onto the tissue as if theywere Rorschach inkblots. Bloodblots. You say what you see because nobody is beside you to take notes or worryabout what you say that you see (wasps, exploding grenade, rotten apples, the Wisła when it flooded, an amphitheatre). The deciphering of the blots, the eventual stopas the blood clots. It is so polite of your bodyto choose that moment to remind you thatyou are alive, when you yourself have forgotten or weren’t entirely convinced.You roll the tissue between your palms, moulding the evidence of your existence into a neat ball, launching it directlyinto the bin in the corner, and it lands softly, a lovely, clean shot. You wipe your nose with the back of your hand, drag the nibof the pencil through the blood and now the answer to 21 down libel is writtenin red. Snap your head back, set your neck and dangle your hair over the top edgeof the chair. The taste of rust as the plasma collects in the crook of your throat is 29 across:the clue is ‘pleasant, delightful,’ the answer is lovely.
Blind (Happy 3rd Death Day, Daddy)
My eyes give me away. They are mine but you saw yourself inside them. I see me too: in them, through them, through you. They look so sad, don’t they? They betray me. They suit me. They betray me at any opportunity. Sometimes I try to pull my eyes out of their sockets so I can’t see any more badness. They stay where they are, stubborn. Full of bad news, kind and wild at the same time. Soft-boiled, just like yours were, but my smiles don’t reach them. Bright orange in the sunshine, beached Baltic amber, visions witnessed petrified within. Pinholes when I’m tired or wired or sedated, uninspired. They see too much when they are shut. Incapable of unseeing, deleting, forgetting. The OFF switch is a dud. Even if I gouged them out, I’d forever see you in that bed, your tired chest as it rose and fell for your final breath, your yellow lids, snug over shuttered pupils; if I were to go blind overnight, I’d still see Death holding out his hand for me to take, to shake, and you grabbing it instead, leaving me there so terribly alive, so acutely awake. I would still see these scenes projected on the walls of my chipped-china brain, on repeat, in technicolour, in ultra-HD, ona never-ending loop in such hideous clarity and look, Daddy, LOOK! Look at my eyes now, oh dear, they’re running again. My eyes are running again, giving me away again, betraying me again, seeing you again and running again, you in that emaciated state, a shell of a man, and running again and seeing five strange men and the worst word, the evil text message again, and running and seeing all of the badness again, betraying me and running and seeing again and look at them, running, and always seeing everything.
HLR (she/her) writes poetry and prose about living with chronic mental illness, trauma, and grief. Her work has been published by or is forthcoming with Emerge Literary Journal, Expat Press, Lunate, The Hellebore, and others. She is the author of the prosetry collection History of Present Complaint (Close to the Bone) and the micro-chapbook, Portrait of the Poet as a Hot Mess (Ghost City Press) and winner of The Desmond O’Grady International Poetry Prize 2021. She lives in London.