I WILL ONLY PERFORM THIS POEM ONCE
(A SPOKEN WORD POEM)
Tomorrow it will be 21 years since you died.
Tomorrow, my grief becomes an adult.
Tomorrow grief should turn to dust, to dust, to ashes in my mouth.
Hard to swallow. Like being without you.
Tomorrow grief, my old family friend who has been holding my hand since I was old enough to understand that sometimes you hold hands that don’t hold back – tomorrow grief, should have matured.
Tomorrow, at 21 years old, grief should have moved out already.
Grief should get a car,
ironically – a life.
But it hasn’t.
It does have a friend.
She’s called loneliness, and the two have taken up permanent residence in my head.
If I try to get them to leave, they paint your picture on my arms with a razor.
They write your name on my cheeks transparent ‘til I disappear.
The doctors find me weeping in stairwells and tell me that I have complicated grief, that its chronic. That its terminal. That missing you will kill me. That the hollow parts of me that snap my veins open under the slightest pressure may always be that way, because my body craves one thing and we burnt it
in a box.
This is complicated grief, this is complicated.
This is not making sense,
this is not understanding why the whole world isn’t still raging that she’s gone.
This is the word dead,
in lower case,
with the angles and points of the letters digging into my oesophagus so every breath since you’ve gone has been choked on.
This is broken vowels and syllables undigested in my body, releasing toxins periodically, to keep the pain fresh.
This is complicated.
This is abscessed grief.
This is grief turned in on itself and decaying - everything –
This is pain turned gangrenous, like your stomach when it tried to eat away all that was good about us, as it gnawed on your organs trying to make you
a failure –
grief turns 21
and I expected it to mellow with age, to move on.
To move forward.
Because I loved you –
But I shouldn’t have sat open mouthed with shock because when I wrote this poem it was the first time I said loved in the past tense.
I shouldn’t still be surprised by how much it hurts to say Did…
I Did have.
What do I have now?
A once-a-year anniversary when its socially acceptable to let people catch me indecently grieving.
Cos once a year it’s okay.
But tears every time I remember that the body replaces all its cells every 7 years, so no part of my skin has ever even known a part that ever touched you –
That isn’t normal, that isn’t healthy,
that’s terminal –
that’s dying in slow motion because half my organs are missing, and I can’t breathe without your lungs moving anymore – this is –
goodbye without the closure.
Cos even though I’ll only ever read this poem once, we both know you’ll find it tattooed on my diaphragm, hidden where no one else can see, and convulsing through every breath.
This poem’s a symptom.
A daily ritual, a compulsion, an obsession.
This poem’s the same today as it was 21 years ago.
This poem’s trying to let go. I’m trying, to let go,
so I’m only gonna perform this poem once.
It’s not like you’re here to hear it anyway.
Kathryn O’Driscoll is a spoken word poet, writer and activist from Bath. Her poetry discusses, among other things, mental illness, disability, feminism, isolation and loss.
PHOTO by Tyrone Lewis
at Process Productions.
Write something about yourself. No need to be fancy, just an overview.