12.

When given a moment to rest in backseats
lecture halls and streets in amongst the people
only then is it clear how far I have come
my progress might look small, achievements
tiny in stature compared to some
and yet – and yet, perhaps they had
a foot or two in the door, a few steps ahead
things have changed – I have changed
from blackened eyes in pristine gardens,
a forehead split open on a marble floor
I have come so far from violence, I
still flinch when confronted, yet am hardened
I am quick to apologise, still first to cry
but do not be deceived – these are instincts
not yet ironed out of me, tears do not mean
I am any less capable of perseverance
of cutting ties and taking to the sea

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11.

I have written of my private guilt, of the funeral
I hold in my chest for the child I will lose
but I see a spark, I let threads grow between us
our own world untouched by abuse we share
I see you fight back against that sadness
I see you vocalise in ways I never did, I let
my anger eat away until it came out in bottles
and in blood. But I had no-one to believe me
nobody safe to speak to, who did not betray me
and we don’t have our holidays, our home
we don’t yet have the escape I dream of daily
but I am here – I am here. You deserve so much
that I never could have, and I hope to save you
if from a distance, if in weekend breaks
in shopping trips, secret emails and craft days
give you things I never had, alleviate the guilt
that crushes my chest when you whisper
that you wish I could be your mother, instead

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10.

Of monsters and beaches, of friends and family
I moved here not to escape the city, but the rush
of the village, the ways in which you all knew me
and yet not enough to know my next big trick
might take me away, might let me disappear
and yet I have never been safer, never more loved
than when I lost a family, when I left small
for big, for anonymous – you do not yet know me
to know who I was at nine, at fourteen – whatever
fucked up thing I said ten years ago – it is not I
but where I died in classrooms, was buried
in riverbeds, where I drove through country lanes
to try and live again, restore some freedom
I was made in these evenings, in this town
at 5am running wild, but the sea never sleeps
I have swam and shouted, I have conquered
a few people here know me, of course
but I am anonymous, free to be delivered
back to the ocean, to pier summers and fires
I have cried at 3 in a friends arms in the streets
and she forgave me, she let me be born
and forget the years in a city that killed me

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9.

For a future, is there a future
in reminiscing and ruminating
what birthed me, who shaped me
the bonfire evenings that saved me
for I see how those ways inform
the way I live now – I live only
through escape, I always have
a way out, a place left to go
I have not yet burned all my bridges
in London, in Leicester, in California
I still have refuge, I still have family
ruminating reminds me, at least
compulsively, that I have come far
and I can go further, yet

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8.

I never knew safety, never could let cries escape me / I hid and I tapped 3, 5, 15 times – nothing will happen / if the world is controlled, unpacked / re-organised in a way my young mind could interpret / I got older and still, I had an anger / I did not yet understand that where children had parents, umbrellas to protect them / houses built of bricks and meals / I had myself, I had my repetitions, my own safety. / I understood that perhaps their parents were not drunk / that their mother did not bleed and leave the children to feed themselves / but not the gravity, I suppose / I had a place I would go, after the world was clean / I poured and I studied, the words that fell from me / I could re-write, re-interpret, understand in the pages / and what I could not translate, what I could never understand / was transcribed for me by others / in my sing-song Fridays / in CD cases, in books and films / someone had already explained it for me / my little world understood, my ceiling-less home organised / still now, I haven’t those parents / a safe space to express / where others can talk, and have others listen / I am safer in repetitions, holed up in these pages

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BTN-CA

In a harder time, I booked a ticket / Gatwick to LAX in ten hours or less / I was craving the dust, the palm trees / burnt shoulders and clear waters / as June rolled around, my city’s summer came / through coffee shop windows, I burnt to dust / the lazy, slow-moving summer days / reminded me of palm trees, and I felt safe again / but to land in California, to see friends / to swim in clear waters, to laugh in the shade / is different, somehow, to a summertime tourist town / that I love so dearly / but somehow brings me down / my heart is split down the middle / wanting British summer, buckets and spades / but knowing my soul lives still in Southern California / with the desert, the dusty haze

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7.

I love my life, I love my life – when I was younger
I spent a lot of time on something, under someone
I saw the futures of the others around me, and I
saw none yet for myself, so I let her die

Fast-forward, I suppose, and here I am
I am alive, and I suppose that I surpassed
anything I ever wanted for myself at fourteen
I’ve a home, I’ve a family, I’ve the beach
when there are storms I can hide and when
it is sunny, I run to the coast – I am safe

Since I thought I might die, I have seen Spain
I have seen the South of France in July
and known the fireworks in Florida
as I so wanted at fourteen, I have spent days
getting to know the West Coast,
getting to know myself – I love my life

I have driven, I have lived – my work has
been read over, and over, and over
there is yet more that I want, of course
I am never happy, never still – restless
but I have so much, so much I needn’t
have expected, nor deserved
I am grateful, just this once

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