13.

– I have kept diaries since I was nine, in an effort to unpack what has happened to me. When under attack and upset I turn inward, desperate to find answers as to why I react in this way, who I am. The answers are of course clear, stories we have heard – an unwanted baby born to young, useless parents. A child raised in poverty, oft neglected for four or five days – left to fend for herself, not allowed to speak up and object. I wore the village’s hand-me-downs, was bullied at school, ate all of my meals at friends’ houses. Of course, I grew a little older – as a teenager I took drugs and ran away, staying for days with friends and catching trains alone and realising that actually, nobody knew where I was. I grew up a little more, stopped hurting myself, and came  to understand that nobody would ever care where I was. Perhaps a village raised me, but that village didn’t come to my rescue. I learned to fend for myself early, and I learned that there was safety in a thick skin. In not letting anything through, in never crying. In saying sorry immediately, when it is the last thing that I mean.

– Despite all of this and despite my knowledge, I still run away. I still took off with barely a word and moved to the seaside to start over and never speak to anyone again. I take planes to America when I want to, and I do not explain why. When friends or family expect explanations, expect to be forewarned when I make decisions – I ask why? Nobody has tried to mother me before, and I don’t much expect it to start at twenty-two. A lot of unhealthy rumination and inward-gazing has taught me who I am – that I am insensitive, calculating, and always in a rush. This rumination has also taught me why, where others around me might not see it. They see bad manners, personality disorders, rudeness. Turning inward protects me from violence – from words and fists that crush me and push me back to riverbeds and pill trays. I am no longer three, and I am no longer thirteen – but I could look after myself then, as I can now. I owe nothing.

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Sussex v. Los Angeles

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California

For a year it has been / California / if I lost my job, got a bad grade / fell out with a friend / I could catch a plane / and go back to California. / for as long as I knew the lakes and deserts of America / were waiting under the wings / I couldn’t feel trapped / in my coastal town. / What a year / of failure and rushing / of friends and working / of rebuilding myself / by the sea / in this town / that I love, of course / but I knew I could leave. / what a year of hope / a lump caught in my throat / from a year of waiting, with the desert behind and in front / what a year of knowing / that laughter in pools, that homesick dinners / are waiting for me, still / but after this / life begins, no longer waiting for California / skyscrapers and private pools / churches and glitter / but adulthood, perhaps, might bring even better.

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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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