I decided to give you a more cheerful poem for this third day of Poem-mas (read this post if you have no idea what’s going on here), because I was worried that (a) I’d end up spilling my life story on the blog and (b) you’d all be too depressed to take any further interest in my poetry, which was not the plan. However, while there are some semi-cheerful poems in Crossroads Poetry, I decided to turn to my second collection, Fleeting Ink, instead.
Fleeting Ink is a collection of poems about writing and while I’ve had some positive feedback and was very proud of the poems it contained at the time of publishing, I have to admit that it’s my least favourite of my collections. Why? I don’t know. There’s nothing I can pinpoint to explain it. I guess for me the poetry I’m most proud of is the confessional, the stuff that comes from deep within me, and this collection doesn’t explore that so much.
The other problem I had when looking for a poem to share here was that a lot of these poems don’t have context in the same way as those in Crossroads Poetry, because they’re about ideas more than events. Or, if they do have context, it involves other people, and I’m uncomfortable telling their story here when they might not be comfortable with that.
All of these things aside, there are still poems in Fleeting Ink that I’m proud of (mostly those I don’t know how to share), so I’m not saying I regret releasing it or anything.
The poem I’m going to share today has actually been published in Cambridge Notes as well. One of their volumes last year had the theme of ‘silenced voices’, and this poem seemed appropriate. It was written in April 2013, so about a year before I released Fleeting Ink, and to really explain the context we need to look at what was going on in my head at the time.
2013 was a year full of identity crises for me. In January of that year, I realised I was queer, and specifically that I was in love with a girl. From February until early May I was heartbroken. From May until August I was pathetically romantic and soppy. In August I realised I was probably asexual. All through this, I was trying to decide whether to come out, whether to stay closeted, how to come out at all, etc.
As you may be aware, I came out publicly on my blog on New Years’ Day of 2014, which I think was a great decision. But I’d had a dozen coming-out moments throughout the year before that, and most frequently my reasons for correcting someone who assumed I was straight was because I was sick of feeling misrepresented. They weren’t seeing me, and I wanted them to realise that.
This poem came from this frustration, and also from never getting to see characters like me in books, and seeing newspapers frequently skate over people’s identities in favour of their own agendas. It’s called Represent and, well, you’ll see why.
— — —
In my darkness I seek the poetry of light.
I reach out to words that cannot save me
and stories that have no strength left
to bring me back home. I fall,
and as I drown the ink of tales
that never told my story still seeps
into my murder and tries to dye me
its filthy colour as I gasp my last.
I wake on ground of torn-up papers
that are greasy and abandoned in
society’s forgotten back alleys, yet
a tramp will fight me for them
and take my bed from me. I have
no fight left save to expel the ink
upon my lungs that blocks out
the lifeblood of my heart. My love
is stained into words not printed
and forgotten without telling.
My songs are given new lyrics
which tell another person’s life.
I wake in a corner all alone
and my colours are taken from me,
undeserving and impure because
I cannot, will not, fight and yet
I am tired and I do not have a voice.
My stories cannot save my soul.
My poems will not pull me back
from this brink of words, untruths
they tell in black ink in the papers
and they drown my colours out
with lies and force them on me
and I am choking on them all.
This silence murders me daily
but no one will tell my story.
— — —
Now that I think about it, I’m really not very good at this cheerful poem thing. That one’s marginally less depressing and also less personal, but that doesn’t mean it’s exactly happy. Sorry, guys. I promise I’ll find something more cheery for tomorrow. Unless you’re cool with depressing poems, in which case let me know in the comments so that I know I’m not just making you all miserable.
*goes off to look for more cheery poems*