(for the Dutch poet Joop Bersee)
You’re like a wet taproot burrowing-digging-digging
into the ground. You’re flitch, a flicker and a burn.
You’re desolate. You know you are and you will not
be triumphant today. My wish is to outlive England.
I have spent these lonely years, all these aching hours
knowing you. The loss and feeling, the animal-murmur
of my weeping, and residue of this stubborn mental
fight. My feet walk in Egypt, Jerusalem, Syria, the jungles
of Africa. My feet find trails, float on paths of cobblestone
and asphalt jungle. My legs turn green in the sea. My last
breath will come I know in time. Where I am going to
I don’t know that for sure. The white picket fences of
heaven or the territories of hell. I am armed with neither
the light of love or the reward of joy. I think of the clashing-
hungry-roaring sea. I think of the startled fight, fright,
flight and adrenaline of self-harm. I think of the struggle
that lounges there. You, cutting, are as desolate as the shore
as I’ve said before. You paint me utterly ape, and bird,
peacock and parrot, animal and amethyst. You paint me
with age, with rage. You’re so various, so complex, so-
complicated with genteel-loneliness, and talk self-harm. You’re
so newfound. You’ve been found dying before. I have. I
have. I have. You took those pills and fell in moonlight, the
green grass glowing, the quietness stirring in the dark. You
can only think of self-harm in the dark. Thoughts of suicide
and self-harm are no stranger to me. They come like thunder
ripping me apart, tearing me apart. I sleep now in the glory,
the glow (always the glow of green grass in the moonlight or
in the daylight). I can’t stand to self-harm, to cut in daylight.
Better the night. The night is better. I’m lying on my back
on my bed in high care in the ward. I remember everything.
I remember nothing. I think of York, Sussex and Nottingham. No
reason do I have to fear York, Sussex and Nottingham. Yes,
England, you puritan, I think I will outlive you. Hold my hand.
Please just hold onto my hand. Look! My legs turn green in
the seawater. I think of you now and then suicide. Much too
scared to dive in wholeheartedly. Much too frightened even
to attempt you again. You’re a ghost that will haunt me to the end
of my days in this world until I find the other side of paradise.
I think of you as dull now and far-gone forever and ever and
ever. I think of you as I think of a frozen river, a winter river.
Flow river, flow to the sea. Forgive me. Forgive me for thinking
of taking my own life. Farewell river. Farewell cutting.
Farewell self-harm. Farewell your splendid towers and spires
and cathedrals. I’m done with you. I bid you adieu, adieu, adieu!
Poem © Abigail George
Image by Gerd Altmann from Pixabay (modified)