Once upon a December

Today is my birthday. The clock is freezing over the passing year and the concrete is budding with the promise of a sunrise. December is a piercing time. When phones become mirrors and we are so viscerally reminded of what we do not have. I am musing on the past.

I have failed a few things this year. I was due to take my driving test last month. When the day came I hadn’t the money to hire my instructors car. I had hardly taken lessons in months; when I had money I was sick and when I wasn’t sick I hadn’t the money (or was working). In July I had a little but my brother asked me to go away with him and of course, I said yes, always yes.

A few months ago I entered into a poetry competition. The prize money £10,000. I had it all planned out. I would buy a camera to take pictures properly for my blog, I would use my winnings to pay off debts. I would buy a chest of drawers, ironing board and plants for my home. I would change my Instagram bio to ‘Manchester Poetry Prize Winner’ and watch my career burst into confetti. I would sprinkle money on my friends who had held me so tightly these past couple of years. I would travel.

My auntie calls me to wish me a Happy Birthday. ‘What are you doing?’ She says. ‘I am writing in my journal’ I tell her. ‘Write in there that your auntie rang, she’s 56 and she’s on the shelf.’ I laugh. ‘You know this is going on the internet Auntie J?’ ‘Thats fine, the first person that can whisk me away on holiday can have me.’

I guess I am not the only one who preys on stars.

I didn’t win. I was sad, but when I read the shortlisted poems I could see that they were chosen because they were gorgeous. I wanted my younger cousin and student to see me win because they had seen me work, they too are lost in the rhythm of the journey and I want them to see that hustle is heard. But maybe they need to see me fail. Maybe they need to see overcoming to overcome.

My failure is so dear to me. I tell myself I will do better, but I am doing the best I can. I tell myself I will try harder but I am trying as hard as I can. All that is left to do is relax. Looking back I realise that I took on too much, now here I am in the middle of it all and the only way out is through.

Shared below is one of the poems I entered into the competition. I began writing it (as part of my novel) last year in the mountains of Andalusia and kept adding to it through the year, it is now the poem you see below. I hope you enjoy…

Running (Inspired by Kissing by Dorianne Laux)

She is running  
on a wet path 
on the edge of nirvana,       
after she leaves her home               
in London. 
Running at 3pm 
when red double deckers                
fill with teenagers 
rocking the bus side to side. 
Running as bees and black butterflies     
as big as birds spiral around her. 

Running through centuries     
of forest under Jupiter and Mars    
as men with black fingernails 
sit outside McDonald’s singing                
‘spare some change please’   
as women are crushed under 
big bellied men and their hearts 
careen towards the sky,
her sisters hugs grow 
fragrant with distance.             

She is running 
to lose her mind 
to loosen grip 
on sour words she spit to   
explore the long deep space      
between each thought.             

She is running to forget time.   
To forget her mothers 
flesh on the floor. 
She is still running when 
children desperately scratch the air   
as they are pulled 
from their fathers  
running because her 
tongue can’t save her. 
She is running to narrow 
the galaxy between them 
once filled with words 
running because silence 
is her siren.  

She is running 
as if it would  heal the world     
as if it were the next right thing 
and the only right thing                  
running when it is too early 
when it is too late.             
She will stop at nothing.
She will run until her legs cramp, 
her sides burn with stitches laughter ricochets 
in her lungs her clenched stomach brings up blood she is running.

Nadège René



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December 2017, The London Wetland Centre


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