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