And He Cried Out To the God of Austerities Who Said On the Seventh Day You Shall Tax, Pillage and Burn Melissa Lee-Houghton
With a new equinox comes many bad photos of a red blob which they say is The Moon Eclipsed. I nest deeply and into my need. I make a large hole to swallow. Poverty is a loop, not a knot and not an empty cup—not fillable; There is no opening; just an exit you can turn on and turn into Time and again—and I turn my back and the whole day disposes of itself. Crushes itself into a figment of someone else's imagination. I have been here before as an affirmation meant to ward off evil And only ever ends up beckoning blame. The man in the sweater says Do not judge, do not blame; do not call something Good— To say something is Good means something must be Bad and that is Wrong. I pray each night to the god of faulty circumstance. He answers If only you'd thought of that before and When will you learn and I tell him I'm sorry and Nobody warned me life would be this hard. When I'm stricken he laughs. And the magazines don't want me And neither do the papers. I'm sick into someone else's soul. They cut me some slack. I ride a flogged pony into the centre of the town And someone else's sense of time makes things awkward.
Carry me, in all my romance and my homemade satin dress Off to the outskirts of somewhere I don't know. I want to be abandoned properly. I want to be helpless for real and not second guessing the state. I win awards and my hair falls out in clumps and blocks the drain. I dye my hair the same colour as my heart and the sun shines in. You say you love me well break me. When you're gentle I lie back breathless. The tablets take the sleekness off all the light; they take my sex drive And leave me thirsty and mute. I called out but no-one came until bedtime. I drove to the city to have it off with a whim and they called while I was out. The bad actor was my favourite. All the good actors left me cold. He said The bad actor did that thing with his hands That all children do when they are acting. I liked it. Shave off my edges and rub me in butter. And drown me in fat. I eat too much and I sleep more. No-one who ever slept away their life was ever happy about it.
The cider is cheap and although I drink it I don't like it but it softens the blow. Oh woe betide the poet in her finest clothes saying words like Poverty and Piss And Heartache—look up her skirt is she lying about being wet. Is she lying. Is she. Pull a loose thread and see where it unravels to. If it reaches her midriff. If it reaches her core, her centre, her heart, bless her. If it reaches her muff. My mother is not as Godless as me. She has a clean house and clear bronchial alveoli. Six weeks of antibiotics in the '90s. My husband is one year younger than he thought. He has gained a whole year overnight he doesn't know what he will do with it. I knock knock very gently at his heart when I have a bad dream. I keep quiet when I wake having an orgasm. The political climate comes into me like a hard cock and I fuck it. If the Prime Minister let me in I would want to shit in his house. Someone said there is nothing for a scrounger but the scent. Someone said there is nothing for the harbinger but the money. Someone said life becomes a power struggle when you compare yourself with God. Someone said fortune makes a goat of us all.
I wring my hands to keep up appearances. The season is bewitching— I go outside and compete with the rain and don't win. The weather is loud and I taste like salt on Sundays. Fevering is a virtue and I do it well. Regret only covers that which you cannot change. There are witches only where witches are looked for. Where there is a witch there's a man with a chequebook and a claimant form. Make me an offer I can refuse so I can shame you, it's a hobby of mine. You can't ask me to cease doing what I most enjoy if it's a free country. I put a rifle in my mouth when I reached the age of ten. I pulled the trigger though it clicked and I was released in a sluggish heartbeat. I attend to most things silently. Where there is a voice someone can record it. If you say the wrong thing too many times someone will know it. A witch will curse you if you have not answered the right question in the right tone And if you are interrogated the trick is to convince yourself you are right. The trick is to convince yourself you are wrong. The trick is to convince yourself you are falling. And fake only what you preach. And take only what you want. Go on now, infant, soldier, or ghost—take it.
Pull the rings off my finger and swallow them. I am hoarse. I can't shout so don't call me. They eat me alive. My children have lizard bellies. My children are reptiles. I feed my babies mice. I live off the sewer and choke. My thumbs are inverse—stuck on wrong in a difficult moment. The doctor can't tell my mouth from my arsehole. He stuffed me with this diagnosis and I had to ask some tart To pass me a mirror so I could read the indictment. Keep a patch over it, it read. Keep a patch over one eye. Don't talk to strangers and Don't marry anyone who might poison you with kindness or Give you regular access to firearms. The wound grows infected. I pour cheap vinegar into the abscess. A geranium grows from my nose. I trim it in summer. I am abased when the November sleet Lights on my dead face. Don't leave me he sings. I won't go. I sleep through most sunsets. Seen one you've seen them all. God descaled my heart And French kissed me. He tasted like McDonald's. He loves me most when he's tired, when he's too tired to run.
Goodnight blackbird, and starling. Goodnight Adrian, and señorita And my mother, who swings from the bough of a dead tree, A conker for a heart and a handset for a brain. Everyone says hello. I practised for a lisp when I was seven, I wanted a lisp just to be different. Now I can hardly speak I make promises to only collapse in private. I have never seen anything more beautiful than The taste of Spanish lemons. Can I come home soon. It's been very many years on the run I think I could do with some safehousing. What if he finds out where I am. You don't understand how hard it is to keep running. I look behind me Around every corner. Most shoulders are unappealing. Rock me like a child. Rock me hard. Fasten all my buttons and zips, put me in a chastity belt, in a straitjacket In a sweat shop. If I'd been a good girl I'd be flying now. Some of the parts you have to cut away, when they turn bad but don't be afraid. If the knife is sterile it hurts less. I hear my mother's knitting needles clacking inside me. They knitted me a womb and I thought it were a purse. When no money fell out I blamed immigration. Put me back on the shelf. I knocked the politics over. It broke into A thousand shiny pieces. Never in my whole life was I so demoralised. But thank you, anyway, for not killing me when you had the chance. God knows someone less restrained would have. Thanks again. And rest assured I keep all my holes oiled for you. There's nothing for us in this world O austerity. I think I'll Write something happy when they stop applauding. Ah, if only someone knew to laugh at that line.
I'm a sorbet woman. I keep myself cold. I put dead rabbits in the larder In my dreams. I wake up stuttering German words I don't know. I would never have put you down for a communist Or a socialist Or a freak of nature, but there you are, all the same. Married to a frost. Married to a hearse. Plotting to bring down the government. Marching on a full stomach. Choose tweed over wool. Cough up a motor engine. Roar like pre-menstrual tension. I said I'm shattered and I sat and wrote a ten page essay on poverty And cried about putting on weight. He said You don't come across as angry. The moon reflected in my eye sockets. I never shook hands with anyone I actually liked or respected. Time is running out. Time is always running out. We make bad choices and we pay for it. There was always enough to go round. Don't pass me onto anyone else this is the fourth phone-call you hung up, dickhead. My daughter can do Peppa Pig in a Scottish accent. There is no hope if you rule out a majority verdict. If it were up to me I would. Eat me. Bite me, or whatever. Just don't see me. Just don't beat me. Just don't lie. Vote for the next person who leaves room to swing a cat. Vote for the next person who recites poetry; Someone, somewhere should teach this girl how to write it.
I am all over and through with you. In rural Lancashire they miss out whole words and phrases, you have to Fill in the blanks in your head. I have a false tooth and it causes me anxiety. The saints masturbated just like everyone else. They smelled bad when they didn't wash, just like everyone else. When a person is not believed and they are truthful they shake their fist at God. When I broke the pestle and mortar I shook my fist at God. He remained unbothered so I stuck out my tongue. I'm a bad kid. Tsunamis, he said. Yes, I said. The world is not round if you are in your mother's womb. It reeks of faeces and out in front of you all you can see is shit. Spare me the sob story. I only broke your heart because you wanted me to. Sometimes crime is the same as sport. I only said you didn't love me to get you to say you did and it worked. I am a very clever girl and I can list my attributes and put them in order One I am good in bed. Two I can quit anything in a heartbeat. Three When I start things I can't finish I just walk away and don't look back. Four I wasted a great many words though I never wasted laughter. Come get in my bed and make me sorry. My eyes are bloodshot and I have been patient but The truth is just something you know in your gut, he said. In your core, in your centre. Feel it. I am desperate. I flinch every time someone hands me a receipt. I see my long life and my steady death in it. I see it in the noughts and the decimal points. Save me from the destiny within—it doesn't understand the metric system. Why did no-one teach me a skill I could use. Whenever I look up God closes a door somewhere and the more doors he closes The more fences I have to climb—the more I have to feign surprise When someone asks me why I didn't do it the easy way Why I had to cross myself before stepping inside your heart.
Melissa Lee-Houghton is a Next Generation poet 2014. Her two poetry collections are published by Penned in the Margins and a third collection, Sunshine, is due out in September 2016.