Meeting you again but after Murakami

I have been meeting you once every six months
in the same coffee shop in Kensington. These meetings
feel a lot like dates but I suspect that’s just me.
*
I do not go on many dates.
You say I should. You do not know.
*
I have been reading a lot of Murakami novels
as of late and his interest in alternate realities
has got me reconsidering my own history.
*
You’d asked me between flapjack bites that,
if I could travel back in time, was there anything
I would change? There were crumbs on your jumper
and I was taking the smallest of small sips just
to keep you around for a little longer.
*
If I could go back in time, I would only change us,
would shift back to a Saturday night in January 2014
which I spent staring at a phone displaying your number
yet not being able to make the call. I would change only that,
and that might have changed everything. I take some comfort
in knowing that in an alternate reality I did call you that night
and set into motion a series of events that proved
to be the making of me. I cannot change this,
but in an alternate reality, we may exist closer than we are
in this one, still ordering the same drinks and taking small sips.
*
I’d told you I would probably go back and make sure I got into The Smiths earlier than 2012.
*
00010100100001001010010101010101010101010101010
*
You’d then asked if I was still writing sad poems and I was at the time but am not anymore yet there is still one I need to get out of my system, after which I shall make peace with my shortcomings and live happier thereon.
*
In an alternate reality, I am not weak.
In an alternate reality, I am better with my words.
In an alternate reality, I am able to swim freestyle leisurely.
In an alternate reality, Murakami writes non-fiction and this poem is fiction.
In an alternate reality, Morrissey is a good person but a terrible musician and not the other way around.
*
When we’d finished our coffees and caught the overground to Hampstead Heath
I had been thinking that, in an alternate reality, one of the dogs we’d named
would be our own. I was thinking my hand would be in yours instead of fumbling
with the keys in my pocket and that when you took a picture people would see it
on Instagram and remember that our context was as more than friends who walk
through Hampstead Heath every six months. I was thinking it was colder the time before.
*
I would like to follow the music to the top of the mountain
and rediscovered you covered in crumbs and waiting for me there.
*
When we went on the London Eye I envisioned splitting in two at the top, fell asleep
on the train back to Norwich and dreamt that one version of myself was making love
to you in the room of the house I lived in during my second year at university. In an
alternate reality you visited more than once and rarely left before midnight and it was
bliss.
*
I accept that in a different reality I won’t have gone to the store that day
and as such we will never have met. I wonder if this would be easier.
Alternate me would have no frame of reference but he might love someone else.
*
When I had told you I was moving to Japan I studied your face
and didn’t see what I wanted to see there, just slight surprise
giving way to an impressed look and then question forming.
*
In this present reality, in which we are together but separate
I may yet call you from a phone booth in Kyoto and tell you
that I was wrong and that it was always you and then we may
deal with that Murakami shift in the narrative when we come to it.

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Unemployed

I have started meditating again.
Every morning I spend fifteen minutes
staring at the wall below my bedroom mirror
with my legs not quite crossed but almost.

The shade of white changes with the cloud
movement and I have never noticed this before.

I am reminded how loud my breathing is,
as it colours the air in this room empty
aside from a bedroom mirror, a broken TV,
a twin size mattress and a guitar missing an E string.

I have started living with less and living more
in attempts to be less lonely and a little happier.

When the wall shifts to a shade of grey
I uncross my not-quite-crossed legs,
pick up the guitar and play Come As You Are
higher up the scale and things are better.

I don’t breath until it is done, and when I exhale
everything is a little bit brighter.

Tilikum (I am not sure this is an adequate poem)

*

There is a crack running for a metre along the floor of the swimming pool.
I think I am beginning to understand why you wanted to die.

I was diving deep every other length and running my fingers along it,
felt like the couch-tear singed or the markings we made in school desks.

The woman in the next lane over probably wondered what I was doing,
when she swam backstroke she didn’t see anything on the ceiling.

*

As a child you used to have a recurrent nightmare in which you were treading water with tired limbs in the world’s biggest swimming pool, ten thousand feet deep, and you could never make out the edges but always sensed they were a meter further away than you would be capable of swimming, so you never tried, too afraid to move in the water lest the ripples turned into waves in the dream that was always silent, while the water was always pitch black, dark enough that when you would dip your head and stare down into the black you would see nothing, but knew that there was something below you, shapeless, moving in the depths, and you worried that if you were to call out it would rise to the surface and consume you.

I don’t know if this is an adequate metaphor for depression.

I don’t know at which point you stopped kicking and starting sinking.

I know I probably wasn’t there.

*

I sometimes have this dream as well but in it, my eyes are brown like yours.
When you first recounted it I questioned whether the other body below you
was trapped likewise – perhaps this is why I have been unable to re-watch Blackfish.

In my local swimming pool, I sometimes think I see bubbles rising from the crack,
Marianas Trench stretching down below Norwich,
though they are probably just my own from when I exhale at the thought of you.

Around the fiftieth length, I realised that I was swimming an angry frontcrawl,
kicking up water and occasionally grazing my elbow on the lane markings.
I misted my goggles and could no longer see the crack, so

I had to trace my fingertips over the tiles to find it,
like you did when you knocked the pill bottle from the bathroom cupboard,
scattering pills all over the floor with the lights out.

*

I am writing this in the changing room
on my phone, dripping water onto the floor
like you dripping water from the kettle
onto my copy of Moby Dick. The man beside me

is already dressed. I think he understands.
Tomorrow morning I will catch a train
and travel back north for your funeral.
I am thinking that I will have time

for a swim before I cycle to the station,
It means I will smell like chlorine at the
service and that when I shake hands
with your father, my nails will be opaque.

I will kiss your mother on the cheek
and my skin will be washed smooth
against her own. I will smile at your
sister as if we were sharing lanes.

*

They will ask me if I am still swimming.
I will tell them all that I am sorry.

I know the crack in the pool will grow in my absence,
until it eventually swallows the water and beaches all of us
like orcas atop the floor we sometimes brushed with our toes.

I know that most cracks lie below the surface.
I am beginning to understand why you wanted to die.

*

 

Three Months In

You asked me why I never write love poems,
which I would like to go record as saying
is not a fair question to be asking three months
into a new relationship. I do not know how

we have made it this far but I am glad we have,
because waking up to the sound of you breathing
is a much better 7am soundtrack than Gary singing
in the downstairs shower; I do not know how

he hits those high notes but you call it a gift
like the gift that are your eyes and their blue,
same colour as the sky on clear days and it’s been
a while since I have watched the sunrise

and felt sorry for myself at the same time
but you’ve been keeping me up and I could
happily watch a thousand bad movies and read
the Croatian subtitles you insist on turning on;

I have started to pick up certain words,
for example, I know that imati means have
and that oko means around and I do not know
how to use my language to write a love poem

but give it three months and I might just try.
You might think this is a love poem but it is not;
it is just me writing about how I cannot write
a love poem and about how I like having you around.

His Old Jacket

He left it in the old house, along with all of the
cigarette stubs in the drawer in the shed,
along with the cobwebs over the bed
and I inherited it because I was the last to go.

Jacket with the broken zipper and the pocket
which has something in it but cannot be
opened; jacket I wear to write poetry
and pick up women, jacket not mine

but carrying his confidence. I am not
quite me and not quite him but somewhere
in between, better than myself but not
as bad as he ever was – I don’t smoke.

Turned out what was in the pocket
was a lighter than didn’t work, dead.
Turned out he didn’t want it back
when we met in London that one time.

I was wearing his jacket when I asked out
the cute sales assistant at Holland and Barrett;
she’d still said no, but asking was more
than I ever had the courage to do before.

I am wearing his jacket as I write this poem
but the body underneath it is my own.

Ratings

When people ask me how I’m doing
I have got into the habit of replying
with a score. This poem begins 7/10.

I have probably spent too many years
reviewing records; I had a tendency
to score too highly, gave Blush a 9.

Chelsea lost to Tottenham yesterday
and I was on a 7 at sixty minutes but
sunk to a 4 when the final whistle went.

Last week ASDA were out of soy milk
but had an abundance of Alpro yoghurts
so I left riding three quarters high – 7.5.

Most days are good days, I used to sit
around a 5 on the daily but I’ve been
making changes to boost ratings.

She’s one of the positive changes.
Last Friday she stayed the night
and I peaked around a 9.75,

probably could’ve pushed higher
but the decimal would suffer,
could convert, 990/1000.

And when I inevitably fuck it up
I’ll plummet to rock bottom,
will have to start the rebuilding

until I’m comfortably happy
out of ten again, keep track
with poetry and with a pen.

Incredibly Close

The headlights are only blinding
if you approach them head on.

There are too many cars in London;
I could never cycle comfortably here,

prefer to walk after hours,
visit the different boroughs

just like Oskar Schell would, though
I’m not searching for anything.

Stop beneath a string of lights
hanging over a beer garden

just off of Shoreditch high street
halfway home at midnight.

I run a finger over each of them,
halfway high at midnight,

each light a small universe
caught captured in colour

and if I were to knock on every door
in this city how many people

would I find sharing my name,
each of us a little estranged

yet oddly unified? James said
London could swallow anyone;

he didn’t say whether he thought
this was a good or bad thing.