Culture //

The Aftermath

‘The Aftermath’ by Nicola Cayless.

Artwork by Clare Angel-Auld.
Artwork by Clare Angel-Auld.
Artwork by Clare Angel-Auld.

1. I think about you most when I am in the supermarket. Cans stretch from wall to wall, stark lights beat an anthem behind my eyes. I think I am one of those cans, neatly packaged for the juice inside. Oh, to be you. How many choices you have. How many meals you can eat.

2. Do you rip into the meat; do you strip flesh from the bones? Do you lick the sauce from your lips; do you wipe up the blood with bread?

3. A boy I know once told me that it’s not desecration if you’ve had the dish before.

When I tried to say that lambs aren’t silent, they scream when you cut them, he laughed and told me, you’re biased, you see wolves wherever you go.

4. Secrets hide in the catacombs of my knees, shaking. I couldn’t stand to sit next to him. I was too afraid to stand up.

5. Men don’t wait for the moon. They have claws, fangs, fur; even the ones who love me, the ones who kiss me gently, and sit by me while I burn beneath the moonlight.

6. How do you tell a man they frighten you, when all they’ve done is say hello?

7. I know your name and that is why I cannot speak to boys with kind eyes, boys whose only crime is being named.

I can’t look at bald men without feeling sick. I can’t walk home beside tall men. I can’t talk to shopkeepers with crinkled eyes.

I wrap terror around me like a blanket.

8. Avoidance is an instinct, always running, never fighting.

9. I avoid carparks. I avoid the backseats of cars.

I avoid kissing men with stubble.

I avoid making love with my eyes closed.

10. There aren’t any places that are safe for me anymore.

Not the supermarket. Not my home. Not my dreams.

11. My dreams are horror movies that I can’t turn off.

12. What do you do when they joke about the loss of your childhood? How do you run when their voices bolt your legs to the floor?

13. The definition sticks in my throat when I try to tell people why I’m angry, why I’m sad, why I am who I am.

14. I am Frankenstein’s monster, your creature, your plaything, yours. You have pulled me from the flames. I am forever running and coming back.

15. I am sitting down to write a poem about you. I think I have done this

a hundred times, and every time I can feel you breathing down my neck.

I wonder if there will come a time I can write without shivering.

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