I came home one day to find you reading a book that was written about me.
It was written by some doctors who have never met me,
and it attempted to explain why I am the way I am.
It had an ugly cover. By the look on your face,
I could tell that it didn’t help you to see me like that
spread across the pages / dismembered into chapters / chunks of me
dissected into symptoms / boiled down to alarming statistics / my soul
turned into science by strangers. You’d made notes. Lots and lots of notes.
I picked the notes out of your hand and up off the floor and set them on fire.
You were impressed and annoyed all at once but mostly you were in love.
You told me that you were never going to leave me, even if I told you to / even
if I let you. I asked you if the textbook told you to say that. The smoke alarm
was shrieking. You picked a piece of burnt paper out of my hair and shook
your head. The textbook was never seen again.
Got a corkboard the size
of a dining table
painted one side
of the frame bright yellow
to be seen on good days
on the reverse the edge is
that’s the side where my
dark notes hide
facing the wall so guests don’t
when they visit
and across the board
squares of white
paper are pinned
most of which list
reasons to quit, in neon
pink capital letters
others are bright green
to turn to when cravings hit
because I have no choice
but to cold turkey it
with no doctor no rehab no medicine
no tests no help no monitoring no way
no way out no other way to do this
except at home today
with panic and sickness
with shame and anguish
and the 9 by 6 grid
that no longer lists
as one of my reasons
HLR (she/her) writes poetry and short prose about living with chronic mental illness, trauma, and grief. Her work has been widely published since 2013, most recently by Misery Tourism and SCAB Magazine. HLR is the winner of The Desmond O'Grady International Poetry Prize 2021. She is the author of prosetry collection ‘History of Present Complaint’ (Close to the Bone) and micro-chap ‘Portrait of the Poet as a Hot Mess’ (Ghost City Press). HLR lives in north London where she was born and raised. Twitter: @HLRwriter / IG: hel.rol
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