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Poetry: 'Textbook' & 'Corkboard' by HLR


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

the face

to be seen on good days

on the reverse the edge is

painted grey

that’s the side where my

dark notes hide

facing the wall so guests don’t

feel afraid

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

bullets, distractions

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

your name

as one of my reasons

to live.

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

Image Credit: Royalty-free image permitted for reuse by CC Search. Link to original

Author: Wlodi

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