A Hallmark Moment?
Emily Duncan

* This poem was workshopped on the Bardic Circle - particular thanks to
Leslie Ann Miller for her feedback. *
She tells me, 'you don't love me like you used to,'
and I stare at my shoes.
Stunned, a million comic deaths replaying in my head,
jerking like an old movie,
badly spliced, but I'm trying not to watch -
instead, I'm
by the pattern
on the leather.

I count the stitches.

I have a fear of words.

When I try
to verbalise,
words stick
in my throat.

I'm afraid to cough in case the words rise up too fast, and all at once - I'm scared I'm going to
on a torrent of verbs, adjectives, consonants, vowels,
which start to lose their meaning, you know,
once you mix them all together.

I have no use for words.

She tells me, 'we're not close any more.'
I'm still staring at my shoes.

This time, I count the holes
where the laces are supposed to go.
I didn't thread them this morning,
and now I hear my Mother's voice in my head,
shrill like it was
years ago.
It echoes,
'You look like a vagrant,
you should learn how to dress.'

The painful memory
of her words.

'Aren't you going to answer?' I hear, and it jerks
me out of the past
into the panic of the present.
The movie is playing again,
I haven't got any popcorn,
and I can't
the words.

The silence is intolerable,
so I start running.
And it's a long corridor,
my shoes have fallen off, the walls twist
and turn.
Dead ends rise up out of nowhere, like cruel policemen,
and I can't get away.
I keep running, and I know
my breath and knees will start to fail,
and eventually
I'll be beaten
in my desperate flight
from words.

I miss her, and her
hair, eyes, skin, teeth -
like a close-up photograph, I keep her in my head.
She's safer there,
safe from me, and my
with words.
I miss her
and she's right beside me,
crying because I shut her out,
and I want to tell her I'm
scared -
scared of the words.

Scared they'll come out wrong, scared
I'll betray too much -
scared that once I start
I won't be able to stop.

Eventually, I look up
and dare to meet her eyes,
and there's warmth there,
it's snowing outside.
We woke to snow this morning,
it killed all the crocuses,
I mourned them from the window
while my silence
hurt her heart.
Still silent, I take her hand,
and she begins to smile,
and I'm reminded
that sometimes,
there's just no need for words.

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