‘If I Weren’t Afraid’ and other poems by Ella Bowler

I Don’t Talk, I Let You Talk All The Time

You sit opposite me, on a broken stool, smiling with your teeth.
Rain drips from the ceiling, seeps into table cracks, running onto jeans.
You speak in trauma, in childhood, in breathy laughs, in old love.
I show my teeth.
You take up more space than me.
Your voice eats me, drinks me,
you put your hand on my knee and kiss me.
I don’t talk, I let you talk all the time.

I stand in the kitchen, staring at the window. It has swelling eyes and tangled hair and clothes from yesterday. The colour drains from my cheeks. Washes down the sink.
Your voice appears behind me. It’s bigger, bigger than me. Screams over dishes at the bottom of the sink.
I show my teeth.
You drink me with a straw, eat me raw
fill my mouth, hands and stories.
I don’t talk, I let you talk all the time.

I sit on your bed in the black. The moon shines in from the window and the bright spills all over me.
A crack runs down the middle of things; The bed, the floor, the handle of the door; you slammed it so hard it came free.
The colour drains from my cheeks.
How did I end up here? How did I end up here?
I show my teeth.
From the hall you scream, you’re a fucking child.
I lie on my back and sleep.
I don’t talk, I let you talk all the time.


What Do You Dream of?

You still dream of me, baby?
I dream that you are holding a sheet to me, and I cannot breathe.
So real, that when I wake I feel as though I have died, I have died.
You still dream of me, baby?
I dream of arms outstretched, reaching for yours, folded to your chest. In these, I lose all over again.
You still dream of me, baby?
I dream of every bad thing you said to me. They’re written on my eyelids & they come in screams. Your voice like a mocking angel sings me from sleep.
But you still dream of me, baby?


If I Weren’t Afraid

This time, I’ll say yes.
I’ll fall back into your arms,
crawl beneath the bedsheets,
they’ll still be warm.
This time, I’ll say yes.
I’ll sip the coffee again,
watch our films again,
won’t be afraid of music anymore.
This time, I’ll say yes.
I’ll stop the silence,
talk for hours,
say I love you without it being such a chore.
This time, I’ll say yes.
I’ll walk back into the room,
return my hand into yours
& grip it tightly, as if it had never left.
This time, I’ll say yes.


Grow

Smear lipstick with glitter & tousle hair strands
Show bravery when letting go of roller coaster handlebars & hot palms
Bask in the sun’s warmth without burning
Receive love & neglect hurting
Lick wounds & heal scars
Explore the intricacies of bars & the arbitrary folk that fill them on a Monday nights
Comfort my tendons as they have tendencies to shuffle & laugh when faced with respect
Prepare for the cease of self-discovery
And my anguish that shall chase its fingertips
Empathise when my skin becomes tenuous
Crumples like newspaper
Eyes heavy with tales that reside on finger pressed lips
In them, remember our time
And say that you’re glad
You grew up with me.


Holding up signs

Kiss me in the living room
lay me on your bed
At the end you will cry.
Walk me through the garden
consume until you’re sick
At the end you will cry.
Let me take away the sorrow
I’ll swallow it whole
At the end you will cry.
Write my name on the walls
love me like a plaything
At the end you will cry.
Fight me, hurt me
Spit me down the sink
contort me into a child’s nightmare
At the end you will cry.


In a year

Cut cake for
lost jobs and mangled hearts
for beds that sink in the middle
spilt wine and smoking inside
for sleeping on the bedroom floor
grasping her arm
because She didn’t want to be alone
she never wants to be alone
cheers
to new
hair & tattoos that profess the emotions I cannot lather on my tongue
to sleeping cold next to her
blow out candles
for one, two, three
days spent inside not talking or eating
but relentlessly thinking about what she said
and how she meant it
celebrate a year gone by

© Ella Bowler