Thank you so much if you tuned in to hear me on BBC Radio Northampton this evening! If you would like to read my poem in full, you can see it below. The radio show is available on BBC Sounds here and it’s available for 30 days – just fast forward to 1 hour 41 to hear me!
In This House, I Could
This is a charade, this moving house, this making huge change as if everything will be different, better. As if illness won’t find me here. The world thinks I don’t know it will still be the same, but I do. The world is waiting to shock me with the next blow, but I know. I know it’s coming despite the change.
You can take the cancer out of the girl
but you can’t take the cancer out of the girl.
I could have cancer here, quite happily. Not happily, of course. But when I have my next cancer diagnosis or recurrence, I think I will be glad to be here when it happens. Some people think about where they’ll put the Christmas tree. I have thought about that. I’ve also thought about how we shouldn’t get rid of the shower in the downstairs toilet in case I can’t take a bath one day, many days. Surgery means no submerging scars in water, even if I could lower my body into a tub, which I could not last time and likely will not be able to next time. The rules are similar to those when getting a tattoo, really. Tattoos are scars we choose. Like how friends are the family we choose for ourselves. Tattoos are the family we choose.
So, Christmas tree placement and to keep the shower or not. I could shower here. Even without the walk-in shower, I could stand in the tub with the handheld, or my hand held, head hovering below the eaves, inevitably bumping.
To stand in this kitchen counting out medication or not, displacing it from its cardboard box into a brightly coloured pillbox or not, separating by weekday or not.
I could walk into the living room numb from medical words, probes, dates. I could sit on this couch placed against this wall, fingers laced, staring at the TV in this corner, watching and not watching, living and not living. I could.
I could sit in this garden listening to the birds, the cockerel, the wind rushing the trees like a high-speed train. I could feel the sun warm my legs with heightened appreciation, I could sit when all I can do is sit.
I could feel in control here. I could receive my post here, all my terribly daunting to open post. I could bury my feelings in chocolate and movies and thinking and not thinking, all here. I could be not all there, here. I could store more feelings here, more baggage, there is so much space to place this now.
They say we’re safe as houses
but houses aren’t that safe.
Fire, flooding, theft, so many
chances to be left bereft.
I could sleep here. Sleep for years on this couch, take the stairs one at a time, all my energy for the day spent climbing down and getting back up. I could make decisions I don’t realise I’m making here. I could do good or not, help myself or not, make things worse or not, here. I could dream here, I could nightmare here.
I may go to sleep
with my own blood on my hands
but I will sleep.
I could fill this house. But what to fill this house with? Clocks. If more clocks meant we had more time, I would not be able to see these walls for numbers, faces, hands. If clocks have human body parts, why do they feel so unfriendly?
I am expecting another diagnosis, but more than that, I am waiting for one with every tick. And what better place to wait than here? Better than a small flat, a car, a hospital waiting room, even though the latter is designed for such an activity. Better to wait in a place not designed for it, so it at least feels less like waiting.
It is the waiting, it is always
the waiting. And what within
the waiting? Life.
And now, home, the certain thing, the only. Among clocks, in the dreamlands, the air filling with cock crows. In seclusion, yet still on the edge of my seat. I could pull up a chair here, hope for the long haul, mark off the years. I could. I could live out my days here. I hope there are enough of them for this to be a grand statement. All those days standing in line, waiting for me to devour them. Clock batteries waiting to die, hands waiting to complete more revolutions, faces waiting with the same blank expressions. I could live with that here.