A Poem by Rosa Lyster

Don’t ask me to explain how this works

Our bathroom tap makes you electrocuted
Don’t ask me to explain how this works
You need to wear shoes with rubber soles
To brush your teeth
Or to stand bent over the sink at 4am
So thirsty you could bite something, or die
Or wake up the person in your bed
To say that you are thinking about tearing your face off
Because what’s going on here?
This whole demented street parade
With the brass band composed of teenage girls
Who are not very good at the trumpet
And the man shooting fireworks out of his bedroom window
And the two of us in the middle unable to do anything
But walk staring straight ahead and trying not to scream
All that?
I can’t do it.

Sometimes the tap will take you by surprise
And you will jerk back your head
And say the f word over and over into your bathroom door
Other times you will think well, of course
I expected nothing less from this life than to be shocked
Over and over
And to try and light a cigarette while I am already smoking one
And to try and text the person sleeping in my bed
While I am looking at their face
And say that I am thinking about moving to a mountain
With a very powerful telescope at the top
And never speaking to you again, just staring at you
Through my telescope and trying to smoke
Two cigarettes at once.

I once told a friend that I was incapable
Of truly being hurt, like shot with a crossbow hurt
Because I just didn’t care enough and she laughed
And pulled up her sleeve to show me three evil roses
Three little scars in the bend of her elbow
And said I did that with a cigarette.
She pulled down her sleeve and said
You just haven’t met the right person yet.

When my ex-girlfriend was six
She made a list of what mattered to her most
Here is the list:

She was six and she knew
That fear comes before food
And that as you get older
And walk down Kloof Street crying
And trying to smoke two cigarettes at once and you are totally unrecognisable
To yourself, well, fear just keeps moving up the list
And you get more and more scared and fear beats art
Like paper beats rock
And you stand over the sink at four am
And your feet are bare
And here comes the shock
And your hands grip the tap
Because they cannot help it
That’s what shock does
And you think well, of course.

Rosa Lyster: an essay a week at http://rosalyster.com / staff writer at Prufrock / Crush of the Week at Casimirtv / horoscopes at Between 10 and 5 /

The Poetry Section is edited by Mark Bibbins.