This is my second, it’s a prose poem called Catherine. The prompt was mythology, so I’m writing to my daughter who does not yet exist and may never.
You have the bigger room, not because I love you more than I love your brother, but because you got born first and you’re called Catherine, which is my favourite name. I don’t want to paint it pink. Or blue. We’ve been having arguments about gender-neutral colours. We’re going for white. Your Dad joked about the race implications of this. You are one sixteenth Kashmiri. That’s why that’s funny. I’m sorry that you’re probably ill. I’m sorry that you probably are a bit more human than by human I mean maybe that your bones are more exposed than your friends’. And when I say friends I mean the people that die.
Across from our house there’s a bus stop advertising Tom Ford cologne for men and in the advert a woman’s legs are visibly hanging out of a car boot. Girls of 13 are handing out blow jobs to make friends, practicing on cucumbers and Fruit Pastille lollies. Don’t do that. Look hard at those that do, and then decide not to. And now the clock in your room is advertising bed time. And now your head on the pillow is promoting sleepiness. I’m not tired yet so I’m just going to sit here a bit longer and carry on writing this.
We should get you a red, hooded cloak. You should watch the Wizard of Oz. I wish I was used to sleeping on my own already.
Oh god one day you’re going to call me from a nightclub at three in the morning, aren’t you. You’re going to be your mother’s daughter aren’t you. Well, perhaps not, because I don’t know your mother, you’re sort of on loan to me. The agency said I’d always have to be open about these things to you so you don’t throw it back at me any time. This whole process is a migraine. And the migraine is a bus stop advertising rape. And a nightclub. And the fact you don’t have your father’s eyes, but someone else does now. What they call a real woman I guess.
I told you I was a bad writer, didn’t I Cathy? I’m resorting to writing a letter to you because I’m all out of ideas. Why did we move to London? This is not how I imagined this going. At the bus stop three young men and a young woman who is one of their girlfriends have arrived and they are smoking. They are participating in my migraine. They are unwelcome guests in my head and I am having to look after them. As well as you.
Become friends with people you don’t necessarily like because eventually you will come to love them more than you love anyone. In fact, fall in love with someone you fucking hate. It will be such a riot and you will love it. Live up to your name for God’s sake Catherine.
I dedicate this poem to Elliott Smith and I give all of my artistic integrity to the night I got bad news whilst drunk, to the affairs I had, to the knives and men with wives and heroin. I dedicate this poem to a dark street at night when I’m pretending to use a phone because that might help me to not get raped.
It’s getting late, Cathy, and this poem is going absolutely nowhere. If you need me I will be in the next room and you can scratch at the wall and I will hear that orchestra of you needing me. That orchestra, next to this pitiful first draft of what was only going to be a piano piece. That’s a metaphor and a terrible one at that. Tomorrow we will go to the park. Or a patch of grass. I don’t know, I’m not feeling great. But I want you to hear and see everything. Catch up. I wish I didn’t talk to you like this. I can’t afford therapy though.
I should have carried you for the requisite 9 months,
not filled out forms and smoked cigarettes for 7.
I should have listened to what the doctor said.
Ever since Dad left I’ve just been so, so tired.