Thoughtful Tuesdays: Hearing Voices
By Eithne Cullen
May’s Thoughtful Tuesday page is very much about our current theme of Hearing Voices: Inner Voices, Outer Voices, Connected Voices and I have some fabulous writing to share with you today.
First, though, I’d like to acknowledge and greet the arrival of spring. The month of May is going to lead us through lots of Bank Holidays: starting with May the first, International Worker’s Day.
May Day is still celebrated in many villages with the crowning of the May Queen. The gentlemen of the village may also have been found celebrating with Jack-in-the-Green, otherwise found on the signs of pubs across the country called The Green Man.
Print maker, Elaine Bloor, has shared her new look at this character. She is the Green Lady.
Elaine says: A less familiar depiction of the foliate head, my Green Lady is a more spiky, watchful character, keeping her eyes firmly on what is happening in the natural world.
Thanks for sharing this great image, Elaine.
© Elaine Bloor, 2023
You can connect with Elaine on Instagram: @elainebloorart and @BloorsEmporium
And She’s Beautiful is a short story, submitted through our submissions pages, by Esra Balkas. It’s a good example of how a writer crafts a piece, using words in such a thoughtful and careful way to create a vivid picture of a character and the feelings evoked through the narrator’s voice.
And She’s Beautiful
I’m supposed to be getting a new flatmate soon. “A replacement,” I whisper. I posted a notice on my Uni’s Facebook page and then she comes by. She takes my address and shows up. Unannounced. Me still in a bathrobe and slippers. Her in neon florals and daisy earrings.
She seems nice enough, a bit too cheerful maybe. She tells me then and there that she wants the room.
I do my best to avoid her during those first few days. She wears all these bright colours and puts up decorations on the first day. Everything about her is a bit too loud. She says hi to me every time we’re in the same room, or smiles when our eyes meet. It makes me want to curl up and hide. I do sometimes catch myself watching her or listening to her hum from another room. She’s got a certain affinity for humming the Beatles in the morning: I Want To Hold Your Hand a favourite. I don’t know why I notice these things; they create a crescendo of irritation inside me.
She compliments me like it’s nothing, like it’s effortless. “You’re so smart!” she tells me when I help her with a cover letter. “You’re funny,” she giggles, even when I hesitate halfway through the punch line. “You’re beautiful,” she whispers one night, while we’re watching the stars out of her window.
I look at her and wonder how someone like her could ever think I’m beautiful.
“You’re amazing,” she says to me one day, for no reason at all. And I hit boiling point.
“Why do you say things like that?”
She shrugs. “I just think -”
“No, you don’t.”
“What? Of course I do.” The furrow of her brow ignites something combustible in my chest.
“No, you don’t, you’re just trying to make me feel better.”
“I’m not, I promise -”
“Just stop!” It’s the angriest I’ve been in months. It’s most anything I’ve been in months. “It’s too much, OK? You’re too much.”
“Why are you saying that?” Her voice is a tremor of glass I want to break.
“Because I don’t want your fucking pity. I don’t want your fake kindness!” I’m shouting now. She flinches. “What? Nothing sweet to say now?” I scream and I see the hurt swimming in her eyes.
“This isn’t you,” she says softly, like my rage is just a frightened animal. She looks like she’s going to hug me or say something kind and I panic.
“As if I’d even want you as a friend. You fat, fake, pushover, acting like you’re so much better than everyone with your stupid floral dresses and constant smiling. Just… get away from me!”
She looks at me for a long time. Then she turns away, shaking, and walks straight out the door. She doesn’t take anything with her; it’s something I worry about later when I’ve finally calmed down.
When I realise she’s not coming back, I cry. I cry until I feel empty and numb again. It’s better.
I begin staring at the ceiling again. It’s not better. I count the hours she’s gone: 24. 36. 48. 72.
I don’t think about drowning or bleeding or broken bones. I count the times I don’t think about it: 6. 16. 20. 24.
I go to her room and lie on her bed. I can smell her on the sheets and I’m not sure how I feel about that. If the orange-blossom-vanilla is an eraser or a plaster. If it matters when the scar is the same beneath it. I get up and go to my room and stare at the ceiling instead.
I close my eyes.
I should react, I tell myself. I should feel… not empty. Not like this. I consider jumping off a bridge or slitting my wrists or throwing a glass at the wall. Maybe I’ll feel something then. I consider stepping in front of a double-decker bus. Maybe then. I push the thoughts around my head like soggy greens around a plate.
Days pass and I decide to take my medication again. I get tired of staring at the ceiling or staring at the TV or staring out the window. It’s all the same, really. I go on walks, I try listening to music. I read a comic book and laugh. It feels strange on my face.
I go to open the door and she’s standing there, her hand raised. Confession is on my lips, despair my lipstick.
Before I can apologise, she hugs me so hard the breath runs out of my lungs.
Days begin coming instead of going.
I decide maybe she’s not too loud. Her colourful clothing does suit her, after all. I decide that I like the curve of her legs and the curve of her hips and the curve of her face. I decide I like the way she hums the Beatles in the morning best of all. It’s terrifyingly easy to decide this, the woozy rush of a rollercoaster going over its peak.
Things are different now. She looks at me like a treasure hoarded in glances. It feels like mosquito pinpricks I want to swat off. I don’t.
I feel like I’m leaking into her on nights like this, where it’s just me and her and the constellations and the trees. The words spill out over my lips as the moon moves across the sky and the stars trace my history into the darkness. The times he screamed at me or grabbed me drift off out the window. She takes the years of bullying and tears and loneliness and floats them out onto the breeze. She cups my scars and traces my stretch marks.
I tell her about the girl whose bedroom she now occupies. How she left me and I couldn’t hate her for it.
When I’m done, I don’t feel empty. She hasn’t taken my pain away from me, all the hurt and anxiety and resentment. She ties them to me, like strung balloons, and it pulls me up again. She lifts me until I’m looking into her eyes and I think they must be the most wonderful eyes I’ve ever seen.
She slips her hand into my chest and I can feel my lungs tighten.
“It hurts,” I whisper.
Her voice is soothing as I close my eyes.
She tells me all the ways I’m beautiful. The adventures we’ll have together. She promises me we’ll always be together. I’m not sure if I believe her.
Her other hand pushes its way between my ribs. She curls her fingers around my heart and for a moment I gasp. She steps in closer and I breath in her every exhale.
I don’t have the voice to answer. She reads yes in my pupils, dilated eclipses.
She steps into me like a well-worn pair of jeans. It’s a shockwave and for a moment I’m breathless. My hands tremble slightly as I raise them. I see her in the flush of warmth there, or in the lift of my shoulders.
When I wake up in the morning, dizzy and disoriented, I see her in the twinkle of my eyes or the smile that tugs at the corner of my mouth. I stretch my fingers out and curl them in again, like I’ve become something new and amazing.
Years from now, there are moments I’m sure she’ll leave me again. Once, she does. But we always find our way back to each other, eventually.
There are days when I can’t tell the difference any more: where I begin and where she ends. On days like these, I look in the mirror and think I’m lucky.
And she’s beautiful.
© Esra Balkas, 2023
Connect with Esra on Instagram: @esrab16
Here are two poems from Chandrama Deshmukh, giving us an insight into the poet’s voice and telling us that poetry is the streak of silver lining amidst the chaos of life.
A Place Beyond
There are things
we have to do
And then there are things
we want to
The journey in between
these two points
is self discovery.
neither of the two matter
What matters is
a place beyond
Where nothing moves
A nameless state
With no beginning
Where we are
I know the directions
to this place.
Someone took me
we lost the map
I am shedding
are my new map
an all consuming
Hold my hand
I will take you there.
© Chandrama Deshmukh, 2023
I inherited this moon
From wakeful longings
And forbidden laments
Of those like me – Misplaced. Detached.
This transcendent legacy, beaming bold
Gorgeous to witness, eerie to hold
Blinding. Brazen. Cold.
I inherited this moon
With all it’s eclipsed baggages
It’s wounds winding deep
In numb craters.
I see it transform
In our brittle love-story
In my seamless childhood
Your silhouette, dim. dusty.
My carousel, magical. misty
I sculpt it with my thoughts
I inherited this moon
From my jaded ancestors
Who couldn’t keep a count
Of stars. Of scars.
And one day, just like them
I will hand it over
Whose incomplete poem
Longs a moonlit closure.
© Chandrama Deshmukh, 2023
Chandrama Deshmukh is an author, poet, playwright, theatre artist, storyteller and performance artist. She has four books of poems published: A Teaspoon Of Stars and Moonlit Monochrome in English and two books in her mother tongue Marathi. Chandrama has performed close to 100 poetry readings in Bangalore and continues to play her role in giving this art form the appreciation it deserves.
Connect with her on Facebook: facebook.com/chandrama
Twitter:@chandramawrites and Instagram: @chandrama.poetry
My final piece is a beautiful description connecting us to the poet and the place they find themselves in.
A Moment Of Peace
“I look beyond the yonder and wonder
Thy so insignificant in thee world, how do I matter?”
Amongst those majestic mountains stood I, lost in the rolling hills, deep valleys, peaking mountains and calming waters. I wondered, ‘Am I not but a particle in this infinite world?’ I gazed down at the calming waters; I saw currents waging war as the strong winds pitted them against each other. I touched the ground and felt the greenish moss; breathed the earthy smell of the fresh rain. They drizzled on my face like the petals of a flower falling off a tree, like the dew drops that were woken up and tumbled down from the branches of the tree and its leafy home, and it woke within me* a deep longing for peace, here and thereafter.
© Sanreet, 2023
So, with spring in the air and the promise of blossoms turning to fruit, leaves spreading over trees and bluebells filling the woods, I’m finishing with a painting by Janice Eglin of a beautiful bluebell, capturing spring and nature as powerfully as any words can. Thanks for sharing this lovely image, Janice.
© Janice Eglin, 2023
Finally, I hope you find yourself enjoying spring, holidays and nature. Of course, you’ll be having lots of opportunities to find your voice in talking and writing about what you see and experience.
Read Issue 16 of Write On! Magazine here.
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May’s Thoughtful Tuesday page is very much about our current theme of Hearing voices, inner voices, outer voices, connecting to voices.