Do you want me to be grateful
for the way the clouds curl around each other
like ringlets falling from a hairband?
Because I will be, if you want.
And if I tell you the truth
I think I’m going to have to be
because I can’t find any other thing so beautiful.
I’m looking at the world through a view-finder
and I can’t find much that’s pretty these days.
My calf is pressed against the calf of a girl
who I considered for years to be a best friend of mine.
She felt empty
and so she inflated herself with
hot air and “banter” with no meaning.
“***** Please” and “Ohmygod” and “*******”
spew from her awkward, Christian mouth
and I wonder whether she scooped her insides out
like pumpkin flesh
and inserted somebody new there in her place
like a candle in a jack'o'lantern.
Somebody who doesn’t have the time for me.
So I give up on our small talk
and decide not to interrupt her mobile phone;
I feel the back of her head like a headache.
“Mum’s sweated off four-hundred-and-seventy-six calories today”
she tells me and I ask her how she knows.
“She’s a got a tag thingy, you know. I have too.”
I can’t bear the sound of calories.
They are nails on all my chalkboards
and they are the wrong-footed *****
that tolls in church.
I lower my gaze to the absent-minded mother
whose fingers climb into her pram
to draw circles on the baby’s scalp.
She stirs my thoughts with them.
I think I’ve come a long way since
I started this prayer,
since my eyes hit the clouds.
Someone once told me that the thing he hated above all else
because greed is a bonfire that hungers without ever feeling full.
And who reminded me that
power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely.
We got the greed we hungered for.
And it corrupted us absolutely.
For it is by greed that the ice caps
are sweating off more calories
than the girls in their gym shorts.
It is by greed that they cannot rest
until they have peeled their thighs far enough apart
and by greed that they’ve been lured into the propaganda store
to buy themselves diets.
It is by greed that we cannot look our world in the eye
and greed that necessitates the use of a microscope lens
to distance us from the damage we cause.
It is by greed that we underline the little problems
to cover up the big ones
and it is greed that enables us to find offense in the weather forecast.
It is greed that has shrunk my values into a cage of bitter ribs
and greed that provoked my self-righteous verbal slaughter
of that friend I no longer know.
It is by greed that we started deciding that land belonged to people –
that finders were keepers, as long as they were white –
instead of the earth it consists of.
It is by greed that we doggedly avoid breaking our routines apart
to fit other factors into them.
It is by greed that righteousness
fall into step
on the path towards a religion that God can’t condone.
It is by greed that fascism and communism
eclipse one another and meld into one.
It is by greed that the old woman opposite
refuses to share her seat or even her smile
with a human under the age of thirty.
It is by greed that kids have bullets in them
and mothers are shot full of infection
and the water runs dry
through the dripping tap we didn’t fix in our bathroom.
It is by greed that I sit on a bus
and shift my problem onto our backs
with my view-finder.
I still see some beauty when I look for it
but I see beauty like a picture postcard
that an angry kid took a hole punch to.
It got so torn up but we refuse to put it under a light
in order to avoid seeing just how many gaps we’ve made.
Recently I’ve noticed this postcard’s
got too many holes in it to be able to see
what the picture once was.
There’s more absent than present
and, sure, we’ve still got our itty-bitty blue-sky-days
between the punctures,
but the grime and the guilt seeps out
like the air we drove our dreams on.
What a mess we inflicted, I think.
There’s a ceiling light in our toilet that attracts flies to it.
They fly in and burn up
and the lamp bowl fills with insect corpses
until you can’t see through them anymore.
We’re like that.
Flies go suicide bombing
and ***** things up
with the clutter they leave behind them.
as long as the dead stay in their graves,
they don’t bother the rest.
We look up at the ceiling
and don’t change the lightbulb.
How many people does it take to change a lightbulb?
We like looking at our world from the atmosphere;
we observe it from the internet,
believing that we stand on the moon,
too far away to touch the gashes we’ve torn.
We don’t like looking at the way the blood runs;
we tuck it under our fingernails instead
and hope no one holds us accountable.
When I come home I snap at my mum
because I am so struck by the brokenness of what I’m dealing with
that I cannot have her ask me how my day was.
Because I cannot complain about the weather
but I need to
because our family conversation is not big enough
to grapple with the magnitude of the genuine complaints I have.
Because I cannot simply tell her that I hate America
or feel comfortable praying her this prayer.
So I tell her “OK” and she rolls her eyes at the kettle.
So I’ve got my dish-cloth heart
and the rain starts to spit at us
with tears that are heavy enough to weep the things I can’t shed.
Wash me clean, rain… heaven… God,
because most people put ***** dishcloths in the bin
not the washing machine.
my thoughts on the bus today