This poem by Claire Marsden comes with a trigger warning for self harm
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I sit in the cafe, childless, and smile at the new mums with their babes. They surround me like clouds. I drink my coffee, and wonder, which little dollop of joy, sweet as sea-glass, will grow up to self harm, by the time the earth has sailed eleven times around the sun. Which one, will have a mind, so addled with distress, that they’ll live like a wild-eyed Alice, dark and bemused, stuck, behind the looking-glass.
A baby giggles, and I taste salt in my mouth.
I had a baby, once. With a soul so fair, that if the birds had caught a glimpse, they would surely have fallen from the sky in praise. We glowed with love, and peace, and tired enchantment. All milky-mouthed and soft-smiled. Thoughts as tender as thistledown.
But you never know what dark waters will enter your home. Which cracks will let them in. You think you’ll be educated enough to contain them. Loving enough, to hold them back. The right nursery, the right school, the right friends. The museums and art galleries. Organic food and bedtime routines. The laughter and the love.
The love. Oh, the love.
I held you, once upon a time.
If those parents are lucky, they’ll learn how to catch the escaping light, no matter how small, and bottle it, tight. A drop to rest in. A starry crown of life. They’ll dream that you’ll grow out of the lie that you aren’t safe in this world or well enough to survive. They’ll sing spells to re-clothe you. Hymns to your heart. You are enough, my beloved. You’ve been enough from the start.
Salt; in the untethering and crumbling we are tethered to you.
Claire Marsden tweets at @occulife