Nicola Cayless.
Looking for light in words.

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But maybe we are more than that.

Our lives are haphazard collections of vague images, maybes and dreams.

I’m walking through a house I have dreamt about for a year. I could not know what it would be like to smell the bedsheets freshly laundered, to taste steak sizzling on the stove, to make love on the kitchen table and laugh when we stumble through broken buildings.

Outside it is raining and the lights in here are dim. Every one of my bones feels frozen, as though I’ve just woken up from a long, long sleep and can’t quite figure out what I dreamt and what I felt. Maybe I have. Maybe everything I’m dreaming is something I’ve just become immersed in.

It’s going to rain for the whole weekend, but fourteen hours flight away my father lives in a world that sees rain three days a year, where the heat melts your sandals on the pavement, and shoulders and knees can mean extradition. It’s a world I can’t imagine, but I’m trying.

My mother is at home in a place I don’t remember the smells of. My cat sleeps on my bed and I can’t remember what it feels like to pick her up and hear her purr.

The past is just synapses firing, and the future is just imagination. All we have is the present and it might not be a gift. It might not even be.

Beyond our bodies, our experiences mean nothing.

It will keep raining. We could melt away into the gutter and all our memories that we struggle so hard to cling to would melt with us.

We’re just thought entombed in flesh.

All About Nightmares

Sometimes the dark creeps up on you.

Like the sun setting brilliantly,
the world is full of pink and red and yellow,
and a bursting fiery orange: the colours of life.
Every cloud is tinted, and your skin
is warmed by beauty. You forget about the end.
You breathe in the moment and glory in the light.
Lungs full of life, you sigh, unafraid of losing

And then night falls.
Suddenly you’re standing in a field
where the ground is wet and muddy,
and worms stick to your feet, dust and compost
and everything rotten staining your skin the color of
the end. Sometimes the night can be beautiful,
with the stars and the moon and gentle caresses,
but tonight you are afraid of the dark: a child again,
the Bogeyman under the bed. And everything around you
is black. All of a sudden, you’re left with nothing but memory.

Memory of a dying sun,
and the dark that came before.

You wake up. Screaming.

Argentinian wine, food & family.

Tonight I was on the river before midnight. The moon was nearly full, the stars were tiny pinpricks of imitation: never as whole and warm as the natural satellite that spun slowly, anciently above us. The fog wisped along the surface of the river, as quietly as the darkness that enveloped us. Everything was silent, except for the drunken laughing and carousing of the Argentinian family that stood by the water and watched the spring edge away, making room for the warmer season, the more beloved. On the river before midnight I realised that everything I was feeling right now, this feeling of utter contentment, of wine and warm meat in the belly, of acceptance into a family with so many people already a part of it — something I had never had before — that everything that spun within my chest at that moment, was about to die. Because with each heartbeat, every full-fledged and all-encompassing moment of experience becomes nothing more than memory, a snapshot embedded into the questionably secure stronghold of our mind. Yes, there were others there, but their eyes saw different smiles, their ears heard different voices to mine. Thousands of miles away my father is starting a life in a country that is nothing more than Google searches and conversations with people in my travels, and here I am, watching a family that I might never be a part of. I could never see these people again. I could marry him (I have to admit, I would love to) and I could be as a sister, a daughter to these people. I don’t know. But all I have to work with is now, and so that moment on the river before midnight was a moment that I had to trust memory would honour.

These Women

There are women out there
who walks with accents,
who limp with a rising crescendo,
their shoulders burdened by 
verbs and nouns and
can you please repeat that?

Around corners
lurk squinted eyes,
probing questions as pointed
as a six-inch needle:
injected right into the heart & soul
of their womanhood.

They’ll end up check-out chicks
in their late fifties, their dark black hair
streaked with lines of bitter years.
They’re the women who wear masks
to cover their gnarled smiles and cracked lips,
applying acetate and polymers to your
nails more perfect than life.
They’re the women you barely glance at:
the women who travelled miles and miles
to invade your suburban paradise,
for just a chance to breathe more freely.

I do not know these women
like their husbands do, the quiet men
with sad eyes and a knowledge that they are the only ones
who see their worth. Nor like their children do,
with perfect English and dark brown eyes,
their skin stained all colours of the rainbow.
I do not know these women.

But they walk, silently,
through our lives, and we use them
as stepping stones
to a brighter, easier future.

Things I Have Learnt in a Tiny Little Town called Ansonia

  1. The world is terrifyingly large and the people in it are even bigger.
  2. Fear is something that we ourselves create.
  3. The past doesn’t have to mean anything if we don’t want it to.
  4. The other side of the world is a long way away.
  5. The person who thinks the worst of us is always ourself. 
  6. The most terrifying and most wonderful feeling is never letting go.
  7. Love is one of the hardest things and one of the most natural phenomenons we will ever encounter.
  8. Abandoned buildings and cracked windows are endlessly sad.
  9. Sometimes you don’t miss the people you thought you would.
  10. Guilt weighs heavier than sadness. 
  11. Secrets are a thing of legend.
  12. Honesty is more thrilling than a rollercoaster. 
  13. Sitting by a river and breathing will always make you feel better. Always.
  14. Sometimes holding hands is more intimate than making love.
  15. It’s okay to laugh and cry during sex.
  16. If you want to make the world your own, go out and do it: no matter what the world says.
  17. Sometimes you need to cry onto someone’s shoulder in the middle of the street. That’s okay. It will only make them love you more.
  18. A broken heart doesn’t mean the pieces can’t be glued back together.
  19. Every town is always the same, even when they are completely and strangely alienatingly different.
  20. Love.
"the soul comes joyful to the eye"

Quiet can break
as easily as bones can.

The break is soft:
skin on skin, hands on breasts,
kisses on necks. Everything is white
like geishas. Red like roses.
Love like symphonies.

It’s your body that I’ve learnt
in the early hours of the morning,
the birds heralding the coming of dawn
while you seal the fleeing night with moist open kisses.
I know the feel of your fingers as well as
the roof of your mouth, the whispers of your lungs,
the chocolate warmth of your eyes. 

(I’ve never been a morning person,
but this is all before the sun rises.)

They say that after climax,
it is as if you are floating on a cloud:
but not for me—with you, I sink. 
Sinking down into cavernous depths
body laden with yours: skinlipseyesheart.

Ginsberg was right.

The weight of my world
is love.

Some Impossible Things

Impossible things and improbable events; explored in prose by Santi and I.

I’m giving up what I hide behind.

I threw away the cigarettes I used
to cauterise the edges of my body,
to burn fingerprint-sized holes into the skin
that stops me from melting into the world.

My nicotine fingers are stained with
everything I cannot say to those who have
same-shape same-glisten same-crinkle eyes,
everything I cannot say to those who look at me
and think I am so pale, white, pure. If they looked closely,
they’d see the elegies I write for every bronchiole 
when I flick the lighter and burn the world down.

But you see, yellow-marred smiles 
scare me when they bare their teeth back at me 
in the mirror. I’m petrified by the longing and lust
lurking behind my gums. Today, I smoked one last cigarette,
and flicked that lighter one more time, before I peeled away my skin,
and melted slowly into the world:
with nothing to burn it down.

Night terrors

When words don’t come,
the world is like a darkened room
in a strange place: where home is just one syllable
and cobwebs whisper fabricated secrets from the corners.

When poetry is just a thought,
my fingers click and clatter across a keyboard
of cliche phrases and tired similes. I can feel
the eyes of spiders watching endlessly, cockroaches skittering
around a rattling, empty mind.

When each stanza is done and dusted,
it is not easy to breathe. My body is an empty wonderland
for the ghosts of memory to tear apart. A heart shuddering jolt
as I wait for words that sluggishly come up through mud. 

It is at three in the morning that everything hurts the most.
It is then that I am given respite;
given room to breathe without gasping for words like oxygen,
given space to close my eyes and forget about a time
when words were the ones I tangoed with for hours.

Every moment of every day: whether I am waking
or lost in nightmarish dreams, I can only ever remember a time
when words loved me, and I loved them too.

I miss this place and the people and the poetry and the way it feels when words make sense.