Nicola Cayless.
Looking for light in words.

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when the livin’ is easy

The old house across the way,
cracked wood, cracked spines inside,
plays the gramophone constantly.

Merry-go-round hymns float gently
on summer breezes: slowly.
They dance on sunbeams,
gliding through the open window.

Fairy dust hangs in the light
and waits to touch a hopeful heart.

I am warmed by carousel laughter
and piano notes. Here, trapped:
confined to this armchair:

I watch June sail by.


The cock crows in the afternoon,   confused
with the way that time meanders slowly today,
riverruns tomorrow.

Dawn can take place when
we want it to: illumination and banishment of dark:
why wait for time to do it for us?

Curled up like a foetus waiting patiently
in    his mother’s womb    for the moment of
to begin, I sit here. I am waiting for the birth
of understanding,

unfolding, refolding, consuming, resuming.

When it comes, I will crow
for dawn is nigh, and the world
needs to know:

I am awake.

How To Write A Poem: Revised

I said to you:
breathe, feel, let the words pour out of you
because they already live within your marrow.

I said to you:
poetry comes as easily as a heartbeat,
unthinking, pounding, every quiver of your ventricle
a stanza, every rush of blood to your arteries, a couplet.

I said to you:
you are the Lord of your own life. 
Bring forth light, banish the darkness—
if you wish it, it will Be.

But now,
the revisionary Messiah,
I say to you:
it is not so.

Poetry is a fickle mistress.
She is tantalising, her hips swaying down the street,
bringing waves of longing like a storm to a ship: wood beckons
the end on water. Now and again, a flash of lightning words,
illuminating a landscape untouched, unexplored, 
beautiful without understanding. But the thunder rolls,
and we are deafened. These words, these lines,
these little rhymes and rhythms that we clutch to us
like blankets to a child: they dissipate, light smothered by darkness.

Poetry is as a storm: she comes as suddenly as she goes,
and Heaven above, she will leave you with nothing if she can.
And Poetry, that woman with the Devil inside of her,
will make sure that you mean nothing until
you have captured the words and wrung them to the page.

Oh, but the lack of pretty sentiments and
heartfelt metaphors in this may not fulfil you.
I warn you, though, you hopefuls with flowers in your hair:

To write a poem,
be ready for war.

Happiness is daisy chains:
simple, pulled from the earth,
entwined with another to form
an endless loop of petals&white.

a contemplation on devotion

To be filled:

endlessly, again & again.
Overflowing, a fountain
of heartache, desire.
Words erupt like lava
from lips, soft as petals:

these words are beautiful.
Simply said, elegantly whispered,
unassuming as snow. 

They are as paper before ink.

It is only once we think
that they start to sting:
spider bites, bee stings,
a mosquito sucking blood
as a lover may suckle on your breasts.

I do not need to be filled with warm coffee,
with soups, salads & sustenance,
with your tongue & your fingers.
I do not need to be fulfilled by anything
save your gaze:

a moonbeam that shatters my freckled skin.

I simply crave your words of adoration,
and your sleepy, contented smile.

High school dreaming

What is the tragedy/not of high school?

When you spend every day of forever in plaster hallways, where you trip over untied laces and collect glares and sniggers like postcards from vacations past, it can be hard to remember that the sun shines outside those gates. The walls of this world seem high and untraversable, a world where people speak in the language of percentages and write on tree trunks to remember things only to forget them when they’re not needed. Outside, everything is just a grey expanse, unfocused and confusing, it’s hormones and alcohol, it’s sex in the back seat of a car and losing your virginity to a boy at a party. This is the world where it’s not okay to cry. Where your hands are stained with ink and blood and no one ever tells you to clean yourself up. It’s not a prison, it’s something you can’t escape, and the girls are mean and the boys are confusing and you’re going to shatter like glass because that’s what happens in this world, and no one will pick your pieces up lovingly. But outside the gates, there is lavender, sunshine, chai lattes and smiles. There’s poetry and good music and there’s things that make sense but don’t have to be equations. Numbers mean nothing in the world over those walls, and even if you get lost in those plaster hallways, remember that you will smell lavender again, and you will fall asleep in the sun and that broken glass can be beautiful.

This just happened.
I joined the site nearly two years ago. I was a completely different person then: sad, scared & struggling to stand up. I had nightmares nearly every night and panic attacks every single day. And then I discovered poetry. I discovered that being afraid and being depressed didn’t just have to remain unsaid, unthought, unheard: words, even when they didn’t make sense, helped. They heal, even, sometimes.
I am now so much happier and so much more whole than I was in August 2011, and my writing means something different to me now. It’s not a crutch anymore. It’s not something I need to do before bed in case the monsters come out of the dark. Writing is something I’m slowly learning to enjoy and revel in for its own sake, rather than something I desperately need and cling to for my own reasons.
I want to thank each and every one of you for your unending support. I know lately I’ve disappeared, been quiet for weeks on end, but I assure you: I’m here. I’m reading. I’m thinking. And even when I’m not writing, I’m still in awe of everything poetry and words can do. I hope that my words hold a little bit of this power for you, and if they don’t, I hope that you can find it in your own.
Thank you so very much once more,
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.