Nicola Cayless.
Looking for light in words.

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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.

One day,
I will be woken up by
brown eyes—small grabbing fingers—wide smiles
while the sun is still rising.

One day,
I will pick flowers by the roadside
and lay them over a cardboard box
in the ground.

One day,
I’ll know how to mourn
and be joyful in the same

One day,
I’ll wake and find
that a whole world is laid out
in front of my feet.

It’s about being small. It’s about watching train-tracks
gleam golden in the midday sun, curving endlessly away
while you travel to who-knows-where, to home.

It’s about blurring out the edges of your body,
smudging away the dimples in your cheeks, softening
the corners of your smile. It’s about leaving a person-shaped hole behind,
an echo of laughter against the wallpaper, a chair empty in the corner of the room.

It’s about dreaming until the daylight doesn’t come,
about closing your eyes and forgetting what light really is,
forgetting that we need light like we need love and oxygen. It’s about
gasping for breath like an orgasm, like death.

It’s about forgetting how to write day by day, while the words slip away
and the onlookers shake their head and think, “do you remember when?”
It’s about even the history books forgetting what poetry means.
It’s about ink drying out and missing rhythm like shadows. 

It’s about being hollow and falling in love.

It’s about longing for kisses and someone.

It’s about existing.

❝ This is why dreams can be such dangerous things: they smoulder on like a fire does, and sometimes consume us completely.

— The Memoirs of a Geisha, Arthur Golden


Today I finally realised that I no longer have high school as a crutch to fall back on. I’m out. I’m a full citizen of society now. I turned eighteen and left the nest, as it were. And in deciding to postpone university attendance for a year, I’m left with the question: what am I doing?

I know what I want to do. I want to be a writer. It’s an ambitious journey, but something I am very passionate about. But when you tell employers and publishers that, they look at you skeptically and shake their heads. How many people have wanted to be a writer and never done anything about it?

I’m determined not to be one of those people.

For this reason, there is a new page on my blog: Services. Here, I’m offering my writing abilities to be written in a very personal way: for you, and you alone. I will write what you want, when you want, for a small fee. In whatever way you want it. I’m determined to have my writing touch people and move out there. But I can’t write every day all day for free. I’m trying to get overseas, to publish a collection, to be someone older. I need some funds for that. 

For this reason, you can find offerances of poetry, prose and the simple ability to donate any funds you might have. I’d be most grateful for anything. I’ve been here for over a year now and I’d like to think I’ve touched some of you. If you like what you read, consider sending a dollar or two. 

If you have any feedback on this new direction, please, let me know: too expensive? Too cheap? Not enough options? If you have any ideas, let me know. I want to make this scheme something that is accessible and just.



Suddenly, the ground moves and you’re transported to another world like an elevator rising slowly up. Only it’s moving so fast that you can’t take in where you’re going and who you’re becoming. The only thing you have with you is something you’ve loved for the longest time. While the elevator moves you cradle it. When you step off the elevator you take this thing to your face and breathe deeply. Only it doesn’t smell like what you love anymore. It smells like confusion and disappointment and you break down and cry. Because you can’t remember what it smelled like, you can only remember the way your heart fluttered. You won’t feel that flutter again. Or maybe you will, but it’ll be forever away and it’ll be a spasm not a flutter, because you’ll remember how that elevator broke you, how moving through time was too fast and too scary, like a roller coaster and the cart flies off the rails, and you’re just falling forever and ever and ever. You want that smell back more than anything. But you don’t have it anymore. All you have are aching fingers and tear-streaked cheeks. All you have is a memory you can’t remember.

I am nothing but twenty knuckles and a heart made of glass. The reflection of my muscle is you.

To an old lover.

I watched you dance
through films over eyes
that are something like mosquito nets
drawn around queen beds, and nothing like
what love should feel like. I imagined being in love
should taste like summer or chai or chapstick or jazz.

You’d forgotten that through screens
you can see the vague outlines of things,
words have a little bit of meaning,
everything is back to front,
but sometimes the end makes more sense
than the beginning. It’s dark and quiet
and I don’t get stung by nasties carrying
diseases and discontent.

I wanted love like a poetry book
where life is sleepy and sad
and sweet like death. You gave me
love like malaria and heat waves
and not being able to hear jazz
at all. 

❝ Little events, ordinary things, smashed and reconstituted. Imbued with new meaning. Suddenly they become the bleached bones of a story.

— The God of Small Things, Arundhati Roy