asymmetries
Nicola Cayless.
Looking for light in words.





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eagle’s keep

There is a skylight in my bedroom,
and beneath it, a nest,

A chair where I perch,
watch the mess encroach upon my island.

And sometimes there are cries
at the bottom of the stairs, but still

I sit, and smoke cigarettes, and watch
the sky stream through.

I am an eagle watching the world
go by like daytime television, 

Bored, morbidly interested,
drinking coffee and waiting for the tide

To pull me back to sea.
I wonder who is the moon, here,

If it is me, with my knee highs and white shirt,
or if it is the one crying at the bottom 

Of the stairs. If it is they, they need
to pull harder. I cannot feel

Them in my nest. I can only watch
the waves. 

the skeleton in your neighbourhood

I am the skeleton
who lives in your neighbourhood,
wrapping fingers ‘round flowers,
and dies.

I am the voice
at the edges of phone calls,
those lingering moments
and sighs. 

I am the woman
who drifts on the wind,
reaching out for the sunset
and skies. 

I am the girl
you killed in the bathtub, when you
told her you were nothing
but lies. 

I am the memory
who sits in your dreams,
and whispers sweet words,
and cries.

the spoon theory

They tell me, count your spoons,
Cradle them to your chest, don’t
let them go for anybody but yourself.
Drink soup, and sleep.

I am looking at my hands
and I think my fingers are turning
into coffee-spoons. I am scooping
at life, and only ever picking up
sand, and they are pulling at my joints,
and I am exploding in a thousand
directions.

I need forks, you see, or knives,
something I can cut through the world with,
and drink from the nectar within.
I am too much of a thunderstorm,
not enough of a rainshower. 
I am pulling at the roots of things.

And they are telling me,
keep your spoons, 
scoop pudding and dream.

And I am telling you,
I want to set the world on fire.
Give me matches, and I will burn the steel
down.

like a bullet in a gun

I always thought trigger was a strange word.
A word that held the promise of destruction,
that when unleashed would throw us back
into the walls, panting, bleeding. I always 
thought that it was cruel to give a name
to what I spend my days running from,
for fear of riven skin and open hearts.
A word that you never forget. A word
you spend your life fearing. A word,
like a bullet in a gun.

quietly growing up

There are nights that I think of you
as the little girl with pigtails in her hair,
and a nervous lilt in her step.

Nights, when you are scared
and you cannot find the way home,
and I am silent in the backseat.

And the mornings you pull on your kilt
and look at the way your thighs touch, and think,
I am two parts of a whole coming together.

I am watching you cry into your earl grey,
and your mother hovers by, and laughs,
because what else is there to do but break?

I can hear you now, still, echoing through the wind.
The way you said your name is the way
I fall asleep: quietly, and dreading the fall.

excerpt of [untitled]

I’m looking for strings,
you see.

The fishing line I know
that must be wrapped around
my bones, slicing through
my flesh every time I
move. The fishing line,
so thin, that cuts through the air
and connects

To a puppeteer’s
cross. 

I don’t know what to call this but loneliness.

I am trying to capture your hands.
I’ll take softened clay in my palms
and press them to yours, take away
the wrinkles like a key
that might unlock secret treasure chests
by the sea.

And it’s as if you’re flowers
falling to the ground, and I am spring
just around the corner,
when you will grow again
and learn to walk
on your own.

What do you need with the wind,
when you’ve got laughter in your heart,
and a smile that lights the kindling
and sets aflame the world?

and you
are what they call
summer nights

when the afternoon
sweats away
and we are only left

with the heavy echo
of heat and a sleepy
disappearing sun

after smelling flowers and thinking I am like nothing else in the world

I imagine a girl.

Perhaps she is shoulder-height,
perhaps she twirls her hair around
her fingers. Perhaps she gazes at strangers
for too long, makes them swallow at emptiness,
makes them feel the hollow in their bones?

She might try her mother’s heels on, stand tall
in front of the oval mirror, imagine saying please, thank-you,
imagine herself as a wife. Imagine herself beneath
a father. Beneath the earth. 

This girl spells her name by the sighs of boys
that she has collected, seashells on her windowsill.
The moans of her vowels, the teeth-clicking,
the tongue-touching. Perhaps she learns her name
by the way men say it. Perhaps she never knew
how to say it at all.

I imagine a girl, but imagine nothing,
everything, everything in the world,
that I am left with empty cupped palms
waiting for the rain to fall.

For what is a girl but smoke from a fire,
a river swallowed by the sea?

a letter to my boyfriend’s younger brother

To Tomás,

Don’t worry.
Adults forget to brush their teeth, too.
We’re also embarrassed by the way
the yellow gleams in our gums, the way
our smiles don’t blind strangers on the street:
they say love is blind, but perhaps more
love is plaque.

I see the way your shoulders fold,
the way you try to pack your body
into the smallest box you can find,
your chest. They might not hear you
at the dinner table, but your voice
is a gentle murmur they would miss,
the way I miss the harbour waves,
the way I miss your brother. 

You are small for your age. You run
behind the bigger men who stride
with peacock-puffed chests throughout
the playground. They cuckaw at the girls
with pigtails, ignore the ones who had
their hair cropped too close by their mothers.
Your shoelaces flap behind you, chicks
trying to fly. Don’t worry. You’ll unfold
your wings and meet the sky. 

Dear Tomás,
you are small, and your cheeks are red.
The world towers above you sometimes,
and it does for me too. But perhaps
if I act more like the twelve-year-old you
and you take my nineteen-year old hand,
we’ll step out into the air,
and fly.