Wednesday, 26 August 2015

Trigger Warnings

For those reading this post who have not seen the earlier ‘episodes’ of the story I am telling, here’s a brief résumé. Just over a year ago, I was in a new relationship. My ‘partner’ was attractive, amusing, intelligent, talented, and – so it turned out – a compulsive and unscrupulous liar. Whether people pity me or despair is neither here nor there. She took me in, and I fell for her lies. Yet in my poetry, it was clear that something was awry.



He comes to her softly in the night
placing his life in her trembling hands
– for what cannot, or can be, or might –               

She opens to her ephemeral delight      
and though her heart at best is contraband        
he comes to her softly in the night.        

Though the moment is passed the demands      
of invisible, inarticulate delight 
for what cannot, or can be, or might      

find their place in the sweet indictment
of stepping stones or sinking sands,
he comes to her softly in the night.        

In the opposite window a woman stands
naked and swifting the curtains tight
for what cannot, or can be, or might;                     

he sees a silhouette of dreamt delight
return to his impassioned form again and
he comes to her softly in the night
for what cannot, or can be, or might…


After she cruelly dumped me I began to dig for the truth. I realised there were many things I had chosen to ignore. She wore at first a ring on her wedding finger, allegedly to deter the men in the office where we worked who were, she claimed, aggressively coming on to her. The packet of contraceptive pills she showed me when we had sex in her flat I now know were not what she claimed. Why she told me she was pregnant, I will never know. After we first had sex, she asked if I’d had a vasectomy. It was the strangest question: neither normal nor sensible for someone her age.

There was some truth behind the story of her eating disorder, since there was a newspaper article about her and two other young women who had come close to death through anorexia. This is not publically available online; only the picture and caption can be seen. I had no intention of subscribing to that shitty paper. Instead, I accessed the article through my university library, and discovered something significant.


The Facts

Given that papers rarely tell the truth
she told The Sun his age was thirty-six.
Needless to say, they didn’t ask for proof,
nor had an inkling this was one of her tricks.

He was, in fact, over 50. Perhaps she feared,
since his years more-than doubled
hers it might look dodgy or a little weird.
From the start, it seems her heart was troubled.

I learned that her eating disorder was all about ‘control’ – she attempted to regulate her body-weight through over-dosing on slimming pills. Despite her recovery, she continued to attempt to control other elements of her life. Frankly, I feel sorry for her – and for her husband, who might now be being strung along for another reason. She once told me that, despite never having craved a relationship, she wanted a child, and longed for a daughter called Olivia. I suspect she chose that name to flatter me after reading my ‘Olivia’ poems. How could I not feel flattered?


An Artifice

How do I love thee? Let me count the ways - E. B. Browning
                I' benedico il loco e 'l tempo et l'ora - Petrarch

How can I stop myself from loving you?
How many ways can I deny the pleasure?
Could I delete each note, each beat, each measure
until the rhythm of a lie beats true?
There’s not a single day compares to you,
nor gem, nor jewel, nor glint of hidden treasure;
even a season or a life of leisure
curtails what poetry must fail to do.
If I could emulate his love for Laura
that Petrarch could achieve in fourteen lines,
contain it in a sonnet; see it more
a fantasy for love achieved in rhyme,
would I rejoice that day, or yet deplore
a longing for an encore one more time?


This (un-named) women said to me, ‘Do I seem like the sort of person who’s only interested in men for their money?’ On reflection, having found out so many other things about her, my answer now
would be, ‘Yes.’ No wonder she didn’t want to commit to a relationship with a penniless poet with a difficult past. Having shared so much of my personal history with her, I had made myself vulnerable. And this woman, who I thought I had been falling in love with, was about to play her dirtiest hand.


No Apologies

My book of Cautionary tales, Charlotte & The Charlatan, is for ‘adults only.’ These days we have to molly-coddle people with “trigger-warnings” as if we must first apologise for the fact that art, if it is true to itself, might cause a reaction. So it should. The Tales of Charlotte took a sinister turn as I wrote about the strange experience I’d been through. But one story in particular, although fictional, was based more closely than anything that had come out of my liaison with this perfidious woman.

A few days before she withdrew ‘from our intimate relationship,’ she told me that, while on holiday (on her honeymoon, although I didn’t know it) she had had a miscarriage. On reflection, she didn’t seem too disturbed by this; only saddened that she hadn’t been able to make her own choice about the situation. As time passed, I concluded that the pregnancy was probably another of her fantasies.

But then I discovered the biggest shock of all. She excitedly announced on Facebook, with a picture of her 3-month scan taken a year ago today, that she was ‘going to be a mum next March.’ Though I was blocked from her page, she didn’t consider that a friend might see that post. I wasn’t told about this for a while; around the same time the Royal Pregnancy was announced by Buckingham Palace.

At least one may be sure of that child’s paternity (unusually for that family.) But I had good reasons to believe that this child may be a result of my having (as I now see it) unwittingly impregnated her. Or perhaps I was not the only man who she was screwing around with. She was, after all, a highly proficient adulteress.

When I wrote another of my Cautionary Tales – a fictionalised account of this story – and posted it here on this blog, it didn’t go down well with her and her dolted husband. My claim that all my work is “fiction” may seem flimsy, but I strongly maintain my stance. And I refuse to apologise for my art.


In Years to Come

You kept it hidden from me; even so
I sensed it long before you knew.
My chief regret: I never saw you grow,

I never saw when you started to show;
never got to paint the nursery blue.
You kept it hidden from me; even so

you told me. Exactly why, I’ll never know.
Left to my imagination, naturally I grew
my chief regret: I never saw you grow.

My banishment from you, a heavy blow,
yet separated, still I felt a part of you:
you kept it hidden from me; even so

I suspected you would bloom and glow
and so as time ticked on, each day renewed
my chief regret: I never saw you grow

or got to choose a name but, even though
I had no choice, I saw it as a gift to you;
you kept it hidden from me, even so.
My chief regret: I never saw him grow.

I know that this woman’s husband reads this blog, and may be reading this story which I now conclude. Not that’s it’s all over. Their reaction to the whole debacle was deeply unpleasant. With all the information they had about me, they proceeded to publicise, through social media, emails, and direct contact with my friends and associates, personal details about me that were misleading, defamatory, and potentially damaging. In doing so, they revealed their guilt and complicity. I also suspect – though cannot prove – that he, or they, did other malicious and unspeakable things too.

This man had been cuckolded and wanted revenge. Claiming, on twitter, to be married to an angel, he was/is clearly in denial, or being as deceived by her as I was. I know what it feels like to find the person you love has been fucking someone else. It hurts. I had done nothing but show her tenderness, unflinching love and utmost respect. By attempting to make my life miserable, he has made himself look foolish and pathetic. She is not the ‘angel’ he thinks he married. She is a ruthless liar.

Her mother had not taken her own life – this was just a sick deceit. The email alias she had used when writing to me turned out to be her married name-to-be. I found her vulture picture on someone else’s Facebook – it seems she had plagiarised that, plus the ‘dreamer’ video she made for me, passing it off as her own. She was married in the Church near to where we used to sit and kiss in Princes Street Gardens, although she claimed at the time she’d never been inside. She sent me a picture of flowers for her mother’s funeral: they were in fact her wedding flowers.

The stories about her university, her near-rape when working for a dodgy night-club, the parental abuse she suffered as a child, her brother’s premature death, and a string of other mendacious tales I will never know to be true or not. Her claim to own a sandwich shop in the midlands was inflated: she no more than a night duty-manager at that shop. My hunch is that everything she said was, at best, spurious. The rest, I can put behind me: it is for her (and her deluded husband) to consider whether her invented life is just as much a part of her controlling condition that led her to almost destroy herself with dieting pills.

What I am left with is the knowledge that I will have nothing to do with the child she had towards the end of March this year. It was born within marriage, so legally it belongs to them, whoever the biological father is. There is a poet who, having recently discussed the issue of trigger-warnings in performance poetry, issues an apology before one of her pieces. It is in the style of a letter written from a young person to an anonymous sperm donor. Perhaps, one day, I will receive a similar letter.


The Letter-poem

He writes another letter,
but like a poor deluded fool,
it turns into a poem.
With mock poetic sentiment
and dirge he writes
the trite old phrases.
I see you now,
or, I remember you,
or, I imagine you...
And right away, there and then
the love he once thought
true, or pained, or beautiful,
turns into cold emotion,
or the product of imagination.
It is surely a nonsense,
to make a rhyme, lyric or romance
of something that was only in his head?
He writes it to her,
the long-forgot,
the one who left him,
or the one he never got,
and sated, but not
satisfied by his drivelling words,
he turns to find another in his bed.

My fear is that I may make this mistake all over again, like the person in the poem above. Maybe I’m completely mistaken about this strange episode that has taken up five long blog-posts. So be it: I still have my poetry – and a whole lot more. I have many friends who stood by me, and still do.

It could be said this unpleasant story has fuelled my pen, and that the woman who I thought I loved was – though far from amusing – a muse. I have written many unsent-letters, and tales, poems, stories, dramatic sketches and a play based on this upsetting experience. Much of this work has been published, although I will not yet acknowledge where. Despite their campaign to hurt me, this couple (and perhaps their child) have to face the truth. And that will hurt far more. I pity them.



It’s not the dying that bothers me
but the death I want to get right.
I don’t want to be hit by a bullet or bus,
or slip peacefully away in the night.
I’d rather be surrounded by friends
and loved ones when it happens,
to cheer my achievements, clap
or commiserate, forgive, make amends.
I want to go gentle into that good night,
not greeted by the kiss of death
but the releasing caress of life laid on mine:
the inquisitive lips of the child I never had;
the intoxicating tongue of unsavoured wine;
the familiar touch of a lover;
palliative hands of a nurse.
I don’t want a frog to wake me into death, or God,
a pope or a judge, a prince, a priest or worse –
I’ll leave all that shit to the living
to haply remember or haply forget.
When it comes, I want to embrace death
as the cherishing earth takes me since that –
and these lines from time to time –
is all that I have, all that I leave
and, in dying, all that I’m giving.


As a post-script to this long story, I will post one of the Cautionary Tales that didn’t make it into the final selection for my art-book, Charlotte & The Charlatan.  As Charlotte told the Charlatan: “To your own self be true, and be true to yourself.” For some, however, Truth is a puke-able Feast.

from Charlotte & The Charlatan

              – and other cautionary tales

Percy the Prowler
            “For she was wild and young, and he was old,
              And deemed himself as like to be a cuckold.”
                                                                      The Miller’s Tale, Chaucer.
‘He’s on the prowl again,’ the People said.
            Although they gave him all the facts he needed, this information went unheeded by Colin the Constable who, more a paragon of vice than virtue, said that Percy’s behaviour was “not very nice.”
            ‘While he may be causing alarm to some,’ the copper corruptly suggested, ‘there’s no harm done.’
            The People disagreed. ‘Percy has made it his personal aim to maim any woman or man he considers a threat.’
            The Constable said ‘If a person bears a grudge, it’s best not to grudge the bear.’ Percy was more of a bungling bear than a ravenous lion. While he considered himself a stealthy hunter, the People thought him a cunt, a cretin, a fool – and a cuckold to boot. ‘You can’t shoot a man when all he does is prowl,’ said the constable.
            ‘Even if his behaviour’s foul?’ said the People, ‘not to mention the manner of his intention.’ Everyone knew that Percy’d had wool pulled over his eyes regarding family issues. Although it would’ve been wise for him to use discretion, keep stumm, not talk to anyone, instead he chose to stalk with aggression and target those who might expose complicity with his domestic perfidy.
            By posing as a poet (though if you read his rhymes you wouldn’t know it) Percy posted lines expressing hate of perverts, pests, and any poets who met with his distaste.
            ‘His behaviour is disgusting,’ said the People, at a loss to know why P.C. Colin didn’t give a toss. ‘We can’t allow someone to prowl upon people who’ve done this man no wrong.’ United, if not universal, in their quest to put Predatory Percival to rest, the People decided he was simply a pest.
            Their first aim: to assess whom Percy felt needed protected, and from what. A committee was formed, a leader elected. It was quickly agreed his rhymes had bugger-all to do with verse; the lines were utter doggerel or worse, whose only slant was against other poets. It was apparent they had the greater talent.
            ‘He wouldn’t know a half-rhyme, metaphor, or sympathetic fallacy,’ the Chair concluded. ‘His words are governed by his own pathetic jealousy. The only thing the People need protected from is this man’s vitriolic pronouncements which are far from poetic.’
            There was a saying in Charlotteville that “your lies and misdeeds, your foibles and fears and worst nightmares remain if you try to be something you’re not.” While it was clear he wasn’t a poet, Percy wasn’t a lion, or bear, or hunter either. This masquerade was a front; a disguise to evade the Truth that all the People knew, and had known all along. Percy had been cruelly strung along.
            He cloaked himself in denial, thinking his young wife angelic. She was in fact demonic, adorned with claws and tail and horns. Poor Percy the Prowler, returning from his pyrrhic battle, ignoring the Cuckoo’s prattle, failed to spot he also wore a mocking set of horns.