She’s stubbed out her last cigarette,
we marvel that she managed it;
a sixty-a-day inveterate,
a Marlboro-mad smoking stick
who craved not only nicotine
and the repertoire of motions,
from hand to mouth and back again
essential to devotions,
but had augmented the habit
to flatten flames that burnt within,
by applying lighted nub-ends
to the stubbornness of skin;
to steady flight and cushion fall
and obviate oblivion;
to moderate the mercury
indifferent to Lithium.
She caught us glancing at her arms
for pale uneven patches,
rolled her sleeves and turned the palms,
her burns exchanged for slashes;
the scars of broken beer glasses,
scores of jewelled and jagged edges,
brooches, blades and coloured plastics,
crampons spiking every crevice.
At the weekly self-harm classes
we will sterilise her weapons
with a sigh at further damage
and an eye upon infections.
She plays the part of maverick
and scoffs at antisepsis,
seeks the tear of fraying fabric
and heightening of senses.
She’s courting her intrusive thoughts
when she doesn’t take the tablets,
like the thrill of sexual intercourse
without the prophylactics.
Ray Miller is a Socialist, Aston Villa supporter and faithful husband. Life’s been a disappointment.