Second-hand Home


Crumbs in the cupboards; a single burn-encrusted

hob, ochre and sienna and hot-white

like the midday sun that hid its face

behind rainclouds

on the day that we entered this place;

beaded chains sticky with a substance that

may or may not be bodily,

a goo that is to the

touch twins with the appearance of the brown

marks blended into the surface of the

linoleum floor; a stringy cocoon

dangling from blinds the shade of cartoon snot,

as if housing a caterpillar who –

like us –

is anticipating the “Transformation

of a lifetime.” (Or perhaps

behind the threads a bloodless fly is trapped.)



A grey smudge on the mattress, the faded

mark of a woman from decades before;

a diagonal claw-mark on the headboard –

a broken life-line – which makes me wonder

what sort of accident might have happened

here, in my

flimsy single bed.

I am witness only to the fossils.

Haphazard brushes of off-white succeed

a paler wall paint, its secrets too

dark to be obscured by a congruent

colour; magenta stains the carpet with

countries that resemble India and Australia


This room was once somebody’s world.


Or at least a fraction of it.



A toilet seat that shifts and twists within

its loose-screwed grooves; a shower base crowned with

deep slits:

the remnants of an earthquake

perhaps orchestrated by the victim

of a personal or familial


dark holes brimming with the promise of

spiders and mice


into the cavernous hollow within;

drunken lines like constellations,

someone’s attempt at

divining the future,

cling to the wall in flickering

fluorescent light that warns of

imminent collapse;

shreds of tissue adhere to the ceiling,

dead skin peeling

from a back or stomach.



For my first creative writing portfolio, on the given theme of legacies, I decided to explore the signs of wear and tear that I found in my flat when I first started at university.  I wrote a poem for each room: the kitchen, the bedroom and the bathroom, drawing inspiration from James Merrill’s ‘The Broken Home’ and his divergence from the traditional sonnet forms to create his sequence. 


Plane Mirror

I ask myself why I

Search and besmirch with my finger

The unreal glass of a

Plane, inane, inhumane

Mirror. Was this my idea?

For you’re the critic of

The intangible surface of a

Virtual (Impermeable)

Image with its emotions that scrimmage

Across the toss of

Features of an imperfect creature that

Form the Impressionist storm of my

Face. A disgrace to symmetry; the

Reflection that needs your protection

From other imaginary wrongs

Which you and they and I bitch about

When we see them

Through the rough-hewed retinas that

Conceive a perceived facet of a

Being that has, in truly seeing,

Yet to be set

‘Right’ by an equally trite

Visual cortex. A self-induced hex to

Enable philautia to stay stable

Beyond infancy.



This piece, written in response to the theme of reflections, is meant to meditate on the scrutiny that so many of us put ourselves under when we look in the mirror. We want what we see to be pleasing to others or to ourselves but we are already tainted by societal expectations of what ‘pleasing’ is. 



One minute,

you’re fine.


The next,

your hands are buzzing like bees in false defence.

You’re overheating.

Your heart is sprinting a marathon.

Your legs threaten to vanish from under you.

In a sudden spurt of energy you have outdistanced Time.

And as you near the finish line your body is failing.

You can’t breathe

you can’t talk

your calves give way

you collapse in hysterics

but lack the oxygen

to even express your pain.



At the time of my first panic attack, I had no idea what was going on. I wasn’t anxious about any particular thing, but all the stress relating to school, extra-curricular activities and my personal health had accumulated until it became overwhelming. I remember having to sit down at every chance as I struggled to make it home, then collapsing to the floor in tears. It is written in second person to allow readers to imagine experiencing the changes for themselves or to create empathy in those who have gone through something similar.


I, snarled in thick limbs,

cried myself to sleep last night.

Can you see the salt?



The story behind this haiku is greatly personal, but I would like to share it on here as both an explanation of the words and a record for myself. I composed it as I fell asleep the night after my psychologist had told me that I would have to keep gaining weight to be at a lower risk of relapse despite being a ‘healthy’ weight, albeit at the very bottom of the range. Frustrated and hyper-aware of the extra fat my body had accumulated, I broke down.