Richard Pierce

Life, Poetry

Day 221

I made a big mistake yesterday for which I beg forgiveness. I did something I tell people never to do. I didn’t listen. I got some feedback on yesterday’s scribbled poem, and I brushed it aside. I went to bed thinking about it, couldn’t sleep, got up again and ate half a ton of peanuts and had another glass of wine, and almost bought stuff I shouldn’t be spending money on, but restrained myself. Finally slept, and woke up feeling worse than ever, and thinking about that poem. Came downstairs, still thinking about it, had my honey, walked round the garden smoking, opened the office door to let some early morning freshness in, and was still thinking about it. And I’d brushed the feedback (hastens to add – it wasn’t even criticism) aside with the lazy nonsense of “oh, don’t take poetry so literally.” Ok, poetry isn’t necessarily meant to be taken literally, but it should be precise. So I changed one word, changed “rewritten” to “undone.” That makes more sense, and is less equivocal, because although we don’t know the past, it can’t be undone, but it can be rewritten and distorted and used for ruthless people’s own ends. That was meant to be the point of the poem – that whatever people might choose to dress the past up as, they cannot actually undo what really happened, and that the times we’re living through now are a direct result of what has been done in the past.

I guess it plays in with that novel on slavery I’m just reading (review will come when I’ve finished it), where I am aghast at the cruelty done to people by other people, and where the right-wing playbook now is that we shouldn’t be judging people on what happened then – and the extreme right-wing racist view of course being that slavery was fine and should be reintroduced because white people are the supreme race. It makes me shudder, and feel ashamed of my middle-aged white man privilege. All people are equal, and should be equal, and anyone who says otherwise should be prosecuted for hate.

Of course, I’m sitting here wondering if I’ve dug myself an even bigger hole, and hope I haven’t. The problem with words and life and everything is that talking about them too much, especially when you’re perpetually on the brink of exhaustion, blurs meaning.

I wrestle with time as I try to get it under control. That’s why I have insomnia. At least I’ve found my sleep spray which got lost in the move. Perhaps tonight I’ll sleep.

And I’ve just realised that somewhere along the line Zav’s name in Aggie mutated into Zak. I prefer Zav. That’ll have to be fixed in a final edit. And that just reminds me that everything here is just a first draft. Things tossed down without me thinking (or caring) too much about them. I do hope that doesn’t disappoint.



‘But would she keep something really important and secret in the room she shared with Valentine?’ Aggie says, the key burning into her hand.

‘If its hers,’ Lilibet says.

‘What do you mean?’ Aggie says.

‘It could be his,’ Lilibet says. ‘And he hid it in her desk.


Lilibet shrugs. ‘If I knew that, I’d have the answer to all our questions, I reckon.’

‘Do you mean it might be for something in here?’ Aggie says.

‘You said you couldn’t find anything.’

‘And I missed something. I know.’

‘That’s not what I meant,’ Lilibet says. ‘It’s chicken and egg, isn’t it? You wouldn’t have been looking for something the key fitted into because you didn’t know about the key. And you didn’t find the key because it was so well hidden.’

‘Oh.’ Aggie feels herself getting confused, and the thought creeps up on her again that love is muting all her instincts and clarity of thinking. She runs her hands through her hair, rips out some of them with the key, and doesn’t even feel the pain.

Lilibet comes across to her, puts her arms round her. ‘Stop worrying so. Stop beating yourself up for things that are not your fault.’

Aggie finds herself weeping, silently, Lilibet’s face blurred by the tears. ‘Stop being so damn nice to me,’ she whispers. And then out loud. ‘Let’s just go downstairs and see what we can find. All this talking is making me ill.’ She turns and walks out of the room, back to her big steps, covering so much distance in one single stride. She’s already by the cellar door when the others are still running down the stairs from the first floor.

The air creeps up to meet her, cold and dry and not at all musty. She starts down the stairs, back down to the bright empty space that Zav thought was too normal. She reaches the final room in the succession of rooms, the one where the light wouldn’t work, and that Anna came screeching out of, behind a cloud of cordite, a bang and a flash. She wonders how the bullet could have missed her, if she’d be able to evade it now, now that she feels slow and tired and old and distracted. We never actually went in there, did we? The thought explodes into her head. And it was Zav she was after, not me. Valentine trying to get rid of another useful fool after his usefulness ran out. Why Anna and not one of the human robots? She rummages in her pockets for a small torch, finds one, smiles at the messiness of herself, presses the button, shines the light into the dark room. She hears the others traipsing down the stairs, and quickly walks into the room so she has time to think before they catch up with her.

There are shelves in here, shelves stacked high with plastic boxes, opaquely translucent boxes like you can buy from any DIY shop or corner shop nowadays. She snorts. You sound old. She pulls one of the boxes out from its shelf. It’s not sealed, not protected in any way. She puts it onto the dry concrete ground, wrests the lid off it. Yellowing papers. Documents. From long ago. That’s what it looks like to her anyway. She picks the top document off the pile. It’s actually a manila folder, and as she opens it, she takes a deep breath. Lilibet is next to her now. The folder creaks as she turns the cover. The first thing she sees is a picture of herself, herself as she was in that vision, that young girl sitting in the mud at the crossroads in that sodden village. It’s a photograph of that vision, taken from high above, and it’s in black and white. Her breath stops.



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