Richard Pierce

Poetry, Writing

Day 51

L emailed me after yesterday’s post about the internal voice to let me know that it reminded her of the Highly Sensitive Person trait, and sent me a link to one of the authorities on that HSP trait ( I was very grateful to her for reminding me of something my former 5E acupuncturist said to me years ago, that I was beating myself up about being so highly-strung when actually I was an HSP, and that 15-20% of the population shared that trait with me. I’ll be doing more reading up on this. L also told me she was suffering from writer’s block, so I sent her some writing prompts I’d shared with a writing group in January that we had to cancel because we were being sensible about omicron. And then she sent me back one of the best poems I’ve read for a long time. It meant so much to me, not only that someone I’d met once 10 years ago, should pick up a prompt and run with it, but that the poem touched me deeply. I’ll not reproduce it here, because it’s not mine to share, and I hope she will share it via her social media at some point (EDIT – L has been in touch after reading my post and said she is happy for me to reproduce her poem here, so you’ll find it after Aggie’s next chapter below). It made the same deep impression on me as Jacques Prévert’s POUR TOI MON AMOUR did the first time I read it, such a deep impression that I’ve added Prévert’s Paroles to the small row of books Aggie has in her attic room (yesterday’s chapter), because I’d forgotten what a great poet Prévert is, and that he deserves to be on that shelf of books.

I find it interesting that I’ve always thought of myself as a dreadful teacher (and parent) because I don’t actually have much patience with things, and because I see myself as a person who doesn’t have it within himself to give himself up entirely to the interests and needs of other people. And probably, as I’ve said many times, because I think I’m a misanthrope deep down, but that I find such great pleasure and emotion in mentoring people when it comes to being creative, particularly in writing. That’s why the poem from L yesterday made me so emotional, that’s why poems and/or stories from people I’ve just talked about writing to and given them a little nudge in the direction of putting words onto paper mean so much to me – because it takes courage to write, courage to not self-edit before you’ve even put down a single word, courage to let the world see your thoughts, courage to even think of yourself as a writer. I didn’t feel much like writing anything when I woke up (not as ate as last Sunday), because I feel slow, but here I am, over 500 words into the daily post, with Prévert looking up at me from the cover of Paroles with a cigarette in his mouth to match the smell of smoke in the office/study, remembering that yesterday I felt it would be my best life to be able to create all day every day, to write letters to people all around the globe and seal them with the red wax and file their responses carefully in different boxes rather than the heaps upon heaps of disorganised paper that make me look like a hoarder not a writer.

The days pass, and I grow. Acceptance is not a defensive feeling, nor one of giving up or complacency. It’s the realisation that I’m normal, after all.




She knows, too, that if she had gone into that room and followed her instincts something more than betrayal might have ensued. She has suppressed her instincts for a very long time, even before she came into this house, when she came into this country where anyone could be thinking anything, where the distaste for anything different is so often plainly visible, where the whispers are so loud they might as well be shouts. She finishes chewing, swills the remains of the taste away with a gulp of water, and clears away her things, drops the board into the sink for later. Perhaps, she thinks, perhaps the answer to that plaintive voice on the phone, lies in that room, after all, that forbidden territory where secrets could be so easily hidden. She looks at the clock. It’s late, and the silence in the house tells her she should be in bed, that it’s past the time when Sir and Madam would have retired, when she would have gone round the house one last time to make sure everything was as it should be, before going upstairs, reading one page of whatever book fell into her hand, and then for her to sink into her short dream-filled sleep before starting the same day all over again.

But not tonight.

She is now the mistress of this house, and she needs some air. She checks the knife that’s always strapped to her long left calf so she can grab it ore easily with her right hand, pulls the trouser leg down again. A girl can never be too careful. She leaves the lights on in the kitchen, in the hall, glides down the stairs to the ground floor, all the doors still locked, all the silence sill contained behind those locked entrances, discrete pockets of silence and blind faces on blind paintings in the self-contained darknesses of the shut-off rooms. She takes her long black coat from the hook in the cloakroom next to the front door, buttons it closed, pulls the belt tight around her waist which to her always seems to have too much girth, but that some of the male (and female) weekend guests have always looked at with envy and sometimes, after one glass of wine too many, with too much desire, desire that has had to be rebuffed gently and without recourse to the secret stiletto strapped to her left leg, the weapon even Sir and Madam have no inkling of, desire rebuffed with a sharp word or the sharp edge of one of her hands, without giving away too many of the secrets of her past, without defeating the manoeuvres of intoxication too easily, and always with a smile.

Aggie takes a deep breath, pulls the coat down a little, wriggles to make herself feel more comfortable, and settles into the stoop of those who want to remain invisible, opens the front door slowly, and steps outside after having looked both ways, and across to the water and the dark void, turns quickly to lock all five of the front door locks with swift turns of the same key, hearing with satisfaction how the mortices engage with solid clicks, walks down the steps to the road slowly, listening, looking, vigilant, hands balled in the pockets of the coat, thumb on the outside of each fist. She reaches ground level, the rain now a mist that blurs the street lights, looks both ways, and crosses the empty road to the pavement by the side of the river, turns right, and heads towards Bishop Bridge, the nearest crossing onto the cathedral’s island. She needs to know the cathedral’s still there.


L’s poem

We all want to be loved


Maybe one day I’ll buy a new coat

     And I’ll be rich

And there’ll be a banknote in its pocket

     And I’ll be rich

Just a tenner would do

     And I’ll be rich

And I’ll buy a chair in the nearest charity shop

     And I’ll be rich

And place it in the middle of my garden

     And I’ll be rich

For all the birds to see

How rich I am

For the pride

Of owning one’s own chair


I’ll just sit on it

And observe all the unwanted trees

Somebody once planted in my garden

Not knowing it will be mine one day

And that I’ll be so unimpressed by those trees

By their number and size

And shape for the matter

So many trees in such a small garden


But we all want to be loved

Even the trees

And accepted

And not judged


Yet only judgement moves us forward

Makes us what we are

What we become in the next minute


So I’ll cut their branches

If only an inch

To give myself and my chair

A better view

And I’ll think about all those important things

About my dinner and the pandemic

About my chair once being a tree

About meeting people I once have known

And haven’t seen for a decade


And I’ll stroke my chair kindly

With acceptance

Because we all want to be loved


(c) 2022 LF

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  1. Ren Powell

    21st February 2022 at 03:57

    I am so happy that someone gave you back what you give to others. If you were to give yourself up entirely through your teaching or parenting, what on earth would you have left to give from? I am privileged to be among those who learn from your generosity! I haven’t discussed it with M. and your kids – or the poet here – but I am very sure we’d all agree. I have never thought of the connection between being “high strung” and being “highly sensitive”. For all the things I don’t like about the new cultural frameworks, this particular reframing is among the really great ones!
    And I have a box with the broken wax-sealed letters from a couple of years ago and those are among my prized possessions. Just so you know.

    1. Richard Pierce

      21st February 2022 at 07:21

      To wake into my Monday morning fragility to this note is a blessing. Thank you <3 I have always felt myself to learn from your generosity, never vice versa. Yes, all generalisations are false: about human traits, about conditions of the mind, about everything. But the acknowledgement that HSPs exist always has the same effect on me as the first of the 8 Lessons of Therapy I learned from my therapy - that I'm not alone. And that in itself makes me more accepting of how I am. I always feel physical letters are the summit of communication, short of physical presence. Thank you again, my friend.

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