Dedicated to Emmeline and Fisher.
There’s a thorn in my heart
That tells me lies:
It grew from a seed when I was very small.
It’s a very backward plant, this thorn:
Most plants have roots going down,
And thorns going up.
My thorn’s roots are in my skull,
And it sprouts branches in my heart,
Constricting more and more each year.
The daffodil is a pretty flower
(If, it must be said, completely useless)
But it’s roots are poisonous to eat;
So too are the roots of my thorn.
They leech poison into my brain
That tells me lies,
Even as the branches overcome my heart
And choke the life from my lungs.
One day I sit, nursing my thorn,
Trying to breathe through the crushing pain,
When a friend turns suddenly, and makes a joke.
The laugh that startles from me breaks the thorns hold
On both my brain and heart.
Another friend presses a kiss to my lips
In a night of drunken secrets and laughter;
And one of the thorns unpricks from my heart.
The solution is impermanent and imperfect:
The roots still poison my brain; the thorns still hold my heart.
But now, more and more, the roots give rise to poetry.
Now, more and more, the thorns transmute to roses.
And I wake, not panting for breath,
But kissing rose petals on my bed sheets.
The thorn pierces my heart.
The roots poison my brain.
He holds me tight and makes me laugh.
And slowly I become myself again.
This is what we call ‘anxiety’ I explain.
And take the rose petal from under my tongue
And give it to him, even as I promise bravery.
The thorns will not win, tonight.