On Small Rituals to Keep Us Safe by Lauren Vevers

I wear the same coat to the hospital every day. The first time I pull it on, a crash of sickening anxiety rising in my body. In the early hours of the morning, outside the Intensive Care Unit, a familiar waiting room. I clutch the coat close. I can smell her perfume on the collar or I can’t and my mind is playing cruel tricks. In these periods of acute emotional stress, time twists in unusual ways; reality is soft like damp clay. I’m making deals with a God I don’t think I believe in. I’m clinging onto her and hoping. I’m also expecting the worst.

The coat is dark blue and practical with a fleece-lining and generous pockets. Like everything my mam owns, it’s in immaculate condition and looks brand new. She would wear it on walks with my dad in winter. They’d track their steps and proudly report back how far they’d made it. Around March of this year, I spot the coat hanging in the wardrobe at home. I need a jacket for a camping trip and it fits the bill. She’s happy for me to have it. Many of her clothes are from before, when wearability in a wheelchair wasn’t a consideration. When I put it on, I feel closer to her and that scares me. It’s a perfect fit. I’m almost 29, the same age she was when she fell pregnant with me. It’s happening too fast and I’m not ready yet.

For my mam, everyday rituals kept dark things from the door.

I grew up with the same mindset because fear is infectious and because I was scared in my own right. I was sensitive to the unpleasantness which crept in at the corners; I fixated on death and illness and loss. So it’s no surprise that, when she falls ill again, I reach for the blue coat day after day. In the beginning, it’s a comfort and I find solace in repeated action of reaching for it before I leave. Later, it becomes a talisman. My mind tells me that mam’s recovery is dependent on it. I know she is getting better because of the care she’s receiving in hospital. But I can’t help but believe in the power of the coat.

The illusion of control brings me consolation against the unsettling randomness of the cosmos.

I have always relied on small rituals but I don’t know at what point those became rules and when those rules became restrictions on how I live. If I’m about to go away, I pack a bag and then I re-pack it and I pack it again and repeat. My house has to be tidy at all times; I can never leave dishes festering in the sink. Any minor changes to my routine are seismic shifts. It’s exhausting. There are other rituals, though, that are much less claustrophobic. Writing is one of them. When I write I open up to possibility and hope floods in. I write to investigate pain in a way that’s containable. I write so that I can leave the coat by the door.

Lauren Vevers is a writer and director from Newcastle upon Tyne. Her writing has been published in The i, Notion, The Real Story, Hobart Pulp, Popshot Magazine, and others. She writes about theatre and feelings for Exeunt and A Younger Theatre. Her plays, ‘Trashed’ and ‘Bassline’, were included in the Pint-Sized Playwriting Longlist for 2018 and 2019. She was a participant on the BFI Northern Exposure Lab. Her debut short film as a writer / director, LOVE SPELL, was recently awarded funding from BFI and is in production with Freya Films. Lauren also runs creative writing workshops for young people and community groups in the North. Say hello via email at laurenmaryvevers@gmail.com or on social @laurenvevers.

Other writing:

‘so altered and infinitely more’ in The Real Story: https://therealstory.org/2018/08/17/so-altered-infinitely-more-by-lauren-vevers/.

‘searching for Marlene Dietrich in Berlin’ forthcoming in She Found It At The Movies: https://redpress.co.uk/collections/red-press-bookshop/products/she-found-it-at-the-movies

‘family magic’ forthcoming in On Relationships from 3 of Cups: https://www.3ofcups.co.uk/shop/on-relationships

Thank you,

Rolling Maltesers By Julie Noble

My Grandma came to live with us when I was nine-years-old. She moved into my parents’ Seventies Suburban life – peppered with parties that caused divorce and homebrew that brought headaches – and gave us a sense of solid, stable love that helped me survive.

Tempestuous tempers and endless supplies of alcohol combined to make cataclysmic times, but my Grandma’s gentle presence was a godsend.

And the ritual we observe in memory of her is the act of Rolling Maltesers. Continue reading “Rolling Maltesers By Julie Noble”

May It Come Easy to You By Jay Moussa-Mann

“Would you like a biscuit?” my new school friend asked me politely. I had been at my bursary won boarding school only a few weeks. It was my first winter in the UK, and I shivered under the coat I refused to take off even indoors.

I declined the delicious looking biscuits, politely shaking my head.

“You sure?” she said and I nodded smiling. Then I watched in dismay as my new friend turned and put the biscuits away in the cupboard never to be seen for the rest of the evening. I was left horrified. Horrified and hungry. Continue reading “May It Come Easy to You By Jay Moussa-Mann”

Words to My Fifteen-Year-Old Anorexic Self by Katie Metcalfe

You are squashing a lone branflake against the side of your cereal bowl, as you sit on bedrest in a children’s psychiatric hospital. You must extract from the flake as much milk as you can. You’re sure the milk is blue top, the full-fat one, and you don’t want to ingest any of it because tomorrow is weigh day and gaining anything will mean you’re losing control and getting fat. Continue reading “Words to My Fifteen-Year-Old Anorexic Self by Katie Metcalfe”

Writing Your Truth in the Age of Lies

This year’s theme for National Poetry Day is truth. Have you ever had that gut-twisting feeling when someone has lied about you? And those lies have made other people see you differently; treat you differently, maybe even hate you? That’s kind of where we are. We live in the age of lies and the age of lies is also the age of hate. The low level hate that happens on buses and in classrooms and board rooms and the loud hate that rallies and waves banners. Telling the truth isn’t just about having your say, it’s about understanding where the hate comes from, talking about what it does and passing the shame back to the haters and away from the victims.
Hate leaves a mark beyond the moment and what poetry of witness does it it registers that mark, the wound the hate leaves. Not the statistics, not facts – something that is and beyond truth: the wound on the individual and by extension the community. Continue reading “Writing Your Truth in the Age of Lies”

Nobody Tells You by Nina Vangerow

Too Scared to Hold You Anonymous

Nobody tells you
and you wouldn’t have believed it anyway
not about the pain of childbirth
but the agonising pain of having the very essence of who you are
ripped apart
about endless days
and endless nights
having to survive on chocolate biscuits and bananas
because you can’t prepare food one handed
about babies that will never fall asleep in car seats while you are driving
but cry
because they need your closeness, your warmth, the smell of your skin
to feel safe
and your heart brakes on the motorway, tears streaming down your face
“It’s alright little one, mummy is here, just a bit further”
nobody tells you about babies
that need to be carried to fall asleep
carried to stay asleep
carried when they are awake, need to be as close to you as possible
to survive in this scary crazy world Continue reading “Nobody Tells You by Nina Vangerow”

Skin to Skin by Clare Robson

Crying Tears by Clare Hansford Words by Carmen Marcus

My world has shrunk
to here and now.
I curl around you;
outsideness is a skin
between us.

I hear playground voices rise and fall,
children detached Apollo-like from the Mothership
floating on swings and seesaws,
defying gravity.

I curl tighter,
breathe your milkiness,
wrestle with the functionality
of breasts
that are yours,
alien, twin lunar landscapes,
luminescent at 2am, at 4, at 6 –
charting our voyage,
our ebb and flow,
as I wash on your shore.

I have birthed you
but our labour of separation and survival
has only just begun. Continue reading “Skin to Skin by Clare Robson”