New Poetry: A Loner in a Crowded Head by Salena Godden

I pressed my cheek
against the granite headstone
buried my face and howled
into my up-turned coat collar
tracing the lost years
with my thumb
and my own surname
etched in stone

that winter was brutal
and i fulfilled an obligation
to ride the storm in bed

i knew i would never be quite the same again

a bitter snow fell
my tongue was furred brown
with tea and sympathy
and shit
if we were ever honest
we’d admit we dislike
the reflections
of our weaknesses
and there’s a mean streak
we all share

and i am only telling you this because i care

and i took some comfort there
and i was screamed at
in the street

i cried secretly
like a bullimic in a toilet cubicle
my fingers down the throat
of how it troubled me
that love was failing

i smeared lipstick on a forced smile
my blood shot and salt eyes
weakly disguised
with slammed tequila

then as i walked home alone
i sheltered in phoneboxes
from the rage and fury
and the shame
of all this
wet on my face

i made tea
dunking short bread fingers
i opened the fridge door
for light and the familiarity
of its jarring hum

there really is no space
in the crowd
to grow or change
and unsent letters
clutter like dead leaves

old friends
they loved you then
when you were at their best
they loved you more
when you were more
or less

my faded Prince t-shirt
got out of shape
it didn’t shrink
i grew
out of the wash
we partied like it was 1999
but that was

above me grey dish rag clouds
are wiped across a greasy sky
mauve and smeared
with a pale lilac rain

i pass pubs we once knew
and the flats we shared
where the rent was always

it was always late
long nights of whiskey and coke
when the dawn scribbled gold
on powdery walls
the rising sun
coloured the blue smoke
a shade of amber

and we ranted and spat
like it mattered
and it did then

and i am only telling you this because i care

now there are babies
debts and deadlines
filthy habits and
foul coughs
we once found charming
stain our crooked teeth
and leave a sour taste

we’ve all put weight on
shoulders to
cry on

deep cuts
once oozed blood
as we gripped hands
swearing to be blood and kin

wondering who’d go first
whilst swallowing pills with wine
fragile time
trembled like a pigeons throat

remember when
this was all ahead of us
and in the morning
we’d laugh and say
one day
we’ll all laugh
we’ll look back on this
one day

and i took some comfort there

that there would be
a one day
and that it would be

i am a loner
in a crowded head
and crowded in a lonely world

with three grey hairs
and a faded Prince t-shirt
i only wear to bed.

(c) Salena Godden 2008

Salena Godden can often be found in the salubrious salons and private members bars of London’s Soho.  She is an heady cocktail of Jamaican and Irish, lives in North London, and has no pets, husbands, or children.

Her articles, stories, and poetry have appeared in a diverse array of publications including Nude, Le Gun, The Illustrated Ape, Salzburg Review, and The Gay Times. Her fiction and poems have also been published in many anthologies including The Decadent Handbook (Dedalus), IC3 (Penguin), Fire People (Canongate), Croatian Nights (Serpent’s Tail) and Oral (Hodder & Stoughton). She has regularly read and performed on BBC Radio 4’s Bespoken Word and BBC Radio 3’s The Verb.

Under the name Salena Saliva she became renowned in the 1990s for ‘taking poetry into clubs’ and recorded with Coldcut, Alabama 3, and Simple Kid. She is now the lead singer of SaltPeter, whose acclaimed album Hunger’s The Best Sauce (Fred) was released in October 2007.

Springfield Road, Salena Godden’s memoir of growing up in Hastings in the 1970s, will be published by Harper Collins in April 2009.



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