Skin of Your Lips
by Ella D. Gajic
I wonder if you still pull skin off your lips between the tips of your teeth;
how you used to suck them in, gnaw and chew until a trickle of blood seeped through.
They were cracked, blistered; but when I reached for the balm
you always refused, tearing off skin so calm
like picking off scabs that forever grew back; identical.
It was like this you would openly touch me, compulsively;
stroke my bare skin,
scratch my leg, pull me in, in
inside you, where I could confide in you.
Where I could hide in you.
But you would only pull me in to somehow tear me off.
Like you were the light, I the mouth.
I can’t begin to finish writing about you
because I feel like when I do, you will stop existing;
as if when I put pen to paper you are there, quietly listening.
And I’m taken back to the times I was reflected in your eyes;
bathing in water like it was our christening –
words of praise ridden between the bubbles,
soaked, absorbed into my pours:
you informing me of how special I was or
how special we could be,
knowing how easily to fill a girl with glee.
It was written in law, for you
carved into the stones that taught men how to woo.
It was trying to confirm something as fact
that you already knew to be untrue.
What a perfect, little, brief contradiction we were;
you watered my roots,
trod on my buds
and still bade me bloom,
alone in a darkened room.
Lying next to you, alone, in a darkened room.
Each thing done to me by you
was a cracked reflection of all you could not face up to.
You may be sharp, smart and raw
but all your self-diagnosed definitions mean nothing.
Nothing, if you can not find someone worth embodying them for.
But still, I wonder if you pull skin off your lips between the tips of your teeth.
Or if you even have lips at all, or what they could now possibly be used for,
other than having something to bite into, of course.
But the teeth that do it cannot be mine,
the bruises you blackened will fade in time,
there are still wounds I plaster to forbid you from prodding.
Because I know you could still do it, compulsively, satisfyingly.
Like pulling skin off your lips between the tips of your teeth.
Ella is a spoken word poet, theatre maker and actor from Brighton. Last year, she won an award from The Pebble Trust Talent Grant to put on her one-woman spoken word show ‘Did I Choose These Shoes?’ at the Brighton Fringe. This had a sold out house and went on to be performed in London. During this time, Ella self-published her debut poetry pamphlet titled ‘Girl’. She is a winner of Brighton’s Hammer and Tongue poetry slam and is part of a collective called Poets vs MCs, who she performed with at the Edinburgh Fringe and Together The People Festival. Last year, Ella was one of New Writing South’s Theatre Royal young writers and was later awarded their ‘Finish Lines’ bursary. She writes and performs spoken word with a band named The Electric Youth Ensemble and is currently studying scriptwriting and performance at University of East Anglia.
Through the characters and concepts she tackles, her writing expresses political and social messages which reflect the lives and struggles of real people growing up today.