13 THINGS TO TELL A FRIEND WHO IS HURTING | Rebecca Cooney’s poem on helping someone heal, when words feel powerless.
by Rebecca Cooney
1. Come in, I’ll put the kettle on.
2. No, sod it, I’ll find a corkscrew.
3. I love you, and it is OK to cry.
4. If you cannot sleep in your dark,
Turn the radio down low
and let other people’s stories wash
you away from your own,
if only for the night.
I self-medicate in fiction,
make elastoplasts of poetry, so
5. here is one from 600 years ago by
a Persian named Hafez, who says:
“If only I could show you,
when you are lonely or in darkness,
the astonishing light of your own being.”
Pin it on your wall.
It will not heal you
but it might hold the edges together
when you are frightened you will crack.
6. Know that people, like arrowheads, are barbed –
they do more damage coming out of your life
than they did going in
because our flesh tries so hard to cling to them
no matter the damage done, but
7. know also that no time spent having faith
in another person is ever wasted,
because faith requires hope
and remembering the taste of hope
is what will get you out of bed in the morning
when you do not believe in dawn.
8. When Prometheus lay
missing parts of himself in the dark
punished for committing arson with ideas,
learning through re-growing pains
that what he thought the worst
was only the beginning
the mortals in the valley below
who had seen his light, astonished,
lit tiny-fire candles to remind him, so
9. do not talk about ending up here
or where you should be by now.
It is not a race but a wheel,
and it like the world is turning.
Once I was at your feet
broken by centrifugal forces
crying so hard I pulled a muscle
in my face.
That shit hurts.
Remind me, when I am there again.
10. Take it from me,
if you pin your mistakes to the mirror
so they are the first thing you see in the morning,
you will lose your face in the cracks.
Lay them all out,
take a good look at them and then
fold them away
and forgive yourself,
the way you forgive your reflection its dark-shadowed eyes.
11. Know that when they build bridges,
they lay stone by stone
side by side around a central support
wedge a keystone in place at the top
and remove the support
so the force of the bricks themselves
keeps the bridge standing
So know that, whatever you have built you life around,
you, standing tall with your chest puffed out,
have the strength to cross chasms alone
12. I am sorry if I cannot always be
the friend you need,
if my tired bones sodden
in yesterday’s tears
are too sorrow-logged to take on more.
I will wring out these soggy bones
and dry your eyes
and listen because
13. the truth is that the words
to take this pain from you
do not exist.
All I can offer, you have,
but these words are bridges
cold comfort wine in too shallow glasses
and distraction noise.
But know this:
I see nothing but your astonishing light
and when you are spread and eagled on a rock,
you can be damn sure
I will light a candle for you.
Rebecca Cooney | @RebeccaKCooney
Rebecca Cooney is a journalist and performance poet living in south east London. She has performed at open mic nights and slams across London, and is the Cambridge Regional Hammer & Tongue Runner-up Champion for 2018. She can be found on Twitter @RebeccaKCooney and more of her work is available at rebeccakcooney.wordpress.com
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