Play Poetry

ELEVEN DAYS OF SOLITUDE | Alexandra Burton’s poem dwells in the strangeness of time spent alone.


by Alexandra Burton

On the first day, I folded
a hundred paper boats and floated them
in the bath, and when the water drained away
the tub looked like a snow-capped
mountain range. I called it an installation
on hope and bathed in the sink for two days
until the rain came. I arranged the food on my plate
into simple faces. First happy, then sad, then the following meal
was anger; carrot eyebrows caramelised and
furious above cranberry-rouged cheeks. All were equally
delicious, though on the day I consumed
surprise, a rosemary needle caught in my throat
and left me spluttering. I hosted a sleepover in my living room
just for me; dragged my duvet across dusty hardwood and padded
the gaps in the sofa cushions, immobilised myself
in a squashy shell from the chest down. I ate with my hands
from small bowls filled to spilling: olives, black
seedless grapes, cheap cookies
too consistently formed to taste good. That night I dreamed
people in starched uniforms were scaling
my apartment building, leather-gloved hands moving deftly
against rope. I played noughts and crosses in the condensation
on the windows, filling up each pane
with weeping lines that brought the outside
into focus. Some days, I won every game
but on others, I played a losing streak
until my fingertip was numb. I loaded a needle with black thread
for an intricate cross-stitch, but found myself compelled
to sew too many tiny ‘x’s. Soon, my right thumb had grown
an off-centre dimple and I had created
a circle of solid darkness to a backdrop of comedy
specials. I hung it in the middle of the wall
above the television. An urge came upon me
to impersonate the apartment’s many
inanimate objects. I stood by the front door wearing three coats
and holding an umbrella in each hand. I lay flat on the ground
in the manner of an area rug. I curled myself into
the tightest ball I could and burrowed beneath the desk:
a wastepaper bin
sitting empty.

Alexandra Burton | @alxndrabrtn 
Alexandra Burton currently lives in Leeds, where she works for the NHS. She writes a range creative non-fiction, short stories and poetry. She’s also a big fan of a lengthy Instagram caption. When she’s not writing you’ll find her on her yoga mat, at the climbing wall, or tackling her growing TBR pile.