We Once Lived There…first draft of a group piece for SST3

7 Feb

So, the mission, should we wish to accept it, is to create a performance from our individual pieces which will have the narrative structure of a play – a performance which could be toured with or without us… this will be Say Sumthin III or SST3 as it is in all those emails and texts that are whizzing about.

With that in mind, here is the first draft of a group piece put together by Deborah, Anita, Matt M, Ioney and Anne. Any thoughts gratefully received…

Characters are: Brother, Mother, Sister, Daughter and Youngest.


Houses and Trees
This house, which
I call My home

Seems much the
Same as

We held a party
Years ago
To claim it as
Our own

Invited all our
Aunties and
Uncles, they arrive in
BMW’s with bought-last-minute-
Comedy-cards and kettles and
Meaningless ornaments.
All our aunties and
Uncles, other people’s
Brothers and sisters
Our friends,
Out friends and
In friends and
Friends of friends and
Some of theirs,
All come and
Look around at
This shell and

We shout them down.
We shout,
‘Look! This
Is where
We live now!’

‘This is our
This is our

‘This isn’t our
Laminate floor,
That was left by
The people before.’

Or the people before
That, before,
That, before that.

‘But the rest
Of this stuff,
Is ours.
We own it. Well –

– We will in
Twenty years or so,
Until then we’ll
Loan it and
Try not to think.’

‘We’ll fill up
This sink
With our dishes
And scrub them
Clean with
Water from
Our new

How easily
The memory
Of others
Can be washed

Mum and Dad
Tore apart
The laminate
One morning.

On their hands
And knees
With bare
Palms and nails
And teeth which
Gritted and growled,

“Don’t just stand there
And moan and scowl.”

The dust was
Everywhere and
With those little
White masks
We looked like
We were searching
For clues at a crime scene.
Piecing together past events.

You’re meant to
Leave things
Just as they are
Before forensics arrive
To prescribe
Evidenced reasons
For this
Or that
Horrendous incident.

Mum and Dad
Tore apart
The laminate

With bare, callous
Hands and cracked
Nails and a
Vicious barking need
For new,
Originally sourced,

They roared as
They smashed up
Anything that
Wasn’t profoundly us.

I sat in my room,
My new room,
A room,
While they ran,
Mum and Dad,
Through the house,
Screaming as they
The ceilings and walls,

Drawing circles
On the floorboards
With chalk.
Sitting on haunches and
Snarling at
Those memories we
Could not share.



Some days I couldn’t hear it at all.

Some days it was deafening.

Some days  it was an undernote

then whisperings in the night.

Tap, tap, scratch, scratch.

Didn’t know if I was hearing right.

Did you hear it?

It was there.

A sound of something growing.

My guts heard it.

My heart would beat to it

even when it was quiet.



Placenta          still in her night sling bag.

Half unpacked.

The belly button yet to be.

I’m in Nottingham, whilst my sister’s in Seven Kings.

We’re on the phone:

reverberations clambering

through 486 miles of lines searching

to understand.

I’m half way between

university            and home.

She is caterwauling

until the sounds upend into the circular brushes of a road cleaner car. The bedroom-sized green bin behind me recently set on fire. Smells like

burglar alarms

mixed with night club pickled carpet.

Walking from a lecture with friends

I mime something schizophrenic

and crack down Hyson Green

until I’m pressed in-between two bike braces behind Asda.

Like the air pushing palms apart before prayer


I am a baby monitor.

She tells me.

‘They are still inside

so screaming is not allowed.

Nor is smoking’.

(Not that she did that anyway).

‘Nor is drinking’.

(Not that it took either of us more than a Smirnoff Ice).

‘Nor is dancing’

(Not that anyone had the balls to touch her when she was)

pushing apart a packed dance floor

like a Slinky splashing into a swamp of bodies.


‘No public places,

no getting upset. No



She maligns herself…’I’m.






She tells me

‘Mum’s praying about it…

maybe that’s the best thing?’

I say…


I think

Maybe God can forgive you for having a period

too heavy and long for any towel to nurse.

Maybe God can forgive Mum

for assuring you We are more than enough for you right now.

Maybe God stopped your boyfriends impotence four times:

the period, the bastard and your doubled-belly now.

I say…

‘Or maybe God can forgive him for lying

about something or everything or a couple of things?

Maybe God can tell you how many times!

I don’t know him like Mum does.’

She chuckles from her diaphragm, sharp as a hiccup…

Maybe she can momentarily move the pink and blue Moses baskets, from the only available floor space in her nineteen year old bedroom, squeeze all her belly and face into the covers and scream for forgiveness.

I say.

‘You can ask. Mum or/and God.

And they can give it to you.’

she pauses.


Like she should take notes encase she forgets while I’m in the Library.

I pause.

‘But Jamimah

Do you think…                                      God is who



to talk to?’



Where are you going with that?



“What, this?” I raised it in my hand,

a dragon’s tongue of a blade,

short, curved, bisecting teeth grazing the air.


Did I see him flinch?


“I’m cutting it back. Now I know what it is.

That scratch, scratch, scratch.

Can you hear it?”



I’ve never spoke to my mum about sex -this morning will be the first time.

The conversation I planned is now scrambled like her egg.

I fumble around the kitchen to find a teaspoon that is already in my cup

Concluded her morning worship… her toast buttered,

A good time to interject her jovial hymn – My voice  jutters

Like a 1980’s ford escort struggling to start

Me a lioness reduced to a cumbersome dandy-lion.

‘Mum, I need to speak to you’…

This cry for help drowns like an anchor In the deep

with translucent sea creatures that only Attenborough has seen.

‘I’m frightened of intimacy with a man again since my ex….

These words forbidden to leave

The fortress I have constructed in a dark secluded corner of my memory

Where they echo and taunt me.

Instead I utter cowardly

‘…are the clothes dry in the airing cupboard?”


In my house, sex exists where unicorns live.

Shrouded in myth, lust and sin

A strict Christian stifling charade

I’m sure for me to exist you and the generations before must of laid

Down, but if I mention the three letter word

I’m met with pursed lips, clenched jaw and an embarrassed frown

Twitching , temple rubbing, deep inhaling, eye brows raised.

Any other subject and my mum relinquishes advise freely.

How to stitch a torn seam, to logically pack the groceries, newspapers & vinegar to clean windows and the art of Caribbean cuisine &

How to transform seven pounds into a meal a bust ride for a week.

Deep rooted survival skills in the maternal trees before me

An impenetrable forest of deep mahogany

who can still be detected in my cheek bones and cheshire cat grin.

We are concentric rings that share the same origin.

I’m a domesticated, emotionally retarded Russian doll

Encasing generations of fear.


At the core stands a fore-Mother

A muted bystander

As her last born is cut and mangled

At the hands of the overseer

Her first two auctioned and the third hanged

She is now expecting another.

Hardened by grief her emotions protected by inaccessible armour that is now a distinguishable feature

She prays and promises her unborn better

A baby girl who is destined to become my great-grandmothers grandmother

Who was still born into bracelets of terror despite her mother’s desperate prayers.

No time to connect emotionally or to kiss the misplaced hopscotched grazed knee, no conversations of the finer details of femininity but she learnt to survive, to be tough to be soldier and these attributes became second nature…..




Sometimes I thought it wasn’t there.

I would tilt my head to zone-in on where it came from.

Close my eyes

let it amplify behind my lids

and form some kind of image

in the redness,

an animal,

a spirit,

a heart beating,

a soul wanting to fly,

something searching for escape.

Was it me

asking to be let back in

or back out?



At this very moment you could be cradling a 3 month eleven day old child in your arms

Who has your big ears

But you’re cradling the waist of a native of your homeland who speaks your tongue and knows all of its idioms

This is what I couldn’t compete with

Just as well I miscarried

He or she began to detach behind the tills of a McDonalds counter

I acquiesced to the fate of this being because fatherless was not a status I was prepared to label my child with

I laid drinking the depths of my bedroom in the cemetery that is the night yearning for the shoots that are hairs on your legs to stimulate nerves in mine and remind me that

You did exist

That you did share my bed

And that on a stereotypical British winter night, when a prison bar coloured sky relented and bent allowing for the prisoner it held to be released from its profit purpose grip in droplets we have labelled as rain rather than release


a cracked school window eager for mend in a fervent manner cured my philaphobia

You could be cradling a 3 month 11 day old child

Whose radiant face you permit a tear to never drip

But instead you cradle the face of a woman whose opportunity to be a mother did not end in blood drenched sheets

The 1st pregnancy scare we had together, abortion was a word that travelled the drought barren land of your mouth but could not survive as the expression on my face did not permit the rains to come and end the drought in your mouth


From the thought of what lay ahead, we lay arm to arm on my nightly resting place, your hands my eyes convince me are shaking, as they uncover my stomach under the roof of my T-Shirt

You place your palm and each fingertip over where a life may be forming and muscles in your mouth begin to flutter like a stray crisp packet into a smile

More muscles stand to attention and now the, the flutter of the crisp packet becomes a crunch, crushed and a frown descends upon the contours of your lips

My eyes motivate your brain to send the appropriate messages so that you remove your hand from my muddy, soil coloured skin, this scare I did not heed as a warning

You could be cradling a 3 month 11 day old child

Whose speech will soon develop so that the gurgling orchestra that pliés from his or her lips plays  the word daddy to  the welcome mat that awaits in the depths of your eardrums

But instead you cradle the child of the woman who I know you ALWAYS have and ALWAYS will be in love with

She was the first and only one to ever immigrate to your heart without the need to pass a citizenship test

Whereas as I through faults of my own remained in the detention centre awaiting deportation

And your child who could have been is now a reoccurring, relentless being that hacks at my brain when my eyelids are shut and my eyeballs roll back to stare at the brain that is housed in the skull that forms the head  you crazed your lips with.



It’s a branch!



Just a branch of that tree.



It’s a beautiful thing

it dances

it reaches

it sways

insects adorn it like sequined applique

it draws me in

to lie under that soft canopy

gives off scent from purple spires

but its pollen emanates in waves

which hamper my breathing

slur my thinking

my head is full of heavy purple


Do you know, once I knew what it was,

knew that I had heard it,

I knew it had to go.

I had to wait for the right day

find the right tool.

And when it was time

I simply went out and cut it down.


This blade cut through the branch

the one that had caused the sound

but then I cut another

then another

and another

as if taking one branch  wasn’t enough.

It had got so big

I’d hardly noticed.

It was just that sound of that top branch

it had to get that tall

for it to reach that far

for me to notice

and even then

it was just a tap, tap.


And with it gone, the light came flooding in.



How dreadful,
How painfully shattering
The thought that
One day,
Some generic family
Of four, with
Children and a
Little dog and
Knowing parental smiles,
Could stroll down
Our lane to
Our front door and
And stare,
Arm in arm,
Half smiles dancing wistfully
Across their lips,
As ghosts dance dreamily
Before their
Glow-glazed eyes.

How horrible to see,
From my new
Bedroom window,
Mum, collapsing in
Anguish on the hearth
As these perfect four
Just stand
And stare and say to each other –

“We once lived there.”


2 Responses to “We Once Lived There…first draft of a group piece for SST3”

  1. mouthypoets February 13, 2012 at 1:15 pm #

    We should record your advert and put it up, it was awesome!

  2. Anne Holloway February 13, 2012 at 3:55 pm #

    Good idea

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