Bring me an escutcheon and a field.
Of course, it would be nicer to have a visible, lickable flaw. Gap teeth; pigeon ribs. Something you could photoshop, something you could drink wine off in bed. But this, a cyanide leak beneath a hopeful sternum? It is hard to explain. Hard to admit. Slippery as an avocado pit, and as germinal, and as split.
The best way I have found to put it is this: I have lost the sheet music for breathing.
What else is there to say but: I woke up in the bed of a man I was falling in love with and I couldn’t breathe?
I should like a gorgeous banner and a coat of arms. Latinise: we are the anxious, and we are salvageable.
Now, the martlet has a cracked beak; its legs have been shorn off. The poison is luscious and rampant; oh, it is armed and langued (claws, beak and tongue gold, gold, gold –) but it is no eagle. Nor is it a lion. No.
The heart is a loose, liquid organ. Sometimes it sloshes hideously stomach-wards, sometimes it rattles in petrified crescendo. Were you to rest a glass on your ribcage, you could watch it accelerate. Turning to stone.
Sinister to dexter hatchings, svp. Flesh-coloured and iron-grey.
It is a comfort to live in this day and age, where syllables like gee-ay-dee and xa-nax are not taboo. It does not, however, completely save me.
It manifests as a tension; a taut speeding of the bloodstream. Knees to glycerin, it is hard to open doors. Cobwebbing, I come back to the same images: lost sheet music, cyanide leaks, heraldry stains. Shall we choose sanguine for arterial blood or murrey, the colour of crushed mulberries?
The word shares its roots with ‘anger’ and the French word for eel: the constricting, painful image of the latter, I like. It sounds rather gruesome. Narrowly, it hooks around the ribs. Slippery, narrow, anal-finned. Can be made into pies.
So: a blazon of sorts emerges. The black anguille.
Mine is not simply fear of sharktooth, or fear of eggsplit-at-performance, or fear of tarmac + mercedes. As I said, I am not visibly scarred. But I fold in upon myself in unfamiliar cafés, and do not look through the windows. Cracked, like that avocado pit. And I am not easy sober unless I know myself beloved.
Slippery, shaken, exhausted, subordinary. Flaunches gold.
Of course it could be far worse. But she who is strangled by a phantom limb still cannot breathe. I am neither ruthless nor a prophet. We are many, and we are weak and not weak. Sable the tincture: every son a golden wreckage, each daughter a brisure.
(A blasphemy: sometimes I long for a cold hose, an electroshock.)
‘Would you speak to a child the way you speak to yourself?’ I was asked, horrified at the thought. Sharp as a chevron, pointed as a crescent moon. Fret: interlaces, angles and ties them tightly.
In the end, its flawed logic matters little. Anxiety does not really need a trigger to swallow you whole. The key is: overboard, in the storm, how to scissor your way out of its stomach, or be vomited out like Jonah.
What I am is a barometer. I do not know how useful it is to think of myself as sick. Is that sheet music the libretto for ‘modern life’ or ‘youth’? Slick the glittering scale.
What am I supposed to do, take ecstasy every weekend; walk into the river, my pockets filled with stones? There are whole hopeful days at a time where it ebbs and I am saved. (Make it to the sky. Bite into an avocado. Wipe the dust from the floor.) No matter where I perfectly disappear,
I find it there, slimy and thin-toothed under the rocks, unfurling in the compass of the floods. Jade & celadon. Embattled. Indented. Engrailed.
The hope is: one might wrench it from the soul and sail into the air.
Roar from the gut and the lung! Flay it to a banner! Knife it, like the wet of a quill. Embrace it til your knees unbuckle. Wrap it round with your ribs, and verdant avocado peel.
Let us have split, ragged cloth. Charred and soft as whaleskin. On it, embroider sweet, loose bronchial trees. We are the standard –
tongued with silver, viscera displayed.
Let me love you. Ours is neither martlet nor a swansong. If we simply spoke your name? If we left you cresting, and our hair loose from the battle walls?