The Habit

 

I developed a habit

when I was 15

of being kind

to everyone

but myself.

 

 

After hearing so many people

talk about their regrets in high school

tried to be kind

even though I knew

I wouldn’t always get it right.

 

But

When I was 15

I developed a language

only I could hear

 

and I would say it to myself

every day

until I was exhausted.

 

I would say it to myself

in the mirror

or in the morning

with a spoon for cereal in my hand

 

I would say it to myself

when I pulled back

the linens on my bed

 

I would say it to myself

while waiting for a light to go green

on the street

 

I would say it to myself

any time I had

a spare moment

even though

spare moments

were never enough.

 

I became so accustomed to hearing

you’re worthless

you’re disgusting

you don’t deserve it

 

you are a terrible person

you are not enough

you will never be enough

 

this is all your fault

 

I became so accustomed to hearing this

that I stopped fighting the words

for it was easier to be struck

and felt less painful

than when I struggled.

 

And at 22,

with the habit firmly in my fist

I said the words in passing

under my breath

only

my wife

heard them too.

 

I will never forget

how outraged she looked

 

It was as though

I had struck her, too.

She asked me if I heard what I said

I hadn’t.

 

I could only apologise

feebly

nervously

while she shook her head

in disbelief.

 

So this poem

is part therapy

part apology

 

While I learn

something to else to say

 

While I learn

a new language

that is different

from the one I taught myself

when I was 15.

 

I will break the habit

the way rain

wears down a stone

 

 

 

Snow

i keep trying to make a list

of things that happen here in the winter

like the way your hair smells like snow

when you come in from work

 

but being australian

i feel ill-equipped to describe snow

in all its forms

 

the way you do

when you encounter it

on the street

at home

in pop culture

 

i only know that

i don’t feel so cold

when my arm is around your arm

and my hand is in the pocket

of your coat