what you must do you must keep your mouth shut

By Ali Whitelock


if you want to you can tape it shut
with the snoring tape––he keeps it on the side of his bed
it rolls off onto the carpet
the cat hair sticks to it because
what you must understand
is how you feel is not how others
feel. the important
thing you must do, is not say how you feel.
if you say how you feel he will roll his eyes and sometimes
after the eye rolling
there will be a sigh and what that means is you must not say
that thing again. eventually
you will get to know the things that make the eyes roll and
the chest sigh and you will stop saying
them. if you hold a hermit crab shell to your ear
you can hear a rushing
and this rushing is the sound
of everything and the sound of nothing.
and one morning when you will drive
him to the station
he may ask you how you are feeling
and what you must do is, you must
say you slept well, the breakfast
was nice and it is very hot today.
another time when you will pick him up from the station
he may ask you what’s wrong
with you and what you must
do is not say anything
about what is wrong with
you. the other
thing you can do
is hold the hermit
crab shell up to
his ear and he will
hear the sound
of everything
and the sound
of nothing
then there
will be the
rolling and the sighing
and what that
means is if
you have to feel
that way––feel
that way

(This poem was first published in ‘and my heart crumples like a coke can’ by Ali Whitelock (Wakefield Press 2018).



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