the dandruff in the dry scalp of your longing
slip off the concrete boots of your dreams
scrape what’s left of your soul spread too thin between
the bricks of your debt, apply vitamin E cream to the burns
from the noose around your neck –
let your dreams rise
like gnocchi to the surface of your pan. rescue them
with a draining spoon pile them into a bowl pour
on some oil it will stop them congealing into the solid
mass that nags in the night as your reflux nags when
you forget to take your proton pump inhibitor. stab
your fork into the dream at the top of your pile,
the one that goes,
if i could pay off my mortgage, i’d… [insert your own dream here –
it will make the poem more real].
now sit back. make yourself comfortable. take a deep
breath in and focus on my pocket watch swinging slowly
from side to side. i am going to count from one to ten now.
when i get to ten you will know exactly how it feels
to have paid off your mortgage and [insert your own dream here].
one. you are breathing deeper and deeper.
two. you are feeling sleepier and sleepier. your eyelids are becoming
heavier and heavier.
three. listen. what do you hear? the sparrows
in the trees? the wind rustling through its branches?
four. or is that the sound of your internal metronome
ticking away the neglected hours in the congealed gnocchi
of your existence?
five. keep breathing.
six. your dream is a solitary tadpole now swimming
furiously upstream in the direction of your ovary of possibility.
seven. you are going deeper still.
eight. your dream of [insert your own dream here]
is burrowing under your skin now.
nine. it has found its way into your blood.
and ten. your dream has seeped into the soft marrow
of your bones now. it has slid practically unnoticed into
the dilated cells just beneath the surface of your skin
you are flushed pink with it. and the exhilaration
feels something like the first time he kisses
you and your mind is blown and you feel you could
wash all the bed linen, peel the potatoes, simmer
the stew, plough through the ironing and walk
the dog (twice) all in one single morning.
and in this euphoric state you find you can even ignore
the piercing sounds of your crying child in her ikea cot,
because somewhere inside you, you know your child
will not die because you dare to dream. but that
you just might if you don’t.
and in your deep hypnotic state
you will not eat a raw onion nor remove all your clothes
in front of an audience full of strangers, but you will feel
liberated and you will walk taller than before as though
you were the queen of this land in an emerald crusted
crown which is two sizes too small and presses
into your forehead causing your head to swell to the size
of a space hopper.
and in your new debt-freeness
you will attract many new friends who will look up to you,
as well they should, and as you walk (or drive in your new audi
Q6) to the local cafe, your many new friends will line the pavement
to catch a glimpse of you and they will hope the merest molecule
of your magic dust will land upon their lapels and mingle
with the dandruff from the dry scalps of their longing.
and you will look down upon each of them up to their
unshaved armpits in debt and deep into the emerald
envy in the motes of their eyes and once inside the cafe
you will order a bacon and egg roll with not one egg but two
and you will order it with a self assuredness you never had
when you had seven hundred thousand dollars’ worth of debt encased
in the concrete boots of your dreams.
and you will no longer
need to rake in the bottom of your handbag for loose coins
tangled in bits of toilet paper you once blew your nose on,
but will now hand over your debit card to the girl behind
the counter who asks which account and you will say SAVINGS
in a voice both loud and proud and when the transaction goes through
you will smile smugly at the people behind you raking
for coins through their own bits of toilet paper at the bottom
of their bags.
and as you bite into
your roll you will gaze heavenward in a religious sort of way
and you will thank god under your breath in case anyone
in the cafe hears you because really you are an atheist. but being
debt free feels so surreal that you are starting to wonder if maybe
god really does exist and i am going to count backwards
from ten now. when i get to one, you will be back in the lounge room
of your debt laden life with your crying child and your unpaid
bills spread out on the desk bit of your ikea storage unit
and tomorrow morning you will take your anti-depressant
and you will not wash all the bed linen, peel the potatoes,
simmer the stew, plough through the ironing nor walk
the dog (even once) and you will know in the soft marrow
of your bones that god really does not exist and you will slip
the noose of your reality back around your neck as the dying
cinders of your dream of one day [insert your own dream here] sink
to the bottom of your pan along with your concrete boots
and the uncooked gnocchi of your dreams.
Ali Whitelock is a Scottish poet and writer living on the south coast of Sydney with her French chain-smoking husband. Her debut poetry collection and my heart crumples like a coke can has just been released by Wakefield Press, Adelaide, and her memoir Poking seaweed with a stick and running away from the smell was launched to critical acclaim in Australia and the UK in 2010. Her poems have been published in various literary journals and some are forthcoming from The Pittsburgh Quarterly Magazine and The University of Wisconsin’s Forty Voices Strong: An Anthology of Contemporary Scottish Poetry. She is working on her second poetry collection the lactic acid in the calves of your despair, and her second memoir andy’s snack van tour of Scotland.
Read more of Ali here.
7 thoughts on “Ali Whitelock, The dandruff in the dry scalp of your longing”
Wow Ali ~ Wow! Amazing.
Thank you so much for this wonderful response Attracta! 🙂
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Oh my, I suspect I have just discovered a new (to me) way to write poetry, awesomely, with prose. May I kiss your hand and bow to your poetic greatness, I am struck by the depth and strength of your words. Too old to be a girl fan, but loving you anyway!
In other words, gosh what a fine prose poem that was. Haha, don’t worry, I’m quite safe.
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Oh wow Carolyn, thank you so much for your awesome response to my poem! Your message means the absolute world and has made my day. THANK YOU SO MUCH!
Ali this is brilliant work. So evocative. What a talent for bringing the reader right into the heart of your poem. Hope (insert your own dream here) comes true & soon.