At this age

At this age I can tell I am catching up on myself

Slowly over the years

With enough time past to plot

The course the pattern emerges

I am a strange creature


One set off at the beginning

One lagged behind

Some time

Right from the start my eyes saw everything

And amazed at little worlds

So detailed around me

Then words like tastes

of shapes with feelings came

I was very young when my father

Started to tell me to

Think before you speak

I didn’t understand

But I tried again, hit and miss

I don’t think before I speak

I speak before I think

I feel words with shapes and emotions

When it comes out it’s different

I saw different things

Little things

And would sit and admire a shadow

Or a tear in wallpaper

For a long, long time

I am still like this

But the other me set off

When my mother left

Things changed

I stopped being nothing

And was suddenly vital

Keeping my family together

I was scared

I cried in secret all the time

And started to toughen myself up

My family stayed together

Without my mother

And even grew

And was happy and stable

But I could not stop

I was not good enough for myself

Throughout my life verbal communication was forced

I squeezed it out

I love my people

But I couldn’t talk to them properly

They never understood

I would have been shy

That’s what they would have called me

In a huge family it was unpleasant

But I enjoyed

The very young, the very old

Who didn’t ask me questions I couldn’t answer

I started to change myself

I read books more advanced for my age

I was influenced by the young male down and out.

I read Donleavy at 14. Felt a friend in the useless drunk

How could I empathise with this character?

I didn’t care; I was no longer alone,

I read all the time to stop the feeling of


I can see now

My favourite characters

Were people I had never met, rarely seen in the streets

They were a step back from everyone else’s reality

And saw their own

Be it through drugs, violence, abuse, anxiety, loss

Any number of extreme human experiences

It was a parallel reality to what others could understand

Like mine

I found philosophy

And was comforted and saved

by the beauty of not knowing.


© Jennifer Winterburn

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