The perennial problem – by Alice Tomlinson


Another autumn in this house with you
might be enough to make me lose my grip
for good: enough to set the fire that burns us both
to ashes, or to break us into incongruent

pieces, or unlock the secret room inside my head
and let the crone escape to wreak her havoc.
I exaggerate, but I am certain something’s
wrong. The way the afternoon light hits

the trees behind the house at such misleading
angles, and the sentimental stench of bonfires
and manure is ever-present, and dark rolls in
before I’m ready. What’s that unfamiliar birdcall,

that grim shadow, that strange gesture I catch
everybody making as I enter? It’s OK. I’ll stop. Perhaps
right now I can’t breathe air, eat food, make sense
of words or shapes, or even look you in the eye:

so what? It’s fine. Lead me to a window.
I will rest my head against the cold hard
surface. Maybe this year I’ll attempt to use
bad memories as bait to catch some better ones.



Alice Tomlinson is a theology graduate, poet and full time parent living in York.