Fear Not My Darling

We wait together, you and I

as night falls, light dies, extinguished

day’s death never grieves us

illuminated in moon’s torchlight

we navigate night’s crippling darkness

find shelter in its blank canvas

and feast on fear, you and I

swallow bitter disappointment until

satisfied enough to try again.

~The H Word~

Poems from ‘The Water Engine’ by Ankh Spice

I have been impatiently waiting to share poems from The Water Engine (2021), Ankh Spice’s debut collection published by Femme Salve Books, but I was struggling to pick only one or two and kept changing my mind about which ones to share. This is one of those collections that immediately takes up residency in your chest, it snuggles beside your heart and let’s you know it is always there for you whenever you might need it. And the poet is pretty darn special too. I first encountered Ankh’s poetry on Twitter and was, for want of a better phrase, blown away. His ability to capture a single moment alongside the entirety of the universe and everything in-between is outstanding. He gets to the heart of what it means to be human; how we treat one another, and this wondrous earth we call home. How our relationship with both can be flawed and joyous and more often than not breathtakingly beautiful. I highly recommend purchasing a copy of this collection for yourselves, you will not be disappointed, and you can purchase a copy via the publishers website by following this link – Femme Salve Books.

Ankh is a poet from Aotearoa New Zealand and is obsessed with the sea and believes our natural environment along with those old stories we don’t even know we know, mingle in magical ways to shape the human beings we become, and that sometimes we’re allowed to notice it happening. His poetry has been widely published with nominations for the Pushcart Prize and Best of the Net. He is also co-editor at IceFloe Press and a poetry contributing editor at Barren Magazine (Spice n.d.). Ankh is also one of the most genuine, humble and kindest people you will ever meet and whilst I have not even met him, or know him personally, I had the privilege of attending the launch of The Water Engine and it is one of those experiences that will stay with me forever. Alongside the other poets and writers in attendance, the love and respect and care for one another radiated from the screen despite us all being scattered around the globe. I am delighted to be able to share a couple of his poems tonight for those who have not come across his work before. I hope you enjoy!

‘No (thing is) right’ by Ankh Spice

Who told this calm day
it had any right
to reel delicate and radiant
when I am dissolving hard

Who said
that when a person falls
to pieces, there must be noise –
screaming, sharp edges

The only sounds here are distant:
the quiet, ordinary tide
and a long, soft keening –
the wounded ape in me
calling, calling

‘I mean how do we balance at all’ by Ankh Spice

At centre you carry the weight / I don’t mean
a heart but yes chambers liquid
with iron / I don’t mean blood I mean
restless and betrayed only by being
magnetic / your core invisible
to something on the surface
otherwise / I mean a heart is a constant kind
of collision / I mean momentum
dizzies us / sure as a slow leak
in the moon. I mean we tide.
I mean our being off-
balance has flow-
on effects. I don’t mean
to be dense / I mean if your heart
was different this whole life thing
would collapse. I mean fragile.
I mean, it is.


Spice, A. (2021) ‘No (thing is) right’ & ‘I mean how do we balance it all’ from The Water Engine. Vermont: Femme Salve Books, 49 & 55

Spice, A. (n.d.) Ankh Spice – SeaGoatScreams Poetry: About [online]. Available from https://www.ankhspice-seagoatscreamspoetry.com/contact [22 April 2022]

Cellular Malfunction (with audio)

My grey matter is like chewing gum
that’s lost its flavour. Useless.
I want to pluck it out and stick it
to the underside of my desk
in defiance. Not that I ever
did that, you understand,
that’s disgusting behaviour
(don’t think badly of me,
I do enough of that). This brain
that is no brain is driving me
crazy. It won’t work like it’s
supposed to. It won’t think
like I need it to. Maybe that’s
the problem. I’m expecting
too much from this tired brain
of mine. I’ve never been an over-achiever,
a Brainiac, a high-flyer, what right
do I have expecting it to perform
for me now? Performance.
That’s what this is. I’m playing
a part that was never mine
to have. A fraudster. That’s
what I am. Pretending to be
something I’m not. Just give up.
Oh, so now you have something
to say? Pipe down brain.
Not today.

~The H Word~


If only…

She bats compliments away

like a seasoned tennis pro

tries her best to convince you

why they are untrue.

Compliment her outfit?

She’ll tell you how much it cost

then proceed to point out

all of its flaws

and when she’s feeling vulnerable

you will never know

that’s another emotion

she cannot show.

She’ll talk louder, make jokes,

usually aimed at herself

anything to assure you

she’s in control.

Oh, if only she could let you know

if only she could let you in

maybe then you’d see

just how much she’s struggling.

~The H Word~

2020: My Best Worst Year Ever!

Times are weird, right? In fact, I think we need a new word to describe just how weird things are. No words can capture the magnitude of horror that 2020 has been so far. But, for me, in this bizarre dystopian nightmare that gets worse every day, I see March 2020 as one of the best worst months of my life. Are you crazy? To that I say maybe, but hear me out, there’s a story to tell.

In September 2018, aged 44, I started University. Not only fulfilling a lifelong ambition of pursuing higher education, but studying Creative Writing. A dream come true. I threw myself into learning and found joy in deadlines, essays, word-counts, assessments. It was everything I ever thought it would be. I was in love.

I was (am) also a mother of two and a wife. I may* (*definitely) have been selfish and put my own needs and wants way ahead of those of my family. I feel no shame. This was something I had to do or spend the rest of my life wallowing in regret-filled pools of sadness. I regret nothing.

By the end of 2018, however, I was struggling. My moods were erratic and even the simplest of things would push me into full-blown rage followed by soul-crushing remorse. I went to my doctor to request a hormone test as I was (still am) convinced I was perimenopausal. Whilst they were understanding they thought stabilising my mood was preferable to any hormone-replacement therapy, and they gave me anti-depressants. Was it a co-incidence that reports were highlighting a shortage of HRT medicine, that they were running out? Who knows, but I was so desperate to suppress this Mr Hyde part of me I took them.

We spent the next few months trying to find the right dose. I started low, then went up a little, then a little more, then a little more. Each time I felt some blessed relief only for it to change, leaving me defeated. I should have, in hindsight, stopped there. I should have said they were not working for me and came off them. I think I would have too, if I didn’t then suffer a prolonged period of chronic back pain. It was this episode that almost broke me, and I mean broke.

By the summer of 2019, I was an empty shell of who I used to be. I was running on a potent concoction of opiate-based pain relief and anti-depressants. On one hand, I was still doing my course work, albeit wailing the entire time that I wasn’t good enough and that I couldn’t do it, but I did it. God knows how. But I was in constant pain. My back went into spasms that affected my balance and my right leg would often lose sensation and give way. I attended a friend’s wedding and fell twice. The next day, I fell again, busting my already rubbish knees and crushing my confidence into such a fine powder that it blew away on a sigh, leaving me in the deepest, darkest depression.

I didn’t know I was depressed. That might sound silly to some. Yes, I was on anti-depressants but that was just a mood stabiliser; I wasn’t diagnosed as depressed. Yes, I had a history of mental health issues, but anxiety and panic attacks, not depression. I wasn’t depressed. I was in pain. My medication was increased to 150mg and when that did nothing to lift my mood my doctor conceded they were not working. Only, if I wanted to try something different, I had to come off the medication completely. That scared the absolute shit out of me.

I was afraid and I couldn’t do it. My thoughts were in a dark place and my emotions were raw and exposed. When you’re dealing with chronic pain that is not visible to others it’s all too easy for them to think you are overreacting. That you should just get some exercise, and everything will be okay. Even if that exercise is crippling, not only physically but mentally, because it’s another reminder of how useless and shit you are. Adding depression into the mix, meant I ended up on a path of crushing darkness lasting several months. I knew where it was headed, but I wasn’t strong enough to turn back.

In March this year, I hit rock bottom. I knew if I kept walking this dangerous path, there was no return. I managed to complete my second year of university but in every other way, I was failing. Then, I got a phone call from the mental health department of my local hospital, following up on a previous request for CBT through my doctor. My first reaction was surprise as I couldn’t even remember asking for it. Therapy has always terrified me. Too much to uncover and deal with, but it was like someone offering a hand to show me the way out. I grabbed it with my sweaty, clammy one and didn’t let go.

After I received the call, I decided it was time to reduce my medication. It felt right, and at least I had a weekly therapist appointment (albeit telephone because, worldwide pandemic!) to help me if things got difficult. For the first time, I took things slow. I didn’t rush in and cut back in my usual all-or-nothing way. I spent three weeks reducing and as I did; I emerged from the dense fog that infiltrated my mind, body, my life! As corny as it sounds, I was reborn.

Now, almost four months anti-depressant free, we’ve completed over 12 weeks of CBT and I’m continuing to make progress. There are still mood swings (because hello, perimenopause!) but for every low swing I have, I get to experience the absolute joy of feeling every emotion again. Not just the same monotonous, grey-black, muted version that I was before. Please understand, I am a firm believer that anti-depressants save lives. I know they do. And finding the right one for you is life changing. Should I still have needed them, after coming off, I would have tried a different one. I still would if things change, but, for now, I don’t have to.

There’s still back pain, but it’s a dull-ache, annoying rather than chronic and debilitating. I understand myself better, and thanks to CBT, I treat myself with the same kindness I extend to others. It’s a process, but it’s working. When I think back to last year, it’s like standing at the edge of a massive, dark crater, staring down into its depths. I wonder how far it is to the bottom and how the hell did I crawl my way back up? It’s because I had help. I had someone reaching down and pulling me up. Sure, I still had to do the hard work of putting one foot in front of the other, however; the fact there was someone who understood and would help me if I stumbled, was everything.

So, now you understand why 2020 has been my best worst year ever. Even with the fear, uncertainty, and desperation of worrying about those close to me while a raging virus sweeps the world, and my heart aches for those who’ve lost loved ones, it gifted me my life back. I must see the positive in an otherwise desperate situation. In years to come (hopefully) when we have conversations about this year, everyone will shake their heads, expressing how awful it was. That it’s the year they would rather forget. I’ll nod, share their pain and agree the atrocities of 2020 are best left in the past along with racism, bigots and elite governments willing to sacrifice the many to protect the few. I will also think I can never forget, not for one moment.

~The H Word~

About last night …

My finger spins the wheel
on the rodent’s back.
Squeak, squeak, squeak,
it does not
and I’m glad
but no less concerned.
This incessant scrolling
is boiling my brain.
Just stop.
Aye, okay, in a minute.
Many minutes later
the rodent’s back.
I haven’t moved
but I’ve aged.
Mindless distraction
seems harmless,
it’s interaction
is it not?
No, it’s not.
Right, shut it down.

Relief, back creaks
as I straighten
to stand. Headrush –
a little sway
this way and that
and I’m moving,
to head straight
to bed to get my
head straight.
It’s a viscous circle.
I can’t seem
to get off.

Darkness. Breath.
Pillow cradling head.
I can do this.
I know you can.
Right, I’m doing it.
Well, go on then.
Pep talk
small talk
all talk.
Meditation commencing
in 3, 2, 1 …
and for a while
I forget it all.
I empty and grow
feeling present at last
in the space in-between
then and when
but it doesn’t last,
it never lasts.

There’s a knock
and a cough,
a shuffling of feet.
I pretend not to hear,
pretend I’m asleep.
They know I’m not,
of course they do.
So I sigh, get up
to let them both in,
they tumble inside
they’ve been waiting
this whole time.

Depression settles
quickly, snuggled up to
my heart. Two seconds
and she’s asleep.
Why can’t I be like that?
Anxiety is stretching
doing lunges, of sorts,
he’s preparing
for the long haul.
He takes a pile of papers
from his bag
shuffles them pretentiously –
How many pages
are there?
A few, now
lets gets started.

And so it begins
the quick-fire questions
the bonus round
the 8-point answer
that I always get wrong.
He runs through
every moment
every detail
every night
just to remind me
he’s paying attention,
taking notes
of everything.

We eventually finish.
I hear the birds
announcing the sun’s
coming up,
and he chuckles
under his breath.
Is that the time?
We should get to bed.
No shit sherlock.
Fucking dick.

#NaPoWriMo2020 #Day22

On The Ropes

A chaotic cacophony
constantly whines
like an analogue TV
just off the channel —
enough to drive
you insane.

Tempers are taut
like tightrope wires
waiting to trip up
and garrote anyone
who’s up for
a fight.

I’ve already gone
ten rounds today.
I’m doing my best
to stay out the way.

Privacy’s now obsolete
when there’s no place
to go, no way to be
alone, without question,
“What you doing?”

I’m doing my best
to stay out the way.
I’ve had enough
for today.

#NaPoWriMo2020 #Day7

What do you want to achieve today?

Firstly, apologies to anyone who thinks this is going to be an inspirational post about what wonderful, creative things you can do during lock-down.

Whilst I’m in awe of those who are learning new skills, adhering to a carefully thought out schedule and generally excelling at life, that simply isn’t me.

Today, my achievement is that I woke up at 9 am. You may be thinking, oh, did you want to have a long lie? Sorry, let me explain. Today I wanted to wake up at 9 am because for the past four days I haven’t been able to get out of bed before midday.

Let me put this into context. I’m a mother of two; one is 9 and the other is 18. I’m married. I have responsibilities. I am in my second year of a university degree course. However, I also struggle with my mental health.

I guess the point of this post is to show that everyone’s goals are going to be different right now. This is a weird and messed up situation. Don’t compare yourself to anyone else. Set personal goals and celebrate achieving them. Know that what you are doing is good enough.

Tomorrow, I might add something else, I might not. If I can get up at 9 am for two days running, I’ll be happy with that.

Whatever you achieve today, no matter how small, I admire your strength. If you feel you haven’t achieved what you planned, there’s always tomorrow. I admire your courage to keep trying.

You’re one of a kind, each and every one of you. Please be kind to yourself.

Stay safe, everyone!

H x


I’ve tried to find
the light switch
the one inside
my head.
I’m drowning
in this darkness
inhaling my last breaths.

I stumble, fumble forwards
then stagger, tumble back.

That switch is always
out of reach
a fingertip away
from me
so, the darkness
keeps its hold
for now, for the moment
I must yield.

I’ll try again tomorrow
to find the light I need.

#NaPoWriMo2020 #Day5

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