*performed short of breath

Hush little baby don’t you cry
Mama’s gonna buy you more more more more
Hush little baby don’t you cry
God’s watching now

Church is unfamiliar to me.
Prayer, less so.
Work is where I pay tithe
I try and twist the park into
Some sort of unique, religious experience
Any period, given enough sleep deprivation
Turn running up and down a hill into a metaphor
For life, or time, and the passing of it
The children have grown up, suddenly
But they’re not even mine, they have and always will be my
And I remember being allowed to hold them when they were
Before I grew too—
And remember thinking I will forge ahead for you,
Scout ahead to make sure it’s safe for you,

Hush little baby don’t you cry
Mama’s gonna be right by your side

I have been working very very hard
At being an adult
Borrowing other people’s regrets
Because my own are so, petty,
In a cab on the way home
With the woman I told a month ago
I would be with forever,
And I think this is what forever with me is like
And I’m sorry, because I will forget how to love,
How to be unselfish, because my pain
Is banal, and I refuse to share it for shame,
But at least it is mine and I dragon sleep over it,
And I’m thinking of the Other Person,
The Other Man,
Perhaps it is true what they say about women these days
At least the sort of women they say I am these days
Because these days I have a leather purse
My mother bought me in an airport,
With multiple compartments that delight me,
And I have this friend, he says “it's like you’re a real adult now”
And we talk about wanting to own homes
And old lovers going off to marry other people
And he asks, again, if I will marry him.
In return I’ll get to live rent-free in the flat we will legally qualify
Because we work hard, and we’re smarter, and better,
So we don’t deserve a house,
Walls and windows and maybe steel countertops,
Basic human need, shelter
That we can paint and put pictures up
And have space invaders shower curtain
Do laundry whenever the fuck we feel like it
Finally capture domesticity like lightning in a Bath and Bodyworks
Settling isn’t so bad with 200-thread-count sheets
And cast-iron Dutch ovens
It sounds like a lullaby, this picture he’s painting.
He says, I think I can grow to love anyone.
And I hum, and agree,
Because of course you can grow to love anyone
Even when you know because you are cleverer and better
That it’s not a good idea,
Because you are curious,
What will it be like to let go and allow
Fondness to creep in, and over,
Fill the cracks with soft gold
Feel it grow light in your blood,
Couch your slow affection in gloves and three layers of clothing,
In a careless hand laid upon your arm
You’re so angry, my friend who has asked me to marry him says,
Why aren’t you, I want to say,
We want things we shouldn’t have
For our own good,
We have to think of other people,
Because we work hard and we’re smarter and better,
I’m angry because I didn’t get to be the Other Woman,
Because I want children of my own to dragon-sleep over and you
Because there is a woman who loves me whom I’m afraid will stop
     doing so one day,
Because people touch each other all the time without thought
     and it hurts,
Because my father is dying and my mother is sad
And the space between me and my sister a sunless sea,
Because in a selfish way I wish my choices were harder,
And I grew up knowing God doesn’t exist,
But give me a temple, give me a church,
Give me a near-death experience,
Give me pain and ecstasy
Give me four and twenty blackbirds baked into a pie,
Give me co-dependency
And take away my brain,
Take away lullabies,
Give me the capacity for prayer
And religious fervour.

by Victoria Lim
from Dreadful (2015)