Frightened Poems

On 10 May 2018 lead singer of Frightened Rabbit, Scott Hutchison, died by suicide.

Like many around the world, Scott’s music meant a great deal to me. The rawness of his lyrics and openness about mental health helped me navigate my way through difficult times.

When an artist you love dies, it’s hard to not make it all about you. After all, when they were alive, the relationship was one way. You took meaning from their work and they didn’t know you existed.

When Scott died it dug up a lot of my own issues. Everything from my uncle’s suicide to my own bouts of depression, and I struggled to think of a way to express them.

So I turned to Scott.

I went through each of Frightened Rabbit’s five studio albums and, for every song, used the first line(s) of the chorus as opening lines for 60 short poems exploring my experiences with mental health problems.

I call this collection Frightened Poems and am grateful to Scott and the band for giving me the courage and inspiration to write them.

***

SING THE GREYS (2006)

1. The Greys

I’m sick of feeling sick
and not throwing up.

I’m sick of getting old
and not growing up.

I’m sick of being free
and always feeling stuck.

I’m sick of feeling bruised
when I’ve not been struck.

2. Music Now

Music now

is much sadder
than it used to be.

The words don’t
dance for me.

The low notes
drown out the high notes

and the keys no longer fit.

3. The First Incident

(I can’t recall when it began)

4. Yawns

He yawns

when he sleeps.

Exhaustion never rests.

5. Be Less Rude

And you should be less rude

to yourself.

Go on, there’s only one of you.

He’s learning on the job too.

6. The Second Incident

(They all blend in to one)

7. Go-Go-Girls

It’s just me and my brother
giving blood on the street tonight.

He’s A positive,
I’m C negative.

8. Behave!

Behave, behave,

you silly sod.

Behave, behave

we shan’t be here long.

Behave, behave

show them you’re good.

Behave, behave

if only you would.

9. Square 9

And you can peel those eyes
’cause it’s important they see

the way you want things to be.

10. The Final Incident

(If only there were three)

11. Snake…

I’ll wake with snake

and tempt it to tempt me

to take a bite of my final apple.

THE MIDNIGHT ORGAN FIGHT (2008)

1. The Modern Leper

Well is that you, in front of me?

It’s been tough to see clearly lately.

Is that you, in front of me?

I’m tired of asking ‘why?’

so I think I’ll just cry

and thank you for being in front of me.

2. I Feel Better

I’ll stow away my greys
in a pad locked case
in a padlocked room.

And that’s where they’ll stay
right up until the day
that I feel I can talk to you.

What a moment it’ll be
to feel the key slide in, slip in,
unlocking you to the real me.

3. Good Arms vs. Bad Arms

Leave the rest at arm’s length.

It sounds easy,
when you have arms
as long as mine

but when I try
to push it away with one
the other pulls it back in,

makes it a cup of tea,
offers it a biscuit,
as though it wants it
to live with me.

4. Fast Blood

And the fast blood
hurricanes through me.

My fingers the lightening
to my fists’ thunder.

Nails hail down
as the pain slowly blows over.

5. Old Old Fashioned

Oh, let’s get old, old fashioned.

Let’s keep it zipped up.

Let’s whizz about full speed.

Let’s drive into the wall.

Let’s ignore the call.

Let’s get old fashioned,

it was far less exhausting.

6. The Twist

You twist and whisper the wrong name.

The one that doesn’t fit me anymore.

You think I’ve outgrown it.

I know I’ve shrunk down
and simply rattle around inside it.

7. Bright Pink Bookmark

[Instrumental]

[The perfect way to spend a day]

[Ignoring words]

[Being whisked away by my thoughts]

8. Head Rolls Off

When it’s all gone
something carries on.

The story doesn’t end with me
so just let me be.

I’ve spent so long
keeping my head screwed on,

when all it wants to do is roll off
this Earth and start again.

9. My Backwards Walk

I’m working on my backwards walk.

I’m working on how far back I can go.

I’m working on seeing if I used to talk.

I’m working on when I changed yes to no.

10. Keep Yourself Warm

Can you see in the dark?
Can you see the look on your face?

Can you see me in the light?
Can you see the look inside my face?

11. Extrasupervery

It’s the year.

Not just today.

Ups and downs come and disappear

all year.

12. Poke

Oh.

God.

13. Floating in the Fort

And fully clothed,
I float away.

I’d love to stay,
but today’s the day.

Time to collect the brick
wearing my PJs,

hands closed tight,
by my side tonight.

14. Who’d You Kill Now?

Who’d you push down the stairs last night?

The guy who gets you out of bed?

The guy who gets you dressed?

The guy who likes talking to others?

The guy who likes you?

Or all of the above? Again.

Next time, try shoving the one who hurts you.

THE WINTER OF MIXED DRINKS (2010)

1. Things

I didn’t need these things,
I didn’t need them.

I didn’t need these thoughts,
I didn’t need them.

But I was given them
and can’t give them back,

so perhaps I can keep the things
and keep the thoughts
and teach myself to walk again.

2. Swim Until You Can’t See Land

Swim, until you can’t see land.
Swim, until you can’t see land.

Close your eyes
and see where you land.

Swim, until you can’t see land.

Kick your feet
and see where you land.

Swim, until you can’t see land.

Fight for your breath
and see where you land.

Swim, until you can’t see land.

Push out your chest
and see where you land.

Swim, until you can’t see land.

Listen to your muscles
and see where you land.

Swim, until you can’t see land.

Taste the freedom
and see where you land.

Swim, until you can’t see land.
Swim, until you can’t see land.

3. The Loneliness and the Scream

In the loneliness,
oh the loneliness.

(It’s quite yummy
sometimes, isn’t it?)

4. The Wrestle

The clothesless wrestle
with the clothesless animal

is one I welcome.
The chance to submit.

It seems to know what it wants,
what it’s doing, where it’s going,
more than me.

When the bell rings,
I’ll give in.

5. Skip the Youth

So I (move, move)
I would but I am so tired.

But I (you can, you can)
I can’t quite remember how.

So I (it’s OK, it’s OK)
I want to stay here one more day.

But I (come on, come on)
I guess I can try again.

So I (move, move)
I would but I am so tired.

6. Nothing Like You

She was not the cure for cancer

but that was never a question I asked her to answer.

Those nights when I felt everyone was blind

she looked at me and read my mind

to remind me she was mine

and I was hers,

before, during and after the blurs.

7. Man/Bag of Sand

Are you a man?
Are you a bag of sand?

What’s the difference?

I’m a billion broken particles
that can’t move on its own.

8. Foot Shooter

Hold on to your thumbs.

Put them in your mouth if you have to.

It used to look cute when you did that,

until someone taught you to stop doing what feels good.

They’re not there any more.

They’re not there to tell you how to use your hands.

Or what not to do with them.

Hold on to your thumbs.

How you use them is not as kind to yourself

as it was when you put them in your mouth.

9. Not Miserable

I’m not miserable now.
No one knows

because I’m yet to leave the house.

I’ve changed the locks
to stop misery’s key from working.

I’ve unplugged the doorbell,
kept the windows and curtains shut.

I’ve buried myself.

I’m not miserable now.

10. Living In Colour

Living in colour,
living in colour,

it’s the brightest way to go

and while blue’s a colour too
I do my best not to live in navy alone.

Living in colour,
living in colour,

it’s the brightest way to go

but if I mix up the yellow,
red, green and everything in between,
it’s not long until I find myself in black.

Living in colour,
living in colour

it’s the brightest way to go

so if I’m the canvas and you are the artist,
I urge you to let your talents show.

Living in colour,
living in colour,

it’s the way I need to go.

11. Yes, I Would

At first it bleeds then it scabs.

The itch makes me want to pick.

But the lightening of my fingers
might not scab twice,
so I leave it to itch.

It’s not nice.

PEDESTRIAN VERSE (2013)

1. Acts of Man

Not here, not here,
heroic acts of man.

I do what I can
but I’m just a man.

I’ve never been a fan
of who I am

but I’m just a man,
I do what I can.

2. Backyard Skulls

Backyard skulls,
deep beneath the ground

telling stories,
screaming failings,
hoping never to be found.

In the earth they stay drowned,
as though they’re still up above,
hoping never to be found.

3. Holy

I don’t mind being lonely,
so leave me alone.

It’s got me this far.

I don’t mind being lonely,
so leave me alone.

You say together we can go far.

I don’t mind being lonely,
but for you I’m by the phone.

4. The Woodpile

Will you come back to my corner?
Spent too long alone tonight.

I’m fully aware this fight is my fight
but this once I come to you asking:

Will you come back to my corner?
Spent too long alone tonight.

I hate to ask,
that’s why I’m asking tonight.

5. Late March, Death March

Well, folded arms clutch homicide,

hands in my pits stop suicide.

I’m still alive.

Today you will have to kill me

because it’s a rare day that I like me.

6. December’s Traditions

It’s not the answer,
a sticking plaster on shattered bone:

but let’s stick on another one,
come on, then I’ll be fun.

7. Housing (in)

You can’t carry me away now,
please don’t steal me from my house.

Why now?
Please don’t carry me away now,

I’ll keep me head down if it helps,
just please don’t carry me away now,

everything seems to be going well.

8. Dead Now

I’m dead now,
check my chest and you’ll see

I’m hanging here free
indecision choked from me,

the burden of others
nowhere to be seen,

the thick air I used to breathe
just a dream.

9. State Hospital

Her heart beats like a breeze block
thrown down the stairs,

each thud a reminder she’s there for me.

She fell for me
and I jumped with her.

From top to bottom we tumble,
I won’t fall for her.

10. Nitrous Gas

And if happiness won’t come to me,
hand me the laughing gas.

It’ll be a laugh, I guess.

I’ll arch my back
back to a time of happiness:

a gaseous exchange
between me
and the old me.

11. Housing (out)

You can’t carry me away now,

but I’ll help you if you like.

Things have been ticking for a while now,
it’s probably about time they stopped.

Please, carry me away now
I’ll let you steal me from my health.

12. The Oil Slick

All the dark words
pouring from my throat

darker than the ink used
when I wrote the note to myself:

when you think you’ve sunk for the final time
you’ll sink again, for sure,
and when you drag yourself to the top
the oil won’t wash off,

but you’ll get slick at not looking sick
all dolled up in your dark skin suit.

PAINTING OF A PANIC ATTACK (2016)

1. Death Dream

Death dreams you don’t forget

seeping out into reality,
reminding you of your fragility.

Asleep with my eyes open,
I see the end of everyone I know.

I don’t cry in my death dreams,
I scream in silence,
I fall without a trace

and remember I’m wide awake.

Death dreams,
you can’t forget
because you’re in them.

2. Get Out

Get out of my heart.

I don’t meant that,
it’s the only thing keeping it beating.

You’re the first person I’ve told,
and the last person I wanted to.

Get out of my heart,
if I was you.

3. I Wish I Was Sober

Forgive me,
I can’t speak straight.

But come with me
round the houses.

I trust you.

I want to show you
every curved path until
I can remember
where the front door is.

4. Woke Up Hurting

I woke up hurting

and I know exactly why.

It was everything I said to you

and the things I did to me.

5. Little Drum

I waited for the crash to come.

But it,

it didn’t.

Fancy that.

I packed away my kit for tomorrow.

6. Still Want to Be Here

But I still
want to be here.

So I will
and I’ll pour
everything into it

like I always try.

7. An Otherwise Disappointing Life

In an otherwise
disappointing life made right

I’d come back as a kite.

Floating, dipping,
controlled by smiles.

I tried it for a while.

The highs never reached the sky
but they helped time fly by
until I was brought back down to Earth
and reminded I wasn’t a kite.

I was a human.

Humans are grounded.

8. Break

If I bend then I might not break.

Is it worth trying?

Fed up feeling dirty with every clean break.

9. Blood Under the Bridge

It’s alright, it’s alright.

It’s alright, it’s alright .
It’s alright, it’s alright.

It’s alright, it’s alright.
It’s alright, it’s alright.

It’s alright. I’m fine.

10. 400 Bones

400 bones,
crumpled in bed.

400 feet under,
in silent company.

400 years in the future,
breathing a secret language.

400 tears,
no sign of the source.

400 bones,
crumpled in bed

is all I ever wanted.

11. Lump Street

Do you want more?

Because I’ve got plenty.
My mind’s a street of lumps and bumps,
with traffic speeding, searching for an accident.

Do you want more?

Because I’ve got plenty.
My mind’s a cul-de-sac with a cavernous crack
just waiting for me to drive home.

Do you want more?

Because I’ve got plenty.
My mind’s a clutter of terrace house lofts
connected by imaginary walls.

Do you want more?

Because I’ve got plenty.
My mind’s a town just begging to be empty.
Residents line up and throw away their keys.

Do you want more?

Are you sure?

I can keep going, if you can take it.

I’ve got plenty.

12. Die Like a Rich Boy 

I want to die like a rich boy,

on the lips of everyone.
Perhaps they’d write a song for me
and explain what it all means.

I want to die like a rich boy,

on my own terms.
Perhaps by then I’ll understand my mind
and will see no need to call it an end.

Frightened Poems by Carl Burkitt

© Carl Burkitt 2018

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