Literally

When Jamie told me that
anything he imagined became real,
I didn’t believe him.
Until the elephant in the room appeared.
Literally.

Not the sort of literally
that gets used these days;
an honest to God,
entirely literal,
breaking through the ceiling elephant.

It went downhill from there.
Literally downhill;
the elephant was too heavy
for the floor of our second-story flat,
and soon there was no floor at all.

We tumbled; I grabbed his arm,
and he closed his eyes and thought;
the room disappeared.
The elephant too.
And then we were on a sweltering-hot beach.

I was wearing jeans and a jumper,
and when I complained about it
suddenly I wasn’t;
I wore a swimsuit,
small and revealing and…oh dear.

Anything he imagined came true,
which meant that Jamie
had imagined me
in a swimsuit.
He closed his eyes and tried not to think.

But the thing with thinking
is that it just happens,
especially when
you try not to;
you’re thinking about not thinking.

Several moments later he was blushing,
and we were both naked,
and I couldn’t blame him.
He’d tried not to,
but sometimes you just…think these things.

I told him to think of kittens instead.
Their heads bumped
against my bare legs,
tickling;
they made him burst out laughing.

Then he thought of puppies,
who lost the fight
with the horde of kittens
for our affection –
their noses universally swiped.

At one point the arm I had used
to cover my chest
became slick and sticky;
a wriggling tentacle.
He fixed that before I could finish vomiting.

And he tried all sorts of things,
but in the end it was just us
naked on a beach
his thoughts spread out
like the towel we were both lying on.

“Sometimes,” he said, eyes closed,
“I imagine that I’m dead.”
The words hung
like a death knell.
I reached out and took his hand.

That’s the thing with thinking.
It’s everything, all at once,
and you try to say
it isn’t real
but it’s real to you, in your head.

So before he could think himself dead
I kissed him; it seemed the only way
to say everything
all at once.
A real thing to stop him realising more.

And afterwards, when he thought to himself
that he could die happy, he did.
And I closed my eyes,
lay down next to him,
and thought about how precious lies were.

I didn’t love him, you see. Not like that.
But my thoughts didn’t come true,
or he wouldn’t be dead,
so I had lied to him
because it was the only thing I could do.

And when I managed to get some clothes
and a flight to our broken home,
and called our insurance
to tell them an elephant
had crushed our block of flats,

I wondered whether I was a terrible person,
because I had lied to a dying man,
and because I had kissed him
without meaning it.
The thought didn’t become real.

Literally, anyway.

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