A terrible thing happened to me in 1987. I had my heart broken – but that wasn’t so terrible in itself. In fact, that was almost a daily occurrence for me as a teenager, along with brushing my teeth and realising I was quite possibly The Ugliest Most Wretched Creature on the Planet.
The terrible thing that happened was this: because my heart had been broken, I felt compelled to sit down with my diary and write eight poems, each more terrible and turgid than the last.
Yes, I temporarily became a poet: it’s one of the worst things that can happen to any teenage girl, believe me.
After I’d discovered these poems again, I wondered out loud on twitter if anyone else shared this terrible affliction in their youth. The response was overwhelming: at least three separate people put their hands up and it got me thinking… Maybe I should create an online repository for the angst-ridden teen poetry. For one thing, that blog’d have at least four readers.
That evening, I told my husband about my plan and before I knew it, we’d done some we’ve-drunk-a-bit-of-wine-and-aren’t-we-the-funny-ones-ha-ha-ha brainstorming and had created a new blog called “Poëgatory” – also known as the place “where bad poems go”. And then after a few more minutes of hysteria, lo! we’d transformed ourselves into “Sylvia Perth” and “Toëd Hughes” who (as our bio went on to state) “are technically married but rent asunder by our creative passions”.
Amidst all this silliness, I decided to read aloud the very first poem I was going to banish to Poëgatory. Man, that was hard. Not so much because I was exposing my 16 year-old-soul to my husband, but that it was difficult to get the words out, I was laughing so much. Particularly when it came to the last line, which surely need to spoken in a half-whisper:
I felt the pain.
Brilliant. But my husband thought he could match it. He recited what he could remember of a poem he’d written when he was 19 that included the line “a soft a’feathered bed”.
How I laughed. In fact, a few hours later, I was just about to fall asleep when I remembered the line and began silently laughing all over again, shaking the bed and waking my husband up.
“Are you okay?” my husband asked. He thought I was crying.
“Bwaahhhhhh!!!” I burst out laughing. “Soft a’feathered bed!!!!!!”
“Yeah, yeah, yeah,” he replied and rolled over.
“I mean, what kind of 19 year old uses the term A-hyphen-Feathered!” I kept laughing.
“It wasn’t hyphenated,” my husband said, sitting up a little. “It’s ‘as soft a feathered bed’ – like ‘as grumpy a husband you’ll ever wake up’. It’s called ‘plain English’, Ms. I-Felt-The-Pain.”
“Oh,” I said somewhat deflated. “I thought it was a’feathered with a hyphen.”
And then after a few minutes, I started shaking with laughter again.
“‘As soft a feathered bed!!!!!!'” I blurted out.
And then, as I drifted off to sleep, I thought about how there were many reasons I loved and admired my husband but, perhaps, one of the most admirable reasons was this: he has always loved me and treated me so well that not a single poem has ever had to tumble – like so much Type 5 vomit – from my tortured pen.
For this, I – and the world, no doubt – sincerely thank him.
Happy 10th Wedding Anniversary, my dearest husband. Thank you for laughing with me every single day and helping me to laugh at myself.