by Simon Armitage
Anyone here had a go at themselves
for a laugh? Anyone opened their wrists
with a blade in the bath? Those in the dark
at the back, listen hard. Those at the front
in the know, those of us who have, hands up,
let's show that inch of lacerated skin
between the forearm and the fist. Let's tell it
like it is: strong drink, a crimson tidemark
round the tub, a yard of lint, white towels
washed a dozen times, still pink. Tough luck.
A passion then for watches, bangles, cuffs.
A likely story: you were lashed by brambles
picking berries from the woods. Come clean, come good,
repeat with me the punch line 'Just like blood'
when those at the back rush forward to say
how a little love goes a long long long way.
"I Say I Say I Say" is a poem about suicidal thoughts and self harm. Armitage is offering here a text in the style of the patter of a public picturespeaker, perhaps even a stand-up comedian. It is this bluff, no-nonsense refusal to sentimentalise or even take completely seriously the plight of those who are depressed and suffering that gives the poem its disturbing power.
Last updated May 12, 2019