Before all this
there were phone calls,
there were letters,
there were postcards,
there were badly printed posters
in corner shop windows,
there were crowded notice boards,
there was proper conversation.
There were names and numbers
written in tipsy scrawl
on the peeled-off backs
of beermats.
There was ink.
There was paper.
There were crossings-out.

Before all this
we clung to the folklore of magpies
and sunsets.
We read the weather in seaweed
and common sense.
We all carried
We did not know
how to edit our lives,
walked out raw into the world
every morning.
We placed our faith
in road maps
and sometimes
we got lost.
we found beauty
in the detour.
we were late.

Before all this
no one was really bothered
about what Jodie or Sandra or David
had for breakfast.
No one took photos of their dinner.
No one took photos of their bruises.
No one took photos
of the pulpy gore
the cat dragged in,
the rising damp,
the mouldy fruit,
the dead wasp on the window sill,
the traffic jam,
the stains on a Travelodge bedsheet.

Before all this
our smiles were never sepia or polaroid.
We had scars and gaps and cracks
and we were more honest.
We knew how to read
the language of the body.
We knew about patience,
the beauty of waiting.

Before all this
we had manners.
We looked.
We listened.
We never stroked our phones.

Before all this,
if we wanted to see
a blood moon, a harvest moon,
a shooting star,
we’d step outside.
We’d live in it.

Before all this
snow and autumn leaves
came without a hashtag.
We did not need an app
for relaxation or meditation.
We did not need an app
for empathy or humanity.
They were things we knew
how to do
without instruction
and we did them well.
We did good things
for the goodness
of doing them
and not for the ticks,
the gain, the glowing kudos.

Before all this
was more than a click.
‘Liking’ came from our lips.
Love came with flesh.
Some parts of us were secret.
Some parts of us
were never shared.
Some parts of us
were never spoken.

from the collection Where the Road Runs Out (Comma Press, £9.99)


Gaia_Holmes_290Gaia Holmes is a poet and tutor in creative writing based in Halifax. She has previously made a living as a busker, a cleaner, a gallery attendant, an oral historian and a lollipop lady. Her poems have appeared in anthologies including Milestones, I Belong Here, The Book of Love and Loss and Seductive Harmonies. In 2017, she was awarded a Hawthornden Fellowship and shortlisted for a Pushcart Prize. Where the Road Runs Out is published by Comma Press, together with her previous collections Dr James Graham’s Celestial Bed (2006) and Lifting the Piano with One Hand (2013).
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“Gaia’s poems are spells, taking the most ordinary and mundane of things, and working some metamorphosis on them, so they shine like stars – tiny but brilliant.” Sara Maitland