Mark ran. He started without a warm-up. He had never run in his adult life, and not since gaining those last few pounds that put him over the Bar – the ‘your health is seriously at risk’ bar.

He made it about ten feet, and fell to his knees, small scratches drawing a little blood and a little whine. “Suck it up,” he hissed to himself. He struggled to his feet, and he ran.

Mark managed to run a further fourteen feet, when his breath caught. He wheezed, clutching his chest – he would have described it as ‘dramatically’, if he wasn’t thoroughly hating his life at the moment. There was no way he had time for adverbs.

He coughed, feeling cold air scratch at his throat, and ran again. Twenty feet later, and Mark thought he’d sprained his ankle. He sat down, “Just for a minute.” Mark removed his right shoe, massaged a chubby ankle. He was satisfied he wasn’t incapacitated beyond his belly, and lumbered to his feet. He was an awkward blob, and he knew it, and it was even more apparent when he was bent over.

Without a doubt, bending over was the worst.

It took him a moment, testing his weight on his ankle, and he began to run again. Mark managed fifty feet, when his stomach lurched. He could feel his breakfast churning, and he knew he was going to get sick.

The vomit sprayed a good ten feet, before sloshing from his mouth. He pulled a tissue from his pocket – tissues he was always sure to keep on his person in case of a pepper overdose on his dinner that could cause a sneezing fit – and wiped his face clean.

He did not have time to pretend he was interested in the environment. He ran again. One hundred feet, and the sweat was soaking through his jacket. He definitely was not dressed for this. He tossed it to the ground, damp and stinking and perhaps a little bit splashed with vomit. He tried to suppress his disgust.

When he ran close to three hundred feet, his needed to remove his t-shirt, too. His stomach, a little bit hairy, incredibly pale, and bulging in all the wrong places, flopped out over his jeans.

“I should have changed,” he said to himself. The jeans were baggy, and scraped against the ground when he walked. He did not want to think of the damage they were sustaining as he ran the next eight hundred feet.

His runners – made for comfort, not for sport – came off next. They were old, anyway, he reasoned.

Now, wearing just a pair of jeans, a pair of socks, and a pair of underwear, he was barely recognisable as a human being. He was all fat, no form, and he was running. Half a mile. A mile. No more socks – too many holes.

His feet bled after the next couple of miles, and he whined over that, too, until he grew used to the pain. It was early in the morning, the world was empty, and he could deal with a little bit of injury. They were only feet. He spent most of his time off them, anyway.

Ten miles later, the jeans had to come off.

He decided that was as far as he would go, in terms of stripping his clothes. Wearing just a pair of underwear – a pair that looked like shorts, for all intents and purposes – he ran another twenty five miles.

He stopped, and had a look around his immediate vicinity. “Nope, no idea.” He was lost in a field, trees scattered around him, power lines still visible. He hadn’t escaped modern society in its entirety, but he was definitely getting close. No more cars. No more people. He’d left early enough that no one had seen him fall. No one had seen him vomit. No one had seen him strip.

No one was witness to the next sixty miles, or the hundred that followed.

He was sunburnt – or just red from the cold, he couldn’t tell. He tried to think of the seasons, but they all melded together. His sweat kept him cool, his fat kept him warm, and the sky was clear. He’d seen it like that in December, and he’d seen it like that in July – it was just the sky, clear blue and brilliant.

He ran three hundred miles, and he began to worry he was going to run out of land.

Nothing could stop him running the next eight hundred. Nothing, except a stone in the road. He tripped, a proper fall this time, running his fastest, body almost completely bare to the world. Somehow, night had come and gone and come again and he hadn’t noticed. It could have been a week, but he hadn’t stopped, and he hadn’t changed. He was still all fat and sweat and determination, and he was tumbling to the ground with a stubbed toe and a scream.

Mark swore when he hit the ground, his back tearing up, blood welling through the folds of his skin. He felt a bone break in his left arm on the first on-ground tumble. His head crashed into the rocks. He was immediately blinded by blood in his eyes.

He tumbled over sharp rocks for a good ten feet, before coming to a stop. His back wasn’t broken. He wasn’t given the relief from pain that paralysis might have given him. Instead, he needed to vomit again. His head couldn’t stay still. A buzzing in his ears made him feel sicker. His arms ached, and the one that hadn’t broken was still slick with blood.

He lay there, and he cried, and he tried to get up.

Mark’s legs worked fine. It took him half an hour of tears and curses to stand.

He ran again. He didn’t stop, not so long as there was ground beneath him. Mark ran despite the pain, and because of it.

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Last Times

I had a long month,
Filled with poems
And blogs
And awkward videos.
I pause a lot.
I “um” and “ah”
And “eh” and “em”
And it’s really
Fucking annoying.
I tried to write a book.
I put it to rest,
For a while,
Because it was guilt ridden.
That’s not right,
It’s not written,
Deal with it.
The last times,
This month’s last times,
Are made up of endings.
The video failed.
Spectacularly so, even.
The blog post tried to sound…
And the poem?
The poem…

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The Bottom Step

She sits at the bottom step.
It’s her thing now,
Ever since she learned how to sit
Without having to hold on to something.
She sits, she waits, she talks
(Mostly to herself,
Sometimes to whoever’s around.)
She stands up,
Walks a few feet,
She returns to her step,
And she sits down.
She’ll do this four, five times.
Sometimes she tries to climb the stairs.
Sometimes she’s there
When Mamma and Dadda get home.
She sees the car,
She stands by the front door,
She presses her nose against the window,
And she calls for them.
When they get in,
And a few minutes later,
She returns to her step,
Because that’s her thing.

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Second Chances

We do not have second chances.
We used them all up on our first try.
No repeats, no more attempts.
No apologetic phone calls,
No drunken, misspelled texts.
We are no longer you and I,
No longer romancing
Our way at all.
We do not have second chances,
And we’ll never know why
At all.

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I Tried to Tell You

I tried to tell you that I loved you,
I wasn’t sure you’d understand,
But please don’t tell me that I’m silly,
Just be quiet and take my hand.

Let me lead to where dreams live,
Let me show you how I feel,
Just don’t tell me I’m being stupid,
‘Cause those wounds will never heal.

I tried to tell you who we could be,
And all the things that we could do,
But you never wanted to listen
To the love story of me and you.

You turned your back on my big promises,
And laughed when I went on one knee,
You never thought I could be serious,
That was the death of you and me.

I tried to tell you that I loved you,
But you packed up and left our home.
So now I try to just forget you,
And pretend that I’m not here alone.

I tried to tell you that I missed you,
But my friends said ‘No, don’t be mad.
You’re single now, and we’ve been waiting,
For you to come back to the lads.

I tried to call you between bad beers,
While having a smoke outside the door,
But then I saw you walking by me,
With a new guy, you filthy –

I tried to scream out after you,
But my friends pulled me away,
So I wrote this down for you to see,
And now I’ve nothing else to say.

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Something New

I spent ten years of my life trying something new
Until it became a part of me.
It was no longer fresh or exciting
In and of itself,
Though it’s still my first love,
And I never want to be parted from it.

But that’s not enough, anymore.

I can’t sit in a room all day long
After all this time doing so for everything else, too.
I need to get out.
I need to see the world through a different lens,
A literally different lens.
I need to walk around my city
With images in mind,
Not stories,
And I need to explore the finer details.

I need to try something new,
And I’m no good at sports.
I tried, I failed, I abandoned the idea swiftly.

But I will always need something new.
I will always need to try something different,
Even if everyone else is doing it.
I just need it, for me.

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Beyond College

We had such simple aspirations
From day one and beyond:
Graduate, get a job.
Simple. Easy. Realistic.

Except no.

We studied to be teachers.
In Ireland.
If you only knew the reality
Of what we just put ourselves through.

Now, we’re out of college.
We’re in the Big Bad World,
Unemployed, or working in retail,
Or living abroad,
Because that’s where the work is.
Just, not at home,
Where we need each other.

Now we think about finding home,
And marriage
And relationships
And just settling down.

Barely a year out
And we feel old,
Worn out by the System,
And bitter at a certain Minister.

And this is our life,
Beyond college
And beyond being a teenager,
Struggling with people
Who five years ago
Were just strangers on the street.
A hundred of us more a year,
And all of us in the same sinking ship.

They don’t prepare you for that.
Not just the job part,
But the relationships, either.

You don’t expect friends to get married.
You don’t expect to lose touch
With the people you saw every day.
You don’t expect to forget people
Or to feel so bad about it.

They don’t have a class
On life beyond college.
We just have to learn as we go,
And pretend we’re managing just fine.

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I was baked in the sun,
Until tired on the inside
And red on the outside,
And it wasn’t fun
For anyone involved.

I baked brownies in the oven,
Until gooey on the inside
And hardened (slightly) on the outside,
And it was awesome
For everyone involved.

One of these two
Is appropriate
For Instagram.
Can you guess which?

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The Dead Heat

I melted in the dead heat
To a pool of skin and sweat,
No wind blowing a warning
Of the coming of Hot Death.

I melted in the dead heat
On my way to work a day,
Hot Death on my trail
As I walked the stony way.

I melted in the dead heat
And tried not to let it kill,
The Hot Death threatening
To spread the heat wave still.

I melted in the dead heat
Through water and through clothes,
With no protection from Hot Death
Who victimises most.

I melted in the dead heat
As Hot Death took a stroll,
This city not quite on his route,
Yet still he took his toll.

I melted in the dead heat
To a nothingness on the ground,
So take a warning to run away
From where Hot Death is found.

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An Irregular Irish Summer

An Irish summer lasts three days.
Sometimes, if we’re lucky, one per month.
We get high temperatures
And we complain about them,
And then they go away,
Replaced by a wet patch or four,
Flash floods and lightning storms,
And a chill in the air in July.

But not this year.
Blue skies have burned bright
For much longer than we expected.
They think the water might run out,
Or the elderly will shrivel up
And turn to giant walking wrinkles.

The stones are literally splitting,
Children cannot sleep for the heat,
And, for some reason,
Teenagers walk around topless.

No one knows why,
So please, don’t ask.

This is not a normal Irish summer.
Everything is warmer,
Everything is brighter,
Everything is much more pleasant
Than we ever expected it to be
And no one knows how to react.

Most importantly,
We don’t know how long it will last.

This could be gone in a week,
A month,
Two, maybe.
But I doubt that.
This feels like it will never end,
Not gradually at least.

Winter will come,
Snapping into place,
And we’ll be frozen there,
Bed sheets too light,
T-shirts worn as scarves,
Parched for water.

Just. Like. That.

And it will feel normal,
Like that’s how winter always was,
Sudden, unexpected,
Snowy and frozen.
As if we get that sort of weather.
As if we’re that lucky.

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