I’ve learned to recognise the tropes
that pin me to the psychic ropes
when knocking dreams repeat on me.
In what they conjure I can see
that shame is like a bad tattoo
you hide, that still disfigures you;
that masochism milks regret
and bottles what it won’t forget;
that anger serves the angered less
than cutlery the lioness;
that guilt is interest on a debt
whose principal cannot be met.

Admittedly, the ropes surround
the hard-lit ring we slope around
where ungloved hearts trade ugly blows.
On the back foot, off the toes,
and off the tongue, we make the weight,
advance, and close, and separate
absorbing slights we should ignore
but don’t – we even up the score
then wrestle, as we stew and steep,
as penitents aggrieved, asleep.