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.