The Matter of Us by Sophie Kelly

It is not, as it so often seems along these seams of you and I, what is the matter with us but rather, what is the matter of us that we are feeling for. It is easy to confuse the two. 


You have been promised- the first person– the prayer mat and the prophet. But I must wait and wait and wait to hear: 

The Conference of the Birds


You refuse to teach me how to pray. 

I recall how Mary Oliver did not know that Molly Malone could whistle for some thirty years and wonder whether the moodier Molly chose only to whistle when Mary was far enough away to keep her escapes for herself.  


You twice told me that I had saved you from yourself. I told you that you had revealed me to myself. We are a bit theatrical like that. But we otherwise conceal it well. 

We are forever picking up the wrong end of each other’s sticks. But we know that and toss them anyway. And the occasional stone. We live in a glass house and are learning quickly to patch windows and plant seed. 

We fetch better than our dogs. We got duds. You are supposed to train a dog to be a dog, so says Sandy from Virtual Puppy School. We enunciate half-faux frets about the impossible reconciliation of obedience and free-will, love and domestication, and agree to unsubscribe. You support this with the argument that while not traipsing through piss each morning would be nice, neither of us would very much enjoy being told to roll over. 


When asked our reason/s for cancellation I avoid the luminous text box and tick ‘other’. 


I don’t very much enjoy playing human. You tell me it can be easy, enjoyable even, if one makes a little effort. I took your advice and saw a cognitive behavioural therapist to improve my performance but was thrown out for barking at another customer.  I prefer the strangeness of intimacy to the intimacy of strangers, I tell you, but you are unconvinced. 

Unlike me, you are an impressive human and do particularly well when you’re dressed for work. Sometimes, you do so well that when you come home, I don’t recognise your scent and nip at your fingers. I retrieve antiseptic plasters from the medicine cabinet, and we bicker about surviving in a MAN’S world over Biryani. We test out the corrosive properties of words like ‘ambition’, ‘drive’ and ‘success’. I tell you I’d rather be dead. You tell me that what I actually mean to say is ‘play dead’, that I’m very good at that. When I protest, you say that the corners of my mouth betray me. I tell you that it is just my angular cheilitis talking, and regret divulging the candidness of my zygomaticus major: 

An Exteriority Within

You summon me closer, pat me down gently and wait for me to acknowledge that I am merely an honorary member of the dog pack. 


You’re softest when you sleep. 

I blow blessings across your face (to keep the shadows out).

I trace the newly sacred skin with my fingers, across The Seven Valleys of You: forehead, nose, cheeks, chin, ears, lips and throat. I resist pressing too firmly on the larynx, of course; though, its shrieks to be released penetrate my third, fourth and fifth eyes. Sometimes all at once. 

I have heard mothers say they feel this way, a penchant for digging. I suppose mothers feel like gods; gods with aching backs and bulging mammary glands, tending to miniature Eden’s. Have a baby and you won’t have so much time to be perverse, is my own mother’s advice. But I prefer the story of Skywoman to Eve. I want to be welcomed into the garden, not eternally banished from it. 

To nurture too hard is to kill. Don’t overwater the plants! 

I know, I know. I am not a mother, but my own mother is a poet and it seems I have inherited her reptilian brain; an appetite for primal cries and pinching flesh. 

Perhaps I could pluck a loose lash

Position and momentum —

make a wish!


When you say that you are alone, I touch you. Ask again. Even though I am touching you, you feel alone. 

I try to explain that we share trillions of microbes; three dogs; two cats; a garden; a car; a couch; a table; bookshelves; the books on the shelves; a toaster; a bed; a key; the broken lawnmower we still need to throw out; Nocturne in E-flat Major; a horizon; sometimes, even underwear and a toothbrush. We share a love of garden centres, mid-century furniture and Gertrude Stein. 

You quote Carlo Rovelli in the bedroom and contend that’s fine! but we simply cannot share Time. 

I tell you about the blue/s of distance; I tell you that it is the hue/s of reaching that count. 

Lapis(blue), Navy(blue), Spruce(blue), Cobalt(blue), Berry(blue), Aegean(blue), Cerulean(blue), Artic(blue), Prussian(blue); though, I think we are composed mostly of Space(blue). 

You gave me a Sapphire(blue) ring but refuse to find fallibility at all romantic.  


I try to lick your wounds, but sometimes I tongue so deep I nick a nerve. 

You twitch, 

and I chase you inside. 


What’s the matter? 

The matter?

The matter?


I read about the blue of distance, but still want to follow the saliva down your gullet. I read about the intimacy of strangers but have never really understood diffraction. I read about tethers, about sweetgrass, but neither of us knows how to braid. I read about string figuring and the hologenome, but neither of us can call ourselves ‘artist’ or ‘scientist’ without blushing.  I read about staying with the trouble but have never had much resilience. I read about protecting the solitude of another, but your aloneness terrifies me.


You reach out your hand (with grip), 

Am I your undoing?

Are you mine?

Sophie Kelly is a 27 year old, queer writer from Liverpool. She’s currently pursuing a PhD in Literature and now reside in hertfordshire with her partner, three dogs and two cats.