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Poetic License: Whoever Said No Takebacks Has Never Had Their Heart Broken

In the latest in a series of poems by Blackpool writers, Sarah Caulfield shares a classic breakup poem that tries to see the mundanity and humour in the misery of reclaiming yourself again while the ashes are still settling. Main image: artwork by the author.
Whoever Said No Takebacks Has Never Had Their Heart Broken
by Sarah Caulfield

Dearly beloved, Lord Alfred Douglas once announced
The deterioration of his relationship with his father
With the words: I have bought a revolver.
If you meet me in the street, I shall not hesitate to use it.

He did, not in fact, know how to use the revolver;
He discharged it by accident in a hotel and collapsed
A chandelier. It’s a metaphor, if you think about it.

But this is the twenty first century, and destruction of
Love is now accountancy. As such, I have attached
My calculations here. Please note, I have not
Debited or billed for emotional damages.
I consider what you gave me recompense at this time.

However, as it stands, I hereby announce
I am taking back the Moomins.
And superhero films, and Star Trek.
I take back Miyazaki films,
Sunflowers and late nights,
Watching wuxia dramas until the
Light of day blurred in like a waking dream,
And I take back my childhood nickname,
because that belongs in the
Mouth of people who love me.

I’m sure you understand.
After all, we are reasonable people.
After all, everyone always
Describes you as nice.
After all, I loved you once;
The memory of me loves
the memory of you still.

But that is not how accountancy works.

So I take back the poems and
the dedications and
the pressed flowers,

The unspool of time and love and history;
Of me switching the radiator on
for you in cold morning; my head in your lap,
the promises to teach you how to
Put on eyeshadow, and –
Please note – I take back a man
On a screen in a show,
Filmed long before I was old enough to hear it
Saying: sometimes it is possible to make no mistakes
And try and try and still lose.

Sarah Caulfield is a Blackpool-born and based visual artist, creative and author of Spine (2017) and Discomfort (2021) both published by Headmistress Press. Twice-nominated for a Pushcart Prize, their work has appeared in Lavender Review, Indolent Books, Voicemail Poems, and Tokyo Poetry Journal, among others. Sarah’s work was accepted into the National Poetry Library Archive in 2023.

Sarah has have lived in Poland, Germany, Japan and Korea. Their previous work includes being a shabbos goy, KFC checkout girl and children’s birthday party entertainer. They are currently working on their third chapbook, focusing on legacy, trauma and rebirth.

Read more from our Poetic License series here.

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