Heather Kori Reid

Alice

In a dark a whisper came, “I’m not well”
The last words she spoke before she fell
Swirling shades of black, unseen by all.
If she could speak again she’d call it a tumble not a fall. 

The stars she saw twisted into black.
Tearing at the darkness searching for a crack,
to see colour, to escape the persuasive thrall
She’s calling it a tumble not a fall. 

Before, moonlight glowed through
Hearts beat and lungs grew.
Rapidly came the struggle then the crawl
If she could speak again, she’d call it a tumble not a fall. 

Memories of chasing rabbits fade,
No longer does the flower serenade
Nostalgia isn’t worth the recall,
She’s calling it a tumble not a fall. 

In a glimmer of light she woulda said, “I am quite unwell.”
But the light never shined the night before she fell,
Then came the swirling shades of black, unseen by all.
If she could speak again she’d call it a tumble not a fall.


The Shore

I used to fit into this world
Or this world fit into me
Hopeless hearts in a hopeless world
Dark, dim, and desolate 

Now I am outside of this world
As the sun finally hits my face
Warmth for the cold winds
I am escaping the darkness

Happiness is strange
It’s strange how it pulls you out of the world
Because the world is soaked in shivering sadness
But happiness is dry and warm. 

There is an ocean of sorrow in this world
And now that I’m outside it I feel lost
Despite how big that ocean was
It was familiar, it was home

I step outside of the chilly waters
Feel the happiness surround me
And suddenly the world doesn’t fit into me
And suddenly I don’t fit into the world 

There’s a foreign feeling here
All my comforts in chilly waters below
Everything I was and everything I knew
Is gone now. I am alone. 

Happiness is bittersweet
Happiness is letting go of a part of yourself
Untethering the weights that hold you down
Pieces of who you are sink and you are set free


The Duet

I used to dance with death

death would always move around me

and I’d move between the spaces he left behind

it was never clear who was chasing who

but the game went on for years

onlookers kept waiting for me to trip and fall

stumble into him and disappear forever

I just needed to falter once

but something kept me steady 

Yet still I played the game

step in step 

rhythmically

hypnotically 

we kept pace with invisible music

circles upon circles 

spiralgraph steps 

it was both beautiful and horrifying 

I was lost in the trance

it was the perfect duet

harmony in self destruction

one day though I danced away

I wanted to see more

find my own melody

the duet with death became less appealing

maybe I grew up and out of it

maybe I found healing

either way death kept dancing

the spaces in between the steps suddenly empty

the haunting dance became hollow

death without life

but he danced on

waiting 

following my beat naturally

I saw the world

I made plans

I bloomed in happiness

but one night while dancing on my own 

I stumbled

fell into death’s circular dance

the rhythm had changed but still remained familiar

he stopped picked me up

and our dance began again

like I had never left

I followed in his steps

we moved swiftly

hypnotically

now I’m stuck in the rhythm

my eyes gloss over

the beat infiltrates my mind

and I’m lost all over again

so I dance 

step after step 

with my deadly partner 

and hope that I have the grace 

to keep up with his mesmerizing pace 


You’re still here

I sat on a beach somewhere far away
I felt the sand in between my toes
I held happiness in my hands
As the ocean washed away my pain

I have been sitting on trains
I have been going to new places
I felt the pressure ease off of my shoulders
As this machine took me away

I saw giant castles and city lights
I witnessed the wonder of the world
I feel like somehow I’m whole again
As I take in the view from way up high

But everywhere I go, my steps are still haunted
Even when I reach inside myself
And find healing and love
I know I’ll never really get away

Because you’re still here with me
In hallways and on boardwalks
You’re still here with me
Like a cloud in my mind

You’re still here, I can’t shake you
Like a shadow I can’t untether you from me
You’re still here, I can’t disconnect from you
Because you’ve become a part of me

I fly around the world trying to leave you behind
I speed down highways and climb up mountains
I try to become something new in new places
But you’re still here

I’m shedding my skin once again,
Trying desperately to shed you from me
You’re not in my skin, you’re somewhere weaved deeper
So I walk as a skeleton through the street and you’re still here

Ten years has gone by and
You’ve somehow been picking away at me
Piece by piece, it looks like you’re going to win
But I’m still here.

I’ve learned to live with all this trauma inside my bones
I’ve found healing in my friends,
I’ve felt pure bliss in the waters of Portugal
And so, I’m still here

You tried to destroy me but I made it a story
You may still be in this body somewhere
But so is happiness, love, and resilience
You’re still here but I’m still here too.


Blame it on the stars

For Amy 

Stars and planets swirl together;

the constellations of our minds constantly 

screaming and dreaming. 

You wake with a shudder at a day 

that you wish you never came to see. 

Blame it on the stars 

for hiding in the daylight 

but maddening us by night with 

intangible, abstract musings. 

The universe is vast and infinite and we 

are not. 

You read the stories created by constellations;

Destruction and death and 

renewal and rebirth,

like the Phoenix, you will

burn everything down to ash and dust.  

Just for the chance to 

start over. 

What strength you have to 

burn out so bright,

Like the stars we swear 

influence our lives

Yet we are always making the hard choice 

the choice to be reborn and 

become something beautiful even if 

we are not infinite

Just like physical health we have to contend and take care of our mental health as well regardless of if we identify as mad or sane. However, us mad folks often face societal barriers that try to force into particular behaviours deemed as “sane” or “normal.” I believe in my madness; I believe it makes me the person I am today. My madness shapes how I view the world and how I interact with it. I don’t look to cure my madness but rather I look to break down the systems and institutions that deem my madness as wrong. 

For me, poetry started as a coping mechanism, a way to express my emotions that often were too much for the sane and neurotypical to hear. I often use my poetry to reflect on my experiences or trauma and help me process and continue to grow. But poetry is also ALIVE and can be an experience, the best words can stir something in even the least compassionate to a place of understanding of a mad journey. Poetry is action and that action is fostering empathy. 

The five poems you’ve just read today are snapshots from my many journeys with mental illness. They demonstrate the unending feeling of helplessness in sad/madness (Alice) to the fear and avoidance of happiness because of its consistent absence. (The Shore) They illustrate the delicate balance of danger and beautiful knowledge gained by dancing so often with death (The Duet) to the strength of pulling yourself together after trauma and thriving instead of surviving (You’re still Here). At the core of all these we find strength, growth, and resilience that allows us to understand another’s story of pain and madness. (Blame it on the Stars) I hope my work reaches people who need a little more understanding and promotes hope. Thank you for reading! 

Heather Kori Reid is a Toronto-based poet. They identify as a mad, queer, non-binary, femme, and fat. Writing has been constant in their life, utilizing it as a means to heal and tell difficult stories. They have always thought of literature as a gateway into other’s lives, a path to understanding and empathy for experiences different from one’s own. They believe poetry should be a magical and transformative experience. They hope to elevate both the ugliness and beauty of finding one’s resilience. They like to spend their off time relaxing with friends and cats and can usually be found where the books and wine live.

You can find Heather Kori on all social media and contact them through their website
Website: heatherkori.com
Twitter: @heatherkori
Instagram: @heatherkori
Facebook: heatherkori.writing

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