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By Oscar C. Robinson - June 2021

Before I was me, I was him

The survivor.

The 3 year old who sat with a casted arm

Who was delivered news he was too young to understand 

Who saw his mothers eyes flood

And his fathers arm pull her in

Who’s parents shot him a look, as if to say goodbye

Who was plugged to machines like their vessel of power

Each vein shrinking away from its intravenous purpose 

Who moved from home to hospital and resided for a year 

And fought for 4 more 

Who cried in pain for nights on end

Who’s father thought he was weak

And who’s mother stood by her sons side 

Who saw his father’s anger was fuelled by fear 

Who’s ward kept losing him friends 

Who stared death in the eyes at 5 

Who’s family wished him to survive

Who laughed and joked when everyone cried 

Who reassured those there to raise him that everything would be fine

Who was blind to what life had gave him

Who was tested a studied 

Who was poked a prodded by doctors and nurses 

Who woke each night to a stranger checking on him

Who’s family worried around his bed

Who at 8 was sent into remission 

Who for years after was fearful of its readmission 

Before I was me, I was him

The drinker. 

The 9 year old who was 18

Who knew every land lord and lady in Soho

Who was brought to wrap parties for theatre shows

Who drank with actors and directors 

And stumbled home with his father

Who returned to school the following day with a throbbing head

Only to do it again

The boy who sat on the land ladies lap

Who loved him like her own

Who had  emphysema and never thought to stop smoking 

Only to pass away in the coming year

The boy who became a man at 9

Who thought like an adult

Who no longer viewed the world like a child

Who saw no importance in school because he had outgrown it

Who’s mother became apoplectic with his father for his negligence

Who’s father continued to ferry him out

And told him to speak no word to his mother

Who’s father seemed to live his childhood through his son

The boy whose only friends were adults

Before I was me, I was him

The hustler.

The boy with a vision in his eye

In love with the image of material lies

Blind to the glint of light on a blade's edge 

On street corners he called home

Surrounded by friends he would die for

Surrounded by friends who subsequently died for him

Desensitised to violence in a way unfathomable to the average individual

At 15 he saw children take life so flippantly

He witnessed patriarchy in a way unwitnessed in our modern western world. 

Encapsulated in a tear of fear and anger, of defence and defiance, of love for what stood for nothing more than war for territory:

A pure lack of morality 

Distributing to men and woman with eyes shrink wrapped in tears 

Now I am who I am,

I am who people see

But who you see is not who I see.

I see a thick skin that has witnessed the malign truths of our city 

That has overlooked ruined lives with the prospect of a full pocket 

Who has woken up with the sun and stayed with it till long after it has fallen 

Who has been in perpetual fear behind the screw facing facade 

Who has beaten and lost 

Who has stolen and run 

Who has lived to lie to those who loved 

Who at 3 fought a penalty of death 

Who at 8 rejoiced and was freed from its grasp 

Who walked from hospital to home with pride

Who grew 10 years older in 5 

And never once questioned he would live

What I do is survive.

I have been broken, seemingly beyond repair 

And have built myself in the image of I what I believe will maintain 

I have had my childhood stricken from my life

Stolen by cancer,

Stolen by my father,

Stolen by my environment,

Stolen by drugs. 

I am the byproduct of a life like no other.

Before I was me, I was him

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