How are you? Her answer is always simply
“I’m fine, thank you.
And you?”

But she never spoke of the Shadow,
The weight of Nothing that stops her lips
From articulating some Fear she knows
She feels, but knows not from which cell it spawned.

For speech is as inadequate
At expression
As people are at empathy.
She wants to say, sing, shout – be heard.
But words can offer no pity;
Lifeless symbols cannot capture
The sense of beings and things.

So she smiles and it looks pretty – good –
Though our eyes don’t meet. A gentle plea
Escapes her prison of resolve:
A soft cry for companionship –
For any one comprehending soul
To listen to the flood of words tumbling
Out of locked jaws in – ineffable silence.

I shrugged and wished that I could understand.
Then said, I’m fine – too.

This was a poem I originally wrote in May/June 2016 while I was a student at Durham university. It was for a friend who I knew was struggling, but I didn’t know how to approach her to ask how are you? But then it hit me that there are things I’d like to tell others, to ask for help, to make connections – yet – it’s often safer to remain silent.