Mental Health

Yrsa Daley-Ward

This poem is from her book - bone. Extended version out September 26th.

If you are walking down a aisle with a dim florescent hue
by the tinned fish and canned beans
strip lighting above, cracked tiles beneath
with the realisation that most things are futile
and get the sudden urge to end it all

Don’t stop. Call a friend.
Call your mother if you have one
and if you can stand her
listen to her talk about the price of canned fish and tinned beans
Call the speaking clock. Know that whatever time it says is the time that everything has to change.

Leave the damn aisle. Don’t go anyway where they sell sweets, chips, booze, fast love or lottery tickets
See that just outside there are people lined streets that are emptier than your insides, skies darker than your own
Look for yourself, because it never helps to hear from anyone else.

If you are one of those, running around town like mad people
People who jump from tall buildings
Buildings with glass fronts and not enough air
If you are failing to fix a broken story
If you have been cooped up for far too long in a very high tower in a dangerously low state
plenty of TV channels and TV dinners. Plenty of biscuits, chocolate desserts, cake and
plenty of wine but no love for miles and miles

If you did not get up for work today
If it has been afternoon for hours
And the silence is keeping you awake.
If you only remember how to draw your breath
in and out like waves of thick tar cooling
If you are wishing it later,
pulling the sun down with your prayers, leave the damn bed.
Wash the damn walls. Crack open a window even in the rain, even in the snow.
Listen to the church bells outside.
Know that however many times they chime is half the number of changes you have to make.
Stop trying to die. Serve your time here, do your time.
Clean out the fridge.
Throw away the soya milk. Soya milk is made from children’s tears. Put flowers on the table. Stand them in a measuring jug. Chop raw vegetables if you have them.
Know that if you are hungry for something but you cant think what then you are more often than not only love thirsty, only bored.
When the blood in your body is weary to flow. When your bones are heavy and hollow
if you have made it past thirty celebrate, and if you haven’t yet, rejoice. Know that there is a time on its way when the dirt settles and the patterns form a picture.

If you dream of the city but you live in the country, Milk the damn cows. Sell the damn sheep.
Know that they will wishing you well, posing for pictures on milk cartons or running over lush hills to be counted at the beginning of someone’s else’s dream
See, they never held you back
It was you, only you.


You want to listen to Yrsa's spoken performance of Mental Health. Her voice, accompanied by the soft keys played, will bring healing in many forms. You'll find all the strength to power through.


ORDER bone

Yrsa Daley-Ward is a writer and poet of mixed West Indian and West African heritage. Born to a Jamaican mother and a Nigerian father, Yrsa was raised by her devout Seventh Day Adventist grandparents in the small town of Chorley in the North of England. She splits her time between London and Los Angeles. Read quotes from her work here.

bone is published by Penguin Random House.


Source: Yrsa Daley-Ward, "Mental Health" from bone. Used with the permission of the author.

Image: Jamal Otolorin via i-D Magazine.