‘What the hell, I still play hide and seek’

after Rookie by Caroline Bird 

What the hell, I still play hide and seek, Jack and Jill are lethal now, they’re fetching a pail of poison,

I’m thirsty for damage, I can fix this, but I’m already downhill
I refuse to stop hiding, it’s not fun anymore, toys in
No one’s looking, no one knows I’m hiding, an escapee
“Fie, fi, fo, fum, I smell the blood of a broken one.” They attack.

I cover my eyes, a filter of black, so they can’t find me. All the prayers and violence couldn’t put me back together again. I scream into my pillow, I can’t fix this.

I’m alone with my childhood monster, still the space
under my bed isn’t big enough for both of us. I need an abyss.
So, we’ve moved to the closet. I know I’m only a misplace
thinking of myself, but I can pretend that my monster is
lonely. It offered me a rose and I might’ve passed it
on. But my only friends are a bottle of tears and this
feeling, a tissue, a tissue. I’m not crying wolf, I’m a misfit,
and the sheep now, the bullets are invisible. Shift my gears,
Are the hits silent too? I peep through the closet door
Far, far away, my night light is still on, have you any fears?
It temps me. But I’ve spent so long in the closet that I account for
all the monsters in the dark. A prisoner of your opinion.
I had a little lamb too, but I can’t see her from here.
One day, I’ll see her again. Abstain, I won’t be your minion.
Be nimble, be quick they say. Be like Jack. I just fear.
They don’t understand, justify your lies, you’ll all fall down
As I was born like this, I was born a big bad wolf, I should shout Runaway chanting, don’t eat me, you can’t catch me, so I wear a crown I’ll make it up the hill. A tissue, a tissue. Ready or not, I’m coming out.


‘What the hell, I still play hide and seek’ by Ariba Saeed was runner-up in the Forward/emagazine Creative Critics 2020. The competition invited 16-19 year olds to write new poems in response to work shortlisted for the Forward Prizes for Poetry.

Julia Copus, our 2020 judge, writes: ‘There is an enormous energy and a powerful imagination at work in Ariba Saeed’s untitled poem written in response to Caroline Bird’s ‘Rookie’. Using a skilful interweaving of well-known nursery rhymes and fairy tales, the poem maintains a strict rhyme scheme throughout its 28 lines while it builds a moving and compelling narrative of victimisation and escape, making clever use of the LGBT+ ‘in the closet’ metaphor.’