Metronome Features

A Poem by Caroline Bird (Nottingham Poetry Festival presents)

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Mystery Tears

A poem about hysteria

You could order them from China over the Internet.
The website showed a grainy picture of Vivienne Lee
in Streetcar Named Desire.
It was two vials for twenty euros
and they were packaged like AA batteries.

They first became popular on the young German art scene –
thin boys would tap a few drops into their eyes then
paint their girlfriends legs akimbo and faces cramped
with wisdom, in the style of the Weimar Republic.
It was sexy. They weren’t like artificial Hollywood tears,
they had a sticky, salty texture
and a staggered release system. One minute,
you’re sitting at the dinner table eating a perfectly nice steak
then you’re crying until you’re sick in a plant-pot.

Mystery Tears appears in ‘The Hat-Stand Union’ collection

My partner sadly became addicted to Mystery Tears.
A thousand pounds went in a week
and everything I did provoked despair.
She loved the trickling sensation.
‘It’s so romantic,’ she said, ‘and yet I feel nothing.’
She started labelling her stash with names like
For Another and Things I Dare Not Tell.
She alternated vials, sometimes
cried all night.

She had bottles sent by special delivery marked
Not Enough. A dealer sold her stuff cut with
Fairy Liquid, street-name: River of Sorrow.
Our flat shook and dampened. I never
touched it. Each day she woke up
calmer and calmer

Caroline Bird performs here on Sunday 28 April as part of Nottingham Poetry Festival 
Get your tickets here.