Caron Freeborn

Caron Freeborn is autistic, perseverating on details others discard. A novelist until gradually she became a poet, her poems have been published in magazines and journals, both with and without her collaborator, photographer Steve Armitage.  After winning the Earlyworks competition, her first full poetry collection, Georges Perec is my hero, appeared in 2015 and includes photographs by Armitage. Freeborn regularly does spoken word gigs and in 2017, was commissioned to produce an hour-long performance piece in response to the Phantom exhibition at the Ruskin Gallery in Cambridge, curated by artist Jane Boyer.  She has since turned this into a two-hander with neurodivergent artist-poet Harry Dell.  With Presenting…The Fabulous O’Learys (2017), Freeborn also made a one-off return to prose.

Steve Armitage points a camera, and sometimes it works.  Although occasionally appearing on mainstream book covers, including some of the Silent Witness series, most of his photographs are a way of telling the surprising stories of neglected things.  The photopoems with Freeborn are not about one part illustrating the other but the relationship between views.

Five pieces

Photopoems by Steve Armitage and Caron Freeborn

& Poems by Caron Freeborn

 Hard copy (written on an Asda till receipt and found outside
the old Savacentre by Paul Klein)
Atlantas list:
Go for a moonlight strole
Stripclub together
Comedy Theatre together
Skinny dipping
Adventure weekend………………………….just for you
Kiss Simon/Richard or Adam anywhere
When you’re back…
Dress up as his fav tv/film etc character
& sex obvs…
Richards idea:
Spin the bottle / sex orgy night
Sexy underwear
Serve dinner (nothing messy…) on you for him like Samantha – Sex & the City
Strip tease
Cream? Chocolate? lick lick lick
Oral – NOT 69 – until you both…………
Let him …………….. in your bellybutton.  Only there.
A young list.  A list not weighed down with too-long, too-short years.
A list not of hope, not that, but of expectation of someone else’s
pleasure.  What would mine have looked like at twenty –
with its Goth eye-liner and Jack-the-Rippered stage scream -
to a middle-aged woman who’d been given it by her middle-aged friend?
Lick, lick, lick.
I stared until the ink ran into my eyes, running my tongue
over words that weren’t there ………………………..
Self harm
(I’d so longed to feel the need to scrape the blade down my thin skin)
Addiction to codeine
(So unlike the bladder-challenge of all the dope we hilariously smoked.  So part of all those novels I read randomly off the stall in Pitsea market)
Addiction to running
(Oh, I’d wanted, so badly, to want freedom, to want to be strong as a chased cat)
An Open University degree
(I wasn’t sure what that was, but late-night telly told me this was so something to be)
& sex obvs…
I hope she got her adventure at least. 
In yesterday’s Echo I read that someone with her name jumped out of Brooke House. 
You don’t come across Atlantas every day of the week.
 by Steve Armitage & Caron Freeborn
My name wasn’t Carol
so when you called me
up and asked for
her it wasn’t me
who said okay
and let you stick your
cock down her
throat with the snake
bite behind the grave
stones back at Holy Cross.

by Steve Armitage & Caron Freeborn
  Have you tried 
He lies in bed, heavy as hope, hair
greasy with refusal.  My voice
falsettoed cheeriness to bass aggression
Get up get up get up get up get up
Fuck off.  Mug.
I’m messing up his room with chips
from my organs so I sweep
out, text the school:
won’t be in today – his life is hurting.
It isn’t bacterial.  We’ll see in 24 hours
Have you tried a visual timetable?
­­In 24 hours he can barely raise his
fist for weariness
won’t be in today
and I remember the little boy
and I spoon grief down in great
greedy mouthfuls that spew
from my guts into the loo
I haven’t the heart to clean.
Have you tried talking to him?
Months of 24 hours pass and he can fit
his life into a matchbox, mixing sulphur
from the devil who picks my baby’s teeth
with spent matches.
How simple it is, to strike a life.
Have you tried CBT?
I have a dent in my forehead to match
the one in his – the only tenderness
between us in a year
this Glasgow kiss.
Have you tried love bombing?
At last, he is still.
His face a purple smilie
- Good job! -
body dense and stiff with the weight
of might-have-been
cold and stiff and purple
Get up get up get up get up get up
Never, never, never, never, never
Have you tried that sticker chart?

– Caron Freeborn  

A typical night out

The bartender reached into the seconds of silence
and pulled out her list.  Not sure what you want?
We’ve got white wine - Sauvignon blanc, Pinot grigio, Riesling –
red wine – Merlot, Malbec, Shiraz –
and of course we have a pink and two Proseccos -
or there’s lagers, ales – bottled or pump – or spirits – we do some nice
whiskies and a wide variety of fruit-based gin – and we’ve a cocktail list –
Cherry Pop, Mojito, Sex on the beach, Aperol Spritz, Espresso Martini-
That, I said.  I’ll have that.  Espresso Martini.
And I sipped through the noise, past the three floating coffee beans until I hit the jitters. 
I don’t drink coffee.
But she did all the words, man.  All the words.  All the choices.
I’d rattled her until our teeth shook
and she spat out words and words and words.
Hell, you can order worse
than the last thing you heard.
At the gig, later, sipping a Banana Daquiri, I felt a man try to catch my eye –
I think he wanted to pocket it, play marbles with his eye-catching
friends but I was throwing my gaze too high and fast for him.
Whore, he said.
You’re not normal, he said.
You’re a mong, he said.
I had to give those words eye contact.  People were laughing, men mostly
so I stared the words down.  Those words couldn’t imagine
how I was feeling.  But I could imagine how they were feeling -
spiky to the touch, greasy with blood
and sure no blink could erase them. 
The singer’s pitch was off, grazing my cheek with her panic.
I wiped it away.
Hauling home my schneid lack of empathy, I scored
many 8s into thumb-pad with my fingernail, grateful
I no longer spun to the wheels on the bus or touched my tongue
to my chin, that I could peel on the mask of typical plastic
and hide my stim in my pocket, where it could hang out with a tissue
my bus ticket two paperclips and a pen, and relax among its own.
The sky was inked with stars.  The sky knew how to be alone.
Then I got some chips.  Had the money pre-counted
and the order rehearsed.  But I couldn’t eat them -
they clagged my tongue just as I had to put right the song.
If you sing alone in a chippie, people don’t clap.  Or not much.
Look -
it’s okay, you don’t have to make eye contact -
it was a decent night.

  – Caron Freeborn

Here are peach roses because you once said you grew them in Australia
You never catch anything.
For twenty years I drop
nouns syllables temper
fumble over ruined fragments 
until one day I can’t bear
to see myself how you see me
broken awkward voluble
and I don’t come anymore
until this day.
Malignancy weeps into bags
as I remember how you’d bring
apples and pears and despite
those gifts make me pay.
When you leave there’ll be no
relief.  When you leave no
way of making myself right.
I would make you this poem
but you never liked my work.
– Caron Freeborn

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