Friday, 16 December 2011


I lie more still than a corpse, deep down,
swaddled in peat, its face a tannin mask
shrunken to expose teeth. Eyes lost and staring.
A nose that flares for an anaerobic balm.
If my neck were noosed I could not be more still,
if my sacrifice had been made, my hands curled.
If I lay for two thousand years in this soft bed
pressed upon by peat above, pressed by peat below,
with all torment dead and passed away,
I could not be more still and calm.
I could not matter less. The bog bottoms
are a place of calm. A place of sleep.

Friday, 11 November 2011


Lest we forget, they said.
And not just forget the men in the mud,
but the men who found air and sea as treacherous,
and those who guided them down safe paths,
and those who shot, and those shot at.
And not just the men,
but the women who worked, and the women who waited,
and the men and the women who died at home,
sheltering in places that were not shelter enough.
Two sleeping children at Glebe Farm.
Those tiny, single losses, blossoming into a field.
No race, nor homeland, nor gender matters in death.
Lest we forget, they said.
And not just those who died, but those who are living still,
and those who are fighting still,
and those who are still waiting at home, with hope clenched in their hands,
and those who were left behind.

Thursday, 27 October 2011

Of Hades and Other Gods

It is a beautiful, clear day, and -
sometimes this Hydra has no head,
has no Achilles' heel.
The street lamps steal light from the sun
but cannot compare in brightness.
They are a whimper in daylight.
A whimper is my mind.
Helios rules us all.

Saturday, 22 October 2011


I would curl tight in my conch shell
and ignore their feelers and blind, feeling eyes.
I would curl so tight that my atoms would condense.
I would be an ammonite, tight on the ocean floor,
unfound until split by a geologist’s hammer.
I would be a fossil, shelved, doubtful as Darwin,
silent as the grave, and tight, so tight,
and trust would be a nonsense word,
and faith no more than letters arranged in a press,
and for all their instruments they would say no more,
than, this is a fossil. We will let it rest.

Thursday, 29 September 2011


Indian summer,
heat pressing down on the world.
Still sky, still air. Obsessions and
jackdaws calling and the sun
slipping through the curtains.

And even when the sun slips
away the heat smothers still.
     Thank god they’re asleep, we say.
     Thank god they’re asleep.
Their breathing after dark in the thick air,
bodies naked, curled like Inca mummies.
Their skin stifled by sweat.
My hands won’t stroke.
Three children, Russian dolls, equalled in sleep.
We’re not the only ones who were fools.

Peace settles in this afterlife.
The television is a crackle, the only thing that moves.
We try to glean a draught through windows agape.
We try to glean a harvest from the dark.

Saturday, 24 September 2011

Some Time Before Dinner

You cry. My head a ringing place.
Your face a freeze-frame of outraged red.
We walk and waltz and you hiccough with tears.

My body is a besieged land,
defences breached and the headquarters
inhabited by music.

In my head I am riding to Juneau.
In my head a strong man, arms like fortress walls,
holding me hard against his solid ribs.

My waltzing does not amuse you.
My tuneless singing I cannot hear.
I don’t know the words, the drums are a heartbeat.

Your hot hands cling still.
Your hands entrenched, scaling the walls.
You may conquer me yet, but my mind is lost.

Tuesday, 20 September 2011

Seven, Until Eight

We slip upstairs, into the half-light dark,
leaving the tadpoles playing in their pool.
Time to be together, to shade the lights.
My patience is a skeleton leaf, each vein
frayed. I pray for peace. The Middle East
has nothing on you. And I lie while
you walk the floor, and drink, and milk
hangs at the corners of your lips. Outside
the sky is aflame. The neighbours fight quietly.
Inside nothing but your feet on the floor,
your experiments with sounds,
your mouth a new toy. Outside the
deepening dusk as day gives way
to shadowed hills. You cannot fight.
You fall like an old soldier,
surrendered to the hours, at last.

Monday, 19 September 2011

Fifty Minutes, Without Adverts

Exercise is good for depression. Picking out words with poetry. Watching people move on the screen. Sleeping baby giving a surrender with his nerveless arms.

Deep breaths make light work of pain. On the screen they are spying and cycling, long ago but vivid. Actors are writers, writers act.

Doctors sometimes tell the truth. Eat red peppers and tomatoes. That may work.

Brain stutters. Baby's hands twitch. Don't wake yet. Don't wake. Let me watch my silver-hearted screen. Intrigue and the tiny movements of eyes. Six foot three and broad shoulders.

He is awake. Milk on his lips. Tiny yearling sounds. You would be surprised by what is in my heart.

He nests like a bird in the crook of my legs. Tumbles back into sleep. Sweet, hot breaths, short and fast. How will I roast a chicken by five?

The credits roll.

Tuesday, 9 August 2011

Of Virginia Woolf

You filled your pockets with stones,
a seed-sower sowing nothing,
nothing to cast away.

It must have been cold as you went down.
The bite of March water
must have brought blood
rushing in panic to your skin.
A gasp, perhaps,
as your chest submerged.
(Were you beyond gasping?
Were you so far behind the veil?)

And then the silence.
The hiss of water against the ears,
the stirred up mud against your startled eyes.
The water cold in your palms
and cold in your unravelling hair
and cold through your clothes
to your naked skin. And
the weight inside would hold you,
stronger than stones.

You stood, perhaps, for a time,
a naiad in the depths,
hair taken with the flow
until you sank full-faced and weary
into the soft silt bed.

Monday, 1 August 2011


By night I climb the scaffold.
Step, step, metallic uncertainty,
the slip-threat hanging, torch swaying,
an angler-fish bait hovering in the thickened air.
Its pool hits grass and rough-stoned walls.
Its pool hits slate, each square a sheaf pressed hard by time,
layering the roof, book-like, each a story in itself.

By night I settle my back on planks elevated
to greatness, a lifeboat up high,
mortar dust skimming my clothes.
Cold pins me down, bone-deep, empty.
I settle and stare, plunging deep to the world above,
the night sky a pool, a clarity hanging still,
a vertigo waiting to happen. Each star
a point of magnitude too great, too small,
to be believed. Each star caught, still,
a point in a scatter of billions, billions
of miles between us, too profound
to be likened to mundane things.
Ice-cold, they seem, remote and frozen
but each a maelstrom in itself, watching,
glitter-eyed, white-hot.

I think that making love in this
cold thin air, high up, pressed by stars,
pressed by scaffold boards powdered with mortar,
would be an explosive thing. It would
be a tumbling on the edge, quick, cold,
vital, once-in-a-lifetime. Impossible.

Tuesday, 19 July 2011

National Savings and Investments

You saved

Monte-Carlo tickets in a leather case,
the reminder of Princess Grace, and
your hurried, graceful attire.
You saved old man’s beard
as a memory of the time in summer
when afternoon turns to evening
and he kissed your hair from behind
and tucked fallen leaves behind your ear.
You saved the four-leaved clover
you found as a girl and
tucked away in a papier-mâché egg,
in those days when whimsies were made of paper
(and you saved the luck that it brought).

You saved

your grandmother’s tea-set,
and your father’s quicksilver sketches.
You saved the privation of your upbringing
in your bones and in your way
of squeezing the last from every foil tube
and neatly rolling the end, snail-shelled and tight.
You saved the memory of heat rising,
tarmac-scented, from damp Cardiff streets,
and saved the light where sky touches sea
in the irides of your eyes. Even near the end,
the light shone back. Even near the end,
all these things were saved, in you.

Saturday, 2 July 2011

Night Migration

Walking through the darkness,
a cotton ghost,
a blind-bird stick figure,
arms raised like the hopeful come for healing.
No light to guide you. No light at all.
The night is a softness that sucks in sound.
The night is a translucent cloth that allows in air
but not certainty. Not faith.
The carpet beneath your feet,
moth-furred beneath your shuffling toes.
The wall sudden. Hard against shoulder, hip, thigh.
The paper’s pattern turned to something cold.
The plaster unyielding behind thin skin,
the plaster all you feel, cold all the way down,
and the skin meaningless.
Your skin meaningless. The thud of your heart
and the slow, short intakes of breath
and the bones beneath your skin
all that you are.
Until you reach the ark of light.
Until you reach an island, and fall,
safe in my sleeping arms.

Saturday, 21 May 2011

A Manual for Growing Poppies

Who would have thought mud
could be so heavy?
Every step an accretion,
a bracket fungus bracketing boot leather
in hollow homage to Mercury’s wings.
Every step a drag.

Poppies will grow here, they say.
Poppies will grow,
lovers of bones flaked clean of their skin.
Fertiliser, we become.

Icarus is in the skies, falling in flames.
Icarus and lead, kissing,
out of their elements both.
Icarus falling in flames,
bringing heat to the lowly,
seeding the ground with metal.

Poppies will grow in the churned up soil.
Poppies will grow,
strong in our decanted blood.
Poppies cleave to disturbed soil.

The almanac is open at the seventy-second page.
The seeds should be sprinkled on freshly dug soil.
This is an expensive excavation.
This should not be.

Ack-ack traces the constellations.
Ack-ack lights wires between the stars,
and Icarus plunges in shame,
shedding limbs like feathers to fertilise the earth,
the smell of earth and blood and kerosene to keep us alive,
the fires to dry the mud a little, the fires to cremate the dead.

Poppies will grow here.
The living six foot deep
the dead sprinkled like seeds on freshly dug soil.
Poppies will grow here, they say.
Poppies will grow.

Thursday, 19 May 2011

The Plate

Even peas were a deadly enemy.
How could that be?
You crushed them, one by one,
Bugs under your fingernail,
Threats to be obliterated,
One by one,
Like the counting of an abacus
Like the ticking off of boxes,
Like the annihilation of an enemy race.
A slow calorie count,
Of calories unconsumed.

Monday, 2 May 2011

At Heart, We Are Chemical

We spin,
each nucleotide a handshake,
an irresistible cohesion.

We are made of lovers, clinging tight.
Bindweed. Smaller than bindweed,
more close, more compact.

If you were a universe, he said,
Each of my planets would circle your stars.

If I were a universe, my heart would be bigger.
I would be able to encompass hate without a twitch.

If I were to dissect myself,
and lay out my soul in a periodic table,
each square tablet would be a letter from home.

Each square tablet would hold a solar system
of electrons waltzing about their nucleus,
like lovers unbearably held apart.
A Mormon love, perhaps.

If you were stardust, dull as sand (he said)
I would love you just the same.

Wednesday, 13 April 2011

On Listening to Dawkins in the Early Morning

You sleep.

(we call it a sickness
      Encephalitis lethargica

You fumble through life,
reaching out and touching familiarities.
Reaching out and grasping the expected smoothness of an egg
and cracking it into a bowl –
    a convenient meal
    not a slow and delicate perfection of life held in your hands,
    not a perfect mathematical curve evolved to protect its contents,
    not the nascent realisation of amorphous amoeba
    hard-eyed lizard
    feathered thing that flies.

Wonder of wonders – you have created a scrambled egg
(well fed, we sigh)

You sleep through life.

(we call it a sickness
      Myalgic Encephalomyelitis      

Your anaesthetic glances are free of perception.
Your world is nothing but a slow waking
      and a drifting off again
      and our supercilious gaze
      glides in smugness over your satisfied life.
You glimpse faces through a half-closed mind,
Seeing mouth and nose and
  eyes as familiar as clockwork
No rods and cones eked from slow evolution
      from slow accident, from a gradual
      falling into place
      and working,
      and working better
Until the moment came that we
                                  (that our ancestral forms, we correct ourselves)
      could see.

We see  (brackets are not needed for this wondrous truth)

(we call it a perfection of vision,
      Bipolar disorder
      Clinical depression

The Victorians sit weighty on our shoulders
      and Hardy's startled fossil eyes stare at us
      as our fingers slip from the cliff face.
And Darwin watches in silent appreciation
      of what we have won and what we have lost
      (his daughter at his shoulder, his daughter at his shoulder)
      One kind of faith slipped into an envelope
      and lost in a bureau drawer
            (a newspaper clipping we hope one day to remember)
      and another kind of faith laid down for us to cling to –
      so that instead of seeing scrambled eggs and limpid eyes,
      we could feel our connection to the deep, dark days,
      and feed our dissatisfied minds.

Thursday, 17 March 2011

Of Cats

Cat – stole the night and kept it.
Ermine-furred, only a king would dare wear such a robe.
Cat – tiptoed on the edge,
on ledges and shelves,
on the knife-edge between dark and dawn.
Cat – shadow of Bastet – sleek –
but fixed to no pedestal, nor tainted by womanly form,
outlasted the Nile and perennial floods.
Cat’s eyes shine knowledge far older than fairy tales,
flickering fires of primitive times back into our minds.
Cat watched man scrawl antelopes on cave walls
(before we had a right to use that word).
Cat watched our crawling infancy,
our crude stolen furs and fumbling flint into flame.
Cat watched with a silent cat smile.
Cat waited, patient over its prey,
until we had reached its standard,
and settled in our laps, to sleep.

Tuesday, 15 March 2011

Dead Weight Mind

A world weighted inside my gut
pulling down,
a slow-poisoning ball of
iron, nickel – oxygen –
Oh, the surprise of oxygen,
that fast-burning catalyst
that lover of change,
hater that eats up all it sees.
Olivine, pyroxenes, garnet,
twisting like snakes,
live molten rock finding a nest
between the anatomy of ribs and gut.
My lungs are against me,
my heart wants to rest.
The tectonic world is too much to hold.
How long before it


Monday, 14 March 2011

On Japan

To make a poem of Japan is blasphemy,
unclothing the eyes of the dead.
It is rushing in,
a media horde overwhelming the land,
an impious parade to echo the news,
the shrill hysteria that shows us the ghosts of the living
in the hope that our emotions will swell.

Stay tuned, stay tuned, is their only litany.
Tour guides at a new Pompeii…
I don’t want stay tuned to be my catchphrase.

But – to say nothing,
and leave the wrack of the land,
the empty faces,
and the matchstick fragments of familiar places,
as if it were too horrific to voice
is an equal wrong.

So, on watching the surging water,
the roar of the sea like no reality or myth,
undoing the lives of thousands,
this must be said.

Your loss makes me weep for you.
If I could be in your land,
I would wipe the mud from your scattered possessions,
and drive in nail after nail to rebuild your homes
and hold your children while you work.
I think of those I know, and hope for them.
You will recover,
and perhaps you will make poems of your own.

Monday, 7 March 2011

Beginning with Entropy

It is the end of the Age of Starlight. The light is dwindling in the sky. Space seems vast now, pinpricked with the smallest of holes in the blanket. Space is the best word to describe the stretched and endless spaces between all matter. Space is the best word to describe what confronts her eyes through the triple-shielded screen every day.

Space is a series of pitfalls, she knows. Black holes and white dwarves, the sad conclusions of entropy, spattering the void between those last visible beacons of hope. Travel has become a question of navigating artfully past those unsighted traps. Journey times between stars have been doubled or tripled in the past million millennia.

Black holes are the pitcher plants of the universe, waiting for inconsequential bodies to slip into their depths. They make a mockery of time. They make a mockery of life itself. She hates them. Too many people she knows, travelling too fast, travelling without due care, looking away for a moment to dust a crumb from their sleeve or speak to a colleague, have found themselves slipping too close. Once a black hole exerts its gravity on a ship there is no hope. Even light cannot escape that un-satisfied throat.

What a death… What a death.

It is unimaginable to her – but that doesn’t stop her imagining a thousand possibilities for that dragging, weighted end. Sometimes she imagines a perpetual moment, frozen just inside the cusp of the hole. She imagines a life arrested, neither dying nor living, until the soul of the person trapped wrenches itself free, and, being insubstantial, escapes as a ghost into the airless void. At night when she closes her eyes, alone on her spherical craft, she sees them, silent and accusing, pressing against the tri-glass. They want to come in. She cannot let them in.

She travels, day in, day out – although days are largely meaningless in this time when time itself is skewed and there is no rising of the sun. She travels between the colonies, between those people who pushed further and deeper into the galaxy in an attempt, like flowers, to turn their faces to stronger suns. She brings them the objects they need – the objects that their own lands cannot give them.

This particular part of the enterprise sometimes seems pointless. Ferrying goods through a dying universe is like delivering the final meal to the condemned. A brief, brief pleasure, and then – what? What words describe the death of a person? What words describe the death of a universe?

People need to eat. That’s what they always say. No matter how close they are to the dying of the stars they still need food, they still need blankets to press out the cold from their arms and hunched backs. The children will still cry without milk and the aged will stare through milky eyes without their soft and comforting meals. Against the death of all time, the human stomach is a voice that is impossible to deny.

She sighs, and curls closer to the window, looking out over the vista of dwindling stars. A little of yesterday would do her good. Her finger hovers over the chrono-leap, but she can’t bring herself to press it. Questions are always asked when the logs don’t match the flow of real time. Besides, yesterday looked much the same as today in the void between the stars of Orion. It was just that yesterday she received the letter, and today there is nothing.

My love, I wait for you in a better place…

She moves the words through her mind as though she were thumbing them on antique paper.

My love, when you are able, come to me…

Such language is out of date, but she savours it anyway. She savours it more dearly because no one speaks like that in this time.

The arrangements are made, my love, and you will fit in here as easily as your ring fits upon my littlest finger. The arrangements are made, and I wait in a land with a full, yellow sun.

It may be a thousand years before she can answer his call, she knows. To him, in his place in the past, it will be no more than a day, or perhaps two. To her time will stretch about her like rubber pulled between the fingers of a child. To her time will be a vast and weary thing, as she travels and travels again with a hold full of bulk of which she never catches a glimpse. She will age and rejuvenate and age again in the perpetual waltz that she describes between the cold, stony spheres that these people have chosen as home.

But one day she will let her finger press that button, and she will find herself in a warmer place, with him, with air to breathe and the soft balm of a yellow sun, and grass beneath her feet. In the end, time is no time at all.

Saturday, 5 March 2011


The reflections of the seagulls were doubled in the supermarket windows. Each one spun a helix with its pair, ghostly in the glass. Less brash than the signs beyond advertising buy-one-get-one-free. The seagulls gave up their ghosts without expectation of payment.

The sky was lead crystal – heavy but transparent right up to the impenetrable white-out of cloud. It was almost impossible to tell how high the cloud-base was. High enough to not care about the scurrying of the world far beneath. Above there, perhaps, aircraft sailed over rolling moors of moisture, as blinded to the world below as he was to heaven above.

The seagulls epitomised this seaside town. Crass in their speech, unaware of the realities of the world, always searching for something new to be gained at very little cost. Their eyes were sharp, their beaks callous. But natural. The thought of nature sighed through his mind. The thought of a place that was not paved, echoing every harsh word back into the sky.

He would have to go in. He didn’t want to push into the brash interior of that odorous shop – but if he didn’t he would have to eat a strange concoction of oddities from his cupboards for dinner instead.

Carnal desire won out.


Back home, his fingers plucked out twinges of sound on his banjo strings.

He could not play. He had never been able to play. He held the instrument like a dying friend, and spent his tenderness on its taut strings, but he never garnered a tune.

Tomorrow, he thought. Tomorrow I’ll phone that number. Tomorrow I’ll arrange lessons.

Honestly, his schedule wasn’t packed. Not since Lucy had left. There was nothing stopping him from pursuing his dreams now. Nothing but his own procrastinating mind and the poverty of energy which had eventually driven Lucy away.

(Driven was a strong word. She had drifted. She had begun drifting the first day he forgot to answer her chatter while watching daytime TV, and she had finally drifted right out of range, and he had not the inclination to chase after her.)

Was there some way to jolt a desire for action back into his soul? Perhaps if he began by licking his finger and touching it to that hi-fi that always gave out a slight shock?

He eyed the stacked system, with its brushed steel façades, wondering. He could not stand the pain of inactivity any longer. He didn’t even have to get up from his chair to try this experiment.

He wetted his finger on his tongue, and then touched the metal.

It was more of a click than a shock – a click that resounded through every cell of his body, a small tap at the back of his skull. His finger had felt no more than a nip as the electricity kissed him. It made his eyes widen, momentarily.

He set the banjo aside, and tried it again. The result was identical. A snap through his body, a livening of the mind. A beautiful thing.


The second day dawned with a spark of that electric love still in his soul. He came downstairs before noon, for once, and touched eight fingers to the hi-fi’s façade, and felt its response. It was a spidering caress. It made that dark, painful place just beneath his ribs lighten for a fleeting moment.

He put his banjo in the understairs, and bought an electric guitar.


On the third day he sat with the guitar lolling on his thighs, stroking its strings. He still could not produce a tune, but the electric hum from the amp was pleasing. He felt its movement in the soles of his feet and in his thighs and the pit of his belly. He felt it in the slight vibration of the strings even when his fingers were not plucking at them.

When he touched the hi-fi for his daily loving contact, the plug sparked with a brilliant white, and the jolt in his body was harder. Angry, he thought. The hi-fi was angry.


On the fourth day he could resist no longer. Instead of touching his fingertips lightly to the brushed steel he knelt on the seat of his armchair, and brought his face close to the fascia. It was his tongue this time that did the kissing. He drew it about the volume knob and felt the response in a sharp and tiny explosion in his mouth. There was the scent of ozone, and a feeling of surprise in his scalp.

Enlivened, he picked up the guitar, and plugged in the amp.

The hi-fi’s blank surfaces watched him, sullen and silent.

There was no hum of electricity from the amp.

He flicked the switch, and flicked it again – and then noticed that the digital display on the hi-fi was dark, and that the table lamp beside his chair was dead.

He brushed his dampened fingers on the hi-fi, and it gave him no response.

As the intricacies of the electrical system had never been more than a mystery to him, he phoned an electrician.


Ellen came within the hour, and flicked the switch on the fuse box for him. She scrubbed the burn mark from his power socket, where the hi-fi’s umbilical entered the wall, and she earthed the plug.

She admired his guitar as she knelt on the floor in her overalls, screwdriver held between her teeth. When she could speak she asked him about it, and he confessed to the banjo in the understairs, and his musical impotence.

Ellen offered him lessons in exchange for his company. His silent manner was a blessing to her after days of fixing connections for lonely pensioners. His fingers were only a shade away from beauty, and were perfect for chords, she said. He found, eventually, that he could play her better than any guitar.

Ellen visited a website for Victorian antiques, and bought him an Improved Patent Magneto-Electric Machine for Nervous Diseases. The copper sheathes fitted his fingers like gloves, and the spark delivered kept him alive through the long day.

The hi-fi no longer kissed him in the morning when he stroked it with wet fingers. Ellen did instead.

Thursday, 3 March 2011


You took Pangaea,
dropped it in a clear glass,
as if it were nothing more than orange peel
and the glass, a bin.

Monday, 14 February 2011

Language of Love

If email had been invented
I would send you a thousand messages,
Each one longer than the last.
I would listen to the dial-up song
Chirruping my love.

If texts had been invented,
I would pick up my mobile phone
And (studying the keys for a while)
Press out ‘I <3 U’
And hope I had the credit to send.

If binary had been invented
I would send you, laboriously,
01101100 01101111 01110110 01100101
And let you examine the positives and negatives,
And hope (and hope) to be understood.

But in these dark days of ignorance and bliss,
Without Morse or Marconi standing by,
No flags or drums to flicker my words,
I will say I love you
And be content.

Sunday, 13 February 2011


She started at that corner of the wall. That bottom corner, down by the coils of fibre sloughed from the carpet, and the slew of soil that rained from the potted plants. A rubber plant, there was, and another – she couldn’t remember the name – and the cats trowelled soil over the edges like children on a beach.

She started at that corner of the wall, with her carefully filed nails. She picked at the tomb of paper that held the woodchip in, thinking of wasps’ nests, fragile in their dark fastnesses in the attic above. She liberated a chip and held it in her fingertips, and examined it. It was a pale and sad reminder of wood, too far removed from life to be linked to trees.

She dropped it, and thought of the dropping of blood. She thought of that slow, insistent dripping, the darkness of menstruation. The surprise of it on the bathroom floor at a time when she thought she was safe.

She dug her fingernails into another poor constricted swelling on the wall, and another, and another. She counted them – the blisters she had opened and the chips that she had set free. They lay on the carpet like tiny corpses – like the sad and swaddled bodies of the dead lying cast aside after a natural disaster.

She thought of the aching pain, and the bewildered fear that had set up home in her chest. She thought of kneeling on the bathroom floor with her head down and her eyes closed, and the inevitable drip of blood from between her legs. Tap, tap, tap, like the knocking of a tiny soul.

There were woodchips scattered on the floor, and too many scratched-away blisters to count. The wall must be clear. The wall must be clear… The wall must be clear. It was easy to take down the paintings and stack them like children queuing for the school nurse. Easy to pick, pick, pick, and to let the slivers of wood fall to the floor.

She thought of that odd and aching expulsion – that gratifying, horrifying feeling, and the blood on the bathroom floor. She thought of the advice of the doctor – flush it down the toilet. Somewhere in that mess on the floor there had been a life. She thought of chicks, their cocooning eggshells smashed and their bodies anointed with yolk.

She wanted a funeral.

Her funeral was a shoebox at the end of the garden, and a tree tenderly chosen, that would grow and grow in fertile soil.

The thought of trees brought tears to her eyes as she looked at the scattered chips on the floor and her ragged nails, and all the potential of life brought to nothing. She rested her head on the excised wall and the pressure of its scarred skin kissed her forehead with cold.

Tuesday, 8 February 2011

On Seeing Sunlight Through the Ikea Curtains

It was a square of sunlight,
luminescent through the cotton fabric
bringing the leaves on the curtains to life.
It was a raft to catch hold of –
an ephemeral thing,
a wafer of hope
ready to dissolve, sweetly,
on the pillow of my tongue.
It was a small word spoken –
spring, spring, susurrating in the air.
A promise of things to come.

Thursday, 3 February 2011

A Parody?

Good poetry, it seems,
Is lists.

Lists of facts.
I love you.
I despise you.
I eat an orange, peeled from
north to south, every Sunday.

Lists of randomness.
An eagle, broken in its nest.
A doll with its arms torn off.
The sound of a man swallowing,
Who has just murdered a cat.

Good poetry, is seems,
Is anatomy.
Ribs, white, cradling a bloody heart
Like a new-born child.
Love, composed of
Sweat, and
                      The final day of
      The Somme
burning in his eyes.

I shall insert      a caesura
(or should it be a caesarean?)
in which the child died
in which the mother reacted
as a 1950s heroine,
with emotion choked inside.

I should end with

A list.

1. Your fingers
2. The inside of an eggshell
3. Cracks between paving-stones
4. The flowers that grow in them
5. Beginnings
6. Endings.

Tuesday, 1 February 2011

Of Snow

Dihydrogen monoxide (when cold)
is a slow and steady thing.
A six-fold miracle,
hiding cruelty (hiding grace)
in microscopic smallness,
only realised as we watch it coalesce
to melt on a tongue, warm with life,
to shroud the grass and the roofs and the roads,
to pillow the pocked and fretted earth,
and make it smooth again.
To cover the eyelids of the dead,
indiscriminate as dust.

Saturday, 29 January 2011


You called it your dried salt cod,
and we laughed,
remembering Shakespeare and Milton
and all the crudities of being eighteen.
Strip lights on the ceiling
and the subliminal buzz
and windows wide as our ambitions.

And over coffee
you pinched a petal from the tulip
that stood at centre stage,
and dropped it from your fingertips.
And then your laugh stuttered a little.
And slipped.

Saturday, 15 January 2011


I can forgive you
for dancing the salsa with two left feet.
I can forgive you
your clam lips with their deep-sea silence.
But I cannot forgive
the slow dropping-off,
the descent into the abyss,
the seaweed you used as a gag,
the pale-fish mind and the blind eyes,
and the turning as if from the lights of Alvin
when you came back to my world.

She listens to her music...

Her skull is a cavity for notes and words
spread on the interior as cavemen daubed their homes
in dark, misunderstood days,
in delicate spindle-brushed times,
fragile as mediaeval glass that has been dug from the ground.

Her skull is a whispering gallery for slipshod tunes
A nave where the gossip is passed around.
An arching vault that captures the tremulous voices of
the aged and the lonely and those close to god and death.

Her skull is a dry gourd of curved bone
A drum-beat, percussion house
for natives to beat out their messages.
A hollow shell, a thrum of life.

Her skull is a sounding-house for new ideas.
Her eyes see only the interior,
Dark like Africa, full of new things.
The latest remedy to come from there is Bach.


Orange Days

In a morning of translucent golden light
you peeled your orange, piece by piece,
a globe in god's hands.
Each tear a continent drifting – 
discarded islands
of interest only to the ants.

With the soft mantle exposed – you smiled –
flayed flesh in your cupped hands.
(A kind of straw-tinted plasma wept
from the carelessness of your nails)
The scent of citrus in the air,
sharp and urgent,
a chemical weapon, a call to arms.

Your religion is your own –
you choose to sin.

The pious eat only apples.