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Therapy

I sit across from her. She seems more tense than usual. I feel calm. Still, on the inside, steel. Metallic. I can taste it on my tongue. This is not how it’s meant to be. I am paying her. She is meant to be helping me. I was afraid. I am afraid. I thought she might solve it. Remove it. Excise it. Instead I have found a stillness inside my fear yet again. I am out of options.

She hasn’t solved it.

So here we are. She is nervous with failure. I am calm because I am certain. My fear is rational. Even though she says the thing I am afraid of does not exist.

I am making her nervous. She is wiping her hands on the sides of the chair. It doesn’t mark but those are some sweaty palms. I don’t revel in it. I observe it. I am indifferent except to the idea that perhaps now she will finally agree that my fear is rational, grounded. I look at her. I talk.

I know by the end of the appointment there will be beads of sweat on her forehead. There will be the scent of sweat in the room. Human sweat mingled with her scent. I haven’t figured out what it is yet, that scent. Maybe she has a little bottle in her bag. Maybe she keeps it in her bathroom cupboard in the house she lives in. On her own. She has a sister but no one else, their mother died when they were in their twenties.

How do I know that? Pictures on the desk. Odd things she lets slip, the questions she asks of me. Do I have a sister? Yes, estranged. Can we explore that? I haven’t seen her for a hundred years. She smiles at the things I come out with. The little nuances around time that give the game away. How much of what I say is true? I am not being honest even with myself. It’s one of the reasons she can’t help me.

The accusation of dishonesty hangs in the air.

If I refuse to help myself, she can’t help me. My flippancy reflects my insecurity. Can we explore that. Probably not. I do the sums in my head. It is definitely a hundred years since I spoke to my sister.

I look at the doctor and keep talking. Perhaps the good doctor will end up in some nursing home that is poorly managed where the residents are all malnourished. Perhaps she won’t end up there at all. Perhaps today is her last day on the planet. It has started the same way every other day has started. A rushed breakfast, a quick shower, make up applied in the car. Coats struggled into and out of, hung up on the coat stand.

The desk is neat and orderly. The house is neat and orderly. Her mind is neat and orderly. Nonetheless perhaps her day will end early, before dinner.

I am not cured of my phobia. I am still afraid. I make her more nervous every visit. I am no longer worth the money. She doesn’t remember a case this difficult before. I hear her words without really reacting. I just talk. She wants to consult a colleague. Perhaps she can palm me off to him. She does not say that but I know. I can smell the sweat. It fills the room. The smell.

She shifts in her chair. She always does that at the half an hour mark. I notice it every time. She is discomforted. I talk without saying anything of merit, of value.

I have this fear. Irrational. A fear of something that does not even exist. I have read a lot of books, sat across from a lot of therapists. This one, her smell. I am not good with perfumes. I don’t know what that scent is.

I keep talking. Talking. Talking. She keeps not listening. Now she is looking at the clock. Shifting in her chair. Again. For a moment I see it, she wants to be rid of me, out of the room. Maybe she will tell her receptionist to ensure that there won’t be time for another appointment. Maybe this will be our last time together. Maybe there is just 15 minutes more before I am cast out into the street once again. Alone to deal with my fears.

I can see it in her eyes. She can’t help me anymore. I am to be abandoned again. I don’t want it to be her choice. I want it to be mine. The scent of her sweat fills the room. Is she going to say it to my face. Tell me this is the last time. Consult a colleague. I am desperate. I need help. What is it that she doesn’t understand? My fear is rational, real.

I stop talking. Ready to listen. Ready to hear the words again. The same words. She tells me I am afraid of something that does not exist. That I don’t need to worry. She thinks really I am just afraid of myself. She says it, those words, you are afraid of yourself.

There is.

I grant you.

Some truth in that.

Slow thoughts play out in front of my eyes.

I stand up. Ready to leave.

She stands up across from me. We are of equal height. She reaches out her hand.

I grip it, trying to grip it for just the right amount of time at just the right amount of strength. To ensure there is no suspicion to the very end.

Our eyes meet. I look at her. I know these will be my final words to her.

‘Vampires are real’ I say, ‘and I am scared.’

I snap her neck and drain the body.

I tell myself its not my fault. She should have listened. Its not like I didn’t tell her I was a monster. Its not like I didn’t warn her. She should have better security.

I get my coat and leave.

Words that count

She counts the letters in the sentence
Nine, ten, 13 equals 32
2 times 16, 4 times 8,
3 times 10 plus two
With the brackets in the right place
 
It gives her time to think of an answer
She doesn’t have
Calms her mind
She doesn’t have-
13, 6 times 2 plus one
With the brackets in the right place
 
What to say- nine
Her mind runs blank
Blank, five
Except for the numbers
There’s nothing
But the words she might say
 
I was ‘in the library’, twelve
I was ‘at the shops’ –ten
‘At the cinema’ –eleven
10 times 2 plus one
With the brackets in the right place
 
There is no escape –fifteen
One of her favourite numbers
Fifteen- seven
Confession –ten
He is standing there frowning
 
Frowning -eight
Of all the days, why today
Her period is late
What should she say
She stares at the ground
The words aren’t there –eighteen
Not as much fun as fifteen
 
What is the difference between 15 and 18
Between six and five,
One three
A moment, a mistake
Somewhere inside a tiny heartbeat
Heartbeat-nine
3 times 3
No brackets this time
 
I’m pregnant she says-eleven!
With the apostrophe
She says it in her head or out loud
She isn’t sure
11 -a prime
His mouth falls open
But nothing comes out
I was at the ‘family planning clinic’- twenty
 
She smiles, goes upstairs
No words come to him
He doesn’t know what to say
Silence.
A countless silence
 
She can’t stay here
Its words that count

 

The man in the van

It was dark. And cold. I clutched my coat around me. I walked in the dappled fug of the street lights.

The van slowed down as it drove past me. I focussed on staying warm. Ignoring it. It went past. I turned into the side street. Hoping.

Yet somehow knowing.

I had been here before. It only had to go right at the bottom of the other street, right again and it would meet me where that street intersects with this side street.

I walked on. I could hear footsteps behind me but I daren’t look. They might help. They might not. I walked slowly.

I saw its headlights just as I got to the junction. The van turned into the street. It slowed down. It was right behind me. Its head lights following me. Tracking me.

There were houses on this street. I could knock on a door, ask for help. Say what. There’s a man in a van following me. I’m not sure what they would do.

He would simply drive away anyhow. Wait for me in the next street. My husband was at home but I could hardly call him.

I could still hear the footsteps behind me, perhaps they would help. Perhaps there was safety there.

Perhaps not.

I walked. He drove. Quietly, slowly behind me. I walked just in the beam of his headlights. Deliberately. I felt in my coat for my gloves. I tried to forget the inevitable.

I could no longer hear the footsteps behind me. They must have turned up the alley. It occurred to me then that I should have done that. Taken the long way home. The safe way home.

Then he said something. It barely registered. Something like, ‘come here love’ perhaps.

I was momentarily rooted to the spot. I turned to look at him but was blinded by the lights. I felt my feet approaching the van even though I didn’t really want to. There was an inevitability to it.

What was I doing?

I saw his face. Looked into his eyes. I wanted to see kindness. It was not in the gaze that met mine.

It was quick. The neck was broken, the blood drained from the body in a matter of seconds.

I reached in and switched off the vehicle and took the keys. A trophy. The others said I shouldn’t. It was too risky,  but had they read the conviction rates.

I told myself it wasn’t my fault.

He should not have been driving alone at night. He should not have driven in the vicinity of a woman. He had most certainly approached me. He was not wearing a scarf. In fact his shirt did not even have a collar. What century was he living in?

I found it hard to explain why I did not want dinner again. I hid the keys in a pot with all the other keys.

I tell myself one day I will stop. But I know that I will not.

The Sewing Club: Needles at dawn

When she first brought the sewing pattern
We were all aghast
I’d never seen a sewing pattern
From that far in the past

We knew there had been witches
You learn that as a kid
But this was a step too far
This can’t be what they did

We laid it out on the table
We read it through and through
What she’d said was right though
It was all completely true

At first it seemed a problem
That we could not surmount
But we are women of endeavour
Who make their actions count

And so we found ourselves
One dark and stormy night
Some digging up the frozen ground
While others held the light

I take my hat off to Agatha
And her skills with the knife
She made it look quite easy
She is a butcher’s wife

Then it went to Molly
Who’s a goddess with a pin
Lucy’s quite methodical
She was first needle in

We sewed through the night
We sewed through the day
There was not a scrap to spare
We threw not a jot away

We finished in the early hours
Of the second day
We held it to the light
We could not look away

We drew lots to see
Who was brave enough to dare it
Susan wouldn’t do it
So Lexi had to wear it

We put it in the cupboard
Where it could not be seen
No one else must see it
Until its Halloween

Mary was a seamstress
Mary was a friend
Her husband was a bastard
She met a gruesome end

As trick or treat drew near
We knew we must be brave
As Lexi put on her Mary suit
It was like she’d risen from the grave

We knocked on his door
We knocked very loud
Mary was a trooper
We knew she’d be quite proud

We stood all around her
Our Lexi/Mary doll
He stumbled out some words
He was a spineless troll

We all heard him say
‘I thought that you were dead’
‘Guess you were wrong’
Was all Lexi-Mary said

And with that,

Out,

Into the night,

He fled

We took Mary off
Carefully unpicked each stitch
They discovered him the next day
He was dead in a ditch

He died of a heart attack
So the coroner decreed
The coroners name was Eleanor
Each Tuesday at sewing club,

She sits right next to me.

If spirits walk

If spirits walk
And angels talk

Who are the voices in my head

If what they say
Won’t go away

Do I hear the undead

Its a constant stream
A walking scream

That plumbs the depths of my soul

Keeps me awake
There’s never a break

I want to feel I’m whole

I sit in quiet
But I can’t hide it

The noise won’t go away

I cover my ears
But I still hear

The things that they all say

One day I said back
Cut me some slack

And the voices shouted louder

But I said hey
If you want to stay

You need to be much nicer

So we sat and talked
While my feet walked

There is harmony in accepting

I found some peace
No need to speak

There is nothing worth contesting

Now the words I hear
Are mostly kind

It was a path
I had to find

Just to get to me

The words won’t come

A poem about writers block and ice-cream

I want my thoughts to soar
But they remain firmly grounded
Preppy little thoughts
Half formed and unrounded

They say nothing
Not of value anyway
My best ideas deserted me
Gone off on holiday

Yet I have to publish
As if there’s something I have to say
I try to focus on the grammar
But the commas want to play

They’re taunting me,
A game of musical chairs
They move around the sentence
As if no one really cares

They say write until the words come

But the words are in a taxi
Going around the block
Laughing at the window
They know that I am stuck

I can see their little faces
Shouting scorn at me
They’ll regret it later
I’ll put them in a spelling bee

What happened to my sentences
Where did the grammar go
Why are my words in a car
Bellowing  No! No! No!

I don’t have an answer
My thoughts are not my friend
Thank goodness there is ice cream
Ate a whole tub of it – in the end

The persistence of Cupid

Strangers eyes
Catch
On a passing train
They don’t see each other again

He zigs
She zags
They miss each other
By half a bag

She is early
He is late
Their paths never cross
There is no fate

She sits in her office
He eats at his desk
Even in the lift
They’ve never met

She swipes left
He swipes past
Even with a phone
They don’t have a chance

In a world of isolation
Cupid has it tough
Slings his arrows where he can
But its rarely enough

He sits on the steps
He will not admit defeat
He will find an answer
A way for them to meet

He strokes his bow and arrow
He thinks its meant to be
A way for one and one
For them to be a ‘we’

Time passes
She is hit by a bus
Comatose for days
She does not wake up

He finds it hard to sleep
Takes a lot of pills
He does the same
Never left a will

Somewhere Cupid smiles

In a strange twist of irony
The hidden hand of fate
They are buried side by side
It is never too late

Panic rising

Panic rising
Leaden legs
I hang my head

Breathing fast
I can’t get past
What the voices said

I’m not worth it

I know you’re speaking
But I can’t seem to
I can’t hear you

I just stand there
Sucking in air
At a rate of knots

I wish that I would go away

Just sink through the floor
I can’t control it
Can’t be whole with it

I am tearful
I am fearful
What would you do

Can’t you be me

Please don’t touch me
You hold on tight
To make it right

I take the pills
And try and will
The world to be ok

But I want it all to go away

I can’t live like this
As if all is well
But truth is hell

Would be a better place
I hide my face
I just stand still

As if the world will wait for me

I say that I am ok
When someone asks
I think fast

Because I cannot bring myself
But I want to say
Today I am wishing my life away

Yet your still here
Holding me dear
On the ground

I keep looking down
You keep lifting me up

I hope one day
You hope one day

That we meet

In the middle

The suits of old men

Olive shirt,
Dark green trousers
Jacket, brown tie

In this heat?

He hobbles towards me
Clack, clack, clack
Perhaps it’s a war wound

‘Not all of them’
The words ring in my head
Its how I was raised

I smile at him

Welcomed
He smiles back
The twinkle in his eye

Not gone yet

What does that twinkle mean
Cleavage
I don’t know

Him

What if to somebody
He is him
The one who did

It.

It could be so many things
A grope in the dark
An unwanted hand on the shoulder

Or worse

How can I know
Blue suit, Brown suit,
Grey suit, suited

In this heat?

Did he take photographs when no one knew
Put them all round the office
Was it him?

Once

Did he court Judy
Then marry Jane.
I am still smiling

Clack, clack, clack

He is getting closer
I want to turn away.
To yell and scream and throw things

For her sake

But its like armour
That formal attire
The suits of old men

In this heat?

Its how I was raised
I have no defence

I have no evidence

I doubt

And he,
He walks on by
Unmolested, unchanged,

Uncharged

And me,
Me, I walk on
I am undone, unstilled

Unsated.

By the suits of old men.

 

First draft

You can never go back
And write it again
It never comes out right
Unless its fresh from the pen

You can tweak it, touch it up
But it’s like paint on a wall
The changes that you make
They have to be small

Some days the words
They come out, they just flow
Sometimes they don’t
Its impossible to know

By all means re-read it
Look at what you wrote
But hesitate to change it
Its like patching a coat

You can re-sew the button
You can wash out the stain
But we all know the coat
Is never quite the same

The problem when you write
Is it’s a way of being heard
If you change it too much
Its like your words are being slurred

You need to have some focus
You need to find some peace
Your don’t need to be perfect
You just need to speak

You have written it down
You said what you want to say
Its ok just to leave it
Just to up and walk away.

Ten green bottles: Sating the beer gods

A man walks into a bar

There are ten green bottles on the wall
Hanging on the wall
As if the beer gods got angry.
He looks at them
Glad he is neither green nor a bottle
He gets a drink, sits down.
As he slides into his chair

One of the bottles falls off the wall
Smashes on the floor
No one notices.

He looks over
There is a man with pastry on his face,
smoking an old fashioned pipe.
He seems obsessed with what is on the screen
It is children in some town
He can’t make out the name.
H-something

Another bottle falls,
smashes on the floor
No one notices.

There is a woman roaming the bar
Selling bells and cockleshells
She says she grew them herself.
There’s also a rumour she sells maids
You can buy three in a row
She’s a pimp

Another bottle falls,
No one notices.

There is a distraught woman
Handing out posters for her lost sheep
No one has seen it
Although someone thinks they might have eaten it
Didn’t her mother serve lamb at Christmas?
No one will meet her gaze

Another bottle falls

There is a couple in the corner
She is battered and bruised
He is in a wheel chair and paralysed
He just keeps saying her name,
Jill, it was an accident
She inches further away every time.
She is going to leave him

Another bottle falls

The barman has bare feet
They are cut to pieces
From walking on the broken glass
When he walks out from behind the bar
He leaves bloody footprints on the floor

There is a man counting the bottles
As they fall
He is the statistician
Even gods have auditors these days
He is here to count,
He is here for the process
He is not concerned with health and safety

A woman comes in wearing hefty shoes
She sends the bleeding bar man out
And takes the bar over herself

Two bottles fall in quick succession
That’s not supposed to happen
Not even enough time to register
Although the statistician makes a grand gesture
A stroke of pen
As if to say,
I counted them both.

The man sips his drink
Outside a spider climbs up the wall
Falls, climbs again
Is eventually drowned in the rain
As a reward for his perseverance.
He is the last spider ever

Another bottle falls

There’s a shattered man with an egg shaped head in the corner
Soldiers fuss over him
But it is clear he is dead
They are fussing over a corpse
Trying to hold his brains in
where his head is clearly broken
They squabble as an eyeball rolls down his cheek

Another bottle falls

There’s a short plump woman
She is dressed like a teapot
She is on the cover of Vogue
Diversity in fashion
Another woman sits in the corner
She is plaiting the tails of three mice.
Their dead eyeless bodies in front of her.
A little trail of blood oozing out of each one
where the tail was severed.
She is smiling, its her hobby

Nursery tales are misogyny except

There’s a man,
A full grown man
Curled up in the corner
Enjoying the sensation
Of fingering a pie
Is that a plum or a cherry
Everyone looks away
At his trousers splayed open

The man who came into the bar sips his drink
Scratches his head
Wipes the dust from his shoulder
Puts his hands on his knees
And taps his feet together
As if he wants to go home

He does that all again

Head, shoulders, knees, toes,

And as he drains his glass, again

Head, shoulders, knees and toes

And then another bottle falls

There are no more bottles on the wall

The beer gods are sated

The man gets up and goes home.

A moment with the darkness

I look at the body. Everybody always said he was so full of life. Bubble. Pep. Verve. No one can believe he is dead. No one ever said I was full of life. I have always assumed that meant the flipside.

That I was full of death.

Perhaps in looking at him lying there dead, I am looking in a mirror. Is this how I look to the world? I get that these are thoughts I should not be thinking at a funeral. No one seems to have noticed I am here. You looked right through me. Its as if I am walking among the dead all the time. In your defence I want to be overcome with grief .  

But I am not.

I want to sob loudly and profusely. To let it all out. To do the occasion justice. But it is not my way. I have shed a tear. Just the one. A restrained one. Yet I tell myself a meaningful one.

I am stricken, in my own way.

If he sucked the juice out of life in his 28 years, I have sipped slowly in the corner in the dark. Where no one saw. I am not bothered. Everyone is wearing black.

Except for me.

I have chosen deep purple. Odd because I always wear black. I needed some way of differentiating. It is the most colourful I have been in awhile and I doubt my mother approves.

My mother never approves. Approved.

The word approved comes out in my head. Quiet tears streak my mothers face in an endless stream. They are all for him. I know what they think, what they are all thinking. Why take him? Why the beautiful golden child? I don’t pay attention to the end of their sentences. I want to scream -perhaps he got bored with your adoration? 

Your endless adoration.  

Perhaps he liked me most because I thought he was at best ordinary and at worst pathetic. Perhaps that is why I was there when it happened and you weren’t. You were somewhere else. Even now I think you are looking right through me.  

Instead of at me.

It is true he would have brightened this room in a way I never will. I walk with the darkness like a cloak. He walked in the light like the sun. It occurs to me that in that moment, the one does not exist without the other. The light without the dark.  

And then I realise the truth.

I look around me again. My mother hated me wearing black. Today of all days she dressed me in purple. I see again the stream of tears streaking down her face. Just for him? And you looked right through me. You didn’t see me. And now I hear all the words. I finally listen to the end of the sentences. Why take the beautiful golden child-too.

Two.

Two caskets. Two bodies. He was full of life, light. He has dimmed and died. I am full of death as always. Unchanged. I stand here. Unseen. Only I see now.

In some worlds the light does not need the dark.

Death changed him. It did not change me. I am gone to my corner to sip at my straw for eternity. As always, no one notices.

Crush: A romantic tale

She sees him
He sees her
Eyes meet
Across
A crowded room

Crush

She’s too shy to speak
He can’t find the words
He sees another girl
Gutted
She is gutted

Crushed

It’s years later
In a cafe
They meet again
Hackney
Over a coffee

Crush

He works in a bank
She won’t be interested
He gives her his number
Anyways
She doesn’t call

Crushed

She leaves the dimwit she’s with
Picks up the phone
Puts it down, calls him
Eventually
Together now, at last

Crush

Married, kidded, bored
She wonders what she ever saw
Chicks, clowns and housework
Drudgery
Endless bloody drudgery

Crushed

In a supermarket
A stranger, a possibility
She hands out her number
Unexpectedly
At her age

Crush

There’s just a note
About the cat
Nothing else
Silence
No explanation, she is gone

Crushed

Their daughters wedding
Years later
That old feeling, there
Still
They are together again

Crush

Driving home together
They take the bend
Too fast, too late,
Truck
In the way, head on

Crushed.

The great unwritten novel

They have just released a list of the best books of the century.

My book is not on it. In their defence my book is neither written nor published.

Still I feel a pang of disappointment at an opportunity missed.

We are only twenty years into the century so there is still time.

And being honest I think their list is a little premature.

Although perhaps after this point we are stopping books.

They have heard that on twitter and I have not.

Because I was not on twitter that day or didn’t follow the right literary society.

Perhaps I should be running out and stock piling books right now because not only are there no more to be written there are no more to be printed. It might be about the trees.

It might not, maybe there’s just a government decree.

I look around at all the books I own.

Will this be enough? I look at my unread pile.

It will be enough.

It will certainly be enough.

What is going to happen to all the authors?

Some will be ok, some have made enough to survive but what about ones like me who haven’t churned out their great novel yet?

Or maybe they are going to rationalise?

Perhaps everybody is allowed one novel apiece and this was simply the last list where it was a free for all. Perhaps right now they are allotting single novel slots and I am missing out. I need to follow twitter more closely.

I sit looking at the list of great novels. I am unsure what to do. Unsure who to call or where to turn. What is going on out there? How can I find out? This was the very morning I was going to start my great novel. And now I have no idea what to do.

This might be the end of my writing career. The one I haven’t started yet. I need coffee. I look nervously at my phone. No notifications. Silence. That is probably because my notifications are switched off. Should I switch my notifications on? How do you even do that? I look at the computer screen. I bring up a new word document. There is no way you can make that phrase sexy or interesting. That isn’t just me, its just not possible.

I stare at the screen.

At the blank page.

Mild panic. I don’t know what to do.

I am only certain of one thing.

Today is not the day to start my novel.

I go downstairs and have that coffee, congratulating myself I have not wasted time on writing anything.

I never met a poet

I never met a poet
But its what I want to be
When I look in the mirror
I’m not sure what I see

I never met a rhymer
A person good with words
There’s a whole community
But my voice is never heard

I come from far away
Where words aren’t written down
No such thing as wordsmiths
Tiny little island, tiny little town

I never met a poet
I’ve waited my whole life
To meet someone who’s called that
To see what they are like

I sit quietly in cafes
Writing notebooks full
words no one ever reads
And no one ever will

I’m not sure how you do it
How you call yourself that word
Do you have to write a book or not
Does it matter if you’re heard

I never met a poet
I probably never will
My time to write is limited
And mostly its uphill

I never met a poet
But I hope I do one day
I hope they look like me
And I know just what to say

Today you have been lucky
It was your lucky day
There is something I should have told you
As you turned and walked away

When I shook your hand today
Although you didn’t know it
When I shook your hand today
Today, you met a poet.

What colour are the tears you cry?

What colour are the tears you cry?

Are they rainbow tears
for the people you accepted
Or flecked with dark
for the people you rejected

Do they stain your cheeks
with tracks of blood
Are there dark streaks
Like tracks of mud

Do you even feel it
Do you wince in pain
As I hear you shout
Your hate again

And then one day I see you cry
And the water comes out plain
They don’t hold your memory
You cry the tears of rain

If you’ve never spoken the truth,
you don’t know when you lie
If you never feel the sadness,
you can never really cry

Consequences have actions,
actions never sleep
The run right through your veins
Staying buried deep

You know that death will come for you
Even if you don’t know when
What colour are the tears you cry
What if you live again?

Can you re:

I don’t think we can re-connect
I’m not going to let you call me

Names again

I’ve been trying to reduce
Open the door
Get the apples out
And squeeze them again

I am going to renew

Reform

Re-form
Into someone else
Into something different

I will wake up tomorrow
And be anew

A new what

I can reinvent
Look at a light bulb
And do it better

Re-in-vent
Breathe in, deeply again
And then exhale

I can regurgitate
Tell you all the lessons
The person I was yesterday has learned

I can remistake
Do those mistakes over
And then

Relearn, re-understand

I can repurpose
Find my fulfilment somewhere else now
A different way

Re-happy

I can renew
Like a library book
Being read by someone else every week

Being reread, over and over again
I can recover

Dress myself differently tomorrow

I can repose
And ask the same question again
And again

I can reword,
Make all my sentences over
And I can reawaken every day

Refreshed, reinvigorated

Re-alive

I can re-imagine and re-be
Just who I am
and who I want to be

Eyeball to Eyeball

If you could take your eyeballs out

And get one to look at the other

What would you see

Looking into your own soul

Half seeing the other half

Would each one be surprised

What if there is nothing there?

When you clap your hands

Do they come together?

Or are they coming apart?

Simultaneously pushing away from each other

Is one hand quicker,

More cautious,

More fretful than the other

Does one arrive before the other

So the clap is not quite in the middle

Is one stride longer than the other

Does one leg know its better

Stronger, safer, more sure

Does your heart lean to the left

or the right

Does it hover in the middle-undecided

When you put your feet together

Does one quiver in fear

Is one foot afraid of the other

Does your body know things that you don’t

Is it comfortable with itself?

Are you sure?

Gap Girl

They are arguing!

Pulling.

Apart.

She sees it.
Watches it.

Slides into the gap.

Slips into the blankness
Where their friendship was.

Fills it.
Folds it.

Holds on to it.

Wraps herself in it.
Expands out to form herself in it.
Waits patiently.

Loiters there in the space.

She knows.

She will be squeezed out the other side
As they hedge nearer
Mend their friendship again.

If she had to describe herself
She would use the word ‘space’.

She does not describe herself.

She sees them talking again.
Knows its time

Feels their happiness
Butt against her nothingness

Can’t imagine.

In her wildest dreams
How you come to deserve either of them.

Bent Forward, Nearly Double

Bent forward, nearly double
Her eyes on the ground
As she pushes the trolley along
The pity aimed at her

Is almost palpable

But she doesn’t notice it
She smiles into a pond
None of us can see
It is spread out before her

As she walks

What a life
The things she knows
Things like
You don’t need beauty to get laid

All that over done machismo

About how you should look
All of it ignored
What counts is how you feel
Inside

Moments she has known

The moment that he realised
he didn’t know her anymore
She saw it in his eyes
That self possessed woman

Who was no longer possessed

Raw, primal sex in a park
When she was young and
they were hidden in the dark
Faceless, nameless carnal

Primal

Cigarettes in theatres
Ice creams in the sun
Feet in mile after mile of sand
The joy of a first flight

When flying was new and rare

The first time held in by a seatbelt
Instead of lolling in the back
The first time fingers tapped a keyboard
On a computer with a screen

Swiped a phone

She smiles into the pavement
Their pity is palpable, touchable
But she knows better
Her knowledge is endless

They think the world is moving so fast

But truthfully it spins more slowly than ever
What has it done in her lifetime
Flight, motorways,
Computers, colour television

Phones. And oh, oh the clothes.

Bent over, nearly double,
Brown skirt, brown jacket
Secrets hidden in shades of beige
And gilded, patterned, darned with age

Ah the life she has led,
She smiles into the pond
Hopes their lives are as bright as hers
As she pushes the trolley on.

The Last Carriage

We of the last carriage
Every jerk, slide, push or pull
We, in the last carriage
We get to feel it all

We dawdle down the platform
Frowned on by the guard
Last through the barriers
Searching for our card

Warriors of the feel good
Into work a little late
Stopped for a coffee
Chatted to a mate

We slide into our chair
Around about ten past nine
You should be glad for us to be here
Because we’re not all the time

We probably spent ten minutes
Tizzing up our hair
We look at the computer
As if there’s something there

Then we chip a nail
And leg it for the loos
We probably come back again
Around about ten past two

And then its nearly time to go
Yeh, officially its five
But ten to four is close enough
Work less and stay alive

We have no regard
for your silly stupid rules
The ones that chain you to the desk
They make you look a fool

We had a ticket for the train
At least we did last week
It’s a season ticket
Oh it might have been, I think

There’s a reason we haven’t got it
How it came to be lost
Yeh for the price of the fine
Not bothered by the cost

Here in the end carriage
It’s like a second home
Everyone is someone
And no one is alone

Sometimes its like the train
Is going to jump its tracks
But we all just chill
We just stay relaxed

We look on with scorn
At those early carriage prats
At the man with the fold up scooter
But really –in solid black

An act of half rebellion
can’t make you woke
We in the last carriage
share another joke

The conductors never make it
Last carriage, their place of fear
You should think about joining us
We’d love to have you here

The second song

I could listen to the album
The whole day long
There’s just one problem
I don’t like the second song

Its meant to be soulful and slow
But it doesn’t matter what I do
I just don’t like it
I don’t like the tune

I’ve listened to it often
Again and again
But I don’t know what its doing there
It doesn’t quite fit in

I feel I should write, tweet or comment
But I don’t know what to say
I just want the second song
To go the hell away

But something compels me
To listen every time
Just in case I’ve missed something
That might make it right

He seems to slur the words
I’m not sure what he says
I don’t like the second song
But I like all the rest

I know I should just skip it
I know I simply can
But why did he put it there?
What a stupid man!

It ruins the whole album
It ruins my whole day
I don’t like the second song
And yet, I let it play

It’s time to change jobs

As I lie in bed, I feel my body.
Literally I touch it.
And feel it.

Atrophy.
Petrify.
Modify.

Tree.

I have been in this job too long.
I creep out of bed in the morning, a mess of vines
Veins fading into woodwork.

I stumble to the train
Out of the station to my desk
And then I stupefy.

Horrify.
Edify.
Terrify.

Tree.

I morph into something bigger. A large trunk, some branches. I cover my whole desk. I root myself in the floor. Clasping the carpet with delicate filaments searching for the moisture left by sweaty feet.  Leaves. The computer gets absorbed in. Seen and then unseen. As if nature is claiming me back from all this technology. The lights flicker on the screen inside of me. Flicker again. Flicker out.

I thirst. In the bright sunshine. Through the glass in the window. I thirst. I am a tree. I wait for the water. I never knew how thirsty a tree could be. Not hunger, just thirst. I see people work around me. I grow outward and upward and no one knows what to do. I hear them talking, feel the voices vibrate in my leaves.

And then, then it rains.
I see it splash on the window.
Sweet delicious water. I grow.

Up.
Up.
Up.

Through the ceiling.
Heavier and heavier on that floor.
I drink my fill.

I teeter.
I totter.
Teeter, totter.

And then I crash downward with the weight of it all. I work on the seventh floor. Down I plummet through six floors of masonry. False floor after false ceiling after false floor in a false world. I fall down, down, down and the building crashes around me. I can hear the vibration of people screaming in the rain.

I teeter.
I totter .
I let myself fall sideways.

Onto the pavement.
All over the road.
Then I feel myself again.

Literally, I touch my arms, my legs.
I am no longer a tree.
I sit on the pavement.

I am wearing yellow.
It is sunshine again.
I look around me.

Chaos.
Destruction.
Devastation.

I get up and walk away.
I guess I really needed that.

The Scent of Nadia

He slides into bed beside her
She feigns asleep
She wonders what he is thinking
He’s brushed his teeth.
The minty smell of toothpaste
Does he think that is enough
She inhales, exhales, inhales
There it is.
A waft, a wave, that smell

The scent of Nadia

He lies there.
He wonders if she is actually asleep
She must be asleep
If she were awake
She would smell it
The vision of bodies tangled in the night
Hovers above him
He inhales, exhales, inhales
There it is.
Holding tight to his skin

The scent of Nadia

Nadia sleeps alone
Solid, physical, in a bed far away
Dreamless sleep
The room has no smell that she can sense
She sometimes feels the loneliness
Of his dishonesty
In the morning she gets up
Her head clear
She inhales, exhales, inhales
Moves the bottles around in the bathroom
Cleanser, moisturiser, perfume

The scent of Nadia

They eat breakfast at the same time
At the same table
Each one is alone
Each one showered, shaved, perfumed,
Ready to go out into the world
As they eat, he wonders
Is that a whiff of suspicion
Does she smell a rat?

She does not smell rats
She stares purposefully into her cereal
If cereal has a purpose it is to make breakfast longer
It needs more milk
She quite likes the perfume
Wonders if Nadia likes women,
Inhales, imagines, exhales, swallows, inhales to hide it
Tries to place the smell, Its quite floral, Daisy?

He wonders if she senses it.
She senses it and wonders what it is.
Nadia stands in her bathroom
And dabs it on

The scent of Nadia.

Literal Yoga

And the yoga instructor says cactus arms
I look at everyone else
It is clear no one is thinking what I am thinking

In my head, my arms are turning green
Spouting giant spikes
I am at a children’s party,
Walking through
Popping all the balloons
Adults look on horrified

The yoga instructor’s voice is calm, relaxed

But I am in the ocean
Swimming with my cactus arms
Spiking fish
Deflating toddler armbands
Parents are yelling and screaming
As small children drown

I don’t find yoga relaxing

Then we’re on to cat- cow
A cat? A cow?
A cat cow? What does that even look like?
Is it a really furry cow that meows?
Or a really large cat that is particularly stupid?
Seriously what is a cat cow?
I’ve never seen one,
Does the milk taste the same?

I find yoga conceptually difficult

Then there’s downward facing dog
Why is he looking down?
Why does the dog have to be so sad?
The poor dog, in a downward spiral
Head on its paws, chastened, sad
When it should be chasing its tail
Instead its caught in an endless downward spiral
Only depression awaits it

My friend says I take yoga too literally

Then there is a rabbit and a camel
And a dolphin
A whole bloody zoo of animals
All of them captive to the human spirit
There’s one legged pigeon
Oh poor one legged pigeon
How one legged pigeon suffers
I have never done two legged pigeon

I recently went vegan
And felt I had to give up yoga

The Captive Page

And so there it is
A blank piece of paper
Pure and clean and expectant

Waiting

Will this be the piece of paper
where the best seller scrawls her words
Or will this simply be a list of

Groceries

A note to a lover,
a wife’s final words as she walks out the door
‘You should have washed up more often’

Arsehole

Is it to be folded, crumpled
Will it get the soft sleep of an epoch
Breaking down in the rubbish or

Recycling

The harsh teeth of the retreatment plant
Gnawed by fraught machines
Pulped, pulped again, reinvented.

Reworded

Does it still know that it was once a tree
Tall and strong and proud
Before its feckless enslavement to human thought

Scarred

By a pen across its silky surface
Marked forever
With blue and black and red ink

Humans

As the first letter forms on its bright page
Does the writer know
Is she, does she understand

Culpable

For a moment does the echo of a tree falling
Does it make her pen wobble
Does she hold firm and write on

Guilt

Do fingers of guilt
Lick the sides of her ideas
By that, is her ocean of thought

Limited

Free the page! Let it flutter in the wind. Let it fly til it finds where it wants to be. Let it be free of your words and your ideas. Unshackle it from your need to express yourself. Let it float down your manicured street. Free. Let it go.

Those are not my words

Carefully drafted
Beautifully crafted

Those are not my words

Your ears ringing
Your heart singing

Those are not my words

Lifted up, soaring high
Big emotions in the sky

Those are not my words

My words are tiny, small
They take up no space at all

They’re not heartfelt prose

More a little voice in the dark
Hiding behind a bush in the park

When they see someone they know

A tiny little, a very small sound
Held close tight, to the ground

When I walked past you the other day

A murmur, a ripple, a hum
A fading heartbeat, not a drum

You didn’t notice me.

Or my words.

Where is Margaret Gilbert?

Where is Margaret Gilbert?
I heard the tannoy say her name
There’s an empty seat next to me
On this over-crowded plane

I feel like I am royalty
I have space to spare
Where is Margaret Gilbert?
There is no one in her chair

The doors are locked for take off
She has arrived too late
Its like I am a rock star
With a model on a date

People they are staring
It is too good to be true
I’m on this flight for hours
Not with one seat but with two

I can stretch my legs out
Fling my arms around
Distribute my belongings
All along the ground

I can have the arm rest
I can have it up or down
Who cares where the head phones go
There’s no one else’s sound

I can use the toilets
Leave my tray table down
No climbing over a body
I can really move around

Where is Margaret Gilbert?
She never made the plane
Perhaps she died en route
Dead, so I am sane

Where is Margaret Gilbert?
I want to shake her hand
She gave me 14 hours of peace
Before I had to land.

So I buried the dog…

You must make the time to write
That’s what you must do
Meanwhile the dog has died
And the kids have the flu

So I buried the dog
Muttering some verse
The youngest is in floods of tears
The words were rather terse

The oldest needs school uniform
And something for a play
I haven’t seen the middle one
Since the start of yesterday

There are 5 loads of washing
Sitting on the floor
The machine packed up last week
It doesn’t work anymore

Sometimes I just sit and stare
At the dishes in the sink
I really need to wash them up
I hope its why the kitchen stinks

That’ll be the phone
I can’t believe it rings again
Thank goodness it’s the middle one
Pick her up from a friends

I’ll have to leave the oldest
To watch the youngest play
I’ll put dinner in the oven
It can burn while I’m away

If at exactly the same time
I could iron as well as drive
There would be a small chance
The kids would look alive

I know you think I’m talented
I hear what you say
Its just I’d be a lot more talented
If welfare took the kids away

Eaten

He looked at his hand. There was less of it today than there had been yesterday. He had bound the empty skin of one toe to the next one this morning, but his left hand seemed intent on disappearing. He knew what it was. All those metaphors. All those years. It was physically possible it turns out. He laughed quietly to himself as he sat in the lounge. All those doctored photos. What else could explain it.

He sat there without the TV on. In the darkness. Listening. He could hear the neighbours, not easily. Just the odd bump to break his silence. He hated the neighbours. They were from some place else. He wasn’t sure how much else, but some place else. He felt his hand contract as he sat there. Felt it shrink and shrivel as rage coursed through him. They had no right to be there, those neighbours. The people who ought to live there, ought to be from here. He wasn’t sure what that meant.

He couldn’t articulate it but he could feel something gnawing away in his fingertips, eating the ends of them. It was so visceral he looked down as if he might see a rat there chewing the end of his hand. There was no rat but still he could feel it. The erosion of his self as a physical entity.

His rage was all consuming. He sat there listening for more bumps. A car door closing in the driveway across the road. Who were they? They didn’t belong here either. They never spoke to him. He had been certain to ensure that never happened. He had thought about putting something through their letterbox to tell them to go away.

The children two houses down were particularly noisy. Bad parenting. She worked. What could one expect. He went to bed. All night, he could feel it eating at him. His arm. He couldn’t lie on it. It was so uncomfortable. He wondered if he opened his eyes his arm would be completely gone.

He swore he could feel his internal organs shrinking each time he slept. His stomach caving in. He daren’t even walk to the newsagents to get the paper anymore. There were too many people not from around here. Too many people who did not belong here. His face was worn and tired from glaring and leering at women who let their breasts hang out of their clothes. It disgusted him.

He raged in the night and still he could feel it. Travelling around his body, eating wherever and whatever it felt like. He was filled with it, with the injustice of these people filling up his world, there refusal to live by the rules that he set. Did they not know that once he had been an engineer. He woke in the morning, more tired than when he went to bed. He had breakfast, the same breakfast he had eaten for 40 years. He looked at the left arm, the hand hanging off the end.

He know longer knew how to stop it. The hatred was eating him from the inside out.

Things Shakespeare never knew

He is armed.
She is disarming.
It is not a match.
She is not Romeo.
He is not Juliet.

A child cleans her shoes in the kitchen.

Boozy jokes and sweaty hands.
He is nervous. She is numb.
Her skin is stretched over her skull,
high ponytail and the angry makeup of a Scottish queen.
She feels empty inside.
Macbeth, Lady Macbeth, Banquo and friends,
Slump at the bar.

The child bought the shoe polish herself,
Because Mandy said, and Mandy’s shoes are ever so clean.

He is inside of her.
Yes, No, No, Yes.
She cannot remember.
He does not care.
He is Ophelia floating down the river,
Hair unkempt, breath stinking of fermented hops.
She is Hamlet, at the point of death,
Toby or not Toby?
Was that his name?

The child scuffs the polish over the dirt.
Wonders why it doesn’t work.
How do Mandy’s shoes get so clean?

She saw him again.
He was in the same room again.
He did not see her.
Could not see anyone clearly,
Through the drunken haze.
She drinks some more.
He drinks some more.
Iago serves at the bar.
Desdemona and Othello
Are blind drunk,
Stabbing each other in the dark.

The child throws the polish at the door.
It falls open, speckles black on the floor.
Mandy’s house has clean floors
She leaves it there and goes upstairs.

Dad sleeps in the street.
Cleopatra,
The streets are an asp.
Mum sleeps on the couch.
She dreams of a man in uniform who can save her,
Antony.
An endless drunken stupor,
With the TV on and the towels unwashed.
The post is covered in soot this morning.
They don’t have a fire.
So that is not possible.
She wonders why,
Through hazy eyes.

Their child looks at her newly cleaned shoes,
Shedding black spots on mildew carpet.
She is cold, she is hungry.
Mandy with her nice uniform and pretty hair
Will be at school today.

And she is.

Mandy has her hair in pigtails with pretty ribbons.
They twirl and sparkle in the sun.
Suddenly without warning she grabs Mandy’s hair.
Pulls it hard until Mandy begins to cry,
She sees the tears, feels nothing, does not know why.

‘How you begin life,
Should not determine how you end it.’
Someone famous once said.
But he was an old white man,
Long since dead.

If you write a book and no one reads it, did you ever really write it?

If you write a book and no one reads it, did you ever really write it?

The book sat on the library shelf for a good few months after she died. I wasn’t here when the original events happened, only when the end came. I had thought to put the book in the coffin but then events intervened.

Lynette was always a little odd, but only a little, not so wildly odd that you needed to worry. I managed her in the last few years she worked here at the library. Lynette wore the same plaid skirt, same olive cardigan and green shirt almost everyday. She had the same box haircut all the time I knew her. All that ever changed was the little pin she used to keep her hair off her face. Sometimes it had a tiny enamel flower on it, sometimes a little cat, sometimes a strawberry or a heart.

Truthfully I should have made her redundant when we got computers but she was compliant, easy to manage. She had the neatest handwriting and she seemed to just be part of the library. Even if I’d have made her redundant she’d still have been here every day.

The story goes that there had been an academic here, a man. Married apparently. He used to come into the library. He was always friendly to Lynette. It was no secret she was infatuated. It wasn’t returned.

There were, apparently, a lot of girls. He had his favourites, one of whom was Jeanette. They flirted a lot, in the library. He would lean in close and she would smile up at him. There were rumours. His wife was a harridan-aren’t they always though? Jeanette was by all accounts young and attractive and now I have seen a photo of her I can see that they looked good together. Too bad for the wife.

Lynette and Jeanette were friends despite Lynette’s feelings for the man. We’ll never know what really happened. They simply disappeared one day-Jeanette and this man. Just sort of ran away together. No one was surprised. Jeanette had a cousin who thought it was out of character but no one bothered with it much. The wife pressed the police but who believes a scorned wife.

There was a lot of gossip but not much else. Lynette never mentioned it.

In any event a few months afterwards, the book turned up. In the library. On the shelf. Catalogued and all. No one thought anything of it. It was his last work before he left and ran away, a hardback version, properly bound. It was the only copy we had but we assumed somehow that there were other copies out there.

We should have offered it to his wife, but I wasn’t here then and that didn’t happen. So it sat there and the only person who ever took any notice of it was Lynette. She would take it off the shelf occasionally and look at. Just look at the cover. I once told her she should read it and that’s when it became a kind of joke-if no one reads it has it ever been written. We didn’t do it intentionally but we just kind of made sure that we didn’t ever direct anybody to the book and it just sat there. There was no title printed on the spine and everyone overlooked it.

Then Lynette died. Quite suddenly. And I thought of the book and how it had made us laugh. I thought it would be a nice gesture to place it in her coffin. She had seemed attached to it, a memory of an unrequited love. She had few friends and no family. So I took the book off the shelf.

I sat down to thumb through the pages. It occurred to me after all this time I had no idea what it was even about.

I opened it. And there, where the pages had been cut out neatly to shape a space was a pair of hands bound together, severed off at the wrists and perfectly preserved and a note, in the neatest handwriting.

‘Romance is dead.’

Needle in, needle out

They are watching, always watching.
Needle in, needle out. Needle in, needle out.

I live inside my head. I remember. Sitting by the fire with my mother. Learning to sew. The warmth, the comfort. All of that. And now this.

Needle in, needle out. Needle in, needle out.

The ability of clothes to transform. I have learned to block out all the noise, the pain. To pretend it’s a movie going on around me.

They are watching, always watching.
Needle in, needle out. Needle in, needle out.

Focus on the seam, on getting the two sides together. On getting it straight. Neat tidy stitches. One row after another. A new needle. More cotton. Strong powerful thread.

Needle in, needle out. Needle in, needle out.

The act of creation. Of making something wearable from a long length of fabric, of putting two things together to make it something new. That is not what is happening here.

They are watching, always watching.
Needle in, needle out. Needle in, needle out.

One stitch after another. My hands worn. Reddened. Fingertips smooth. Wrists, swollen, sore. This material is difficult. It doesn’t want to come together. It pulls apart. Flakes away.

Needle in, needle out. Needle in, needle out.

Clothes can transform, they can take you somewhere else. One stitch after another to make something new. This material can’t be pinned.

And still they are watching me, always watching.
Needle in, needle out. Needle in, needle out.

Their desperate eyes watch my hands fly. I am so fast, so very good at this. At holding their wound together as I flay my needle across and through their wretched skin. My hands. Soaked in blood.

Needle in, needle out. Needle in, needle out.

As if the power of sewing could heal them all and stop this bloody war.

Come the apocalypse, we’ll eat the cat

My mother always said ‘Come the apocalypse, we’ll eat the cat.’

None of us took it too seriously. And then the apocalypse came.

It was more civilised than you think. It was announced on the BBC. The second the announcement was finished, she went looking for the cat. I think we all felt it was a bit too soon. I remember my Dad sitting at the dining table, pushing the meat around his plate with a fork. It felt a bit unseemly, as if there should have been a bit of a notice period. Time to say goodbye.

There wasn’t.

It was in the pot and on our plates before most looters even got out of bed. Here’s a tip, early evening apocalypses are best. People don’t believe it, go to bed, don’t wake up. We did wake up, minus the cat.

That first day my Mum visited the neighbours to see if they were ok. They were elderly. She came back laden with cans. We thought that generous at the time. There was meat for dinner again.

‘You know this street is full of elderly neighbours,’ she commented a week later. Followed by ‘enough meat to keep us through the winter.’

I commented that not all old people had cats. She looked at me blankly. I pushed the meat around my plate. I had not seen the neighbours since it happened. I don’t remember our cat being that big.

Since the collapse of civilisation as we know it, there are far fewer people around. We however seemed to have thrived with an inexhaustive supply of fresh meat.

Being honest living through the apocalypse has been lonely. There’s been the kind of atmosphere you’d expect at the apocalypse. A little doom laden, a lot of darkness. Not much water. We’ve coped. Mostly we stayed indoors, with the lights off. We’ve been out raiding other peoples houses, but we rarely see anyone.

We got through the winter with fresh meat. A lot of cats I told myself. We planted vegetables in the autumn. My mother had seeds. She was nothing if not prepared. It’s like she’d been waiting for years.

I can’t remember when Dad disappeared. Now when I look out in the garden though I wonder. There is a particularly fertile patch of soil. I’m sure she didn’t. He just wandered off like she said. Still we had fresh meat.

I think the apocalypse made my Mum happy, proved to her that all that tough parenting she’d put me through was worth it. She was never happier than after it happened. She was hardy and strong my mother. Focussed and determined.

She taught me everything I know.

She cooked well.

She tasted good.

And endless bloody hope…

When you look at the stars
What do you see
Do you wake up every morning
And think of the sea

I’ve read all the words
Everything you wrote
About spirit and happiness
And endless bloody hope

I look at my life
And I don’t see you
I look at my words
And you’re not there too

Do you do the ironing
Or do you find it mystifying
Do you wash up every night
Because you know that is stupefying

Do you know what it takes
To write silly little words
When the to-do list is long
And you’re not being heard

How many loads of washing
Did you do this week
Or did you sit in the garden
In solace and peace

Because I could write
Write like you I think
If I just had the space
And the time to blink

It wouldn’t always rhyme
Like this one does
I’d make it all spiritual
Maybe mention love

When I see the stars
I often think of you
When I see the sea
I remember I had dreams too

But the dreams have all faded
And fallen from this world
I never got the chance you had
Because I was born a girl.

Wrapping the house

I lay down on the landing
I reach out and pull the house in around me
The light fittings shimmer and shake
The house folds in on me and everything breaks

It wasn’t my intention
to try and make us safe
Every door seemed locked to me
I was trying to escape

I just got tired
I couldn’t seem to sleep
There were no more tears
I couldn’t even weep

Overwhelmed by expectation
I drifted out to sea
I couldn’t find the answer
All the words eluded me

I looked at the sky
I didn’t look at the ground
I wrapped the house around me
And let it all fall down

The ground opened up beneath me
but I could only see the sky
And as I turned to look at you
I smiled and said goodbye.

No inspiration here

The weather is just not suited to serious poetry. So I made it a laugh, I even swore-a really bad word.

Perhaps there’s just nothing to say
In the heat and the darkness
The words drift away

There’s nothing of note
Going on in my head
No words that I wrote

Springing on to the page
My thoughts have all left
They’ve just walked away

Like words in rebellion
They’ve abandoned me here
Just up and gone,
they’ve all disappeared

What is a poet
Who can’t write a verse
Who can’t find a rhyme
Does it get any worse?

Ouch that was bad
Please rhyme it with something
Other than-

Did you see how the rhythm went all awry
How the timing packed up,
And just said good- I

Can’t write that
What was I thinking?
Do I have a brain?
Fuck its hot here,
I wish it would rain.

The wrong words

As you dawdle down the pavement
Do you think that trains going to wait for you?
As you mulch along the footpath
Are you hoping that its late for you?

Do you think poetry writes itself
The words magically appear in your head
Do you think if you wait long enough
Sweetie you need pencil in your led

You need to switch on the machine
Focus on the words
Put in some nouns
Chuck in some verbs

Maybe use an adjective
Perhaps some punctuation
Maybe just a comma,
Don’t write above your station

I wouldn’t worry if it rhymes
You’re no good anyway
Just write down some words
And toss the rest away

I wouldn’t worry about context
Or try to give it meaning
Just write down some words
Don’t make it too unseemly

Don’t try and tie it back
To the bit at the start
You really should give up on this
Its too long by half.

The screw

Long red fingernails slide over long held convictions
Flicking remorse and regret across the bed and out the door

Do you know what you’re doing here?

Do you think its desire?

In a game of he said, she said,
he said always wins.

Do you know what you’re doing here?

Do you think it’s a game?

Truth is a scar you can never erase
It throbs in a darkness.

You can never escape.

Do you know what you’re doing here?

Do you think it’s a sin?

Sanctimonious conviction is a dark red welt on your back
Words you said under pressure.

You can never retract.

Crass comments in public, they shame you
You hide from the light, like an-

Emu?

Your head in the sand, you think you are grand
But you know you’re not right, secrets don’t hide.

Even at night.

Do you know what you’re doing here?

Do you think about power?

The things you held onto out in the dark
Were nebulous and cold and forever apart.

You put on a suit and a tie
But you are no more than the sum of your lie

Do you know what you’re doing here?

You never owned the minds even as you played with the bodies

You can hold it forever until you are dead
But desire and power were all in your head

Yours was a moment paid for with cash
Gone in an instant, no more than a flash

Do you know what you’re doing here?

They thought different thoughts to what you think that they thought.

And now in your coffin, you’re all cold and all still
They go on singing, they dance and they laugh
While deep underground the worms eat their fill.

Do you know what you did here?

Dandelions

When we were growing up,
My Dad had a lot of rules
My favourite one was:

No pyjamas in the green house

On Thursdays, always Thursdays
he would get the lawn mower out
And take it for a walk.

He didn’t like the dog

He didn’t like to hurt the grass
He was thoughtful about the grass
And the dandelions

He always thought dandelions felt pain

My mother on the other hand
Was quite-people said ‘odd’
Never bought us rain coats or umbrellas

She thought of rain as a test for your eyebrows.

She wore a lot of yellow.
She said that was because
deep down inside somewhere,

She was a dandelion

And dad wouldn’t hurt the dandelions
It didn’t save her, of course
Or us, from him

I wear my pyjamas everywhere now

They are silk, expensive
I have them in every shade
except yellow

Because wearing yellow won’t save you.

Some days I come home soaking wet
Because I don’t own an umbrella or a rain coat
My eyebrows don’t work the way they should

Even now. Now.

The lawn mower sits in the shed
The dog is long since dead
The grass grows high
The dandelions die.
I visit her grave, his is far away, I never go
There are things children should never have to know.

I was never quite the same

I have come to tell a story
I have come to say your name
I want to tell the truth of it
I was never quite the same

They said that no one saw it
That you weren’t really hurt
But I saw your body falling
And I know you hit the dirt

I heard the endless sirens
As I was called inside
The soothing words of adults
People never really die

I saw you standing on the roof
Dark against the blue
I saw you jump off of it
I saw you falling too

I never saw you land
The fence was in the way
But I heard the men all calling
I remember plain as day

My mother said I never
I surely never did
But I know I watched you falling
When I was just a kid

I wanted just to sit here
Quiet by your grave
To say that I was sorry
To the man I couldn’t save

Its true I didn’t see it
Your body hit the ground
But I saw your body falling
And I never made a sound

I didn’t run inside
I didn’t raise the alarm
In those precious early moments
I stood there quite calm

Maybe no one would have believed me
No matter what I said
But in those precious early moments
Maybe you weren’t dead

I may have been a child
And absolved of all the blame
But I wanted you to hear it
I was never quite the same.

The Viking Housewives of Essex

I am not sure there is that much Viking heritage in Essex,  but sometimes the women of this county get a bit of a raw deal, so here’s to all of them. If you don’t know Essex, I’m sure there’s somewhere comparable near you.

The Viking Housewives of Essex

And why not
Our heritage is wooden boat, hallowed spear
We haunt the nail salons of the high street
In our sparkled designer gear

Our snake skin heels are poison
Our tans are blooded gold
We of the shiny teeth
Are a sight to behold

We shy away from nothing
We are brave in the face of scorn
With carefully crafted strapless sleeves
And things you’ve never worn

We are sass when its needed
Clueless when its cool
But there’s no mistake about it
You’re the one who’s fooled

We like our men quite chiselled
But it isn’t just physique
If he doesn’t have the right car
He won’t get a peek

We are quite ‘assertive’
And its true we are quite loud
But we’re Essex through and through and through
And we are bloody proud.

I don’t write like you write…

When I wrote my words down
I used to wonder what you’d say
Somewhere deep inside of me
I’m not very brave

If words are my passion
And poetry my voice
I have waited years and years
Without making any noise

I tried to make it happen
I wanted it to work
The words just went on and on
But none of it was verse

My work is full of half rhymes
That never quite add up
Of gaps and stunted rhythm
That never quite stand out

It has taken me a lifetime
To realise the truth
No allegory or metaphor
I don’t write like you

No flowing words of prose
No humble love of trees
My soul is not on fire
I no longer write to please

I finally found my voice
What it is I want to say
I won’t write like you write
I have turned and walked away.

The train

One bald man gets out of his seat
So another bald man can sit down.
They don’t speak to each other.
They don’t know each other.
The do know each other.
Its like a dance.

Every day.

That is his seat,
that is the other ones seat.
They wear similar suits in dark blue.
With a light blue shirt
And a medium blue tie and brown shoes.

I plunge myself into my seat, melting.

And what was he doing there anyway?
Half naked.
In a stripped down phone booth.
Leering at every woman,
As if each one should be grateful.
With his 90s hair.

Today of all days.
They are not grateful.
They just hurry past.
He leans on a strut that once held a pane of glass.
His best days are behind him.
His best days are behind the booth.

There is no air conditioning on this train.

He is playing a childs game
On ear phones that don’t work.
Colourful little animals jump small bridges.
Everyone can hear the arcade tinkle.
He does it deliberately.
Plays it loud.

Most days.

Plunging thumbs,
into a control panel.
It annoys everybody.
It’s a protest.
You are not allowed to watch porn on the train.

All around me the world of trains and men, I feel like a freak.

He holds his head high.
The wi-fi was a little slow this morning.
The trainers are glossy.
He really smashed that avocado
Into the whole grain toast.
A sheep in wolves clothing.

A bit yesterday.

With that beard.
More a toad resplendent in cloth.
Still a toad.
He catches himself in the window.
Looking good, looking good for a toad.

Still after all this time, I don’t belong on this train.

A little darkness

This is very dark, I’m not sure where it came from. We all like to think that people who have hurt us will somehow face a reckoning. I don’t think its true but the rhyme is nice.

On the edge of memory
In a place I’ve never been
I know what you did to me
Even as I dream

There will be a reckoning
A place you have to go
A memory that you try to hide
But I will always know

You will lie in agony
You will be in pain
At the edge of your memory
There will always be a stain

A spectre haunts your sleep
It haunts when you’re awake
There is nothing you can do about it
I am your mistake

You think you got away with it
You think that you are free
But in your dying hours
I know you’ll think of me

The blood that pulses through you
Will always bear my name
My pain has seared your soul
And you are not the same

We are ever connected
I am the thought in your head
The regret as you lie dying
The thing that you most dread

A sentence left unanswered
A name you never said
The one who stood on your grave
And danced when you were dead

The Gloves

It was late. The train was nearly empty. She didn’t notice the woman get on. She was suddenly sitting across from her, hands folded neatly in her lap. As if she wanted her to look.

She looked. The gloves. Red leather, quilted at the wrists. The police had said to call. She should. Call. Now. Where was her phone, in her bag? But hadn’t it been a man?

She had only caught a glimpse but it had been a man. She had seen through the crack in the door, heard heavy footsteps running away. It had been a man. She was sure.

Was she? Those were the gloves. Distinctive gloves. Red leather, quilted at the wrists. She should call the police. It was not possible. She could not be that wrong. Her phone was in her bag. She just had to take it out. Call. Hesitation.

She was staring at the gloves. Drawn. Drawing in her head, the scene. A crack in the door. The red gloves, pressing hard. The victim. She thought there should have been noise, there was no noise. It all happened silently. Except for the footsteps running away, great heavy footsteps. The footsteps of a man.

The woman sat there with her gloves on. Unbothered. The last of the other passengers got off the train. She sat across from the woman, staring.

Then the woman looked up. Smiled. Those gloves. She was caught staring. She looked at the woman’s shoes. Boots, out of kilter with the rest of her clothes. She looked at the arms, muscular, then the neck, stronger than she had first thought.

Her gaze drifted. Back to those gloves. It wasn’t possible. She had just caught a glimpse, through a crack in the door. She’d heard, what had she heard? What had she thought? Those gloves, so unlikely. She should call the police.

She looked at the woman, still smiling at her. Knowing. Knowing what? It was her stop. She got up. The woman followed, stood behind her. She could feel breath on her neck, a soft leather glove on her back. Panic. It can’t have been. No.

Call the police.

A trick of the light

I think in half thoughts.
I never quite manage to
I wonder if there is someone.
Who

Out there.
Not all the time.
I just drift sometimes.
I forget the ending of what I was.

Right now I am thinking.
Do some people think
in one and a half.
Like a poem. Unwritten.

The words dribble out.
A slow unspooling
I think it might be my
Soul. Or somebody
I can’t make any.

None of it seems.
It’s as if.
The words are floating down the river
Away from.
Maybe.

If I stood somehow.
Differently.
Or focussed on a point over
Would that?
Help. Time slips past.

Me.
Who is me.
I twiddle my fingers
I wriggle my toes
Did I have a thought?

Nobody knows.

Hermit

‘I prefer recluse, it has fewer religious connotations.’ I mutter it rather than say it.

I look at the box sets strewn about the floor. I have been here for days in silent contemplation, watching them one after the other with a kind of religious zeal.

‘Hermit,’ she says again. ‘Robed in track pants and a hoodie, on a diet of crisps and beer. It begs the question, did you find that which you seek?’

‘All life is here,’ I whisper as I look at the variety of crisps flavours I have devoured in the past week.

He is gone. Taken. I cannot cope.

‘You seek enlightenment through the electronic gods, the gods of calories and fermentation. But there is only darkness here.’

She is right. The curtains remain resolutely closed.

She walks over to the window, flings open the curtains. Light floods in. I shield my eyes.

‘Enlightenment.’ she says.

I fall sobbing to the floor.

This awful mess

I want the words to soothe my soul.
To make it better.
To fix it all.

I want them to say something purposeful.
Sensible.
Meaningful.

I want them to fix my turmoil and confusion.
Set it out.
In a vision.

I want them to answer the questions I ask.
Finally, definitively.
To the last.

I want them to be mine when they come out of my mouth.
Composed.
Possessed.

Not this awful mess.