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?

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 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.

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.

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.’

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.