The Umbrella Dance

All along the platform
Scarcely noticing the rain
A company of umbrellas
Are waiting for the train

Its like a sea of manhole covers
Who’ve upped and taken flight
Leaving gaping holes
To catch cars in the night

There’s a nip and a duck
A weave and a tuck
A subtle sway of hips
And sometimes just good luck

Some hold it high
Some snuggle down quite low
But one arm is always ready
To deflect any blow

Its like a giant turtle
With a long and stretchy back
A giant patchwork quilt
Yet mostly grey and black

Wait, there’s one with colour
That cannot be right
It snakes through the crowd
In the early morning light

And that one is a painting
From an artist we all know
She bought it at the gallery
She didn’t see the show

It’s a wily platform herd
A mass of classless cattle
Stood against the rain
Against the daily battle

He uses shoulders
She moves her hips
Its sensual and its practical
And their umbrellas miss

We all know how its done
We all know the trick
When the umbrella is too close
And you have to be quick

A dance among strangers
Before we all get on the train
An early morning ballet
That takes place in the rain

And the train takes the bend
And its lights flash us all
There’s a uniform drop
A shake, shake and a twirl

A giant sucking in of fabric
Like someone pulled a chain
A moment where we all get wet
Before we board the train

If you like it, hit the button

Dawning in Essex

I saw trees
Spiked against a grey sky
In the distance
A horizon flat and even

I took in great gulps of air
And tried to belong
Under a muddy, grubby sky
In the glimpse of a full moon

I stood at a station
And told myself I could do this
When every moment was a struggle
I still went on

I gripped the greyness in my fist
And pulled it around me as I slept
I took that even line, and wore it
As a belt on my waist

I waited, I was patient
As I took stock
Of power lines
Skittered across an empty landscape

I listened to crumbled words
In the dawn in coffee shops
The stories of tradesmen
Who hesitated in my presence

I painted my nails in desperation
I gazed at the orange, the white
At the dazzle and the glitter
And I let it all seep in

Until the spirit of Essex
Was embedded in my soul
Not to replace my home
But to let me be here

And still be whole

This girl thing, its not easy

And I scream out loud
Writing is performance art.
Being a girl
Is conformance art.
I shave my head
Cut off half a leg,
And still its not enough.

It is never enough.

The words they,
Obfuscate.
And I obviate,
any need for their guilt so pleasantly
Out in the yard
Dogs howl in the night
I remain out of sight

This girl thing is easy.

Makeup is like grammar
If so,
I write with a stammer.
A road full of rules
But nothing can stop me
Then, life, I am shackled
And routine has taken my-

I look for a saviour

Tall, dark, handsome and strong
But the things that he told me
Turned out to be wrong
I needed the money
I took the cash
I left him in limbo

I still, have a rash.

How did I get here
I’ll never know
I lived in conformity
But society bored me
I ran and I ran
But I never ran far
I ran in a circle.

What was I meant to be?

This girl thing, its not easy.

A stump of a girl, like me

And it felt like raindrops on my skin.
Until it blooded, bubbled, burst

Outwards.

Into raw, red, angrified pustules
Covering every speck of habitable skin.

Only to fail.

Fade!
Freeze!

And in its wake,

A

Seething,
Slithering,
Slime ridden,

Stump

Of a girl

Who? Me

Ate her peers for breakfast
Dined on her tutors at dinner

And ate the stars at supper

Spitting out the sun at the end
Cursing it for its vapid uniform intensity

A wrath enduring to infinity and the end.

I Drew Myself

I remember when

I became

Definite lines

Before then I was a half sketch,
With holes and gaps
Things could easily seep out
And they did.

Horrible residual bits of me left on the floor

I was a blur
I appeared at parties as a set of double lines
Nothing held me in
And people saw through me

And around me

I was small floral patterns on a pale background
A little bloom, a potted plant on a brick structure
The sunflower seed
The one that germinated in the shade

The spindly stunted one

Spreading spiky leaves
Out in the semi darkness
Clasping at drips of water
That were absorbed into mortar

But somehow between the dance tracks
And the last track

I formed

And maybe some of it was you.

But I drew the lines.
Real and definite and clear.
I dredged them out of alcohol sodden carpet,
And blood stained sheets,

As fingers clasped at my neck

I made my lines hold firm.
I took a bruise or two
I stole a brick from that wall
And replaced that flimsy stem

I shed those useless leaves

I stole every brick,
Every strip of wall paper
And my brightness shone out
above the wall

Clear, definite and real

And you

The sight of you,
the smell of you
Became a blur
Off in the distance

A faraway spot on a fading horizon

I can barely see it

even if I bring my hand to shade my eyes

A strange sooty spot

on the heel of the shoe that is my life

I clean you off.

I am definite and real.

Lines coloured in, and you?

You, I have forgotten,

Left behind on the doormat of life

Exo-skelete!

Rhythm

Beat-beat-beat-beat

Heart

Beat-beat-beat-beat

Have been thinking
Turning it over

In my mind.
The outside
Covering.

Soft and permeable
No use
In this harsh world

I cut myself

Bleed.

Drip-drip-drip-drip

Like a dodgy

Tap-drip-drip-drip

To prove my point
I want to-I
have made the word

up-‘exo-skelete’!

To go from this
Soft outer coating
To something

Armoured

To bury my pulse
Beneath a heavy
framework

My pulse

Dot-dot-dot-dot

You are questioning
my idea

dot-dot-dot-dot

Sat in my chair
this afternoon
I thought my bones
outwards

I expanded them
I thought them out
in fragments

Out-out-out-out

Through the pores of my skin

Out-out-out-out

Armour, body armour
On the outside

And now I sit here
Enthroned
Resplendent
Complete

An ivory tower
A tower of bone
A hardness
Worn on the outside

I wake from dubious
slumber
Assured of who I am
What I am

I stand to shout

But

Crackcrackcrackcrack

My bones are brittle
Old
It is not how I thought
It would be

I am a seething mass of blood and organs on the floor
The dog comes and licks me away
The rug is stained forever

And I am gone

Gone-gone-gone-gone

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

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

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.