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 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.

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.