Numbers Game

Take care of the person
He/She is fragile
Look at the soft cups of their eyes, if you need any more proof

I have known a person who, in contravention of the given
narrative, was taken down
(Reached an end point too soon)
We cold not explain why he did what most definitely
factually, happened
The language showed its seams and could not help
Not at its most bald, or decorated

When a person we love is taken off it is –

1. Better or worse than we might have imagined. Better, because,
mostly, we do not fail to go on living. Which is, after all, the
main agenda.

This is one kind of experience:
You find a rope to hold
You are on a steep incline and you drag yourself upwards
or you hang on in stasis
You cannot describe it except to say there is no light, your
hands on the rope are raw and your whole body aches
At every moment you think
I cannot go on
but you go on

This is one way of getting through but
As you can see, it is not very satisfactory
To pass through something is rarely unscathing
There is also getting by
Getting by is not getting through, to paraphrase a person
Who famously

2. Worse because –


It might be better not to make any other suggestions.


I was very young when I was cracked open.

Some things you should let go of
Others you shouldn’t
Views differ as to which

I kept hold of everything, just in case

We are trained to revere life
To look back on it at the end of a person’s life and count what we have
found of value
This is a kind of comfort
On the whole I conform to this theory
After all, what else can we do?

Praise be for the human spirit, and the spirits of animals
                      which also soar
                      Praise be for the gentle, brokenhearted person

When the terrible thing happened people said  Be strong
As if we might lay steel cable for bones, petrify our whole self

(The skin is a sort of protective organ and yet it is not safe from most
things, it is a weak kind of coating to put on a vulnerable person).

I repeated the phrase to someone in crisis
I do not know if they managed to achieve it


The Rain

I traced a stitch raised by your absence.
I concentrated on this panel of sky
and wound myself into a ribbon of silence.

I have sat at the brink drafting a lie.
I have held my breath, entered the rooms,
drawn down the blinds and opened my eyes.

I’ve stood still enough to find my own way home.
I died a little when I took tiny sips of Spring
and spared no thought for when it had all gone.

I know all I need to know. I breathe in
the shadow’s scent when it is near
and commit it to my own silent skin.

Everything over the past three
years leads back to you.

I rest on the tilted gate to prepare
for rain, the rain that began elsewhere.

We Were Liars

He read her ‘We Were Liars’ by E. Lockhart.
It wasn’t the story, although the story is good,
and it wasn’t the way he read it. The English
accent couldn’t quire grasp the Americanisms.
The sures and yeahs became parodies that
brought humour to beauty that didn’t need it.
It was the fact that she lay with her head
on his chest and he felt the rumble of his own
voice and a vibration of words gone before.
The story he reads ends full of fire, and they
lay very still, but what to do? How long could
they remain there? So he traced patterns on
her skin with his fingers. And the patterns
became circles and the circles became words
and these actions have a tendency to progress.
He lifted her T-shirt over her shoulders and
we know the rest. There are all types of bodies.
If you’re lucky you’ll find someone whose skin
is a canvas for the story of your life.
Write well. Take care of the heartbeat behind it.

Man at Window

It’s June and sweltering.
The kiss you left on my lips
is dying down.

Everything has changed.
The window shows me clouds
that have not altered,

the sky is ablaze yet refuses
to stain the light.
Meanwhile your morning progresses

and under some other light you’re
tapping out data,
or singing quietly to yourself.

Beyond the gate a man continues sweeping,
collecting fallen things. I contemplate window glass,
quietly fracturing on its own terms.

What it is

It is what
it is. But
what is it?

What it is –

Some soft

whose two terms
are touch

Time to give, time
to give myself up

The road to you

Early spring
the first winds
the north roads
but towards you

Then in the morning’s grey light
the train
but towards you

Right through the city
and right through
my life
but towards you

To your voice
your being
your being you
towards you


punctured into the real
by your lips

on my throat, making

the only possible

your touch a friend
I am getting to know

in intervals


I spent the whole day
burning and writing, until
they became the same,

as when the planet covers the sun
with all its might and still
I can see it, or when one dead

body gives its heart
to a name on a list. A match.
A light. Sailing a signal

flare behind me for another to find.
A scratch on the page
is a supernatural act, one twisting

fire out of water, blood out of stone.
We can read us. We are not alone.


Love is more complex than gain
Though neither completely understood.
One remembers
He was fourteen years old.
To the fact of the memory
The memory stands
As an axe to wood. Wood, ourselves,
In the streamings and contours,
The roughened grain.

Make a mark on me.

A Lost Thing

You hate yourself when the object that defines you, or at least you
think it does, is lost or broken. It makes perfect sense: you are the
one who is lost and it’s your own fault, having left it behind in
a stranger’s room for where else but in the room of a stranger
would you leave it, inadvertent, shoddily careless, the enemy of attachments. Or it is that you, or they, rush through the room in a hurry – slow
down you hear someone say – rushing out the door
or past each other in the street so many months later, knocking it into
a thousand pieces, glass shattered on the floor, the frame twisted,
a strange disfiguration replacing the face – the photographic paper
marred by shards – and it’s not only the having done it that one
must live with – one’s own arm thrown carelessly through the air –
but the evidence of what was meant to be.

Your Voice

‘And the poem, I think, is only your voice speaking’.

– Virginia Woolf, The Waves

A Paper Crown

You realise some piece of you has to be pierced in order for the
almost unbearable desire to be slotted into place. Do you suppose
they do that anymore, cut slots in cardboard for paper tabs, the
small hats fitted around the heads of children waiting in line
for the play to begin, their lines circling their brains so they won’t
forget, ‘I’m coming my prince, my princess, I won’t forget you, I
won’t ever forget you’, and when the performance, and the school,
and the brick, and the street are memories that come only in fits, the
way crayon skips on the grainy surface of the paper you’ve folded up
for the crown, you realise what the embrace of what you thought
you could die for has cost you.