Category Poetry

The big-small city

Every time I think of loving
someone again, I build a city
in my heart.

I fill the city with noise and bustle.
People old enough to know better
drink pints, women exchange words
as children play, dogs bark,
you can’t hear yourself think in there.

When ready, I open this city out and say,
‘this place is busy,
there are skyscrapers and banks.
There’s hopscotch roads
studded with traffic,
delicatessens with fancy cheese,
and cafes with beautiful twenty-somethings
shooting espressos.

In this city there’s a small
stable with fading walls,
cigarette ends and a double bed.
Sprawled on the sheets, I’m there
waiting for someone to come home.’

Where the skin fits

I squeezed myself into the body of a man this morning.
Zipped up my spine like a sin, hoping this skin wouldn’t appear
so red and bruised today. I jump-started my heart from the bonnet
of my neighbour’s car. These eyes saw similes in everything.
Compare them to a boxing ring; my pupils played out loss on repeat.
Laugh with me, I cried. I promise not to take it so seriously.
Promise to shrug off the hospital appointments and the tiredness like an animal
sheds when it no longer needs to carry the burden of self.
Promise to bend at the knees, fall short of my dreams; forever
pray to matter and bone, youth and time.


I have a memory.

Age eight I come upstairs
to find the cracked ceiling
of my bedroom open,
my father’s foot
collapsed through it,
the plaster a tsunami
at my feet.

My father sat
in the aftermath of
gypsum and board,
doubled over, head held
in his palms.

It was the first time
I had ever seen
his face contort.
With such rage.
I thought it was just the wreck
of the ceiling
Until his hands flew up,
into fists,
and into my throat.
And he roared.
And roared.
And roared.

My father had a memory.

Swimming in the ocean,
floating on his mum’s
stomach, the milky sky
a storybook above them both.
‘I have to give you
away now,’ his mother spoke,
and left her son treading
the surface, keeping his head
above all that water, trying
desperately not to drown.

Everything Since

Three years later,
a year, ten years from now,
I’ll always remember;
not why perhaps, only that we were there like that, together.
Everything, all of it, leads back to you

Special Water

Low tide, a boy picks up a stone
and puts it in his mouth; his father yells NO
and peels it out. This is special water

he says, gently shaking his
body. It may look pretty
but it’s very, very bad for you.

The dog doesn’t care, she prances
in the muck, then climbs in my lap
and licks. Some habits die hard, says her owner

Her wet black blunt smelling like heaven

Black Box

Every crashed relationship has its black box, the blow-
by-blow account of what went wrong and how,
the crescendo of mistakes that peaks, is for an instant
quiet on its crest of trauma, then drowns itself and us

in a cascade of static. The black box is what survives,
anthracite gleaming in the wreckage where, preserved in anger,
the voices that it holds replay their lifetime of last moments
and speak of how, until the very end, it might all have been

so different, and how, right from the start, we knew it never would

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


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