Yesterday Down at the Canal

You say that everything is very simple and interesting
it makes me feel very wistful, like reading a great
Russian novel does
I am terribly bored
sometimes it is like seeing a bad movie
other days, more often, it’s like having an acute disease
of the kidney
god knows it has nothing to do with the heart
nothing to do with people more interesting than myself
yak yak
that’s an amusing thought
how can anyone be more amusing than oneself
how can anyone fail to be
can i borrow your forty-five
I only need one bullet preferably silver
if you can’t be interesting at least you can be a legend
(but I hate all that crap)

– Frank O’Hara

The Durable Fire

Despite the shit we put each other through –
and even though the trap of your teeth
snapped at my throat as the withering flash
of your anger fired and fell again
and again and I bent my head down beneath
that bitter rain – still I felt
the days that lengthened with you more precisely
themselves than I had ever imagined.
Through the deep rage that distorted our bodies;
through hurt, betrayal, the difficult truths
in search of some myth that might prove more
durable to our selves than each other –
still you step to this page’s bare panopticon,
belovèd, contemptuous of ruin.

The Willow Bends

So long the dragonfly has risen from its deep,
the mouse from its labour, the vole from its sleep,
the girl from her texting, the worm from its sheep,
the king from his castle and the castle from its keep,

And I know what news you are bearing,
your sob at my ear wearing
the shape of her body in the earth’s cold springs –
but even there I hear a broken voice, singing


In the room where evening comes on
and language loosens on the tip
of the tongue we tap into the sound
of its roots seeking the dark
and the song of the dark
with nothing to hold to but the flower
of the soul with its soul together
when you say something I don’t hear
looking for it in the brief pause
your words like water on petals
in the dark of the space that bends
back to what you were saying
the azure eye of it forever blossoming
in the low voice that love talks in

– Rachael Boast

Sorry for your loss

I don’t feel loss. Nothing is lost, you fools.
I’m only crying because this boat won’t stop.
I’m only sad because the running sea’s so deep.

I want those clouds repealed,
These stars rewound,
I want this ocean lit exclusively by hanging planets
Larger and better than moons.

Perhaps then we might strike land again,
And come ashore at Greenwich,
And go by Gipsy Hill, and Waterloo, and Lavenham,

Or walk the moat of Kentwell Hall together –
A willow, and a bench – see
The garden shrug the slow mist from her flank
Very late one summer afternoon, very long ago.

Tolstoy’s Dog

What is it about the lavender-grey dog
hanging around the men
playing with a piece of straw
as though it were a stick
while Moscow burns behind them?
What is it that makes her lie
across my mind as if she might be
what all those words were about?


Every shadow has a shadow.
In the dapple a dark speckle, the meadow’s thirst.

Every sorrow has a sorrow,
a lessening lesson, a congealing ghost.

Density of loss;
a, ‘once was’

Grief not grudge. Extinction’s edge.
Last on the late last list.

There is a pang the weight of the sun’s fist.
There is a pang the weight of the sun’s fist

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.