Saturday, 31 May 2008

Thoughts on magic tricks

Stooge contemplates a law of physics

An accident of gravity, I am hovering above
stage planks in the Theatre Royal when
it dawns on me how long I have lain expressionless
for him. I have pored these hours over
recreational mathematics trying to figure it out;
the wonder for me is not in the floating but the falling.

Sometimes I drift off and my dreams are of waking
naked. I've learned to know these for what they are.
This act usually spells the end of something.
They say gravity is from a parallel dimension;
I dare not think what that might mean for me.

Friday, 30 May 2008

There's lots more I want to do to this so watch out for updates to it.

Lovers on a bench

We are gathered at the end
of the coffee shop that gets the most light
away from the fridge. We transfix our gaze
at pictures on the free WiFi
internet and smile at static smiling faces
of people we once knew
or feast our eyes on magazines
in primary colours selling brand new
mobile phones. We chat to friends
about mutual friends and breastfeeding
habits, clasping frantic air to ourselves,
or work our tongues around
caramel waffles and drink coffee while it's still
too hot to taste. We sound
out ideas on our phone and make
our conversations match our face
or tap our feet to jazz at just too fast a pace.

The windswept lovers sit on a bench away
outside sharing one large sweet latte.

Thursday, 29 May 2008

Freshly brewed.

Fighting, maybe dancing.

Your breath in my mouth, just for a moment,
and that is how it starts. That and spinning.

We are close enough to count regrets, they say
we are dancing and clap along,
you say there's no driving before you've learnt how
and kick the air by my head for effect.
I'm on the floor, you say, nice try and aim
for my contortionist's feet. Skipping over you
my eyes are not off yours: what now I say
and you are weighting my silence, hovering
closer to the floor with every pass.

Cartwheels and broken noses do not do us justice but
are possibilities we don't mind from this position.
There are some who lose the will to clap along,
but, your leg over my head, all I see is your beard
and the lengths I've driven you to.

Wednesday, 28 May 2008

There is a capoeira poem brewing, I promise.

A girl wearing matching accessories adjusts her scarf knot in a car mirror

I often correct myself by wearing
things that purposefully do not match, have holes
at the cuffs or smell some. I test myself with headstands
that taught me tucked in shirts; by eating chicken feet
with no regard for leaving fowl nails in my teeth.

If you see me walking along the street, please don't ask
me to do the splits. I can do it, but the challenge to show you
there, with no regard for the bag I'm carrying or how
the damp will curl my hair, would be too much to resist.

Tuesday, 27 May 2008

Star & Shadow Cinema, Tomorrow, 7.30pm. Be there, or miss me reading.

Farmer's Market

A man sold me pork today, and sausages
with apples in. The poetic perfection would be pears,

of course, or figs. Whatever he said it made me
into a blundering fool: they are what they are

or I've had them for years. Expecting, him staring at my lips,
the pain question, what he actually said meant nothing

but it always comes back to this. I thanked him
and walked away, pig blood seeping through my bag.

Monday, 26 May 2008

A revisioning and clarification.

The Gifts

Here, for you, a long slow sky at first; a flight
for you into spectacle. Feel it open you up
like a thirst. Bring this morning to your snow-dead
untouched toes, to each body part slowly, on its own.

Take next the sliding acceptance of horseback,
the horse's own gait into your spine. It is my
gift to you. Use it to fend off the unwanted taste
of long-dead clouds, the rough lips of another.

You've shut your eyes by now, I can tell.
Feel the grave-walker bring you back
to life with a finger-tickle up your spine.
I'll count the hairs I've raised there one by one

whilst you escape the panic of a striptease
of feelings down to bone. Stay with me, I still
have a few things to offer. Ignore the voices
out of reach through the white noise; don't fish it

for the one you think you know. Let the sherbert
betray its own pastel colour and shiver your head out
of alone. There, you can speak now. I'm so pleased
to see you. There's still a lingering smell

of pine-damp picnics here for when you're ready:
I think you are. Eat of it until you're full;
don't stop until your glowing cheeks
match the colour of a shepherd's delight.

Saturday, 24 May 2008

Fresh from Salsa.

My mother and her sister with their children, Scarborough 1990.

Not one of us was dressed for the summer wind,
all hippy skirts and billows with our hair caught in our mouths.
They weighted the blanket with their own selves
and secretly admired each others' body parts and underwear
revealed by mischievous gusts of sea wind.

We were genetic opposites, this cousin and I, and well aware
of our mothers' shame. In a moment of doubt
and faced with a rocky stream we remember as smooth,
we turned the distance from our mothers into an excuse
and tucked our skirts into our knickers. We got our whole selves
wet and squealed stopping just before the waterfall.

Walking up later, our dresses wet through, only the dog
was still carefree in the breeze, her fur parted at her flank
and flowing like fields of corn. Our mothers covered us
in towels with their own skirts firmly tied, and we ate eggs
looking out to the wind-tossed sea.

Friday, 23 May 2008

Intermezzo is back!

The position I'm in.

Making excuses for others is a full-time job
he takes on in his lunch break, his face turned
away as he lies. Each call is a delicate

intricacy between friends all over Newcastle
who will meet tonight and know because of him
too much, or not enough. I will go to where they sit—

a cat among city pigeons—point to every one and name
them and what they do; know who is not there
and the excuse she gave; declare the only truth in it's untrue.

Thursday, 22 May 2008

Patrick Street

The Bouzouki's a little bit loud, Tom

You'd think there'd be a formula
for knowing these people in the street
but there is not. Instruments
get flashed here as currency
for seats more than for fun.

And why so still in a place like this?
It is a room of unmoving beige but the notes
are effortless from the stage. Tunes are forming
an orderly queue through my own fingers
who think they know it already.

What I want more than anything is this music.
This music, and the people all with their arms
high for the sheer tune of it and everyone
tapping so the band have to play
an inkling louder, instead, and turn it up.

Wednesday, 21 May 2008

I am an unreliable narrator.


We are walking along a straight path,
you and I, though no end of it is visible
from the other. It goes to somewhere
you think I'll like, though we'll sit outside
for the dogs, the weather close
on our faces. We will feed the cold
to ourselves in white wine spritzers,
and the dogs will not settle on the planks
where they are expected, tied up, to lie.

For now, there is much to see
on either side, though I do not know
the species without hindsight.
There is nothing usual about us,
though we are just the same. There is rain
in the air but it hasn't reached us yet:
we are sceptical of it now but will soon think
we knew it was coming; blame each other
for not fearing darkening skies.

We pass the temporary landmarks
that we will count on later as proof
we are travelling homewards in the rain:
a goose trips into the water that will be standing
with dry feet, its wings spread wide; a tree
where we checked paws for thorns; an open
lock in the canal that will be closed. The dogs roam
ahead now but will stay close when damp sheep speak
through suddenly quiet hedges.

Tuesday, 20 May 2008

Guardian Poetry Workshop a-go-go

Hand-turned bowl

The conservatory is cold, he says. Too cold for hands
half there from the toil of years that have to manage
still to turn this wood. Once done it represents something
hard to grasp and is the perfect shape for that. It is felt-
bottomed and well finished; everything is true
about the shapes it makes between my own plump fingers.

Every other block of wood holds onto its potential
nut bowl, gathers dust to its damp in the spider-corners
of the conservatory. Each swells and cracks with
the progression of rain. It takes the expense
of an extractor fan to make this bowl the last.
It is stocky and smooth with my earrings in it.

Monday, 19 May 2008

The Tyneside Cinema is very grand now.

Three brass elephants

To me they were all the same elephant separated
only by age. Not for me then the collapsible
string theory of time but a basic acceptance
that things do not remain.

Each elephant's legs were scored with dirt in wrinkles
that got deeper with size. The heavy existence of each
in the Serengeti of the footstool eliminated the need
for the other two: except every need they had
was formed from generations waiting on the carpet.

A tragedy of theft, the three brass elephants
will not now be left to the children.
I entertain others' stories of them, but quietly reject
the porridge-bowl neatness of a family of diminishing size.

Sunday, 18 May 2008

It is colder than it looks today.

In the morning

The pain of the night was recreated in sleep
that was deserved but hard to come by
after hours on my feet and four cans
of Red Bull. There was shagging at work
last night on the back stairs, and collecting
plastic glasses from the dancefloor
was as ever dicing with manhandling
from men not able to see the difference.
It is not a space that is hard to comprehend
but still it surprises me sometimes. Every step
I took was being replayed at 5am with every beat
of blood gushing vessels back to life
that had been forgotten in the rhythms
of Love Me Tender and Agadoo.

You slipped, though, gentle
from sleep and rubbed the life away back
into them with cooling hands, perched
at the end of the bed. Secret tears of mine
faded to sleep except for the crystals
now I wake. And my feet, oh my feet,
on pillows; your head on the bed.

Friday, 16 May 2008

Alphabetty Spaghetti was great.

Here's a short one to wind down from the wonders of the poets I've just seen.


I only needed one balloon but
was cajoled by the German word for them
into a merriment of seven. I don’t know
where they think I'm going to put them,
except I like the way they make the world sound
when they're gathered round my ears and
I like the way they bring orange
to the faces of strangers and I like
the way they take sides in the wind.

I figured once I've finished running the streets
with them bobbing from my wrist,
I can suck the helium or set them free,
or let them deflate slowly in my front room,
undignified and baggy behind the giant TV.

Thursday, 15 May 2008

Don't believe everything you read, 3.

A lesson in the Apparently Personal for you all.


I see her on her horse boldly golden in the Cyprus sun
riding the complex rhythms of speech in the sweating stride
of a canter and feel the marked absence of sun on my back

as we walk headlong towards each other; me going one way
you the same, then back again. These steps, for a moment,
seem like a way to make my point: that words just escape

before I'm ready sometimes, that they force their way
out of context. Meanwhile, in my constructed memories
of then, my mum is learning word games

she'll later play with me, coaxing consonants out of repetition
through repetition, chasing red lorries and thicket thrushes.
I never wondered before where she learnt so many,

never caught the smile saved for my own miraculous speech.
My first radiator, delicate and confident, would never have betrayed
its intentions back then, when every word was meaningless and free.

Wednesday, 14 May 2008


On your own again.

They're closing the Guardian Soulmates site tonight,
so gather up all your faces and save them elsewhere.

No longer are your preferences important, no longer
will anyone be able to tell if you're interested in men,

women or friendship; whether you prefer the carrot
or the stick. Since when did you have to choose anyway?

All the love you thought you'd find is being released
from the words on the page; finding piercings attractive

is back to a personal quirk, a penchant for erotica
left again to late adventures under covers

in the dark. Your eye colour won't be narrowed any more
to blue or green, but can remain comfortably

in between. And your preference for Greek cuisine
will be revealed only after he's discovered for himself

that you're curvaceous by putting his hand around your waist,
and that your favourite sort of film is really whatever

he wants to watch that makes his face light up like that
so you can fall in love all over again each time it does.

So pack up all your faces and save them away out of sight;
keep your TV habits and retirement plans close to your chest.

Save conversation for conversations and let yourself do the talking
until it's light. They're closing the Guardian dating site tonight.

Tuesday, 13 May 2008

One month down.

More of a half-poem, really, and older than most on here so far.

The new lamp

To touch the shadows was really
to touch you. Underneath the mountain
of mistakes, we nightly avoided our own
pasta sauce, in awe of the plainness
of ourselves. This night, though,

at the nose-pressed glass of a lighting shop,
the lack of shadow lifted the mountainous dark
to our backs. Touching your face you were lit
to me anew. That night we savoured the sight
of the brightest of red tomatoes.

Monday, 12 May 2008

You heard it here first.

The Expense

The bowels of Haymarket Metro station are finished tonight
or so I overhear from three middle-aged men in linen suits,
one of whom has an accent that hides behind his tidy moustache.

All three have immaculate tans or cultivated sunburn lines
and can afford never to have set foot in the earth themselves,
expensive as the sun is. It would explain a lot

if it was done. I've been hearing rumblings for a while now,
have felt Newcastle waking up and learning how to breathe
out the flapping glory-lists of fare dodgers.

Pictures of these tunnels have passed through all of these
men's hands. The men rise to their well-brogued feet
to compare ideas and mention landmarks like Top Trumps cards.

I make myself remember walking the length of every bridge
they name, admiring each bolt for its semblance of permanence;
waiting for the brisk Tyne wind to shake every one out of place.

Sunday, 11 May 2008

It's a lovely place to be in the sunshine.

A little boy takes his red tricycle to the top of the hill and sets off down it

And past the smell of dog pooh and evening picnics
in the clouding light the whole park applauds. Someone
even whoops when he pushes his steed back up.

His trousers have fallen down with the effort; other boys
are trying their luck on four wheels or two, taking refuge
from speed halfway on the grass or stopping altogether.

Four times he soaks the claps until on the fifth,
right at the bottom, he wobbles and falls.
The sky is suddenly full of balls and quiet

conversations between friends, just as it will be
later when he returns with his ride to the top
holding hands with a girl in a yellow patterned dress.

Saturday, 10 May 2008

Jumbly goodness, and an exercise in monologues.

Thanks to Daljit Nagra and the Guardian Poetry Workshop for this exercise.

At St Teresa's on a morning, doors just open.

It's the jumble sale, love, it brings it out
of people. You know what I mean, the money,
the tat. People are willing to pay anything
for that. And who knew Flo still had matching
Wedgwood sideplates? Her dementia, see,
she hasn't a clue what Bert's taken and sold
for the church—well, for all of us dear, who come here.

Even those dirty baby clothes are hers, duck,
can you imagine? Whatever would she want
those for, still, but for memories she can't hold
on to? Who knows whose they were exactly,
except Bert of course, but they're part of the smell
that's forming. Well yes, that's what I think:
there's nothing like that smell but a jumble sale, love.

Did you say you were thinking of the lettuce spinner,
dear? That was Flo's, too, you know, but Bert, bless
his soul, doesn't use it any more for all those
microwave meals. Even these vinyl discs – 50p each –
even these were Flo's. Can you picture it, pet? Her rocking
out to Whitesnake on a Tuesday afternoon? Bert tells me
Def Leppard is very rhythmic. I didn't like to ask what for, duck.
He had that look in his eye that all the young girls complain about.

No we don't have any cakes this year, pet, I'm afraid.
That was always Flo's department. Poor Bert hasn't any idea
what to do with all the sugar and baking things. He says
all he can remember are the times after she'd finished
and would put The Carpenters on, dancing round flowery buns
and silver balls, singing while she cleaned. Fat lot of good
that's done him, eh? Someone's already bought The Carpenters
I'm afraid, but those you've got there will be £2 please.

I wouldn't get the lettuce-spinner either, dear,
you never know what a sort like Bert's put in it since.
I'll send her your regards for the ACDC, yes.
Not that she'll remember, duck, but yes, I'll let her know.

Friday, 9 May 2008

Don't believe everything you read, 2.

UPDATE: after a lot of fiddling, and some feedback:

At the sink, with La Traviata on the radio

It would be annoying at first, this commandeering. It meant tuts
and elbow dodging for a glass of water; that filling the kettle
was unfeasible for hours. Even she went without for the time it took.
This was an uncommon ritual, a cleansing of pens neglected
from long hours of drawing even the most basic of figures sitting, perhaps,
or bending. It took as long as the notes of opera and was put off each time
for longer, but tempting her back to the page only took a suggestion
of waterproof ink, a well-placed question about the pens or the terracotta
pot they stood in, as still and silent as art. She'd used them before, of course;
the ink was always suspended mid-thought and dried in the trappings of nib
and well. This too would succumb to the gentle swooshing in hand-warm water
where she'd bathed me once too, small as I was then. The sink would deepen
to lichen green or summer blue. Only the red would stain her wrinkling palms
as the stubborn brown gave way to those gentle hands rocking
back and forth in a humming of arias.


At the sink, with
La Traviata on the radio

It would be annoying at first,
this commandeering. It meant
tuts and elbow dodging for a glass
of water; that filling the kettle
was an unfeasibility for hours.

Even she went without for the time
it took, this ritual cleansing of pens,
neglected from long hours of drawing
even the most basic of figures just
sitting, perhaps, or bending. Tempting

her back to art only took a subtle buying
of waterproof ink, a question about
the pens or the pot they stood in.
She'd used them before, of course,
the ink was always suspended

mid-thought and dried in the trappings of nib
and well; but even this would succumb
to the gentle swooshing in hand-warm
water where she'd bathed me, once,
small as I was then. The sink would turn

a deepening shade of lichen green or summer
blue. Only the red would stain her palms
from the last of the pens as the stubborn
brown gave way to those gentle hands rocking
back and forth in a humming of arias.

Thursday, 8 May 2008

You know who you are.

A few years on

I am simultaneously with and without
the possibility of you here, such is the nature
of mobile phone technology and our relationship

now. Despite all the time we spent touching all
we have to show is the indelible mark of birthdays
on the years. Perhaps I'll need you for memories

of my mother. I'll parade you in front of my children,
along with all the others, and there you'll be: an engineer
among cinema-goers, a cyclist among dancers, a doctor

among doctors and you'll say her hair was the colour of blood
oranges; she was all at once breathtaking, never scrimped
on wine and she cooked the meanest Tarte Tatin I ever tasted.

Wednesday, 7 May 2008

I heard something in a cafe today which made me write this

And you don't want to see me every day in case it spoils it

The first time I caught you with your eyes closed
watching your favourite programme there was something
about the way you were sitting, almost startled, which made
me ask. You told me it was some sort of compromise

for the time its possible to waste in front of the TV screen,
wearing your eyes out needlessly and shortening their life
inside your head. I didn't ask, then, any more of your
explanation but I've often wondered if it works. I test it

especially at work, but find it difficult to stave off sleep
without a particular strength of coffee first. I wonder now
whether it works for other things, and often stop myself
from seeing you at all, in case what we have runs out

before its time, before we're old enough to pluck each others'
out-of-reach grey hairs. It's too easy to sneak a peek for all
your stoicism on the sofa. Sometimes I catch you blinking
back the sight of characters who've aged consistently without you.

Mostly, though, I watch your closed-eyes vigil with my own eyes
open, wearing them out on you and your quiet, secret, snoozing.

Tuesday, 6 May 2008

And here is Sandra. This may be the last in the sequence for a while as she's scared me off.

The Black Clock Arms


Sandra feels the territory of The Black
Clock Arms as clearly as her own home
marked out in B&Q fences, except here
it's harder to define, and easier to fight for.

Her white tracksuit betrays more than just
the blood of her rivals, and she'd wear
the clumps of hair in her fists if only she could
clutch a vodka simultaneously. She is scared

of other pubs, of the trouble that is only ever
conducted outside, but would never admit that.
She has been coming here since Dan's
star-turn was the up-and-coming Spice Girls.

She's seen it all but is never asked for an opinion;
she has none except what's fought with fists and hair.

Monday, 5 May 2008

I started a brand new notebook today.

Where before there were birds

While you wondered how many times someone's
thrown a pair up only to get more than they bargained

for, I teetered on the edge of a fallen rock to get my angle
on the picture that everyone has. The sky was white

but somewhere up there, uncaptured against it,
was a first shoe, or a last: you'd run a sunny marathon

in yours long lost to the bleaching rain. I saw the multitude
of dances playing out to the wind, and wondered if someone

was still going round creating shoe trees to declare again
their potential. In Shieldfield shoes have begun to take flight

of their own accord, their owners taking to walking firmly past
lest their feet lose control and rush up to the branches,

creating meaning where before there was none but birds.

Sunday, 4 May 2008

Bank holiday weekends are good inventions.

The Black Clock Arms


Babs knows she's only there as the inevitable
namesake and revels in the attention lavished

on her by the rough old queens: it's all natural,
duckie! ringing sharp through the karaoke notes

night after night. She flashes her puce nails and works
there on the basis that she only pulls pints. She enjoys

the power she has in the hour before opening,
and exerts it mostly over Karen. The mop

slopping is only pleasing when it's outside and she has time
and pride to herself to shine the plastic pulling handles.

She is wary of newcomers, who see through the rouge
with a clarity not befitting the dim strip-lighting; prefers instead

the company of the regular strangers, who don't even see her face
any more, but who never fail to compliment her immaculate nails.

Saturday, 3 May 2008

I got up at 3am this morning.

I am Sylvia atricapilla in the half-light

As varied as birdlife we appear to each other
here. The contrast between us is as hard to detect
as bat-calls but eyes are on the silhouetted branches
for the moment anyway. A squeaky tit or the sub-song
of a chiffchaff are all we need in these moments
for mirth, poised as we are for the details.

Straight from sleep we appear changed. It doesn't take much
to know each other: we swap animal tales and sheep-worrying,
all ready to admit we're not mushroom people but would love
to see a dog stinkhorn; that we're not into sea birds but have
a shine in our eyes for the pair of lesser black-backed
gulls alighting in unison on the lake. There is time, later,

to contemplate the others' unknowing bird affinities.
I want to be a starling all balls and cheek and karaoke car-alarm,
but in the cool of the pre-day we've created I feel closer
to the gurgling blackcap and its quiet variety, its lack of depth.

Friday, 2 May 2008

Meet Geoff. He's my favourite so far.

The Black Clock Arms


Geoff's shined velvet seat, black with polished
dirt, cools in the almost-night Black Clock Arms
now, but he feels the sun out here. He'd lost touch
with the flesh of himself until it started to brown.

He sits several feet from the people he recognises
but can't place the names of; their stories aren't enough
out here in the light. His pint and his arse reach a unison
of temperature: one warming on the bar, the other

cooling on a bollard, while he realises how little
he cares about the barstool now the only place
he's allowed to chain smoke is here. The only thing
really missing is a place for the smaller papers, spread
open and every sentence read and repeated over again
to kill the time he dreads and has more of now to himself.

Thursday, 1 May 2008

More sequence.

The Black Clock Arms


Karen takes a dirty rag-mop to the front of the Black
Clock Arms before opening: the extra half an hour she
has to work now is enough to kill her, what with her back
and knees giving her jip, but she does it anyway.

There is a slop and trickle every half metre for the kicked
up rain and boot prints. She doesn't bother scouring the dimples
in the paintwork, and almost thinks how strange it is to have
pride about this sort of work; but she does it anyway.

The punters queue a full twenty minutes before opening
and they all have the pain of sleep in their hair and cardigans.
Karen takes her rag-mop to the front of the Black Clock Arms

around them and hardly thinks these things before she's back
staring into pint after pint of mop-bucket beer, listening for rain
and fights and readying herself for tomorrow's dirty walls.