Monday, 30 June 2008

Things I cannot do, 2.

How to speak to your mother

Do not approach her in dreams; she may speak
but it is an inaccuracy, and you are likely to falsify.
Do not address the sky; she was scattered in the sea,
but nor will the waves talk back in their immensity.

Starman is not a true account of where she went,
but nor is any place she stood once. Living around
from the house she called home is no guarantee;
walking her streets could take you miles for nothing.

Write, instead, and lay out all her words
as if they are a conversation you control.
List some things she would definitely have said:
other people's memories are no use any more.

Start with a family saying, move on from there.
She may appear from just a comment on the colour of her hair.

Sunday, 29 June 2008

A Glasgow poem, sort of, for coming home.

Going back

There is sun now I'm leaving with an aching neck
but it has been there all along amidst the falling rain.
I saw a man pissing in it. While starlings

pecked at fresh vomit in the light, the perpetrator was nowhere
but always the marvellous green on the necks of the birds
was wonderful. Thrown off the bus, we walked the grid-map streets

in this sometimes-rain paying no attention to the direction of the wind.
There was sleeping in silence and club-footed pigeons I have named
Byron, all three. There were plenty things to admire

and extra security. There was sun all along but hard to see
for the misting rain and music. There was music we will never move
on from. There is sun now I am train-bound in the giant fading sky.

Saturday, 28 June 2008

Friday, 27 June 2008

A little late... sorry!

Muse on a lover I've never met

A man's lover stays at home today
because she is ill and strokes the cat.
It is long-haired and white but these people
don't have carpets for the hair to gather.
She collects dust bunnies twice a day.
She wears the cardigan her mother gave her
to keep the warm in. She has dirty blonde
hair with split ends, but has saved it
from brittle with plenty of mousse.
She does not like coffee or men
who tuck their shirts into their patent belts
but puts up with his because of the way he treats her.

She imagines him pacing offices carpeted
in the greys and blues of the arts. She smells
the newness of funding. Tonight he will bring
home a theft of paperclips for her office space.

Thursday, 26 June 2008

An older one but still needs some work.

Somewhere along the years the abattoir film's gone missing.

I think of it as the contrast between bright
paint-red and the need for black and white;
the change from shaving your everyday face
to watching the shavers finish the pigs'
bollocks in two neat bare-blade swipes.

You speak of this lost film in the abstract
with all the routine that brings, but I notice
the noise in the raising of your voice;
the jittering bloodied heads above
in your clatter-stirred milkless coffee.

And so the story travels over Radio Two
from setting out your awe for
huge carcass rollers to dead pig-weight
to the drip drip drip of blood-red blood
and how easy it was to slip.

My grandpa speaks of his death too
as if he had been with you in the making,
just another interview to complement
the colourless bloodied aprons—a hammer
to the head, a spike straight through, his own role

as brace to stop them bolting—but your stolen film
holds all the mystery for me: as art and archived footage
treads a fine bloodied line; as the contrast
between the bright paint-red of loss and the tang
of theft that's on your tongue amidst the music.

Wednesday, 25 June 2008

Things I cannot do.

How to change your name

Start with your old one – you cannot get anywhere
without it – and suspend it in your mouth
until it is no longer a word. Surround
yourself with it. We will get you unacclimatised

but we need your help first. Say your name now
as if it is the first time you've been called it.
Bring a photo you have labelled of yourself
as yourself. Your old name is old news now.

Take a deep breath from your toes to the crown
of your head. Do not speak. The fee is minimal.
Don't speak until your new name
is all you are. This is your only chance.

Keep breathing, there is no pressure of time.
In. Out. That's right. We are not experts,
we do not know where they come from.
I see; good choice. We don't get many of those

but it seems to suit.

Tuesday, 24 June 2008

I am still ill. Rubbish.

Whistle practise

I practise the notes around mi with too much
time for the lack of mastery. My lungs today
have kept me going and still they work,

a miracle all their own. I craft them into bellows
for notes in air, notes that don't exist except
as half-holes sliding. I am distracted by the thinking

wheel of an email programme until it becomes
my own factory setting for thought. The notes
keep my lungs in order and though I am without

relaxed hips it is enough to stop me for a while
and suddenly I am having to travel back in the dark
from the furthest music to my own heartbeat to here.

Monday, 23 June 2008

I am ill. And tired.

And so this is more notes than poem, and I am away to bed.

Somewhere sort of familiar but essentially a different place

Round here it's never clear whether you're safe or not.
Industrial roots, great honking trees. A sheer drop
the other side of the iron railings. Dallas Carpets
bold on the red roof below. Not the best street lights.

Viewed from the other side, we are in mist;
a long slow sea fret that stops us seeing the only thing
worth being here for: the view. It is worth supping
warm cider to wait for it to clear. It is worth the smell.

Sunday, 22 June 2008

Saturday, 21 June 2008

I like storms.

After the strike

the cat remains. The phone will not hang up
but keeps an inviting tone. She doesn't dial,
but checks on the dog who has given up

under the table. The house is unscathed.
It steams. She is hesitant around objects
which could connect back to the sky's

temper but eventually dials her home from
home: there is nothing but layers of notes
in one long insistent tone. The cat remains.

Friday, 20 June 2008

Earlier than usual.


His fingers were a trick of the light and altogether
everything his parents could want. The banjo
would twang to him its four-stringed passion, cracking
and splintering for love of him and competition.
It would have done anything he asked, or so we're told:
he chose his own switch when it didn't happen like that.

He switched banjo for bouzouki when choices became
movable and real. It feeds his yearning for the natural.
We hear half-truths of regret in the notes. He bears no
obvious scars, but wears his hair long and black
all down his back. It catches the light and hides his face;
at once performance and everything that's not.

Thursday, 19 June 2008

Old notebooks are ace.


We have lost our vespertilian ears. Those silhouetted
flitterers, eating midges before they get around
to eating us, making soundscapes that, like our own
conversations, will echo around endless space
getting fainter by halves: they are lost to us now.

It is not just vampire preference: bats are lucky in Poland
but they still cannot hear them there. And it is not only there,
despite the reputations, that people angle boxes
to lower the sound from clicks to whistles. Everywhere
there is loss and nostalgia for half-heard sounds.

Wednesday, 18 June 2008

Under 300 days to go!


Preoccupied by a flutter in her diaphragm
and a tendency towards sneezes she finds it hard

to hold a valid point when really all there is to say
is yes. She is not convinced she is immune

to an elaborate hoax of rhyme. There are connections
she is not aware of; the lack of context

is telling. She has cheated it so far but
there is no way to stay like this forever.

She hasn't been herself yet here: she is her own
guinea pig, wholly unformed and firmly whole

alone. She is in their hands.

Tuesday, 17 June 2008

This evening's events will no doubt appear over the next few days as poems...eep..

but for now...

Flight Risk

He was a flight risk, liable to disappear
at any moment; but it was you who raised
your hand precisely as a pigeon took to the air
from the ground beneath your feet; or
did it come from your sleeve, a physical expression
of what you wanted to say? In my face, the wingbeat
air; in my chest the panic of collision.
In your face the glee and disappointment
of the world going to lengths to prove a point.

Monday, 16 June 2008

For P.M.B.

In an orchestra of limbs

You cannot help but skip on every other beat.
Your steps are a measure of notes, your hands
accents and crescendos; violas of movement
in an orchestra of limbs. Precise moments see you
wholly in air, prepared only for descent and timing.
There is no despair in your movement
and freedom is as envied as it is necessary.
You are a rare anatomy of music and
you never fail to make my night with that.

Searching each other's movements
for the meaning all we ever find is each other
and the urgency of drums. It is starting to fragment:
my arm is your keyboard, please be content.
The air is my trombone; the air is your guitar.

Sunday, 15 June 2008

Just notes for now...

If I have learnt anything today, I have learnt this.

There is no easy way up to anything,
only easy ways down, and hands are under
pressure from all angles despite the cotton grass.

The day's efforts are echoed back in rumbles
of approval from the forest. As the wind cools,
routes that have been chalk-marked

are scored in skin which we leave drying in the sun.
Few leave with a full set of fingerprints; all
with their rubbish and a sense of satisfaction.

Saturday, 14 June 2008


On the shoulders of boats

Her map is as well-travelled as she is
but wears the thumb-worn texture easier.
Each time she returns the sea wrinkles differently
and is glorious—each route she has travelled never the same.
The drift this time makes each mile two
but that just means more time with the blinking stars
and their sea-bent reflections; a particle history of space.

There are miles that pass quickly under momentum-hum wheels,
a flash of twittering and I-spy; the click click of cats eye drift.
These miles she takes at half-speed on the shoulders of boats
cradled by the rise and fall; a journey in three dimensions.
These miles she floats over with a precision that defies the assumption
of water. She is looking for pieces of things she has lost
that must be in the waves, or have at least passed through.
She is gathering strength.

Friday, 13 June 2008

Just before I rush out...!

To photograph a first born

The absence of me is distinct here
in its purposefulness. It makes
for an unusual shot. From this point
no-one need know. I, who have been
named three times for love;
I would not recognise my mother
who cradles me here before
she has seen my face.

From then it would be thirty years
before she knew it again, before
I would introduce myself
with my only chosen name;
née the replacement; née hers.

Thursday, 12 June 2008


A girl plays with a pencil unnoticed in Starbucks

Soon we will disappear
under bouncing blonde curls
and two-year-old speech patterns;
under attention lavished by everyone
except who can tell her off.

Soon we will disappear
through cute-as-a-button coughs
and tinkling pink cardigan tassles
or because chocolate is spread
all over our faces too.

Soon we will disappear
because her mum will be
telling her off in three languages
and trying to snatch the pencil
from the tiniest hand here.

Soon we will disappear
as the careful outlines of spots
on signs become frantic black
swirls and we are all
scribbled out in a passionate rebuff.

Wednesday, 11 June 2008

Thanks Dave.

Two years in we find a cellar

Buried under the moving earth, all that's visible
is the keystone of an arch and the sound
of a hollow filled with dirt. It awaits
its purpose; is poised empty of ideas.

Like a beaming photograph that lasts beyond
its context, its hollows and conversations
are long gone. We need plants, now, to fill it.
We need history but we are all running out.

There have been deaths here; there have been
deaths everywhere if you are looking. Deaths
in clothes, in streets, in shoes and rooms.
This cellar had them but they are lost.

Bring your deaths and music. We will tap our feet
along to whatever you play, planting rhythms
and roots for the cellar to cling to. There is nothing
more fearful than a house without ghosts.

Tuesday, 10 June 2008

There's a cellar, too. Tomorrow's post perhaps.

Invitation to a thought shower (plus guest)

Three months in and settled, we have found a hidden room.
Please come and help us fill it: we have no more stuff

and want no more. All we need is thoughts and you can even leave
them at the door. Here are some examples to get you going:

the last time you smelt your Grandmother; when your mortality
was realised; a bicycle ride. Please allow for detours

though the room is square. Maybe all you have is time
you do not have: we will welcome things you'd like to do.

There is plenty of space for considered tango lessons, yoga,
learning shorthand. Anything will do, it's just the walls and floors

are empty and we are out of personality and paint.
Please, no physical gifts; we are unable to accept.

Monday, 9 June 2008


The Inherited

Generations have died before they've had a chance
to tell me how I'll go. One sudden death after another
they keep giving up the ghost but not leaving one behind
to let me know. How do I prepare? Perhaps they do not know,
I hear you say, perhaps you'll go like they did: in the morning
unable to sit up for fear of fading consciousness, pooling blood;
in hospital, a pink swab mopping saliva from the sunken parts
of face where dentures go; eight weeks from diagnosis.
I could carry round whole heaps of hows to stop it, but slings
and plasters will never be enough. Every pain I have could be
my mum's ghost pointing at where things will loosen first,
every limp and yawn a last hurrah, a sign of things to come.
My oblivious heart is tapping out the truth on my love-torn ribs:
b-bum, b-bum, b-bum—I think hear correctly: all is well yet, all is well.

Sunday, 8 June 2008

First draft of one from a workshop with Michael Symmons Roberts

The moon is green

he says he has proof. Can't you see
where they've doctored the image? I say it is closer
to me than anything else that big will ever be.

Naming other vague conspiracies under my breath
to keep perspective on him, it is hard to grasp
in daylight the wonder of what it is itself.

I plan tonight to take him out and we will count
on our own unsteady eyes to pace the moon across our sky.
Perhaps tonight is when the flight of our own earth will taint

it yellow or harvest red; perhaps tonight it will be new
and disappeared. Either way it is as normal as
a question, or cheese and onion hula-hoops.

In this distant room under arguments of greenery
it is abstracted. Not until later will we see the pock-marked
face of a regular stranger; one side turned, always unseen.

Saturday, 7 June 2008

Has anyone noticed.....? I think I got away with it...

Walk to work

Start with make-up in your eyes
and an increasing paranoia
about your skirt and the wind.

It is downhill at first but prepare
your new-woken hips
for the approaching incline.

Rid your face of indifference
when the man with a dog says morning
and yanks too hard on the lead.

Acknowledge the boy on a scooter,
the usual bickering birds and the bench
and sign that were painted pink one day.

The person behind will get a shot
of your arse (again) and the traffic lights
will take forever to let you cross.

Walk a little faster to check out that guy's walk,
then feel a little older, perhaps wiser,
than most of the students on the bridge.

Your shoulder-bag is heavy with lunch
you'll appreciate later; your music
is irrelevant here because of the traffic noise.

The Frenchman will be smoking
and there are people queueing
to get into pubs at 9.20am.

There are still back streets here to take,
however small. Stop for a coffee—you'll be
a little late, but it's worth the risk.

You're nearly there. Slow down
a little but run up the stairs. Avoid the steps
to nowhere on your left; head down, to work.

Friday, 6 June 2008

Smut and thrips. There is still work to be done on this one.

Looking after leeks

We are searching for him, a man who can't be seen
through the moulding glass of any greenhouse.

We imagine him happiest shooing smut and thrips away.
Truth be told, he is a man who gets easier as the weather cools.

He must take sandwiches, always, but that is all; his body
best lean with tender fingers for the delicate leeks.

The growth is slow and useful. We wait for his perfect skies
after small travesty—an early frost, an unpredicted cold snap, showers

to keep the ground close—and yet have never caught a sight.
Most nights he watches sun-shy leeks grow by the dimming glow

of his car battery. Collared and watered in, he is sitting somewhere
until the dawn chorus lullaby drowns out the rustling growth.

It is the same sky, the same chorus, and the leeks we eat are blanched
like his, and yet; and yet. We have not seen him and do not know his name.

Thursday, 5 June 2008

I have had a small slow patch but there are some poems growing again.

Down the front at Flogging Molly

I heard it called the bear pit once,
this place where everyone smells of Lynx
and heaving and sweat that isn't yours
runs down your back and thighs.

The mohawks are falling and soon
blue dye will be trickling down faces
of people whose ears might as well be leaking
from the unbridled passion of banjos.

Tuesday, 3 June 2008

An old one that's never had an airing.

the things we forget

I. bacon

We were stuffing our faces with palindromes,
and with those huge chewy over-wrapped palindromes
we E-numbered through the night. Miles and miles
of time we gained between us, though the sky came up eventually,
when my head was resting hard against the window.

II. insect repellent

Once we had arrived it was clear ideas spread like ant-nests there.
Watching for grasshoppers like they were shooting stars,
I spread my eyes across the grass to catch them.
I couldn't hide the quiet smile as I captured one's music
with the supermacro setting on my camera.

III. something to wee in

Admiring the false privacy of tents we caught a man,
kneeling and pissing onto his own undersheet. We made
poems of him and Jaffa Cakes, as if no-one could hear.
It's strange to say but I savoured the experience of
long-drops and other people's retching, peeing, retching.

IV. a different pair of shoes

It was easy to capture other people's Google-searches for wellies
and oh how people frame their momentary obsessions
in the neat digital age: fields of people all with arms raised and Jarvis
in their sights. One man took picture after picture of a sleeping girl;
every image the same but for the songs changing behind her.

Monday, 2 June 2008

More thoughts on magic tricks.

Stooge contemplates their existence

Lying is a physical inescapability as me, but I tell no-one
that. Every night I dress as if it's my last—or my birthday—
and I do remember times when that could have been true.

I move in sections of the stalls for the necessity of discovery.
It amazes me how he can place me every time, but it's only small
things like that now that do. He does have one trick I don't know

so I have something to watch for every night. Every night everyone
assumes my dream come true, and in a way they're right.
I can't get enough of his beautiful face, his sleighting fingers.

I got into this game when sawing was all the rage, and have lost
my legs often enough. They always come back in the end.
Always. He can still surprise me with it sometimes.

The greasepaint, the dressing rooms, my name in lights:
all reasons I started and everything I am forced to ignore.
My face is an ever-changing carousel of normal smiles and blushes.

See if you can spot me, one day. My name is discrete.
I do not fiddle with padlocks and leotards. I am stooge and silent.
I often do not recognise myself.