Sunday, 31 August 2008

Is it anyone you know's?

This bike

It has been chained to the lamppost
for two weeks now. Manhandled from standing,
from lying, to standing, it still has its slip-on gel seat-cover
and shine in its silver despite the weather

we've been having. I have considered slipping it off,
the seat-cover, and more: its handles are a shape
I prefer to my own; the reflectors in the wheels
are much more glowing. Clearly someone has parked it

and forgotten which lamppost gleams its frame
from night to night. I feel sorry for it,
though it hasn't begun to rust. I can see it
from my bedroom window. It is a new constant in my life

but I could be mistaken. Its owner, perhaps, leaves
and arrives before I do; unlocks and locks the chain.
Keeps the saddle clean, like a neighbourhood cat
whose feeders ignore the number that isn't theirs on its collar.

I almost took the brake levers today
and have had to take myself in hand. The lock
is sturdy and besides, I have no cable-clippers to my name.

Saturday, 30 August 2008

I want to be fierce like the saleswoman when I'm older. I am starting today.

A woman bribes me with a free SJP umbrella to buy Paul Smith perfume and sample Stella McCartney

Names do not worry me – you're laughing – but
packaging is everything. And how to reconcile
a love for umbrellas with the fate of the planet.

I smell now like a tart's handbag and am considering
bathing in the luxury of petals it would take me
years to grow. I can hear my mother. I can't tell

whether she's delighted or not but either way
I am powerless in the hands of a saleswoman
who smiles just like her and expects, just like her, a yes.

Friday, 29 August 2008



I have left traces of mascara
on my arm and have been curled up
waiting for something that could match

the stories I've been told today that are not mine
to tell. And there is song after song
of Radiohead, and it is weather for staying out

of duvets, and I am nearly away with the cool breeze
that drifts in with the moths and knocks
my lightshade. I have hiccups, but they will fade.

Thursday, 28 August 2008


Caught in the moment of saving the toast

There are four things worth saving
in this situation, all of which are worthy.
The choice you make says everything

I need to know about your priorities.
In the long-run it turns out you are not
after money, possessions or comfort,

but temporary satiation and this is where I'm at:
ethereal and everchanging; satisfying;
never wholly yours but wholly consumed.

Wednesday, 27 August 2008

Been a while coming. True story.

I meet a fashion mentor on a bus-ride to town

I have sewn pennies into the hem to weigh it down. It has pockets
that often catch on handles, it is torn and fixed at two seams.
It is brightest orange and this is the detail that catches your eye;
makes you stare until I sit next to you and smile.

Thank goodness. Now I can tell you that I wasn't really staring:
that it's just your skirt, it's beautiful and matches the green you're wearing.

I am taken aback by that and your name, which I don't find out
until you're up and leaving, your own bold skirts swaying in the aisle.

Rushed introductions hover and mingle with the journey's facts:
that you're tickled pink for your tutee's standing ovation,
that she was dark-haired and starved by her parents,
and her dresses—oh her dresses—are divine.

Tuesday, 26 August 2008

One word for writing doom. Mariokart.

You won't know who you are before long because I myself have lost track

When I moved in here the smell of paint had
moved in before me and taken root.

Bathed in egg-splashed light from my bedroom window,
I woke up to the confession that you'd given your parrot

to the gas-man. The only impact left
to me is other people's reaction to the news. I keep

moments of us still, hoard the stuff you gave freely
from over the road once, countless minutes ago.

The city is alive I said once alive with everything at 5am except
chicken fried rice and that's the only thing we want.

I haven't seen you since but always consider you
when your birthday comes round. You must be dreaming

of elsewhere in America/Manchester/Edinburgh
/Brighton by now. Never anywhere I can trust.

Monday, 25 August 2008


Stars Compilation

We are heading for the black that makes us less
likely to take risks. It is not until he knows
precisely where to go that we stop. The car
cracks and fizzes in the cold beach-quiet.

Lying down, looking up, there is no eye contact,
even after sighting our only shooting star.
Filament bright and bigger than we could have known,
it flashes through the gap in blanketing clouds. We hang on

for a while, but it's pea soup and hopeless past eleven.
There is only the unseen sea with its whooshing whooshing.
In the car journey home he keeps on Stars Compilation
but sets our hearts on different dreams in the dark.

Sunday, 24 August 2008

Ascent, descent.

Look down; Don't look down.

Stranded here we are halfway
to the end and there is a decision
that needs to be made. Always
the decision-maker you are frozen
with no fear of falling just a beating
in your chest and time
silent and still until you know
you are allowed to go down.

I am trapped by indecision but phobia-free,
and study, in this moment, each bolt
for each step that suspends us
over the likely outcome. I find them
strong and immovable. I find
no need to cease my own breathing.
The decision, I realise, was taken
out of my hands before I realised
it existed: I had stared through the gaps
on every step up. I was only surprised
by your reaction to the smaller world.

Decisions made, you retreat to where
your weight is held only by your own legs
on the earth, and I keep climbing
to my own struggles of perspective.
No postcards to reminisce, no photographs.
My descent is unremarkable, but fast.
The earth reappears through the gaps
in the metal. You are getting bigger,
concern in your eyes, but your breathing
is back to normal and your knuckles
are pink with fearlessness again.

Saturday, 23 August 2008


I am not Madeleine Smythe

but I have taken control of her emotions
and they weigh me down now, dripping

water through my cotton-thin skirt.
The interflora van drives off, gives me

no reason to believe I can ever get caught.
Still, I snip and separate the stems into three

vases: one for tragedy, one for love, one for guilt.
I am not Madeleine Smythe, but maybe, in pretense,

I have saved her from this: Dear Maddy,
I am sorry for your loss.

Friday, 22 August 2008

I got a new book today. It's ace.

CCTV makes you cooler than me

We hear it whizz in our direction as I flash
all sorts of images through my head for it to see.
I skip ahead to the final conclusion

of whoever is watching: harmless. I think
of all the things we could've done to persuade them
otherwise. All I can muster is a furtive glance,

straining to make myself look shifty. You stop;
turn slowly; look it straight in the lens for
an age. By the time you look back to me

I am walking again and you are smiling.
The camera remains and I don't know why
but I wish I had thought of it first.

Thursday, 21 August 2008

The problem with listening to medical programmes on radio 4.

Dr Woodbridge, Assistant Deputy Coroner for the District of Cherwell

You won't remember the weight of it held
in your soft gloved hand. I am going to ask anyway.
I suppose this is an inevitability, dealing
with death as you do. I don't necessarily want

an answer, or if I do, I want a lie. I don't want
it to have been as heavy as mine, nor its beating
to have stopped because of a misplaced sense
of defiance. Perhaps it beat on, bloodless and baggy,

but I want you to say only that it weighs as much as
you'd expect; no more, no less. That a heart is nothing
more than chambers, holds nothing more than
blood. Beats for nothing but itself until it stops.

Wednesday, 20 August 2008

A tweak in time, a tweak in fact, a tweak (or three) in language equals:


I don't love you like the heartbeat
I can see in the tear in my eye
in the concave spyhole drilled through
a solid wood door which is the only thing
holding my weight pressed against it
that leads to the world where you
sit in the car ringing her
or your brother I can't decide which.

I don't love you like the hug
I approached you for when we stood
awkward pavement-bound while your car
engine hummed and indicators blinked
in the moment you unlocked it as a hint
that it better be quick though you sat
in the driver's seat for an age
after I shut the door on your back in your face.

I don't love you like the muscle-memory
that made me want to play footsie with you
even though I knew rightly you
wouldn't play back having trained your own
memory to ignore me in favour of her
who talks more meaning problems
like this are sorted out so much quicker
than we ever sorted out ours.

Tuesday, 19 August 2008

These things spring too often from nowhere.

A lesson in stuffed toys

Polyester, cotton, nylon—they all stuff the wardrobe
at my dad's house now, piled in boxes avoiding dust or
played with rarely by a youngster I won't relinquish ownership to.

In a box in a wardrobe in a house it is all contained
and rarely frisked: except when one comes out they all do,
and there's no escaping the old-smelling dust.

If you pack them right, they disappear to almost nothing
but when they're opened, they're allofasudden back.
They take up much more space than you remember.

Monday, 18 August 2008

Coffee shop coffee shop, I love you....

Today I avoid another's eye

A man who is balding and wearing braces
talks to me of directions we were over here
and now we're over there and we were always
over somewhere
and I realise I think he's crazy
now but actually I was too engrossed in today's
news (as good as it is bad) to even know
the beginning of his sentence, never mind recite
to you the colour of his hair. Later he is talked at
about police and motorbikes and warrants
for arrest but it is hard to glean useful information
from two one-way monologues conducted
in the style of a conversation. I ponder the skill
of this as I consider doing the crossword
of a communal paper. I am not strong enough
to hold onto the sense he's lacking and do not catch
his eye when he roams the room for an escape.

Sunday, 17 August 2008


The way they catch the light is almost beautiful

I'd like to say that the silvering is a way in
to loving what is already mine, but it is not.
All it means is a lack of blood supply,

cut off at the root—no way back. It is too easy
to trace their expression as a map,
or the sadness of learning; the distance

you have to come. Really they only lead
from themselves to themselves.
They do not make routes, or define me

except I know where they do not appear:
my fingers, my ankles, the front of my legs.
My lower arms. My face.

Saturday, 16 August 2008

cowboy and consequences

A Cowboy

What happens when you use waterbased ink.

Friday, 15 August 2008

Excuses excuses.


my hair's the wrong colour; I don't want to risk
a disappointing friendship; I prefer to point you out

to people knowing fine well you'll catch them staring;
speculation is a sensation I enjoy; no-one

deserves these complexes; I'd miss ignoring your friends;
you wouldn't suit hats; someone you know once

hurt someone I used to know; of the risk; I miss
someone else; it shouldn't always be

me; I'm not hung-up enough; my life is risk-free;
I am accustomed to time alone; your name

is something I would never have come up with; I prefer
not to believe; you're too good for me;

there are dreams, of course, and there are excuses.

Thursday, 14 August 2008

(kind of) true story!

summer compilation

Hoping along to stars compilation our dreams
for clear skies are decreasing in magnitude.
We are heading for the black that makes us less likely
to take risks. It is not until he knows precisely
where to go that we stop. The car
cracks and fizzes in the cold beach-quiet.

Lying down, looking up, there is no eye contact,
even in the excitement of a shooting star,
filament bright and bigger than we could have known,
flashing through the gap in blanketing clouds. We hang on
for a while, but it's pea soup and hopeless past eleven.
There is only the unseen sea with its whooshing whooshing.

In the car journey now he takes out stars compilation;
sets our hearts on different dreams in the dark.

Wednesday, 13 August 2008

Not based on actual events. Really.

Lecture on a book I've never read.

The astrophysicist speaks encouragingly
of many things. I have no control
over my muscles which twitch wildly.
It takes this man—no English lecturer

at soft-hearted 18; no poet-philosopher
at hardening 20—all upper-class education
and lack of meaningful eye contact; all
power-point slideshow and brogues,

to make me see the attraction.
Perhaps, I wonder, it is the Eagle Head Nebula
he has on in the background, its cock-eyed
angle in American Frontier golds and greens.

It is weightless and directionless, but altogether
non-existent now, he tells us, despite its shape.
He points to a shockwave in the picture
that struck, sure as eggs, 7,000 years ago.

How does he find space, I think, to care?

Tuesday, 12 August 2008

Rediscovery. What I should be doing.

Reckless Sleeping
after Magritte

Instead of dreams she finds a bowler hat
all felt and black as hollows
in the ground, matt and matted. She tries
it on, tucks it all the way down
round her ears and instead of dreams
she hears the muffled world as if
in sleep. She wonders where
the black crows sleep, imagines
uneaten crumbs abandoned
in the light of dusk, wonders if
they take some home in beaks
and sleep on their food for softness
in the dark; wonders whether they have dreams
to miss. She looks in a mirror,
but instead of dreams she finds the black
shouted back and sees herself whispering
at the crows she knows are sleeping
in the sky. She lights a candle, wax tumbling
the curve of a figure carved in heat and light
and it leaves shadows on her face that chase
her thoughts that could be dreams if caught
in daylight. She crosses her legs, feels
a loosening of self and pushes
her finger through the hole in her pyjamas,
admires the creeping darkness of a felt
black rim above her eyes. She closes her eyes,
and instead of dreams she tucks her hair up
in the hat, reminds herself of songs sung
Au Clair de la Lune and hears them rolling from
her tongue like crow breath. Instead of dreams she lies
on quilting with the hat cocked over her eyes
and thinks of cowboys until morning.

Monday, 11 August 2008

Sunday, 10 August 2008

Hundredth poem.


I have been trying to write of your thumb
but I am failing; I keep slipping into the status
of my own which has been crushed and sucked,
jointed and double-jointed, sliced with glass
and loved in equal measure. I am forgetting yours,
and how far the top joint arched back. I only have one
picture, the one with berets. I am envious of a time
when one photograph could sum up a life on the road
like that. My thumb arches back a little, too,
but not enough. I am holding it up: if someone
passed by at speed and only had my thumb
to go on, how could they possibly know? How long
did you find yourself stranded on wide roads in the sun,
even with the exaggerated curve you bragged about?

Saturday, 9 August 2008

Another letter.

Dear the disappeared,

I am still here, in my old office chair.
The desk is the same. My hands
are the same. You never had my number
but that is the same. My email address,
that ethereal creature we always relied on
too much, yes, it remains. I am writing

you this because I can't believe
you're not there. I know I said I wouldn’t,
but there's only so much silence I can take.
I don't know what you think I might say.
I don’t know if you know me, but here I am
again, and my words are like summer
downpours, drying off quickly.

I'm sure you're still eating olives,
their grease keeps them fresh.
You must have less of a beard
by now; those jeans you wore
still fit, I'm sure. I remember the details
you never did mention. They squatted
between us, silent. Still do. I remember
the camera you were too scared to use.

I've heard you're still out there, working
and playing, always just round the corner
from here. I've heard you don't talk
about anything now, that you're the same
and disappeared, writing bad poetry.
I don't know who to believe, or how to beat
this just-out-of-reach.

Did you ever want me? You don't know
what it means, but I won't wait any more
for our worlds to collide.

I'm not yours, but sincerely, —

Friday, 8 August 2008

In the dark.

Long-awaited expulsion of ego in real-time

Waking in the dark I am obsessed
with seeing. I hunt for a corner
on where I stand; where I left
my shoes when I undressed. I stand
for long minutes, trying to open my open
eyes; trying shut eyes, blinking ones;
trying rubbing eyes, slowly so as not
to rub myself out. I am on the line
of existence/non-existence.

I am still obsessed. I raise my hands
to where I'm sure I should see them,
seek cracks in curtains that have been
there every other night and day,
letting the influence in. I still cannot see,
am now obsessed with how I have lost sight
of my own eyelids that blink and blink
against the dark. I cannot be blind.

And all of a sudden it happens: I wonder
could I fall asleep with my eyes open here?
What has happened to my window to
everyone else to the sun to the universe
I have never looked upon enough?

Thursday, 7 August 2008

The news is a crazy world all its own.

Some dogs are cloned in South Korea and shipped to their new owner in California, USA.

It was a picture to match a thousand others but a face
that could only be one. She'd lost her hand but waved
its reconstruction proudly clutching five carbon copies
of the dog that saved her life, once, from savagery.

Five times rescued, she was also five times caught:
Once with a chastity belt; once for bondage games
she never knew she played. Once as a nun
in the Appalachian mountains – where else? – and once
bare-breasted in a glamour magazine. She tops it off, now,

with this: soaking up chips all over as yesterday's news.
The cloners, they're today's and have bigger fish to fry.
Their sights are on camels in the Middle East.
It is where, they hear, the money is.

Wednesday, 6 August 2008

Junk Mail.

Be not afraid to vary and change the life, after all all becomes to the best.

Don’t doubt, miracles happen. Maybe
it's classy minutiae that will change
your life. Stop being a loser.

You are living in the worst
city; grow a horse's tail and become
the unicorn of your neighbourhood.

Find out what really matters.
Your happiness is much closer
now. Don't get ripped off

by fakes any more. Seduce her
like this. Deflagrate. Be the neon
light at the red light district.

Tuesday, 5 August 2008

Monday, 4 August 2008

I think Billy Big Steps is coming, but I need a bit longer for it to brew.

Feelings made louder by circumstance

And there is no other time when the kitchen floor
seems so necessary as when it should be the bathroom

you're heading for. Every bathroom has a memory
like this: of falling asleeps and the colour of vodka

or coke; of hours passed bruising the breastbone
and panting sorrys into amplifying porcelain.

And there is no other time when the thought of bed
is something too comforting to bear, and the harsh

adjustment of your body to tiles is a welcome distraction
from the way you look tonight, from the way you must

have sounded, from the look he gave you, from the thought
of sustenance and breakfast which will seem so necessary

but not for twelve long hours, three of which you'll lose
except for their impact on your pyjamas in the morning.

Sunday, 3 August 2008

We had a barbecue today.


Last night, after work, listening
to Joni Mitchell, all that roleplaying.
I moved the furniture round, inadvertently,

but the parasol is a little bit redundant.
That's why, that's why she asked you
where you were. I'm sorry, what? Who are you?

Do you know the ones that are like gloves?
I can't remember what it was called, but
as you're having a nice time, excuse me.

She told us the story. She had some
the other day but it was gone, well gone.
Yeah, apart from that; it was good

because it was really out the way
there. Isn't that the same as a trailer?
It's in the barbecue. That's the best place.

Friday, 1 August 2008

Thanks Sarah.

The House of the Next Best Thing

I spend time thinking about this, dream up
boxes as television stands and
recordings of you playing instruments and
stairs instead of a low-key hoverboard and
Kevin Costner instead of Bruce Willis and
yoghurt instead of cheese and
flour and water instead of PVA glue and
a caffeine instead of an alcohol high and
linen instead of cotton and
chairs instead of tables and
tables instead of a mezzanine floor and
blankets instead of duvets and
radio 3 instead of BBC 2 and
lights that never turn off and
all you tell me
is I asked for a glass and got a paper cup.