Zero to Ten

In the beginning, I count down cigarettes and orange
scorched days in the dark cocoon of Now, Voyager.
I inhale red velvet and the upbeat of your heartbeat.

In my first year you are out of reach on the marble
shelf as I ride my silver cross carriage to the Castle.
I desire a warm drink not clocks and candle sticks.

In my second year my meandering footprints are cast
in cement and the violence of passing trains.
I feel the sting of Aztec girls and foreign tongues.

In the missing year I watch electric light triangulate
as my door is wedged open by the white coats.
Beyond glass, snow falls and you wave from a distance.

In my fourth year you lug my dead weight to pointless
rotations of my left foot. “ Good girl,” says the physio.
My reward is crumbling bread for ducks in Lister Park.

In my fifth year Miss Blowers raps me over the head
with Noddy and the Magic Rubber. “Stop talking” she says.
I wet my pants. Why are the scissors always too blunt?

In the sixth year, semolina congeals but my lips are sealed.
Red-faced, father dances a vodka jig by the camp fire.
Rubbing my knees, I am told nettle stings are good for you.

In my seventh year, I hide within canoodles of trees
by the Leeds and Liverpool, stay silent when you scream
my name. Rain beads sycamore leaves like mercury.

In my eighth year, I survey the crater of an extinct volcano,
see you small and alone down below. Turning circles,
you shout my name. I hear the rush of lava flowers.

In the nothing year, I leave myself behind in a waiting room.
The quick brown fox jumps over the lazy dog. Parallel bars
and surgical scars. I watch as chrysanthemums sour in vases.

In my tenth year, legs braced for action I’m back to school.
They say they’ve missed my piano playing and mysterious
chalk drawings. I carve a car from balsa wood. My knife slips.

 

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Mouse

I

When it happens, it happens quickly
without fanfare or farewell.
One minute you’re crawling
around the kitchen in search
of crumbs, avoiding His Doc Martens
and dreaming of better things.
Jump cut
to floating face down with tail
between your legs, guts protruding
a sad bloody mess
into the cat’s water bowl. You repeat
your last words in nine different
languages but still no-one hears.
Que sera, sera, as Doris would say.
II

He watched smoke rise up to the winter
moon and realised they no longer
shared this same sky, this frosty air.
Her world was darkness now,
no more
falling stars to catch and hold.
When it happened, it happened quietly,
a whisper
like the tearing of soft tissue.
III

When it happened, the shock
was Hitchcockian without violins
or cutting away. A long shot
of detached suburbia zooming
into a shadowed interior.
Her pale face,
smokey eyes looking into a mirror
where no-one was looking back.

 

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Your Poem

The passage of one life is like a poem,
the end an echo of the start; a solitary
fight to enter this world, darkness
to light. The bloodying of white
sheets observed by strangers in a room
with thin curtains, mirrored in the final
stanza only without felicitations.
You hope you die before you get old.

The romance, the action, the clues lie
in the middle section of your poem,
an exposition on your main theme;
a search for happiness, love, money,
acceptance, fluffy cats, fame, red hair,
a good shag or prize-winning dahlias.
You hope you die before you get old.
Whatever floats your boat, baby!

By stanza seven you learn you are not
a boat but a desert island, unexplored.
You hope you die before you get old.
You sit on the shore watching the murky
tide of water and wait for the Ferry. Angel
whispers in your ear. It is the jade game,
the sky is not the same blue, the sun holds
no heat and no one will ever truly get you.

In stanza nine the diminishing begins.
Your body shrinks (except for your nose).
You shape-shift, spend more time looking
down and back. Chins multiply but hair
and friendships fall away. Downsizing.
You hope you die before you get old.
You can’t piss in a pot no more.
You can’t recall names no more.

You hope you die before you get old.
The passage of your life is like a poem
structured by repetition, rhythm, rhyme,
recurring motifs and metaphors exploring
a theme (same shit different day). The arc,
the meaning of your story remains hidden
to you (although strangers see) until
the moment God turns over your page.

 

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The Honeypot

The Avon lady lived at Number 5.
She wore black stockings and a loose beehive.
On Saturday evenings she energised
weaving down the street, wiggling her behind.

Laced up in my blue book-strewn room I heard
her singing Elvis songs and swigging beer
straight from the bottle, unladylike cheer.
Her lipstick crimson, her complexion clear.

At midnight stilettos tapped a morse code
for I’m alive and in love, don’t you know?
as she zig-zagged home, teddy boy in tow
rousing me from nightmares of frogs and toads.

I watched the lovers from my curtained screen
as they kissed and smooched by the apple trees
and I wondered why she was on her knees
while he softly moaned, begging please, please, please.

The Avon lady buzzed up at our door
each month with her sample box, treats galore;
Here’s my Heart, Persian Wood, Wishing, Rapture,
To a Wild Rose – desire choked our parlour.

Mam always chose Lily of the Valley,
innocent and not for whores, she proclaimed
eyeing me down in my navy school plains
as I sniffed each little bottle and prayed.

Avon lady thought me a Topaz girl.
Her warm scented touch on my wrist burned
like the bee stings of her loosening curls
so my honeycomb heart melted and yearned.

 

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