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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Photo created by the author

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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Photo by the author

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.

 

50E46099-D7FD-417F-AF78-D19C62E1EA9A
Image created by the author

Falling

the fall begins
at conception
a slow decline
unnoticeable
slippage seven
ages in one
arbitrary                        miscarriage
accidental
cancerous
murder                         by fire water
dis-eased
melancholy
can’t remember         faces no more
the brutality
of old age
can’t piss                  in a pot no more
or a swift
acceleration
choosing                   an open window
irresistible
gravity calling
200 mph
a dislocation                  of ghost limbs
hot wind
shape shifting                    hair aflame
till you hit
ground zero                             running
the red light

 

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Image created by the author

Gravel Roads

There was fire over water that night
we met, sparks aplenty. You were more
elegant than expected, curvaceous steel

with a hint of rebellion. Your body
enclosed me like a rocket on our way
to a mysterious planet. My heartbeat

quickened as I fondled the unfamiliar
instruments swathed in your green light.
Together we claimed space, unstoppable.

We shot across the Tyne Bridge without
looking back, headed north, crossing
borders and north – north – anticipating

the friction of car wheels on gravel
roads. There were torn rainbows, strings
of pearls, demons hiding in hedgerows,

lightning bolts and blinding spider mist.
There were herring seas, twisted forests,
and languid nights of Summer Isles. Lost

in the clouds we met only talking cats.
Fairy lights beckoned from peat bogs;
temptation lurking in each red window.

We were Bonny and Clyde, a foxy
duo kicking up shit in the badlands until
we broke with a whimper not a bang.

I feel the cold without you and I doubt
the presence of soul. Scars fade in sun;
nothing remains but moss, rust and bone.

 

 

EDDC1665-165C-4CA2-8DD7-650461D48BE2
Original photo by the author

 

 

 

Noddy Speaks in Tongues

Break-time. The English sip milk through a straw, crunch crisps.
I am the foreign kid, cornered by Miss Blowers, stick the tip
between your teeth. The them there this. The they them, like this.

Her tongue protrudes from her mouth like a sliver of salami.
De dem dare dis. De dey dem, like dis, I repeat.

Miss Blowers holds Noddy and the Magic Rubber. Her sharp
fingernails tap the cover; rat-a-tat, rat-a-tat, rat-a-tat. Thwack.
I am crowned with Noddy. I detonate with pain and shame.
The they them there this. The they them! roars Miss Blowers.
My tongue strikes, three thunderous thumps, thanks.

Back home Mama prepares borscht, slicing beetroots, carrots,
Chop, chop, chop into small. Her knife slides through red
flesh with no resistance, taps as it hits the chopping board.
Don’t like bosh, says I. Not de bosh, but de borscht! says Mama.
Not de borscht but the borscht and out comes my tongue.

 

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A Light Bulb Moment- photo by the author

 

 

 

The Other Side

Somewhere in the Hambleton Hills
I took a right turn down a track not
on any map and edgy with yesterday.

Like Alice I plunged down a tunnel
of yellow gorse, silver birch and rocks
that had danced in the Book of Genesis.

A large pink dog, the sort that calls
a spade a spade was waiting by a stream
where the track vanished in a tangle

of weeping willows and a warning sign
Check depth before entering. Deep water
and shadows beckoned. The dog wagged

his tail in approval and I saw beyond
the ford; a fertile valley and sheep
like ballerinas in tutus and a rainbow

house on a hill in a dazzle of sublime
clouds. I saw a smiling face and a hand
waving, an orchard and a rose garden.

I smelled strawberries, fresh bread
and wood smoke. The whispers of leaves
and birdsong drifted on the breeze.

The dog waited, his eyes wary as hope
while I considered the darkness
of the crossing and judged it too deep.

 

 

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