I follow mother’s crooked
path beyond the giant privet hedge
where once I found blackbird eggs. Perfect
spheres of eau de nil slipped through careless
fingers and smashed on paving stones set by father
years before. On the hill, the shed cowers beneath the apple tree
where once I found God. Perched up top, he was singing
Bowie songs and watching the neighbours through binoculars.
Ashes to ashes; Jennifer Jones kissed the coal man.
Dust to dust; Marjorie Moony hoovered nude.
I never done good and I never done bad.
I wanna come down right now and try
mother’s apple pie
The Gleaning is an example of a concrete poem where the shape of the page echoes the theme. This one is supposed to represent an apple tree.
The ambulance man with striking
green eyes stroked the inside
skin of her teenage arm as she lay
strapped (for her own safety) on the reeking
canvas of another NHS. If you’re a lucky girl you’ll meet Jimmy!
She thought he was, maybe
trying to be nice (but those alien
fingers were electric…) No comfort
blanket, suspended in L10 skeletal
traction, legs akimbo and knicker
-less (for her own hygiene), a monster pain
-ted by Hieronymus Bosch. The male charge
nurse with watery grey eyes brought gin
secrets in a Barr’s Cream Soda bottle, hot
take-away through her open
window of gritty nights.
She thought he was, maybe,
trying to be nice (but gin made her sick,
she liked Babycham).
The glass half
-full on the sunny side. Cheer up, might never happen,
said the porter with lizard pink
eyes taking her down to a strip
-lit basement, down corridors
lined with conduits. If you’re a lucky girl you’ll meet Jimmy!
One by one they pass blind
through the living arch,
the children of loss following
Mother’s twisted path of breadcrumbs.
Blue birds peck at their bare feet.
The sun bubbles over yellow fields
where fat cats sleep away the shadows
of the deep purple wood.
One by one they stray,
broken children with tender skin;
tawny robin’s wing, freckled amber,
cuckoo spit, sun kissed pebble, raven’s
feather, morning mist and midnight pools,
following Mother’s cinder path
through the crystal orchard where apples
hang, red and flawless but out of reach.
One by one they stumble, feet bleeding
on Mother’s razor path of barbs
into the dark. Silver snakes encircle, whisper
warning but the children do not hear.
Their fingers seek between the snapping
branches but find no-one. Their tears
blossom roses no-one will ever see
in the depths of the purple wood.
The ancient hermit snips and sews silence
in her cave in the deep purple wood.
She threads her needle with the fine hair
of a nameless girl, makes painstaking
stitches, a cloak of perfect skin; tawny
robin’s wing, freckled amber, cuckoo spit,
sun-kissed pebble, raven’s feather,
morning mist and midnight pools.
She held her breath and passed beneath the wishing trees. Their evergreen tips arched across the path to the beach. Kiss Me Quick, Squeeze Me Slow. The sea played out beyond the dunes. The world unraveled an orgy of blues as the red kite spiraled up into the heat. On the horizon, the mist spooled like the edge of dreams. She held her breath and waited for the wind to drop.
The kite shrank to a small dot, vanished. The sky grew dark and stormy like ruffled raven’s wings. Blue eyes and long black hair, her skin was delicate and fair. She began to run, over sharp stones, through thorns, back across the swamp until she tripped on a twisted tree root and fell, into quicksand. She held her breath.
During police interview her mother said, Aye, she was trouble alright. Born unlucky,