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.

 

 

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Original 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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The Door

Go and close the door.
Maybe inside you’ll find another
woman in a secret room,
the one who once loved you
naked with hair as long as winter.

Go and close the door.
Maybe you’ll find gold
dust behind the revolving book case,
gilding the spider who weaves
your future from the uneaten
crusts you leave on your plate.

Go and close the door.
Keep out the fandango wind
or it may dance
your dreams to smithereens.

Go and close the door.
Maybe something high-rise
will grow in the sour air.
Your house will become a castle
with log fires dazzling
in caramel halls.

 

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Photo by the author

Peacock Blues

It was a time of velvet love,
revolution and Snakebite.
My mother gave me beige
polo necks and warned
of the dangers of touching.
My summer job yielded
a red dress from Bus Stop
with a plunging neckline
and a scalloped hem that swirled
when I twirled to Bowie and Bolan
alone in my room, rehearsing
my poses with a feather boa.

I met him on the landing of a cold
terraced in Queensbury, queuing
for the loo and giddy with homebrew.
He pretended to take my picture
with an imaginary camera, squinting
and clicking his tongue. You look like
what’s her name from Pan’s People,
he said as he kissed my neck. He wore
a peacock feather in his blonde locks
and a guitar with a tartan strap. His lips
were curvaceous like Bryan Ferry’s.
He called himself Fritz and a pacifist.

My mother was ironing father’s
socks, underpants and cotton shirts
when I got in, the steam clouding
the kitchen with a choking mist.
She didn’t look up when I gave her
the peacock feather. It’s pretty, I said.
Some call it the evil eye, she replied.
Next day it was tucked behind her
gilded wedding photo on the shelf
with the candles and the broken clock.

 

 

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Anger

If you live among wolves you have to act like a wolf.”

– Nikita Khrushchev.

 
Anger

For as long as anyone could remember, the seed
had lain cold and infertile, buried in no-man’s
land like a relic from World War Zero until

the black rains began, bloody and reeking
of injustice. Diamond winds blasted, unstoppable,
eroding the top soil until the seed was exposed;

hard, spiky, toxic, untouchable. Acid rains
pooled on the stony ground forming
new rivers like convoluted arteries and veins

reviving the bodies of undead soldiers. The seed
softened and grew into a giant lightning tree
with fiery tentacles encompassing the world.

And we all waited to be struck:-
Nelson Mandela, Mahatma Ghandi, Tolstoy, JFK,
Solzhenitsyn, Sylvia Pankhurst, Martin Luther King,

John Lennon, Pablo Picasso, Karl Marx, Frida Kahlo,
Rosa Parks, Benjamin Zephaniah, Peter Tatchell,
Marie Colvin, Che Guevara, Maya Angelou, John Pilger.

 

 

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Homecoming

I hesitate over the Hollyhock seeds,
a gift from an unwelcome visitor,
plucked from her coastal garden.
She wished to cultivate friendship
but this is not a land for expectations.
Some days there is too much sky
and the earth shrinks in subservience.
The northerlies and easterlies razor
high hopes to humble proportions.
I prepare soil sheltered by fencing
and umbrella bamboo, fronds scorched
by storm. I shake the Hollyhock seeds
into my palm. Alien, irregular. I sprinkle
and mark the spot with a scallop shell.
Three years on, a hot September, I return
from hospital having almost missed
first bloom; tall, triumphant and sizzling
cerise in a land that favours the small.

 

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Artwork by the author

 

Closure

Time and lavender do not heal
your marks like a signature at my door.

My plastic skin splits beneath flaking
layers of paint. Wind and rain penetrate

my openings. No one hears the alarm
and soon decay sets in. The floor

sags underfoot, the walls are festooned
with festive mildew. What goes around

comes around. Time is a serpent biting
its tail, a palimpsest. If I close my eyes

real tight I see you running, a flash
of orange on green, a broken traffic light.

 

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Photographic image created by the author.