The Crossing

Spheres of eau de nil slip through, careless.
The island glimmers like crushed glass.

She doesn’t look up when I speak
the sound of silence spiked with roses.

She is wearing a wolf jacket, face tilted
and edged with gold. A fandango is a gift

not for everywoman, she was someone
ten minutes before and her own name

centre stage. Now she prays as the invisible
life of the sea spills skywards. Pink naked

in newspapers, dislocation strikes a pose.
She turns. No place for strangers they say.

The first time is the hardest and she twists
for her dreams. I want to laugh until

I see rain pelting cheekbones and roll-ups.
Where was my power over water?

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Moving On

Another piece of flash fiction mined from an old notebook. I wrote this just after my relocation to the Far North of Scotland fifteen years ago.

Tuesday morning
Seagulls wail the sound of loss and loneliness as I make my way down the hill to the harbour. The road unfurls a paper scroll and the turquoise shimmer of the sea beckons. On the horizon I see a small red dot, faltering, almost lost in the haze; a warning, a sign, an anticipation of homecomings. Or unwelcome return. I stop on the bridge and watch the ochre discharge of peaty water cascading down the brae. The wind blows cold carrying the stink of diesel from below. I don’t want to go on. Nauseous, I lean against the railings while my stomach spasms, ejecting the loathsome bile of my fear into the river. I’m glad there’s no-one around, only a dog chasing ducks and barking.

Tuesday afternoon
A small red dot on the road behind me, shrinking, getting smaller and smaller until I have to pretend I can still see him in the rear view mirror. An imaginary dab of scarlet on the tarmac like the smudge of a blood stain on a clean white blouse, an embarrassment, something quickly washed away and forgotten. No longer real. Just a story I made up or a dream or the memory of a dream. Ahead lies a clear horizon and an open road. If I look carefully I can see a small yellow dot; a pale circle of gold, insignificant, like a wary hitch-hiker hovering and waiting but getting closer, swelling bigger and brighter and more beautiful. Until I can see nothing else, my vision obscured by glorious yellow light.

And the past is dissolved away, reduced to a pile of bleached old bones at the side of the road.

Photo by the author

Something Fishy

I was looking through some old notebooks today and came across this short story I wrote about twenty five years ago and had forgotten about. A simple tale of revenge written not long after my divorce...no coincidence!

The suitcase waited by the front door while Morven took one last look around the house. The bedroom had an abandoned air; the usual bric-a-brac missing from the dressing table and only her sequinned party frock hanging in the wardrobe. For a moment she paused at the foot of the double bed and memories both happy and sad raced through her mind.

When first married they spent entire weekends cocooned in this room, oblivious of the world outside. The passion and laughter of early times had soon faded into the silence of lonely nights when the bed felt like an expanse of lifeless desert. As she left the room Morven gave the duvet a final pat, smoothing out an imaginary wrinkle in the cover.

The lounge was polished, tidy and still. The gleaming fish tanks lining one wall were empty of the bright colours and flickers of usual inhabitants. Only silver bubbles gurgled through the water and reminded Morven of the way the fish pie was simmering in the oven. She laughed when she noticed Neil’s favourite collection of books:- The Secrets of a Healthy Aquarium, How to Look After Your Angel Fish, Discovering Shubunkins and The A to Z of Water Plants.

She gathered them up into a large casserole dish, added half a pint of milk, salt, pepper and a dash of lemon juice and placed it on the bottom shelf of the oven where the fish pie was doing nicely. Pulling on her coat, Morven checked the note on the hall table.

Dinner is in the oven. Just popped out for a new life.

She didn’t bother to lock the door and walked down the driveway without looking back.

photo by the author

Shoots

My therapist’s room has lofty ceilings
and a view across rooftops to the sea.
A row of potted geraniums line the sill
and a tribal mask hangs over his desk.
My therapist says I must remember.

My therapist likes to shop. He’s a snappy
dresser. Today he wears orange trousers
with a button down shirt in lemon. He sips
tea from a turquoise mug. My therapist
says I remind him of his dead grandfather.

My therapist composes poetry in his head
as he walks along the seafront. He recites
a poem about a man sleeping rough
outside Habitat. My therapist suggests
a poem about planting a seed of anger.

My therapist has green fingers growing
houseplants with pink flowers. He displays
a cactus with fuschia spikes that remind
me of my dead mother. My therapist
says I am a rose without thorns.

My therapist has cold sores and doesn’t feel
like talking. He missed his train, feels stressed.
I suggest homeopathy. He asks how I feel
about him. I say he is amazing. We are both
wearing yellow jumpers. My therapist says

we are synchronised and sends photos of tulips.
My therapist suggests letting go, forgiveness
and voluntary work. He says my perception
is flawed like rippled glass in a old window pane.
My therapist asks, are they out to get you?

Our last session he complains of food poisoning
and a dodgy meal in Chinatown. I suggest ginger.
My therapist says I have too much empty space
in my head, sniggers at my leopard print hoodie.
Perhaps you’ve shot yourself in the foot?

Photo by the author

Salon

Here’s a poem for those of us suffering bad hair days in lockdown and missing our mask-less trips to the local salon:-

 

Asymmetric is the new black, she purred
into the forest of mirrors, a rainbow
Janus, her two faces receding into infinity.
Kate was so blown away by herself, it hurt

in the forest of mirrors. A rainbow
beyond the rain-tumbled glass arched
a January sky, the crumbling walls and
For Sale boards of a deserted Main Street.

Beyond the rain-tumbled glass arched
a customer, bobble-hatted and doubled
against the wind like tumble weed rolling
towards a make-over with 15 percent off.

A customer, bobble-hatted and doubled
in need of a break-fix miracle-treat curl
please height-riser mega-sleek moisture
me rich airy-builder with no yellow matrix.

In need of a break-fix miracle-treat curl
Kate unholstered her scissors, quivered
her combs and twizzled her natural bristles.
On hearing of Sue’s new marble jacuzzi

Kate unholstered her scissors, quivered,
chopped, snipped and razored Sue’s golden
locks to the floor and with a chameleon smile
Asymmetric is the new black, she purred.

 

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Photo by the author

 

 

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

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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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.

 

 

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Original photo by the author

 

 

 

Lockdown

Beyond my kitchen window, grey skies
crumble like clinker over empty fields.
The scarlet willow bends in the easterly,
branches stripped naked like veins.
Crows smudge charcoal on the horizon.

Indoors, I inhale recycled air and open
my liquid crystal display. Your face bubbles
expectantly, cornered. Behind you double
doors slide shut, a TV grumbles. You hold
a Bugs Bunny mug, ‘What’s up Doc?’

 

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Photo by the author

Old Flame

so good to see you
smoke-eyed stranger in the night
with blood on your teeth

when you spark that talk
sly fruit bloom on sullen trees
starlings fall like snow

I remember you
burning sweet Ballachulish
heather by the loch

in a hotel room
shadowed by the Three Sisters
and scented orange

we hoped our extinct
volcano might come to life
in that flash of light

 

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Photo by the author