History

Everything is more beautiful in retrospect.
Sometime between the sepia past,
the grey today and the flash of tomorrow
truth slips away unseen, a tangle of electric
eels squirming in an underground stream.

We look back and see only clear skies
and carefree picnics but never the cold.
We look back and feel only tender kisses
and the soft caress but never the blows.
We look back and remember nothing.

The Wounded

There was nothing but the hunt,
the pain, the struggle, the dark.
She had to keep running. Run!
She could barely recall a time
before the breaking of branches.
She could barely recall her time
of being human, of skin
touching skin and naked picnics
when she gazed boldly at the sun.
In her upright days moss and wild
flowers sprang from her every
footstep, birds sang her every word.

Now she ran on all fours. Run, run!
Her cloven hooves were raw, spiked
by thorns. She was pierced by nine
arrows, fur rank with pus. Venomous.
Calculating. The forest was silent,
a lifeless zodiac of roots and branches.
She could no longer recall her name
or why she had to run. Her lungs failed
and she fell in the shadow of a crippled
tree. As she waited for her joyful exit,
forked lightning unravelled silver
threads of hope across the night sky.

 

Note:- this is an ekphrastic poem based on Frida Kahlo’s painting shown below.

 

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The Wounded Deer painting by Frida Kahlo

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

Victim

You come and go with the darkness.
I never see you leave but after snowfall

I see your footprints across the lawn.
You sleep alone at night in the shadows

under my exhaustion, a luminescence.
You keep one golden eye open

just in case I forget myself.
Your eye seeps around my raw edges

like cyanide, like a cloud of mustard gas,
like radiation in the house of the apocalypse.

I’m sealing myself in with duct tape,
pulling down blinds, wearing dark glasses;

a hermit with only a mantra
and a half-empty glass for company.

If only you were a little kinder,
I would welcome you with my blood.

 

 

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Through the Cracks of Winter

we camped in the Black Mountains
and you thought you saw a wolf. I was a stain
in the shadow of a great cliff of sturdy construction
with a hinged lid. The shoe-box of Hiroshima,
can we forget that flash? How did God shine
the light in the passing space, not minding
as lemmings dived? She had Her own intentions.

I let night over my head like cling film
on a frozen turkey, smoothing the bitter lines.
Then you looked up and described a dream,
the sun scrambled on New Year’s Day. Your words
consumed another, one for every minute.
At midnight you stood beneath the pines singing
Jerusalem. I broke free and soared
in the middle of it all, crazy laughing
as the reservoir rotted red as sunset. I was the one
who once loved you, with your yes, yes, yes until
the world shouted no, do not drive or use machines.

You were the watchman of my panopticon.
I was a clock ticking.

 

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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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Leeds 76

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!

 

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Photo by the author

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Cow Jumped…

Daddy, do cows eat sunshine?

Daddy, does grass taste like spaghetti?

Daddy, why are the cows lying down?

Daddy, do cows have secrets?

Daddy, is mummy a cow?

Daddy, why is she lying on the grass?

Daddy, why is her skin like cold milk?

Daddy, is she staring at the moon?

Daddy, are there cows on the moon?

Daddy, where are you going?

Daddy?

 

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Image by the author