Poems

‘Grenfell’

The average salary in the Borough of Kensington and Chelsea is £123,000, the highest in the country. The median salary is £32,700. You are burning £50 notes and swigging champagne. No other area in the country has a larger disparity between median and mean incomes, suggesting a large gap between rich and poor. You are…

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‘Henry Harclay’s Ordinary Questions’

It was known that Alexander had fixed gates across the chasm east of the Caspian sea that enclosed those almost people who performed abominations: foetus-eaters, dog-men and the rest. And it was known if even one got through those gates (made by the welding of two mountains) it would be a signal of end times…

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‘Pretty Fish’

The bad sister is lured by gelatinous scales – she slops the good sister’s carp into a pail, but the August sun warms the water, turns it stale. . The bad sister gathers the withered bits: a pelvic fin, a vertebral segment, the delicate inner skin, displays them on her vanity: their bones gleam like…

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‘Where Light Lives’

the revolving doors have slowed down long enough for the dark side to be revisited. I learn to find a glimmer in a house where barns are filled with grain pantries with preserves where rooms release their scent of wellknown words while wanderlust grows from all the windows I learn to write.

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‘Nine Herbs’

The postman left the first bundle by the gate in your fourth month – red crepe, bound in rope. Inside, a sheaf of rue. Witchbane. When the old landlady came, she helped you pin it above the front door, told you of the local custom. Remarked on its salves: hysteria, a cramping womb. The sickness…

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‘Sugar Envy’

I could lick the back bench of austerity, if that would be useful, if that would be something someone wanted somewhere, or I could go day tripping in a house of mould and sin and meet Envy there, and hear about his inability to congratulate mortgages, promotions, mortgages, promotions, awards, mortgages, “I am happy for…

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‘The Tryst’

  She sits in the park pulling petals off a daisy will he      maybe you cunt she thinks you cunt  

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The Long View, Arnside

The tide was in then out again. So fast it was bewildering: fishing boats flew like leaves, flimsy, unsubstantial, in the streaming gale. The piers grew tall, dripping black weed, the sandbanks breathed and expanded their honeycomb flanks, then, whalelike, plunged again. The vapour they exuded could easily have been children paddling, crouching, digging, growing…

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‘The Same Again’

The pub is lazy wallpaper, psychedelic carpet, the same as yesterday. I sink to the bar, forget what to order while the Friday night dehydrated potted plants wait with sucked teeth, and I want nothing more than to eat all the crisps or marinate in a warm pint of ale and lick my failed ambition…

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‘The Zoo of Doo’

Wombat, do you do doo? I do do doo! And let me tell you something new; The doo I do is square! It’s true! When I do doo, I poop a cube! Do you do doo like I do doo? Bird, do you do doo? I do do doo! And let me tell you something…

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‘As Long As’

You can dye your hair violet or live in the trees, you can paint funny faces on each of your knees, you can bathe in a bath full of thick sticky slime, you can do what you like – as long as you’re kind. You can wear your pyjamas to dinner or tea, you can…

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‘Johnny, who was too good and suffered the consequences’

Young Johnny was always a good little child, Not prone to be lazy or spiteful or wild, Occasionally naughty but generally nice, And yet, for his parents, this didn’t suffice. They didn’t want average. They wanted the best. They wanted their son to outshine all the rest, With model behaviour at all times of day,…

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‘Caroline and the Scissors’

Caroline, Caz to me and you, was errant daughter number two. Diana, daughter number one, it seemed to Caz had all the fun – she’d scissors that could really cut, a doll that walked and wee-weed – but Caz was the sharper of the two and knew exactly what to do to put her sister…

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‘Lament for Didcot A’

I will lament your cooling towers, those pale hyperboloids monumental as a temple for giants. I will lament their demolition, each falling to its knees in slow motion like a man hamstrung in battle who dies in the dust keening for glory that will never be sung. I will lament the dragon of your superheater…

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‘Portrait of my unborn children’

Number one enjoys lemongrass soup as she sails the Yangtze alone. Number two saves lives on the streets of this city with his soft, warm mouth. Number three never saw the bike turning right on the day we found bees. Number four was left behind and always wondered who she belonged to. Number five found…

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‘To My Mother Who Never Touched a Drop’

When I meet her in Hourican’s Bar I will bring the picture resurrected from the derelict farmhouse, last summer. My great Uncle Phil will offer me a glass. I’ll reluctantly sip the bitter-black and lick the froth from my lip. For once my mother will sit in silence – but not out of spite. When…

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‘The Pocket Mirror’

Born from the belly of a Christmas cracker Stomach ripped apart and I fireworked into her world my birth announced by a muted crash and a sombre joke. I remained a closed up tinted truth lodged sub-sofa for five dark and lights. She found me, her warm hand scooped me up and pocketed me into…

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‘Making a Seagull Kite’

We add Tyvek wings — of course he must fly. We intend him to be tear-resistant, water-proof. We check his spine and cross spar, the bridle with its anchor points. Secure enough, light and strong for support in winds that could swivel or shatter him. We paste on a beak and feathers with spray and…

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‘To Get Away From Mother’s Flat’

[pass] her front door two flights of stairs the 50-year-old smell of dust and cooking communal notice board of orders and restrictions the flat where the voluble neighbour lived and died [nudge] the heavy inner doors [push] the heavy outer door [leap] that single step [skip] down the path across the garden [pass] the bench…

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‘War Baby’

Beautiful? Yes. Curled unborn on a statesman’s tongue. My lips are stoppered by my thumb. But his round wet mouth births missiles, cradles such fire. His speech has launched me. I wail, my frail cartilage rammed into shells. I’m his navy ship in dark waters. I’m his warhead, his ice-white arc in the night. Touch…

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‘Afterwards’

The January light was more notable, the day I went back for his belongings to the room where he died; magnolia buds presented themselves differently, they uplifted as though nothing could compel death to reach inside their grey skin. His climbing boots, paired neatly as we had never been, and his torn denims left on…

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‘To a Mole’

Mouldiwarp, tunnel-grubber you with the shovel-paws pink as my skin, the purblind eyes, never once have I seen your snout poke through a lawn, caught a flick of your tail though I’ve grieved for you, rural guerrilla, gibbeted on barbed wire. King-toppler, gentleman in velvet, snuffling root-vaulted mazes driven to company by the sting of…

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‘Another Church Tour’

Coming into a church I can’t help thinking of Philip Larkin taking off his cycle clips in awkward reverence. I’m not here out of habit or curiosity I’ve filed in with a flock out of politeness and sit in the stalls feeling shifty. I want to escape this scripted space: stained glass stories of suffering,…

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‘Mill House’

After his mother moved out her clothes sat in the hall beneath the mirror they played lost and found in hollow rooms. He sat in the long kitchen with his so-called sister who scratched at her scabs as they gulped cold milk waiting for school. Awake with his new brother under the sleeping bag with…

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‘Boy’

Most mornings, I glimpse the boy walking to school. His shoes trodden down at the back. He trails behind, at the back, apart from the scuffle of boys. I worry they laugh at his shoes. He looks downtrodden, not just the shoes. I wonder if his mother is back. The eggshell pale boy. The boy…

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