Widow

Widow

Widow

She’s now happy to give in, let the weeds
win over at least a corner of the garden,

over there, between the blue clapboard shed
and the fence, too lazy to hold itself up,

furthest from the back porch, where it all
happened. No-one else sees, she supposes.

The rosebay willow herb fills up the view
every July, with its clamour of firework spikes,

more reliably than the delphiniums ever did;
the hoverflies love the nettles, the ragwort,

and bees spoil themselves on crowns of clover.
The redundant sickle hangs from a thick nail.

 

first published in The Cannon’s Mouth, Issue 61, 2016

 

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July night with crickets

July night with crickets

July night with crickets

Heat is supposed to rise, but in the gnawed, unslept hours
of horse latitude stillness, I feel it pressing down instead
like a steam iron, flattening the dark crumpled collar
of the night, squeezing out the comfortable creases,
making tiny bubbles simmer deliriously in the blood.

In the hall of leaves beyond the mosquito screen,
a hundred thousand invisible percussionists
rehearse their moment of moonstruck definition,
announcing themselves in ascending rattles of friction,
a clamour of legs and feet, answering the imprinted call.

We lie mutely, speckled with sweat, between the
top sheet of an unfamiliar bed and a drunken ceiling fan,
its blades flicking their way through uneven circles.
Before they even arrive, I can feel your fingertips
reaching out to bridge the narrow space separating us.

first published in Gyroscope Review, issue 16-3, 2016

Poem published at Autumn Sky Poetry Daily

My poem “Nelly” has been posted today at Autumn Sky Poetry Daily.

It’s a poem about my Grandmother – my Nan – her funeral, and my imagining her as a young woman leaving the place where she was born and grew up to start a new life. If you’ve visited my “About” page, you’ll already be acquainted with her and with the origins of the title of this blog.

My thanks go out to Autumn Sky Poetry Daily editor, Christine Klocek-Lim, for choosing to publish the poem.

Wee Lachlan at five

Wee Lachlan

Wee Lachlan at five

You can’t imagine the time he’ll be an old man,
and spend warm evenings folded into park benches,

cursing the aches that crept up unannounced, wiping
a brow whose furrows grew when no-one was looking.

His face will have become an onion, cheeks weathered,
and his nose broadened, all skirmished with veins.

The mustard hair will long have turned bone-white,
but his eyes will have stayed the same giveaway blue

as his superhero cape. With luck, the smile will still be
written through him, like his name threading a stick of rock.

 

first published in Right Hand Pointing, issue 105, 2016

Cinnabar moths

Cinnabar Moths

Cinnabar moths

Up here is where I’m sure it was, all the
muted fluttering, on the ledges shouldered
beneath the newly-converted mills, lording it
over the gritted teeth of the stone-dark town.

I followed her, behind by a breath that still
tasted of kiss, enjoying the view, through a
chain of fields thigh-deep in flowers, the sky
both scrubbed blue and punched with bruises

at the same time. She seemed to know
all their names, the cornflowers, loosestrife,
pointed out the ragwort – poisonous to cattle
and the liquorice-striped caterpillars urgently

stripping its leaves. I fell back, now winded
with the effort, rolling their names on my tongue.
She seemed to know everything that mattered,
all except what was hatching away inside her.

 

first published in Firefly Magazine, issue 10, 2017

Call me a bit slow, but…

Eggplant

Call me a bit slow, but…

 

…it was almost exactly two of those
old-fashioned, pre-decimal years later,
on the other side of the world, and I was
nursing a rusted old dragon of a truck
down a red road you could see streaking by
through the lacy floor of the cab. And it was
just after midday, because the shadows
were mean and riveted on, and I don’t
know why, but all of a sudden I realised
you’d actually meant what you’d said,
that they hadn’t been just giddy, disposable,
2 a.m. words you might say to almost anyone
at all, to be laughed off the next day, like dust
from a mirror. It was possible that if I eased
further off the gas, I wouldn’t get back until
everything was already picked and safely in
the chiller. And I wondered if those brahmans,
drawn and incongruously skeletal in such a
fleshy, civilised country, would be nosing
around in their paddock again, grazing on
fresh air, amazing me that they survived.

First published in San Pedro River Review, Spring 2017

 

Metro

Danger of death

Metro

 

A life’s script runs abruptly out of lines. No need to worry.

Neither dropped bottle nor platform smash as they collide.

The broken man has drained away in overlapping episodes.

 

A final seizure rattles the jawbones, breaks two teeth,

and the sorry bladderful seeps down the shapeless trousers,

painting its temporary stain across the concrete.

 

Only God hears the silent, glacial cry. This and other things

are and will be over. Turn your head. No need to look.

Life has eaten dignity all away, leaving death to go hungry.

 

With the night’s invasion complete, the men who come

from nowhere will come, scrape up the flaccid corpse,

leaving bottle and platform behind, and disappear back

 

into the unspoken shadows. The collective memory is reset.

No need to dwell. Our Metro is still warm and efficient.

‘Attention,’ says the sober voice. ‘The doors are closing.

 

first published in Here Comes Everyone (Transition Issue), 2016

Cymbalaria mularis

Cymbalaria mularis

Cymbalaria mularis

at Durham Cathedral

 

They built their God a house

to shoulder the heavens,

demanding all of the sky above

the broad loopings of the river,

where it slowly pinched its banks

into a single, swollen drop.

 

Above the waterline, where its

sprawling founds tread the stout,

bread-coloured rock, jewelled

chains of toadflax rope themselves

into ancient niches worked by

the insistent, scouring rains of

 

ten centuries; like hermits

riding out a life of storms from

a lonely Atlantic cell, their

ivy-leaves shrug off the beat

of each droplet, dipping their

solemn heads in prayer.

 

first published in Bindweed Magazine, 2016

Damage options

DO

Damage options

 

Sometimes there is no sign of a struggle.
Perhaps they are brought to the house already dead,
molested a little, and then abandoned.
They seem more forlorn this way, inert and muted,
like they simply fell from the sky and managed
to land underneath this particular chair in the kitchen,
or in the middle of apparently random spaces.

It’s different when they’ve put up a fight, however
futile; the scattering of fragments will spread
to several rooms. The heavier feathers
hang like jetsam, beached and unmoving,
while the down, with its filigree whisperings,
takes flight whenever a door opens, almost lighter
than the air it would’ve been used to capture.

 

first published in Mad Swirl, 2016

Eels

eels

As it’s Father’s Day, I wanted to repost this.

 

Eels

Me and dad sometimes fished a murky stretch of the Brant,

marshalled between levées of belly-high grass and nettles.

Unless you’d pulled one out yourself, you’d never know

the river hid writhing knots of eels in its catshit-coloured waters,

that barely moved as they searched the edges of the fen for

a gradient to follow, still forty pancake miles away from the sea.

It was always hot. Everything was a shade of green, yellow or blue,

and the man at the Royal Oak would swap a netful of live ropes,

with their angry, pinprick eyes, for beer, and a lemonade for the lad.

 

first published in Message in a Bottle, issue 30, 2016