Published online at Spillwords
Despite dying and so bewildering
All space around us your trace follows close;
A powder trail through the minutiae of days,
Rimming tea cups and drifting in bathrooms
As perfumed steam to giddy our memories.
Confounding locked days with the keys we keep,
Collecting itself amongst the porcelain figures
Still, still and twirling across the dressing table
That you polished to lake like reflections.
From the loose spool of old tapes your voice loops
Clear into today, words newly significant
Festooned with feathers brushing, circling near
Echoing warm with shadows in the eaves
Murmuring the past to our present; here.
(published by The Drabble )
Also published by Spillwords https://spillwords.com/talisman/
We strung the paradise of those days
together as if they were shark’s teeth
threaded onto a leather lace
to be worn as a talisman forbidding tomorrow’s bite.
Each tooth having already eaten all other
shy, creeping terrors, before its own fall
from a blooded jaw to the quietness of a fossil
amongst a cathedral of cavernous bones
waiting to be plucked.
Now rooms are bare of that glory – hollowed
and we feel as skeletal as those displays
hanging in galleries where they sell,
for a few pounds, pendants
like the one we made all those years ago.
The new light ghosted with shadows slipping
between youth and the spill of age,
as if time was a toy spun carelessly in a Zoetrope,
then stilled again to individual images
that perhaps we can still hold.
Memory - Grown With April
Stalks, arrow-like grow green,
darting to the air -
damp today with April -
and the missing muffled tread
of Grandad's feet along the path.
Wall flowers fleck fragrance
in rustles of orangy-yellow-red petals
to dissolve with his echoes amongst
that garden of long ago.
Photos and their gasp of those days
tell of how he'd sit smoking roll-ups
in a soft felt of shade, greying and far
from where we played,
cluing words to crossword gaps
and telling of how to tie knots
or carve wood to whistle.
The space of him shifting, rushing onwards
through each month as a memory
re-growing amongst us
and speaking from within. Is.
published at The Blue Nib
Because it is the crush of sky
to water - a horizon of lines
drawn long and mapping the dittoed
trail of ships printing waves
on carbon paper, words
printed to endless echoes
and because it is the soft howl
of a saxophone notes lingering
surging then that pout of lipstick
butting up against beauty
its kiss filled with the smudge
of bitten cornflowers -
their stars flung from night
with the blazing ends of fused indigo.
And because it is everything
we ever wanted to say -
without any words.
I Try To Listen As Your Voice Perforates The Air
You are away tonight, but
your voice cutting thoughts
to silhouettes of words
within your phone’s receiver,
their outlines hard
with reconfigured sound –
their impulses electric now-
saying you are busy; a loop of people
are around you in a hotel, somewhere social.
All the while, outside, slung against the sky
and drumming through slender telephone lines,
your speech is a signal carried
to untwine against my ear – empty –
filled only with necessity and ready mixed
expressions, as if poured dry from
those food sachets marked
‘tear here to open’
the contents falling in a hollow percussion,
pattering at the dull metal of a pan
and so different from a real voice’s
warm soar from a mouth to a mind;
all hot and bold
with breath’s winged part of air.
Published in the Indelible Poetry Anthology 2020
After you died, we found them, whole years,
gathered in newspaper clippings, weathered with soft
veins and creased as your hands.
Everywhere, in the pages of books or stashed in shoe-boxes,
you pressed paper to translucent heirlooms.
I wonder that we never noticed you cutting them.
Paper mined, left holed, then folded
and later unfolded, its words remade as a bed's
coverlet is smoothed before you lie.
Stories slip like sleep through your mind;
the clippings crafted to confetti announcing
and re-announcing births, deaths and marriages.
The mapped markers of love, of name linked to name
in inky archives, and held and held before you’d close
the shutters and listen to them clatter with night.
(As published in the 2019 Anthology Reach)
Enclosed and inside the ultrasound scan
shows you afloat in a hushed ocean.
Kidney bean shaped and safe in your drift,
yet anchored to me and my queasy mornings.
I feel us pulling at each other's lives,
persistent waves pushing at me, surging
and shifting as you shape into a self.
The sea within; salty and clear and shown
as a vague grey surf fixed in the photograph
the sonographer hands to us casually,
as the air of my world constricts, conflicted
with two journeys; our shared one and my own.
Fists clenching and filling
with the expanse of secrets
the poppies grow tight.
Roughly budding the clay,
their petals skin wings
thrown upwards in release.
As you lie newly
in my arms, red with birth
and the crumple of creation.
Hot needing, eyes just open.
A skin seamless and unknowable;
a mind of our own making.
Tales I Tell My Children
Fairy realms linger; longings whispered to a child.
Heads full of hoods and wolves howl lonely on a moor,
While the yellowed pages guide a brittle mossed path
Back to bedtimes beyond and now freshly buoyant
With my own children's chatter and clutter of stairs
Climbed. And I the teller now light incantations
Of the darkness and of the dreams hovering
Freshly born tonight, ancient and again new
Brimming with technicolour misty murmurs
Laid through the years so we bite again apples
Snow White's blood red lips knew and poison kissed.
And feel Rapunzel's starry, salty tears stray
To cure princely eyes and cut our own computer
Devised reality to size.
Dark comforts offered word by voice in these tales
Ensconce us; wrapping pain and reality in duvets
And towel damp hair; all beauty filtered to our bleary
Beds and so it is the children sleep.
The days have become still,
Intricate and tissue wrapped,
Swaddled laying peacefully
in my arms.
I cradle each one.
Each impenetrable, confusing
Entity and wonder if the shadows
and remnants of before
Sometimes I dare to loosen
Their tightness, their neatness
To check they are not bleating messages
From un-severed umbilical telephone
Like cords, fat attached and still ringing
With the words of their predecessors.
But they are individual.
Silent, pink and mute,
Attentive, dependant, waiting
For me to feed, to fill them,
Bloat them with
The Turtle Doves
Yesterday I read that Turtle Doves
40 million less, I read yesterday
to emblem countryside
with their gingered feathers gentle sweep;
Their pink eyes and purred voices muted,
preserved as a line in our worded song
their 12 carolled days with the partridge
and the pear tree wrapped and reeled in
Ended. Their coos a post card
picture of the past sent skywards
and famished with seedless springs
and scentless flowers hybridised
chemically laden, high yielding
yet providing sustenance no more
the wrong wheat ripping at their throats
and rot growing rank in their guts
The partnership loosed
to the cold caw
and hedgerows' silent thickets.
To Shelley (published in the anthology Across the Page.)
Seaward I wade into the watery salt
Where broken Ariel lays and recall
How you reached for me once through a dream's clear,
Bright foam, your hand merging with my own
Inky and full of awakened stars
So words floated where a heart should hum.
Leaves trespassed through the autumn air and danced
Faster and higher flinging me amongst your words;
Tempest lashed by proprieties stormy moan.
From the hollow caves I cradle your heart,
Not burned, nor washed away to fleshy ash
But daring to champion our un-fearing questions
Still amid green wreathed tameless Liberty
and wan death you are not frightened to behold.
O wanderer, mercurial might
Is your endless journey still
And quick-silver across a stormy sea
You lift me to you.
a wardrobe to sort, now empty of hands,
sighing with garments worn and tendered soft
by your shifting shape.
and long lingering, though you are dead, drifts
scattering memory, nascent and again new
Ash-less and minute-less smooth to soothe
and beyond your piano sings flowers.
Superstition snakes from the necks
of the flowers lolling their heady scents
to the night.
"Unlucky to cut lilacs" she mutters
lies lingering from those lost days of her childhood -
"but lavender weaves luck" she intones
pressing the papery blooms to a pomander
and placing it amongst her faded silks.
Now a chemist, latex gloved, in a lab
Distils digitalis to digoxin
Freeing it from a foxy, fairy past;
Modern medicine for a fluttering,
I hear her singing still;
A flowered whisper tracing
Through the twilight of a garden
Slipping slowly from
Superstition to the science
Of a song.
leaves paper the sky; spreading hands shielding
the blaze of a sultry sky from the tinder box
crumble threading our journey through the trees
as pages turning diary like to once before,
when with youth's lantern faces gleaming,
we shone with song more deliciously ardent
than the apple buds danced imaginings.
The circle full, the trunks sawn and strange,
pressed to a paper of our own printed work
where we write of that day's woodland walk
and of those fierce rent wandering words
fixing forever breathing, igniting whole
the flame leaping blaze of those tiger thoughts
of that shady sun, apple grown afternoon.
Sonnet: Marriage (inspired by Rossetti's painting of Jane Burden)
It was like the sweep of land seen from ships
Coursing the misted bay and calling through night.
Like safety all at once spilling from our lips
And carrying us ashore, beaten by light
And salt bitten tides; the murmured orisons
Of promises whispered and held in hand.
Forbidding and tempting purple as damsons
Encrypting love to coded lore's demand
To have ever. Sold as pomegranate seeds
And pink jewelled life until death splits even bold
Stateless minds beyond and all knowledge bleeds
And prowls to devour this harboured hold
This plaited harvest ring, this wedded band
This new love that wraps us whole. This new land.
The Cottingley Fairies.
Timorously tracing, carefully cutting
then plunging hat pins earthwards and ripping
The Strand with rumour, Elsie and Frances
fooled them; their Cottingley Fairies beguiling,
fusing, febrile minds to sweet fancy's flight.
Amongst the silvered gloss of magazines
these fairies lived and wove their rings around
the willing. A deception sweetly perfumed
and posed fluttering with unfurling wings
and childhood's best, bewitching shiny spell
to sooth the ravaged, weary post-war world.
We needed misty muses more than we knew;
a magic among a mossed garden's view.
Watching You Sleep
published online by Spillwords
Sometimes I watch you sleep
your mind deserted of day
and its immutable rationales;
your eye lashes jolting
as if a strobed, dazzling electricity
were fused and wired inside
to some apex of mind buzzing
with strange sorrows and unseen
journeys, opening only
in sleep as memories
that jangle and fight at sleeps'
quiet bond of darkness and rest.
The hot feathered duvet
twists around your limbs
as if quarrelling with repose
and webbing you amongst
its tangle, and I wish you the world's
drowsy violets, sweet with shade
and full of night borne remedies
to calm the agitation
of the day and soothe with loose
blooms the shuffling stack of routine;
the trails and concoctions
of all those tomorrows.
(as published in the 2019 Anthology this uncommon place, edited by Kevin Watt)
Skimming the lake and thrown in fun, a stone
bounced before us, a flint, grey hewn
from cliffs chipped by centuries and strewn
with veined whorls resembling a heart grown
and patterned with beating veins of all known
time. You saved it and then sent it travelling
to me through red letter boxes to my home.
This new journey fresh with your affirming
hands and its presence, burnt with eddying,
kinetic dance to wake my still thoughts' sleep
and sew them firmly to your own, mingling
touch and taste and breath then together leap
beyond ourselves and bind as soft garlands
of forget-me-nots do joining our hands.
(first published in Poetry Now's Anthology 'Straight from the Horse's Mouth'
Edited by Kerrie Pateman 1995)
Soft, wild horses
see them race their
monochrome, electric silhouettes
against the ruddy sky.
Their eyes enlarged
and filled with fearful blue
crescents, carousing and chasing,
chasing endless brown unbroken vision;
feeling their nostrils flaring
in the wind.
Hooves, like animated wings
beat and sting the soil,
restlessly pounding and filling
the dry loam
with racing echoes
until it reverberates too
with vibrant rhythms;
assertions of self.
If you could
give up, see
beyond your papers,
hear, these driven things
ad their galloping visions,
each inviolable moment;
and yes, to be,
excited at each snorted breath
of moist mutilated grass.
Slashed as paint ripping
wild the canvas of its confines
you woke the room,
your music a stringed surge
reverberating the grey.
Around the round words
your lips move as
delicate as gardenias drift,
as electric as panthers wag
the minted night
owning us more than angels
and the very lyric breath
of each plucked pink note
is a danced destiny.