flowers for Sarah Everard
because we have to buzz- home safe – home safe-
yes - me too – home safe
peppering What’s App with the obvious
because we walk gripping keys
between middle fingers
with shelled expletives
hoping the only use of their jagged
steel edge will be to unlock
the front door
we think - can’t stop
your last walk home
caught on keyhole camera
over Clapham Common
we light candles, Sarah,
watch them blink
in the shadows of ringed shadows
at the base of trees
and lay flowers in a crackle
against the fear
of dark emptied spaces
and words that spit
from a policeman’s mouth
sticking this in you
kidnapping, murdering, mutilating
leaving you in a builder’s sack
only identifiable by your dental records
in Kentish woodland
crimes unlovely as the sick
absence of spring leaves
un-grown on laurel trees.
'Online violence against women is flourishing..' The Guardian
My Ex-Boyfriend Wants You to Hate Me
and make misogyny as contagious
as an online autumn storm battering
sapling trees until they are furious
enough to let cold rain eat them – shedding
paling leaves like the photographs he’d share
if he owned them – to shame me with my own
nakedness – allowing the world to stare
as he buries me in expletives sown
and multiplying in the soil you throw
filling my holes, my hollows and my name’s
dissolving canopy in earth’s damp, slow
reclamation of flesh – it is the same
algebra that makes kissing betrayal
and love a pornography – dead for all.
Published at Writer's Egg Magazine, Issue 6
Silence warbles inside bridge tunnels, their stock-bricks dank with moss and dimness – climbing. Trains percuss above, electric and brittle with low-fi hum then roar. Their interiors shooting passengers to the city. Seated inside, he is dressed in cut denim – slit to reveal his skin –a brightness bulging from the overlaps of wearied cloth, he crosses his legs, boot to knee, and scrolls. Pink scars of healing flesh lope beneath his clothes as he fixes his eyes on her - seeing she knows more than he wanted to share.
Then it is Balham and bodies press into carriages and eat the space to odd intimacies, pilling lives amongst old metro newspapers and tattooing suits to coats and stillness – breathing. Day opens here on the rails, its juice bleeding with sticky segments of bisected time and when she looks for him again, he has gone – the gap he existed in – closed - severed with the slide of electric doors, filled now by others and outer echoes.
tracks slice mossy day
jolting with electric darkness
a city bleeds lives
Pair of Jeans
soft sky worn
like your jeans' bluest
Rising fiercely from the flat, grey street.
the column commemorating The Great Fire
runs step to step to sky,
its smoky, grey stones
snatching as visitors' breaths
just as the heat brindled, wagging
flaming timber to flaming timber, once.
Above us, the fire is all gold leafed glory,
crafted to a sphere of taut metallic
tongues telling of our almost destruction.
From The Monument's cage
we can view London and the crawl
of our ashy past still wending with today's
wash and charcoal twist of Thames below,
etching our gaping lungs with air
and ancient things in flow.
A Woman Divided.
(This poem is inspired by a painting by Dali and was read on the radio show Late Night Poets.)
inside the screech of birds is deafening
soaring and pummelling thoughts to clouds,
my arms fling upwards to embrace the emptiness
of sky and solidity of stars.
ripping myself in two is a daily task.
I tread the yellow shore with care
make lunches and walk responsibly to work
feeling the shackles of life cry at my ankles
as seaweed clasps the crags of rocks.
the horizon snips, snips redly at me,
sails through me as I try to hold myself
to account and grasp the bitterness
of burnt out days and make them fly
from a woman split
a woman divided.
Over the sea and leading nowhere
the pier soars, its gapped boards
pulling us to its promenade.
Planks are parted with a promised
glimpse of the ocean tumbling
and foaming feet below -
its waves climbing around
the wrought iron red posts
supporting us all
to the end.
Here the fun fair screeches
its rollercoasters into the sky
and the helter-skelter spirals
riders down on their coir mats
through Victoriana to
the pinstriped candy-floss stalls beyond.
The yellow heat of oil
and frying food wanders the air
unhealthily wraith like,
enticing as the ghost train ride's
their scripted screams
staccato stabbing at the thump of rock music
all around us until we are
full again of swaying knowledge
and vertigo; pitched against
good sense and firm land
somewhere inside forever.
(published at Writer's Egg Magazine, issue 7)
A sky stretched thin as gum
pans its slow camera at each scene
we run at, this spring, frostless,
eyed with sun, sharp with cursing
and spearing its sugary beams
at this chew of rationed days
as we repeat and repeat our lives
isolating them to the momentary plash
of water shadowing our hands
and sketching our wrists with stringy,
twiggy patterns of whispered resolve.
The virus invisible and washed
with stories flooding faster and faster
between us as we gather all that means any
and abandon our cities, trailing to the path.
Published at Writer's Egg Magazine, Issue 6
Our elm tree kicks with the breeze,
its branches strung
with old trainers,
their treads worn to frayed slopes
curved with the smile
of completed journeys,
flung by their one-time owners
to the sky and its skitter.
Here, skateboarders rush the path
with their slide, jigging the road
to an ocean alive with rippled
sun and the wink of poems
grown from the emptiness
of streets and shadows
with a simmer of ideas that tear
themselves like sprigs from a forgotten paradise;
selling scent from the dusty pavements
and buttonholing bystanders with words,
that say the stuff they want
rather than what they should.
I open my door and find you waiting
amongst autumn and failing, falling light
dressed in the thickness of a dun overcoat
the verdurous twine of ancient forests
un-scrolling as you speak.
Your cracked lips shape islands
to a spoken cellophane
of sickness that churns
plastic and grey in our ocean guts.
Inside I offer pain-killers and recycle
panaceas of wisdom.
We untangle numbers from choking twine
and watch the points of decimals
shift, unfurling fins
as we skate through thinning ice against
the glowering night; the drift of damp moss
growing through our voices and clinging
to our shadows' lean
against the fumy highway.
Did you call too late?
Outside the concrete is spread and setting.
Published at Writer's Egg Magazine, Issue 6 and online @InkPantry
She has no words in school today.
To match, I make mine tiny,
firm stones; imperatives placed
next to pictures
to round their requests,
balancing the real on a surf of
swaying meaning. She responds,
tracing sounds to her own.
Reading opens and closes
its booked meanings. She decodes
words into elephants, heavy, andante,
stepping sense slowly from the page
new from thumbed pages.
Her body folds beneath a uniform
of crumpled grey polyester,
as she hunches at the desk,
skin prickling with webbed scabs,
self-scratched; still raw, still red.
The bathroom’s razored blur
smudging at the back.
(this poem was first published in 1996 in the anthology 'Turning Points')
Your sugar bones
and porcelain smile.
Too expert a host
to this weak, torturous guest
That shivers inside your lacerated mind,
and through your gossamer
How obstinate your eyes are,
Like two black beads
Riveted to your skull,
even chiding your persistent
Still your organs pump,
stubbornly alive, human
and reflective only between
the panes of hated mirrors
into which you gaze with morose curiosity,
watching always its sad winter faces
and blue, insubstantial masks, shapes
filtering between the forest of tubes
that devotedly offer up their sap
to sustain this liquid existence.
Your hands lie, so passively exposed,
huddling together their fingers
like spent match stick dolls
in silent protest against us
while you dream defiantly
of the luxury of self violation.
Yet such stamina
and so steely a will,
so determined and impassioned;
pure ambition inverted;
gobbling its own
flower from existence.
Haiku String: Mirrors.
a mirror homage
of the real
uneasy with their task
blood ribbons unfurl.
Windowed city streets
people wait, concern ticking
slow behind glass eyes.
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 cut carnations blare
They have become flares
Floodlighting the dusk cloaked city,
With a cultivated fluorescence.
Their blooms pirouette
Tutu ruff heads,
Twisting in the creeping night,
Their petals trembling
Like pantomime comic clowns,
Yellow wigs out of place.
Ungainly, quivering and nodding
Bowing knobbly stem bodies
Against the glassy chill
Of the listless vase.
My eyes clamber to them,
Like two dying bees desperate to hug
Their brightness, eager to offer
My body up to the imagined heat
Of these dissembling Olympian torches;
Pyres of summer light.
So aloof, so aimless and absurd
Bunched together in the throes
Of certain death.
And so it is we travel.
Our coats straggle
clammy with winter,
into a fog that drifts
from our limp
cast off forms.
We gather in halls
the silk of our scalped insides
murmuring and our skins
pressed into the animal darkness
of cloakrooms dripping
with the forest's damp
the room grows colder now
and greyness climbs windows
where nets sag with smoked days' deaths
your hands stare empty
and news suffuses the void;
heavy punctuated prose passes
inside the cavity opens itself
x-rayed exposure of an end
and ashen acceptance
are all the letters send
outside fish pool together,
gold as sun shadows,
trapped in beauty
and needing no comprehension.
the hush hangs itself
between our stuttering
It's the cool edge of words
That frees truth
To the heights of dark skies.
Cutting as the sharpest stars;
Slicing at those syllables
Uttered in hasty exchanges
And sauntering into the bleakest streets.
Here the unsaid elements exist;
Cut free and
closing, firstly hands together
then slowly pausing and parting
palms brushing warm with night softness
between strangers, greeting, passing
speechlessly to an intimacy
of evening and orange lit lights
winking at a journey now full
of pages empty as islands
drifting in a spiralled foam surge
of oceans' freshly fashioned form;
volcanic and heat swept upwards
from the very sea floored inky depths;
alluring as atlases mapping
newly a bright world unknown.
A snaking spool of steep
jagged chalk; this impossible slope
cycles high to View Point
where the eyes of ancestors
looked as I look at the trees
scragging their roots between the rocks.
Here the yews and boxes vie
for dark space, waxy with years.
Beneath, The River Mole scampers
around its stepping stones
ever too widely spaced and patterned
with small damp imprints
of many crossings.
And from the soil crawl the rooted
fingers of trees; ghostly and climbing
from the pitted chalk
that weeps its secrets thinly
with the rain
while we retrace our sloped steps
to their base.