There are several ways to deal

with things like this. First of all

I turned his absence into a dress

of crushed peach, wore his sailing shade

against my hip. These sad impressions

of the body, silk islands.


I avoided the danger, flesh-coloured 

skirts on the thigh. There are 

other things I could do.

I could cradle his heap of clothes

like a soft baby. I could drop them 

down the stairs, arrange them

into his shape. Kid myself

even though he’s dissolved into must

and collar-starch. Leave his scent 

forever on the staircase.


I could take off my shoes in the evening

and bring his dead shirts to my nose.

Feel the weight of the world in my arms.

In the nights, under moon-cracked skies

I picture him somewhere below her,

have him lit like a searchlight. I think of him 

as I cling like a lizard,

skirts screwed in someone’s fist.

I think I can do this now.


I don’t even notice the door click shut,

his wrecked and shaking return.

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In Time


My lovers jut out of photographs
like broken bones. In time, I will shrug them off
coolly, pack them off like bad children
running away from home. In time
  they will not hurt me.



My twenty-year old lover on a keyring
had a smile like a shattered plate.
I liked his crooked ways; his broken lips
were a masterpiece put back together.
I feel his mouth out of photographs
  blowing my perfumed neck,
sucking my petalled ear.
I pressed to his light like a flower,
  chased his sly rays
  like a dirty, vanishing tail.



You were awkward in that smoky night
despite your Northern swagger,
sleek-haired charm and trimmed moustache
floating a nervous millimetre
above your lip. Still, it didn’t
  move you from boy to man
when I touched you
with the light on
  and you hid yourself,
  shy as a rabbit.



Every room felt like a crime scene.
Our outlined shapes in chalk on the bed
from those nights when we half-bothered
to arrange ourselves like lovers
and not two friends with over-familiar bodies.
  Some nights the crease of your hip was unbearable,
the warm nut of your nipple tedious.
Some nights we cheated with sleep.
  The shape of you more stubborn,
  more real than a tooth.


I stow them away in the attic.
My watch ticks on, medicinal.
In time I will twist an old lipstick,
  blow the dust off the frames
and sit there quietly picking
  the blood from
  a pearly old wound.


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The Egg


You still arrive at this roosting door,

having carried yourself like a weasel

to cradle me off–

your neat little egg

all cracking and dripping, sobbing

loud into your hands.


the cold fragility of shells.

A devilish

toss of the hand.

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Victoria Terrace

lonely room

Tap splutters and spits
in a shared bathroom, too grey,
bleachy Atlantic. She twists
the handle: fizzing jets.
Takes too long. Listen:
group uproar, letters splashed
over side tables,
closed doors. Towel rub.
Mould blooms green as a banknote.

You are big now,
sophisticated. Look at you,
cracking dry spaghetti:
thin, wheaty bones
over pans, sputtering gas
and grease-ring Michelin stars.
Popping lids from jars,
buggy mushrooms. Bean-slop.
Eating well, Mam. Eating well.

Is this the dream then,
this flaking, shuddering house,
moth-freckled, damp-bottomed
and senile? Something still beats
in the scarred white walls,
boot-bruises. Fractured doors,
unhinged. Breakfast eaten shyly
in the wrong language, stiff
in marijuana haze. Wrench
open the skylight. Intruding rain.

Around her wet mangle
of clothes, a housemate hums.
A native tune perhaps, her
Polish eyes lost in her head.
Her thin limbs in the early hours
stretch and lift, and there you are
with your ratty eye
meeting her ice-blues. Blue
as this salty sea-town,
blue as your freezing home.

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Phlebotomy is a bloody word.
I fear her stub-nailed, soap-smell rub,
flapping her rubber fingers, she pinches
and pecks at my flesh. Blue creeks fork
my arm. Like blood, she has me surrounded,
sshh sshh, mimicking seas. The room is blue
like her dress, my veins, the coast-crumpled
hospital windows. Stopped-breath, panic-blues.

The bottles smile and twist, demand red.
SSssSShhh SsssSShhh, she comes to drain me,
mouthfuls of milk-nausea. I sicken,
writhe in reptilian hands. Tourniquets,
strangling asps. The needle grins,
sucks blood-lights on Corridor 5
and I’m swimming these miles of bleachy blues,
needling my way to the exit.

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The Trapeze Swinger


It was spring when they set up the circus.
We watched them work from the window
of our plain kitchen, the jay-blue, hazard-red,
green-as-a-glowworm lights that would melt
on our sensible walls as they heaved and clattered,
raised the steel bones of the skeleton-fair
and fleshed it out with animals. This excited you,
secretly: the chained fur did not raze you
as I seethed on my podium-doorstep.
You passed me, grinning, to join them.

My anger was a spectacle, but as the roar of the lions
and giddy applause rose off like a last balloon
I fell dizzily in love with a silhouette,
the trapeze swinger, shooting wild above crowds
and candyfloss-clouds: swine-pink,
his bald foot kicking out and swimming
the naked air. We watched him spin
like a saucer, fling himself free
from the elephant-cage, blunted tusks,
across the moon and its animal heart.

You looked from me to the trapeze swinger.
He’s not really flying, you said.

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eats Danish pastries in a dirty caff.
Alone, he dabs at the flakes
with a licked finger,
and swallowing from a teacup
his mother tuts in her bloodstained
dress, a blood-diamond marking
her chest, a memorial,
her fat and priceless loss.

The doorbell tolls their entrance.
There are shadows queuing here–
shadows, perhaps, of rivals
or restless ghosts or people trying to cope
like he does, him with his river-wet
lover bending and raving,
scrying her own reflection
for her daddy’s eye. Trailing lobelias,
wildflower white of the moon
in all its peaceful lunacy.
Her dull skull cratered with grief.

And boy, does he know grief,
does he understand,
but he doesn’t go mad like that–
not he, no, not some
shameful disgrace, unbrained,
pupils beetling his lost head.
No ravings, no mindless chatter.
He addresses his longest friend
sitting at his side, poor Yorick.
The finest skull you did see.
He can vouch for Hamlet,
he’s not mad. He’s not cracking.
Listen. His dead jaw drops,
spits out a grub
and he’s trying to say,
not mad no, he’s talking to me.

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