Wednesday, 28 December 2011


Here is a short piece about caterpillars, peacocks and the new world.

Enjoy and happy christmas and new year and other things you like.

Monday, 19 December 2011

Subtle Fiction

New work online, at Subtle Fiction, shaazaaam!

also, I just finished all my editing work before Christmas!

also, I just got an acceptance from Bartleby Snopes! (on this year's lust-list for publishing things)

also, there is this picture of a buffalo swimming:

Wednesday, 14 December 2011

the delinquent!

Get your hands on issue 16 here and read some poems of mine.

Tuesday, 29 November 2011

who can?

It’s dark so early. Who can concentrate on work? I sit at my desk and watch the clouds conspire, and then all of a sudden the day is gone. I’ve barely looked over the business plan I’m supposed to be researching. Every time I try, I swoon with tedium. And I can’t-stop-clicking on the internet.

I bought new lightbulbs: red for the winter. Actually, ‘fireglow’. They are bayonet, a word which always seems too harsh for lampshades. They make our skin morello-cherry-lickable when we skulk back to bed in the afternoon. I pretend I’m a girl in an Amsterdam window; I reek of frankincense oil and rosemary from the afternoon in the bath.

So yes, who can concentrate on work?

Miranda July’s new book came in the post lately, and I am inordinately happy. She’s my favourite. There is this:

“I was writing a screenplay in the little house. I wrote it at the kitchen table, or in my old bed with its thrift-store sheets. Or, as anyone who has tried to write anything recently knows, these are the places where I set the stage for writing but instead looked things up online. Some of this could be justified because one of the characters in my screenplay was also trying to make something, a dance, but instead of dancing she looked up dances on YouTube. So, in a way, this procrastination was research. As if I didn’t already know how it felt: like watching myself drift out to sea, too captivated by the waves to call for help. I was jealous of older writers who had gotten more of a toehold on their discipline before the web came. I had gotten to write only one script and one book before this happened.”

Nevertheless, I’m feeling happy in the company of words. Suddenly I don’t have any deadlines for writing and I have innumerable deadlines for work, so obviously I am writing writing writing, entering anthology contests, making up new words, and new plots, and character people.

Also, I read some of the novel I wrote a few Novembers ago and felt heady for those kind of word flurries. It wasn’t as bad as I had worried it might be. Maybe one of these days, I’ll start the edit.

slut myth

Hurrah & hell yes.

Sunday, 27 November 2011

the soil, the sky.

An orange airplane is accelerating across a sky unsullied by weather. It revs its engine and the tailfin gets hooked in a catch in the atmosphere. Things start to unravel. The plane is a zip, the trails are teeth, and they part in a yawn from so many years of keeping mum. It is a belly yawn, a yawn for the pure of heart. No coy hands here, shading the tonsils. I try to feel horror: a chasm is spreading across the sky. We’re finally going to see what was behind the ziplock all along.

However, all I can think is, this soil is so quiet. This afternoon is not the right one for the apocalypse. Listen carefully, there’s no panic down there with the worms. Maybe it’s just an earthquake in the heavens. Maybe the angels grew tired of being so lofty. Maybe from now on, we’ll all be in this together.

Would you prefer, when it comes, for it to be the soil or the sky? Do you fear chasms beneath your feet or a fracture in the endless snowglobe? I can’t help but wonder what would happen if this ball of atmosphere were fumbled and a hairline crack appeared. First, small beads of condensation. A drip. A dribble. A flow. A gush. And then all of us spill into space, fire apart like mercury, giddy as Icarus, breathless as scuba divers, weightless, endless, dead.

Today, I feel like filament. Not sturdy enough for the world. I temper a three-day hangover with small kindnesses: Bolivian alpaca wool gloves, sweetcorn and cheddar fritters, sweet chilli tea with honey. I let myself reread my favourite short stories from the umpteenth time. I let myself use the word umpteenth. I wander idly through blog posts about kink, newspaper articles about scientists’ tattoos and wigleaf’s short short stories.

The tattoos are paltry. The smut is comforting. I am endlessly delighted by this.

Tuesday, 22 November 2011

good things happening soon

I have stories and poems forthcoming in Subtle Fiction, the delinquet, Bound Off and wigleaf; I have pumpkin pie and creamed onions forthcoming in Thanksgiving dinner; I have kisses and coffee forthcoming in bed.

Tuesday, 8 November 2011

the water

Right after everything ended, I started thinking about the future. There were kites, kites flying haphazardly around a sky punctuated by white puffs of cloud. The clouds were hookah rings waiting for their turn to lasso the sun. They did not elbow one another, they did not scramble. These were the most patient of clouds.

In their youth, the clouds had been trickles of spring water oozing from a shiny black rock on the mountaintop. They had beaded, gathered forces, pulled together into a seep. Started the long wander down like Moses descending with a carved stone, full of importance, realising, full of what was to come next.

The first drip was the Pied Piper marauding from a village that had wronged him. The next drips followed like slack-jawed children promised something better: a song. We cannot blame them; who could? Who wouldn't drop it all in favour of feet that could dance?

They tumbled down the mountain and they gathered. Soon, there were tiny waterfalls tumbling like glittered cloaks. Down the mountain, faster, feel your feet. They were still small, they burbled rather than gushed. But they were coming.

Over a precipice and into a pool. Hello, fellow stream. Where have you been, what have you seen, where are we going, what comes next? Gravity pushing like an ambitious mother, a hand in the small of your back. The ballet recital is about to commence. Your partner hasn't arrived. No worries. Move.

The water started to feel like it was on horseback. It heard its own rumble and it dreamt of the thunder of hooves. It thought of words like "inexorable" and "destiny". The water let itself believe in a bigger picture. We shiver to talk about the grand plan, about God, but this is what the water was thinking. Don't mock the water. You've never felt yourself rush like that, never felt yourself gush and current.

The water reached the place where things were flatter and it sighed and stretched out like an expat dabbing his lips after a thirteen-course Romanian banquet. The belt was loosened, the notches slipped. "Ahh," said the water, and it slipped on. And still it rolled downwards, gathering, giggling, head-over-heels-over-head, we're at a picnic, your knees are stained emerald, there's twigs in your hair, I kiss you, the earth wriggles, we cackle down the hill with our elbows tucked tight. There is no bottom for the kind of fall we are attempting.

The water found the delta. The water ran its hands over the surface skin of the earth and the water sought out places to probe. The lazier water sighed and sank into pillows of moss, closed its damp eyes, fell into a dream of flying, of clouds, of fog. The majority continued to stomp. Look, there: the sea.

In the distance was a horizon where the migrating water finally settled, finally bred. The water hurried. At the end of the scurry was the ultimate in writhing. The waters sloshed, they gurgled: hiccup, splish, glug. The sea was drenched. Sodden. The water ran under and over itself, the water soaked. The water exhaled a breath it had long been holding.

The sun would not stop beating. A punch drunk chef with his whisk in the eggs; an addled dartsman forever flinging to the bull. And the air grew warmer, and the compositions changed.

The water resisted. But the sun was hot and the water felt its heart grow lighter. And then the water wondered why it would ever pause, the water gasped, the water took off its steel toe-capped boots and let itself hover. The air was comfortable. A post-coital embrace. A hot bath after a difficult interview. Shortbread, warm from the oven and crumbling.

If the water had ever been scuba-diving and ever felt the moment of realisation of flying, controlling the rise and fall of its body with a balance of breath, if this, then the water would say that this feeling now, this is like that.

The water is rising, not as water, as mist. Air. Particles. The water cannot believe how blue the sky is and is almost embarrassed to think it will become part of that, it will stain it with its whimsy.

The water has reached the roof of the sky, and the water particles, embarrassed, are huddling together. It is like the beginning of an office away day bonding session where the organisers chirrup, “Split up from your friends, now, let's all form a new group, ready for the first exercise.” The water cannot bring itself to do it.

The water coddles together and becomes clouds and the clouds are the most patient in the sky. You have never seen such patient clouds, or maybe you have, maybe they all are, but you have never been this patient. The water has been drops of rain and it has fallen on mountains and it has become the tiniest stream and it has gathered and become more than that and it has carried on until they are all oceans and you listen to this like it is the corniest cliché you have ever heard and maybe you would be right, maybe you are, but my heart feels like it is caught in a bulldog clip and I am staring at the world, and I don't know. It feels like something, there is something happening. I feel I could be breathless. I look to the sky.

Saturday, 5 November 2011

write like a motherfucker

Advice you need to read, if you haven't already.

"Writing is hard for every last one of us—straight white men included. Coal mining is harder. Do you think miners stand around all day talking about how hard it is to mine for coal? They do not. They simply dig."


November has started and I promised I’d write, so here are words, take them, remove them from my hands before I worry them like a matchbox in a pocket on a day of bad news.

I am giddy for autumn, delirious for the leaves. I don’t ever want it to stop. Their offerings seem paltry, here in the suburban streets. Pitiful bundles of rust and tangelo and amber, kicking around the ankles of cars. I need to flee to the forest.

Imagine they kept falling. Picture it in time-lapse photography. To the hubcaps; to the windows; over the roof. It is not like the purification of fresh snow. We let the city go to scrub and crackle.

The leaves are pages of Gideon’s bibles torn from the spine. Their words crumple into the streets, they are trodden on. They turn from gold to mud.

The leaves are the dandruff of the trees. The wind pummels and the trees dance furiously as the end of the party draws near. They thrash and toss their heads and the flecks scatter.

The leaves are telegrams sent from the branches to the wind, saying, “it’s over stop don’t send kisses stop forget me.” They send the same message every hour for a season. The wind finds no reason to pause.

Flee to the forest, that’s what we must do, wrap up with rabbit-fur muffs and flasks of hot, spiced wine. Pull our boots to our knees and our striped socks higher. My cheeks ruddy, my pockets full of pencils, my lips gnawed and cracked. Listen for the snap of leaves beneath your toes. Ask the undergrowth its plans for the fall.

Monday, 31 October 2011

my birthday: what I ate, in order of consumption

a dill pickle bloody mary; three oysters with lemon and tabasco; blue cheese; labneh; black coffee; scrambled eggs with turkish bread and green tomato salsa; coffee infused tequila; tiramisu; another dill pickle bloody mary; gin and tonic; blue cheese infused bourbon; more coffee tequila; prawn crackers; prosecco; salt & pepper squid; chicken & sweetcorn soup; sweetcorn spring rolls; frogs legs with lemongrass and chilli; sliced beef pho with coriander, beansprouts and lime; king prawns in tamarind; breton cidre; vietnamese coffee; more gin; white wine; other things, other things, limoncello... sweet chilli chicken pizza and cider, sleep.

Wednesday, 26 October 2011


We are trying to budget for winter, so when the spring comes we can flee. This means lentil stews so thick they purr; this means burrowed deep under duvet by sunset.

Our concept of hardship is wobbly and unstudied. I look upon misery like a spoilt Victorian child marvelling at the quaintness of poverty. I keep it at bay with my talismans: soft warm skin, woollen socks, fairylights in the fireplace.

The kitchen is still stacked with booze from the last party. “Let’s budget,” we say, while I mix rosemary vodka martinis. I am working more in the day: more tutoring, more manuscripts to edit. I remind myself to make time to write. I need to get up earlier, look to November as a prospect for thousands of words.

Today the BBC said they’d put the contract in the post, and I am giddy.

I reread Paul Auster’s Hand to Mouth and give up on the idea of needing to suffer. I let myself be looked after, let him do the dishes, or let them all stack up while we scurry to separate rooms and make the things we make. Loops from his studio are seeping through the walls.

Every jam jar in the house is full of things infusing: chilli chocolate tequila, lemongrass and ginger tequila, beetroot vodka, dill pickle jalapeno vodka, pecan butter bourbon, blue cheese bourbon, popcorn rum, brown butter cinnamon rum. The kitchen smells of charred popcorn and all the pans are dirty.

Dancing Girl Press said they’d send me the galleys mid-November, and everything is so fucking wonderful I am terrified to say it aloud, lest I jinx it all.

Tuesday, 25 October 2011


There is something about Berlin that feels like the future. I don’t mean the shiny future; I don’t mean the Tokyo one of spaceships and retina scanners and tailored silicon. I mean the post-future future where the streets become wide instead of tall, a freeshop is planted on every corner, tendrils of smoke trickle back to the bars and the keys of the city are handed to a team of shamanistic allstars. Perhaps, I am talking about Utopia.


We cycled to the abandoned airport, Tempelhof. Our bikes were solid and upright and moved with all the grace of a young drum major on her way to her first parade. We needed them. At the end of the runway, we revved our feet to the sun.

It was late in the afternoon and the light was golden and piercing, a light specific to the first cold snap of autumn (my favourite moment in the year). The sky was studded with kites of every colour so far away they looked like holes snipped out of the fabric of the world. Some of them were attached to skateboards and the kite-flyers swung their strings and danced across the runway: a foxtrot led by the wind.

At one end of the runways, two or three kilometres away, stood the airport building. It was a horseshoe shape, proud, sprawling; like the Toronto subway font, it seemed part of the past and the future all at once. But the Nazis built it, and these days the building is closed.

At the other end, in the tufts of grass between where the planes turned, the ground is taken over by ramshackle allotments. Broken bathtubs overgrown with cabbages. Packing crates wrenched apart and hammered into freestanding doorframes. CDs winking to the crows and the largest crop of parsley I’d ever seen. James said, When we live here, I’ll build you one. We talked about sugar snap peas and green tomato chutney and the thirty-five year waiting list we were handed by the London council. We turned towards the setting sun.

The wind was pelting down the runway but we three turned our bikes and revved our feet and hammered towards a horizon where sunbeams bounced like the arcades. Panting, thighs pumping, the wind hollering expletives. The Nazi building grew closer, infinitesimally, the kites had our backs. Then we got to the top and we turned.

There was something about Berlin that felt like the future. There, then, at that exact moment: suddenly the wind behind me, the airport given over to a post-apocalyptic utopia, plants tended in the cracks. I kept my tire to the white line. I pedalled. Faster. The world whipped past my peripheries and the hefty palms of the gales shoved in the small of my back. I cycled as far and as fast as I could, until the end of the runway where I stopped and circled and waited for the boys.

Saturday, 15 October 2011

excellent news

My poetry chapbook is going to be published by a beautiful Chicago press and I've been commissioned by the BBC to write a short story and it's about to be my birthday and I'm in Berlin and everything is utterly fantastic. Yes!

Tuesday, 11 October 2011

oh, amanda

Sometimes I read too many Amanda Knox articles and it worries me. I start thinking that if I were ever near somewhere where something terrible happened, I’d react wrongly. Whatever did or didn’t happen, I’d be judged by kissing a boy afterwards or giggling when giggling was Not The Right Thing To Do.

I know my reactions to major events. I’ve been rescued from a burning building and I’ve stood on an altar and said, “I do.” I’ve had the one of those operations. I know my take on the serious things, the things where it’s been decided how ladies are supposed to react. I do it wrong.

You’re not supposed to come out of things too alive. Or too sexual. You’re not supposed to have been drunk in your past (or your present), you’re not supposed to flirt, you’re not supposed to smile, you’re not supposed to continue living with your flesh and salacious female existence.

I don’t mean that I’ve ever been stopped from doing these things. I’ve always been surrounded by the kind of degenerates and delightfuls who yank me from what life flings and pass the cava and stroke my hair and make it fine.

I also know obviously these are in no way comparable situations. That’s not the point. The point is that the things on which you can be judged are that you were once drunken on youtube or that you sought comfort in someone’s arms.

The fact is that the points in your life when you are vulnerable can be whipped out and polished like snowglobes, hardened, coated in a thick resin, and presented as who you truly are. And it turns out you’re evil.

Friday, 23 September 2011

A skirmish, a sunbeam, and a surrender

A first nonsensical draft of something, just something, just words to get the day started like coffee. Without either I'm sluggish and my brain isn't the brain I want to be dealing with. My thoughts are old glue and stagnant puddles and melted butter left to congeal and tease fruit flies. Three thoughts this came from: the word "skirmish" as repeated on my tongue while brewing coffee, skirmish like scaramouch, like fandango. The sunbeam that has taken over my desk, mmmn, morning warmth. And a soft surrender, the good kind, like held wrists or falling eyelids.


A skirmish, a sunbeam, and a surrender. Grappling on the crest of the hill: eager paws, arse over tit, hands in the hair. She thinks that maybe she loves him and this could be it. Happiness. A giddy heart like sprawl of daisies, like a plastic tugboat in a summer puddle, like a promise folded between scented papers in the secret pocket at the side of her bag.

A skirmish, a sunbeam, and a surrender. Her shriek is a riot in the town of seagulls and when they kiss their gravities switch. They coo and capsize, down the hill, they tumble. Grass stains on her wrists like rope burns; grass in her hair. The bumblebees are sweating. When they bounce on the rocks, he kisses harder.

A skirmish, a sunbeam, and a surrender. You’re falling, girl, you’re head over heels, and at the bottom of the hill lie bruises. So, you pick yourself up by the scruff of your neck, shake your kittenish frame, and you carry the remains to where it’s shady, where you lay yourself down, where you sleep.

Thursday, 15 September 2011

Conveyor Arts, part 2

In the second part of the Words With Pictures project, I wrote a poem about skiving and Leif took this lush photo to go with it.

on writer's block

"I'm not convinced that there's any such thing as "writer's block." I suspect that what we like to call "writer's block" is actually a failure of nerve or a failure of imagination, or both.

If you're willing to take chances, risk ridicule, and push the envelope, and if you've managed to hold on to your imagination (the single most important quality a writer can possess, even slightly more important than an itchy curiosity and a sense of humor), then you can dissolve any so-called block simply by imagining extraordinary, heretofore unthinkable solutions, and/or by playing around uninhibitedly with language. You can imagine a wordplay your way out of any impasse. That's assuming, of course, that you're talented in the first place."

Tom Robbins, asked by New Times: "What Do You Think Writer's Block Is and Have You Ever Had It?"

Monday, 12 September 2011

Shonen KNIFE!

I got to see them last night at Scala and I nearly burst my stiches trying to dance on the spot and not mosh, then being overcome with tremulous sixteen-year-old-thrash excitement, chastised by Helen, bah-bah-bah KAPOW.

They do not bear serious review because they don't make me feel serious; I'm not going to analyse "I'm going to eat jelly jelly jelly jelly jelly jelly jelly jelly beans, you're going to eat cherry cherry cherry cherry cherry cherry cherry cherry drops!" because it is clear to me that is awesome and if you don't agree you've probably never been a teenage girl experiencing music as a series of electric shocks wired between your yelps and your skin.

I am also happy that my two favourite hyperactive girl groups (see also: Helen Love) have alternative universe lives as Ramones cover tribute bands (and that the encore last night was Sheena Is A Punk Rocker and Blitzkrieg Bop).

Things move quickly at that bpm, feet are happy, space foods are marshmallow, asparagus, ice cream!

Also, the singer is 51. What? They look seventeen.

Saturday, 10 September 2011

the storm

It is pouring outside, thick thunderstorm weather, growling skies. Weather like curds of cheese left in a muslin bag to rot. I can taste the rain. I can taste the meat of the earth on the water, the soil that has soaked into the clouds. Stinking, fetid weather like all the best things; ripe. Weather that howls in guttural tones. Air that bites back.

I am eating a hunk of meat while I watch the storm. The meat is barely cooked and there is blood dribbling down my chin like I have buried my lips in a menstrual Medusa. The crust was seared on a flame so hot the guardians of hell shivered at its sight: charred and black and crumbling. It is coal. It is the crusts of lava from a weeping volcano. I let it burn my tongue. My flesh sears with the meat and the blood oozes out to coat it like redemption. I baptise the soft pink skin of my mouth with the dead meat of the beast. We are wild and feral like that afternoon on Arthur's Seat, fucking in the undergrowth, mocking the skies to take us.

Remember shouting at lightning to get the better of it; remember immortality with a wire coathanger; remember, it won't get you unless you ask it to, and to ask you have to scream.

I am screaming out the window because I am tired of the cotton warmth of downy duvet home. I think of lashes and lashing rain. Demeter is pissed off. I have lightning bolts in a drawer that were crafted from the bones of dead goats and voodoo incantations. If the neighbours complain I will smite them. Their hair will sizzle and their eyes will roll back in their heads until they can see the thoughts which swim behind the blanket. Like Lot's wife, they are not fit to handle such sights. I will lick their salt when they freeze and it will pickle the flesh around my teeth. My burnt gums will crumble like soil left to the worms. My teeth will slump in their sockets. I will end up staring at the pavement in horror and delight, wondering at the mess I have got myself into.

Barking like a fucking dog, growling like the bear that got the man's head in his teeth. I hear they were picking shards of the bear's incisors out for weeks. His skull was studded, no thoughts left in his brain that do not jangle.

I am looking at the sky and it seems bigger than me and I'm scared: too much lairy behaviour, such a loose tongue with the Gods. I know if it chose to it could lift me up with a creased tongue and scoop my remains to the cumulonimbus, toss this shaken body around its electric trampolines.

I'll bounce back.

‘I've got elastic bands for bones,’ I yell, ‘my skin is mercury, my balls scatter and reform.’

While the sky listens to me shrieking, and sighs.

Wednesday, 7 September 2011

Conveyor Arts

I was asked to do some writing for Conveyor Arts magazine's Words With Pictures project:
Words with Pictures is a weekly two-part post that pairs photographers and writers. The first week, a writer is given a photograph to inspire the creation of a new piece of writing. The following week the photographer is given a piece of writing and responds with a new photographic piece. This series is curated by Conveyor Editor Dominica Paige.
Read my writing and look at Leif Huron's photograph here.

Tuesday, 6 September 2011

sick, sick, sick

I've been sick, which is not something I'm used to. I mean, not really.

I am familiar (hand-in-hand, skipping-through-the-field familiar) with hangover sick. I know first-thing-in-the-morning sick, I know dehydrated eyes and slack tongues and a fear of facing the world. I know you-don't-brush-your-teeth-enough, your-gums-are-bleeding sick and ate-all-the-bad-Vietnamese sick and third world travel dyspepsia. Thick head colds to tease out with steaming lentil soup rife with garlic. Cat-claws in the back of the throat. Shivery sweats making Rosarsch patterns on the bedsheets. But...

I've not been hospital sick before and this week I was because my appendix exploded. I ignored it because I have an innate and foolish belief that most all illness can be cured by solitude, quiet, herbal tea, and soup. I figure if I stop taunting my immune system with sleeplessness and espresso and whisky when it whines, then it will take heed and sort me out. Unfortunately not.

Anyway, I will be at home for a while convalescing and writing, propped up in bed with too many pillows, affecting a wan 19th-century-heroine expression (instead of going to Bestival and dancing around like a loon). I plan to write an essay about pain and edit together some delirious night-sweat notes into something poemlike, and see how my body reacts to a week off the booze. I may also eat large quantities of ice cream, particularly this one.

Monday, 22 August 2011


Does anyone want to? Pictures/music/words/film/challenges/postcards/cartoons. Etc. I could do with the impetus for productivity and also, it's really really fun.

Wednesday, 17 August 2011

some good things

I am feeling dapper about writing at the moment, which is fortunate, because the world of work seems to have taken a hiatus: cancelled copyediting projects; children no longer in need of a tutor; online interviews that tag back and forth and haggle and confirm, before disappearing one morning into the internet abyss, never to answer their emails again.

I am a little tired of 'competing' in an 'online marketplace' as if writing was a scrap to the bottom dollar. I am sick of people asking me to write articles at $3 for 500 words (minus agency fees and exchange rates and withdrawal costs) and looking at Bangladeshi copywriters who charge $1.11 an hour. I am bored of chasing jobs to prove my worth and businessmen who will haggle and chip away at my fee and then hand me their eBook to edit where they discuss how they made six million dollars last year (clue: by haggling and chipping away at the money they give to anyone for anything).


It's not all bad because really work is only the thing that keeps me in liquor and holidays, and once the schools are back there will be more teaching to teach, and a nice boy has promised me rent-free living in exchange for kisses and lazy takeout evenings in exchange for soup.

The other nice thing is that I have become quite ridiculously domesticated and have been making all manner of foodstuffs, in a hoardy, winter-is-coming kind of way. Like chutney and bread and whisky liqueur with brambles from the marshes. I have discovered the cure for all internet malaise is to pummel some dough into quivering submission, or to ride my bike to the fields and forage for berries and come home with scratches and nettle stings on my skirted knees.

As well as this, there are also words and writing, of course.

Recent projects:

Reading poetry to the good people of Resonance FM, drinking whisky in the radio studio, talking about masturbation in bookstores.

Writing for photographers to take pictures of my words and making words of photographers pictures for New Jersey's Conveyor Arts.

Finishing a poetry chapbook and sending it to potential publishers. Watch this handcrafted, fingerfolded space.

Being asked to read at the last ever Golden Hour in Edinburgh's Fringe Festival. Actually, this kind of makes me ecstatic and gutted and many other things which will likely remain inexpressible until I am sitting drunkenly amongst some of my favourite people, remembering all of the last four years of tour. If it wasn't for the Golden Hour/Forest Publications/Ryan, well, everything would be very different for me as a writer and person and there will be tears before bedtime, and gin, I'm sure.

I have also been feeling good about positive rejections. There haven't been any acceptances recently, sure, but I'm trying to aim higher y'see and only send to places I really really want to be in. And also take rejections with a nod to try harder: either try harder to make the writing better, or try harder to research where I'm sending things and only put them places they belong.

This month I have heard: "No, but...

...we were impressed with the very evocative imagery in both of them"

...Although I liked the writing, I'm afraid this piece is not quite right for us"'s a well-crafted and well-told short story. Unfortunately ... this piece is simply far too much in the so-called "literary" style for us to really have much need of it."

This is a distinct mark up from "We've read it carefully. Unfortunately, we didn't feel it was quite right for us. If you have something else you think is right for our magazine, please feel free to try us again in the future."

Also, another small good thing: I'm learning to make cheese.

Tuesday, 16 August 2011

Resonance FM

I am going to be reading poems/talking about poetry on the radio tonight!

9.30pm on 104.4fm.

Tune your dials.


Friday, 12 August 2011


“Please don’t,” I implored. It was too early to think. I was sailing through a dream of the Gypsy captain with rugged fingers, stitching partridge feathers to the underside of the canoe. I petted the feathers as if they were the shaggy coat of a squalid dog.
They curled around my fingers and we shook small hands.

The door buzzed again, yanking me harder from the wallows. I was hurtling back to normality in a flurry of tiny realisations. In a flurry of gnats, or snowstorms.
I could feel a kink in my spine; somewhere a dog barked.
And again, louder.
A hand placed itself in the cave of my back and shoved.
A voice hissed, “LOOK.”
My treacherous eyes opened, and I lay in bed, awake.

I didn’t want to be woken. I’d been waltzing a filth match with the boys from Beirut, I’d been tumblestiltzken, head over heels. There was candy cane sugar corn handcuffs in the dream, softer than the venus flytrap’s velvet tongue.

“Please don’t,” I asked the day and it heehawed back, no sympathy for the swatches of my sleep.

I didn’t want to be woken. But the world oozed in to oil Morpheus’ palms and I slithered from his grasp and it was morning. I was catapulted from the snug. I woke up. It was daytime and I was lost to my dreams.

Wednesday, 3 August 2011

RIP Hotel Chelsea

I spent one night barefoot running through your corridors in a crimson silk ballgown, playing kiss chase with a camcorder, placing polaroids on the walls.

We had black eyes for the boys and bourbon for the girls. Champagne and powder, lipstick, neon. A bathtub for sleepover sudsing. Bedsprings for leapfrog. A walk-in wardrobe as empty as an envelope from a love letter thrown away in spring.

Can you believe the sign, can you believe we’re here, doesn’t your heart feel like a velvet drawstring purse full of rubies, tripped and spilling on the floor?

I wrestled in evening gloves for the very first time and six months later, the teeth marks hadn’t faded: six months tattooed with a postcard from a past self, signed wish you were here.

Long before I let my heart break its ankle running down the stairs, I was on a balcony trying to lasso the Empire State spire with a smoke ring. I was clattering down a stairwell windswept with giggles.

I let the histories trample my own corridors on their slipshod feet. I believed in all the clichés. I ran so fast the modern world hadn’t a hope for my coattails.

I love the Chelsea Hotel. This news made me sigh.

Saturday, 30 July 2011

helen love

I’m not a reviewer; I don’t know how to form the words for anything in the midst of the gamut between gack and glory. Scathing or swooning: that’s your lot.

Swooning I find more fun.

So: Helen Love. Do you know Helen Love? They are the best. Girls from Swansea singing bubblegum punk pop disco and obsessing over Joey Ramone. Yeow! Go listen.

They sound like the kind of girls who draw pixelated hearts in the squared paper of their math jotters and make mixtapes for boys with dirty hair and decorate their fingernails with tippex and pink highlighters.

They sound like the scuff-kneed offspring of a casiotone and a spaceship, drunk on espresso and cherry lambrini, dancing in a basement in the Welsh bit of New York City.

They sound like the feeling in your stomach on the loop-the-loop rollercoaster on the last day of summer, full of sherbet fountains and pink candyfloss and dolly mixtures.

Here are some choice lyrics:

He’s been under medication and heavy sedation,

Since Kula Shaker came along,

‘Cos he couldn’t believe everyone in the world,

Liked their songs


Her name is Claire, she's an office executive,

She wears white linen dresses with flair,

She lives with a policeman,

Plays squash on Thursday evenings,

She's in love with Billy Joel,

That's enough to kick her head in


See that girl lying under the bar,

She used to be a rock'n'roll star,

Smoked cigarettes with Joan Jett in America

She got her picture in Rolling Stone,

She was third from the left behind Joey Ramone,

You couldn't see her face,

But I'm sure she looked great anyway

She lives in a flat halfway up in the sky,

Goes out with her boy into the MC5s,

She'd be OK if he didn't hit her,

Or go to bed with the babysitter


Who's that boy with the ocean green eyes

In Rough Trade every Saturday,

Don't he look cute in his eighties track suit

I wish I hadn't thrown mine away


Spent all my money on a cocktail dress with matching silver shoes

And a purple souped-up travellator David Bowie used to use

We bought some drugs and we hit the road on the hottest summer day

But he left me for a singer in a disco band in a nightclub in L.A.

MIAOW! They are sunshine and music and everything you need to hear right now.

Thursday, 28 July 2011

the ladies pond

A very quick poem about today. I have a new favoured place.


There are
just women, in the pond.

No butter-slathered shrieks, no
exploratory toes dipped and
leapt back,
breasts punting
like volleyballs in the sun.

There is a dearth of giggles.

The heads glide the surface
like boules from the palms
of French pensioners,
leaving a wake in the sand.

These bodies churn bugs for the
ducks to lunch upon,

but we ignore the ducks,
as we ignore the elbow tug
of the working world.

In the water, we are all penguins,
belly-first on the ice.

We dive like coins dropped
in wishing wells, float like
oak leaves suspended in puddles,

and before the oily cold seizes my skin
to demand I towel and clad and
emerge, before this

I am a giddy seal, pirouetting,
drunk on the lard
which keeps me afloat.

Monday, 25 July 2011


want to cut the number of short stories they do. Hmmmph.




Sometimes I think about doing a Creative Writing Masters and how wonderful it would be: a year of writing, deadlines, workshops, tasks, inspirations, time. Umnn. It would be delicious, so delicious. I would make words upon words. But then I look at UCL and see it costs (£4,000 pa part time) and realise that this is not going to happen any time soon.

Instead, I have been contacting writing groups in the hope of finding the workshops and joining a library in place of learned tutors and setting myself assignments instead of waiting for someone else to do so for me.

Today I repotted all the plants and decided to think about dirt.


Out of the earth too long, my palms began to itch. I am tired of all this surface breathing. I start to think that maybe it’s time to scrabble.

Let me tell you about the soil.

The soil here is always wet. It’s cake batter. It’s toothpaste with a bistre stain, it’s thick, it’s gacky. I want to crawl inside. Arms up to the pits. Worms bumping blind against me. Wriggling my fingers, trying to reach the centre.

I think of closing my fist upon what’s down there. Maybe there will be the lazy femur of a dead badger, shag mouldering in the soil, scavenging long forgotten. A lost gold chain interlacing like smoke rings blown upon each other by a lazy tongue. Or a feisty oak root, curved like the handle of a cellar door, waiting for me to reach around and tug.

So: I pull. The door opens. The resting earth capsizes. Everything I am sitting upon begins to shift

and-then-all-of-a-sudden we are falling, like a teen queen talking about love-crushes, like a harlot on heels going head-over, like sunsets and autumn leaves and share prices and ink (on a blank white page which has been waiting for the words you have chosen)

we are falling, arms first, head second, the feet and tail waiting behind for a moment, considering whether this is or not the best idea, before the topple takes over

And then, it is quiet in the earth.

It is quiet down here. I can hear the wobble of oxygen settling in my lungs, like raspberry jelly on sherry-soaked fruit. My ribcage is the crystal bowl my mother used for trifle. My breath stops.

There is dirt in my eyes. When I squeeze my lids open, grains of coffee spill into my sight. Everything is tobacco, mahogany, burnt sienna. I see a thousand shades of brown, I see umber and chocolate and walnut and Vandyke, cinnamon and African sunlit shoulders. The dirt is a weathered terracotta roof tile on a cloudy evening in February. It is the unloved picket of an unpainted fence in a storm. Broken ale bottles in a school playground after hours. Brown.

I do not breathe, but the bouquet slithers through my skin. The soil does not smell like death. It is like the spray of the ocean but warmer, a tang of seared flesh. Fragments of blood and the sap of a broken green twig. A bite of placenta. And something beyond description: a jiggling something, a thing that darts and embraces all at once. It smells like a football field toppling over the Niagara Falls.

There is more to say, but I am snug and suspended in a pike dive in the earth.

Around me the dirt is composing symphonies for the centipedes.

Thursday, 21 July 2011

My old bike died

But now I have a new friend.
Hello Hercules!

Tuesday, 19 July 2011

tinkering and thinking

I’ve been editing too much recently, or not too much actually, a worthwhile amount, a great amount, the room is covered in flurries of paper: double-spaced, courier font, scribbled, rescribbled, printed again. I’m glad I’m editing because for a while the sentence ‘Yes, I’m working on my first short story collection’ was just a stopgap masking the fact I was doing anything but.

Spring always seems to whack me with great wallops of new inspirations: April! Poem a day! Sunshine again and bikerides and long amiable wanders with the thoughts in my own brain for company. Which is good but I want to finish something more than a story here or there, a credit on a website suspended in html, someone’s screen somewhere blinking back my words, even a finely bound anthology where I snuggle between real writers and decide I am one myself in the process.

I want a book, goddamit, and I don’t get a book until I finish writing one.

This is what I remember when I speak to Ryan and Nick; this is what I forget when I spend too much time meandering the back-catalogues and credits of other writer girls, thinking they should belong to me.

But yes, so I’m editing. It’s a new pleasure, this deep tissue editing of my own words. I’ve done it to other people but never hacked myself so thoroughly. Hack hack hack like a drunken haircut. I think it’s killing my brain a bit though. It’s making it hard to get to the end of new sentences: they seem so naked and fallible. I have to remember that this is what I am when I write -- naked, fallible -- and it’s ok.

So here I am:

Five stories finished and published in a state that makes me happy (though still to be edited again, of course, once you get started it’s impossible, nothing is ever finished, but still): The Passenger in Gutter; Flamingoes in The Golden Hour Book 2; The Parade in Jonny America; The Idea Groves in Neon; and The Cats’ Gravity as a chapbook published by Forest Publications.

Four stories finished and begging like puppies on the desks of editors: Asking For It; The Wind Turbines; The Stars of Track and Field; and Carbon. Some of these are at their fifth or sixth destination, a little bruised by such rejection, but essentially better for it. One is shortlisted in a very good place indeed, waiting for a final decision in October. This is something to remind myself of when the others bounce back.

Three stories published which weren’t really ready to be: Missed Connections in the SBT anthology; The Purse Thief in Litmocracy’s anthology; and Comet Girl in The Medulla Review. Oops. Sorry world. I'll come back to these soon with a red and heavy pen.

Two stories on a third or fourth redrafting, close and delicious, which I am enjoying the ravaging of: one about snowglobes, full of brittle, white language, viewpoints bouncing like refracted light; and one about an immortal man obsessed with a female commuter on the Roosevelt Island Tram. They are obsessive stories that have been bouncing around my head a long time. I am frightened of calling them finished.

And then there is a first draft of an erotic car crash story which is fun to play with but surely so Ballard derivative that it makes me blush. (Though there is a kernel of idea in it which fascinates me – to persuade a woman with amnesia that you were lovers and have her respond: I remember. How and when and whether would you call her on the lie?)

There is also an orange grove in Greece that smells of pith and erotic games, a girl who leaves home with the dream of becoming a whirling dervish, Rapunzel in her bathtub eating cold baked beans from the can, and the metaphor lodged in my head of a concrete mixer. All these girls, always, running through my stories, trying to escape, dreaming of whirling, dancing, dancing, terrified to stop. I am besotted with concrete mixers driving miles, always turning. If they stopped they would harden, useless, and it would be impossible to start the turning again and bring it back to life.

This is how my heart and my feet feel sometimes.

These are the things I am writing about.

Saturday, 16 July 2011

I have a website!

and I am inordinately proud.


now I will sit back and wait to become a superstar.

Friday, 15 July 2011

good morning words

The internet broken first thing is a gift, like a sunbeam presented on the pillow by a self-satisfied morning, saying you couldn’t work if you wanted to so why not roll belly up, get toasty, and wait for the words to come.

I am writing about delicious words to start this day, in the hope that they will seep into my brain and rest there like chutney. The words will come together like onions and bay leaves and sugar and spice, until there are no defined boundaries, no Platonic essence of things, until they are as hard to differentiate as lovers’ tongues in a wine-sodden kiss.

But what now, slow up, this isn’t entirely what I meant. I mean, yes, things must percolate, but I’m not just waiting for the words to come together and fit happily and merge into fine and delicious phrases. I’m also looking for other words which won’t be content, the emeralds you could immerse in onions all you pleased and still they’d be the anomaly in the jam jar. I’m trying to take these tense black symbols like a butterfly net and capture something that’s rare, that I can stun and mount with tiny pins and look back upon and think yes, that’s it.

I’m not sure the best way to go about this. I’ve thought about sitting very quietly on the bed with my legs lotus style and trying to put all the other words out of my head so there is a quiet perch upon which a fresh idea could land. It’s tough though, I’m not very good at silence. My brain is ever-awash with chatter – work, plans, boys, breakfast – it’s filthy in there, I don’t know who’d wander in and settle, besides, I find it tough to prop the door open with all these winds whistling.

So I’ve been listening to Pablo Picasso on this one: when inspiration comes I want it to find me working.

What kind of work is this drivel you say? Listing each and every inane thought that pops into your head before the first coffee? A fine job, if you can get it.

Well yes, it is a fine thing, to wait like a child in a sandpit with a fat plastic truck taking the crest of a dune, shouting BRRUMMM BRRUMMMM, as busy as it gets at this time of day, thoughts racing, thinking of desert storms, waiting for chutney, looking up words, just writing something, anything at least, just writing to be writing at the beginning of the day so that whatever comes next can fit in this funnel.


arquebusade (noun) a lotion for shotgun wounds

aspectabund (adjective) having a face that shows emotions clearly

apricate (verb) to bask in the sun

absterge (verb) to wipe; to cleanse; to purge

Thursday, 14 July 2011

whirl! whirl! whirl!

toss your scarf to the gyromancer, dearest.
step the circumference, spin till you stumble,
there is fortune in your footfall to divine.

go now: leave this town, be a dervish
whirl your rings like Saturn. you are liquid matter,
though your heft casts a pall in the sky.

I want to run away from this town and become a whirling dervish; I have dreams of it every night. Imagine me, painted pretty, aloft with my magicians hat of scarves, whirling like Saturn’s rings, like Jupiter.

I’d make believe that I was solid, I’d play sky-father and patron deity, but in truth I’d be composed of exhaled hookah clouds, lighter than a wink across a sandstorm.

I’d smell like the smoke of cherry bombs. I’d taste like liquorice and burnt sugar. When you kissed me, you would see eternity.

When I kissed you, you’d understand
the secret scriptures
of the underside of the moon.

Have I ever told you about rainbow trout? There is a disease in their young called whirling disease. The parasites eat their brains and chew their skeletons, until they cripple over for eternity, chasing their own tails forever.

Forgetting themselves, forgetting their futures and the merry leap upstream.

Whirling whirling whirling…

The parasites are hard to kill. They can survive in minus-twenty degree temperatures for three months at a time. It’s hard to quit the urge. I can feel my own parasites begging for a twirl, for a spin.

Close your eyes.
Stretch your hands out. Lean backwards.
Don’t worry, I’ll hold on tight.

Remember when we did that in the field? When we recalibrated gravity so there was a new centre dwelling at the moment our hands touched? We were weightless forces, orbiting our hands, our hands holding.

Back then, I believed if you let go I would tumble to the moon.

Wednesday, 13 July 2011

On sleep paralysis

Yesterday didn’t exist.

When I’d tried to sleep the night, I was paralysed. My limbs were anaesthetised tree trunks trying to recoil from the chainsaw’s grimace. I could hear it biting the air and I tried to scream in tandem for help but he wasn’t listening, he was asleep, and besides my lips were entangled in the tentacles of the swamp, and I couldn’t pull them apart.

I fell out of bed. I watched myself slither, shoulder-first, to the floor. Gravity was furious with the levitations I’d been attempting in the sepia corners of my dreams. Gravity knew I’d been trying to wriggle from its grasp, aided by powders and potions, sleepless nights and meditation. It hacked my scruff and forced my face to the floorboards and it pushed until I felt metal blood circle the caverns of my mouth like a pike.

I thrashed in a straightjacket sewn from shadows and I balled fists. My screams were subterranean. Sheets entangled between my feet, wet with sweats and horror. James was still asleep when I found a footing on the riverbed and wrenched my sodden limbs back. The room was still murky and tinged with malice. I lay in sweats and screams and tried to wait for my heart to subside.

After a time, the fingers found me again. Shh, it’s fine, it’s fine, close your eyes, it’s fine, close your eyes, it’s bedtime, and I fell and I was still again, I was lying in the bed, but my eyes were open.

I shouldn’t have felt such terror. All that was wrong was the notes of the scale running up and down like footsteps on stairs beneath the bed; all that was wrong was my muscles tranquilized and incapable of flight; all that was wrong was a clawing, crone-fingered horror that massaged my skin, deep into the tissue, fingering for my fall.

It went on all night long.

I strained against the softness of eyelids; I fled the denizens of dreams. I waited for morning to escape. I slipped up. I slipped inside again. I screamed; I was silent. When I woke, it was with defibrillation. I was scared of shadows and scared of sleep.

So yesterday didn’t exist. Or I didn’t exist for it. There were slugs under my tongue instead of words. It was too tedious to recount. I was wallpaper paste and old tapioca. Humn. Wet terry-towelling clinging to the concrete breaker. Who cares?

I’m awake now, though. I’m drinking coffee.

Crank up the Shonen Knife.


I’m going to write some stories now. Write a poem about the corners of clouds, about fondue and Rimbaud, passport controls and gyromancy.


Wednesday, 6 July 2011

It's hardly even worth taking the time to mention that this blog is (and will always be) fits and spurts, months of words which tumble like the mating of cherry blossoms/sea spray/broken leaves/snow storms, a season at a time, followed by silence. So it is.

A brief summary of the last while then, before I start again...

- Lebanon: Beirut made of Armani and bomb detritus, octopus sandwiches, orange-tinted dreams of Tripoli, hiphop Syrian beatbox poets, mosques imbibed with a chandelier silence, my beloved Golden Hour drunken and dancing in the safety of the cedars beside the Arab Spring

- Istanbul: my new favourite city. More later.

- Barcelona: cava and chorizo, Pulp, Belle and Sebastian, Suicide, Einzenstaure Neubauten, PIL. You know it is a finely curated festival when Nick Cave and PJ Harvey are the lowlights.

- Port Aventura. I love rides.

- The best vanilla milkshake in the world at Trinity Buoy Wharf

- Camping in Aboyne and Ballater with the Queen's butcher and so much venison, so many sausages.

- Kelburn Garden Party, my favourite festival in all the world. Waterfalls and music and castle graffiti and secret forests to stumble upon. We were goblins for four days in the undergrowth with the last of September's harvest; we played music and found new fans; we nibbled each other in the hay and communed with alpacas, it was delicious. It was nice to go home.

Time to write some poems about these things, time to think about moving to berlin, time to save this draft as gibberish and get back to work...

Thursday, 5 May 2011

soft things, soft me

I have started pawing around contentment like a skittish tomcat, unsure if I’m ready for domestication. The bed is soft and warm and burrowed; it is easy to curl there. The days are spacious, carved by yogic craftsmen who understand the need for particular curves and sanded corner. I’m not used to such simplicity, or at least such softness.

It’s not just the bed, either. I’ve become softer too. Blame a boy who appreciates the feast like I do; blame that long winter tucked undercover with cava and horror movies and angles of skin.

We are more squidgy than when we met. The past while has been: sticky, rust-coloured onions caramelising into boozy soup &

fresh-baked rosemary and walnut loafs, torn from the oven, pillows of dough, steam-train puffs of heat &

fragrant laksas, sour with nam pla, padded with rice, coriander ballerinas composing pirouettes on the surface &

buffalo mozzarella, strangely sweet, slightly sweated, ripped into shreds and desiccated with black peppercorn &

homemade pesto: sweet with basil, soft with oil, sharp with wild garlic leaves, bound together with parmesan, umnn…

… plump, slithering gnocchi wet with sage butter, rotund with simmered fungi guts &

all manner of baked pies and pastries, pirate chests stuffed with treasure &

crinkled walnuts swathed in rank feral stiltons &

midnight feasts & crumbs in the bed &

oysters like the spray from the prow of the ship.

I am a pig in all things, in booze and books and sex and words and flowers and, especially, in food, and I am looking forward to Lebanon next week and all the feasts that are yet to come.

Monday, 2 May 2011

30: Trains

the trains were like telescopes
pointed to another horizon

we could look through and see
the past in sharp focus

a slim file tucked in
the lining of a citrine suitcase

pages fit for scattering
like tickertape in a gale

spilt scotch on a pressed
trouser leg, a torn pocket

a ring that no longer slips
over her fat knuckle

a tryst, a snatch in her stocking
a high-arched lost shoe

and the howl of the whistle at dusk

asking the marshes, listen
to the stories contained in the carriage.

Things you might like to read

On that vein, some stories I have been enjoying this year:

Before My Change Jar Went Missing
by Drew Jackson.

"Wendy explains that clip joint girls aren't whores. Clip joint girls take it off for jack offs who can't touch them.

I listen, but what I don't say is this: I know."

I, excited, always say too much; this strike me as a perfect level of saying just enough.

The Man From The Circus
by Kirsty Logan.

"I stepped out for a cigarette halfway through the girl-on-the-pony show. I liked the idea of the girl-on-the-pony show, but the reality of it depressed me. I could see the gobs of glue holding on the horse's plume, and the girl had lipstick on her teeth."

I am insanely jealous of this story. I read it a lot and wish I had written it.

Dreaming In Mink by Jane Hammons

"They aren't gossiping. They are figuring it out."

Again: restraint. This is delicious.

On literary citizenship

"Don't be a turd person"

I'm going to try and say more about other words because sometimes I feel like I have nothing to say and sometimes all there is is "oh wow", but this is ok, I love to hear "oh wow".

Blake Butler via Matt Bell at the Collagist:

1) When you read something you like, in any form, write the author and tell them. You don’t have to gush or take forever. Just tell them you saw it, you read it, you liked it. It’s a supportive feeling. It’s better than not saying anything.

2) Write reviews of books you like. Short review/long review, whatever. It’s not that hard. It takes a little work to think about it clearly, but what goes around comes around. You can’t expect to be recognized for your work if you aren’t recognizing others for their work. Open the doors.

3) Interview writers. New writers or well known writers. You like somebody’s work a lot? Ask to do an interview with them. It doesn’t take a ton of effort. Write up some questions. Let them talk. Spread the word. Talk. Say. Get. Eat.

4) If you have free time, start an online journal. Start a blog, a review, an anything. If you don’t know how I’ll help you. Say stuff. Mean what you say.

5) If you have a journal already, respond faster. Pay attention to your inbox. When someone asks a question that feels dumb or unnecessary maybe, answer it anyway. Don’t be a fuck. Yeah, we’re all busy. Yeah, things take time. Work to take less time. It’s okay to move forward at a wicked pace. (And yes, as an editor, I too struggle to adhere to this advice, but I struggle at least, everyone struggles, but you can always struggle more. I am so tired of seeing journals with 200+ days response time, why do you even exist? Does it really take that long to like something? People should stop sending to these places. Seriously. Just stop sending.

Yeah I know the flood comes strong. Stand in the flood. (Me too.)

To everyone: Push the fucking envelope even harder than you do. Be an open node.

Saturday, 30 April 2011

29: Ponies

Our bikes were feral ponies,
kicking divots from the ground.

You trotted out a circus trick like
the demonstration of a
mathematical proof,
your stirrups spun,
and you reared at the moon.

“You’re a maverick,
they never understood!
Spin on, spin on, my son!”

Before his singularity of purpose
you were humbled, you
vowed to try harder, strip
your own life of baubles:

“The moon is a monk,”

you said.

I didn’t know what you meant, except
that your heart was ripe for spinning,

so I stayed silent as we galloped
to the horizon you whispered
the sun slept tucked beneath.

Friday, 29 April 2011

28: Playing ring-a-ring-a-roses by the canalside in May

lover, let’s to the canal!

cheeks rouged & vows forged
to the mayflies, the reeds

for a houseboat to host us
in our gypsy curls

we’ll play roses and rings
as Saturn capsizes

and we’ll fall for one more
of gravity’s girls

Thursday, 28 April 2011

26: Appointments

her finger is clammy and plastic inside and
I have never liked that feeling like
fucking a dentist, goblets of antiseptic
spilt on the checkerboard floor and

this is why
I’m here
I guess

the pills dissolve and it is worse than
those wisdoms out; it hurts a bass hurt
a thud a floor-shaker, the battlecry of
a fault line proposing to Richter and

I breathe
in, I
breathe out

my gums bleed often but my heart
is a starched white mask as I squash
the toothpaste tube, squeeze harder
till the last scarlet blob oozes out

and I am laughing-gas giddy

as light as a champagne bubble
dissolved in the gravity of the moon

25: 2001, What I wanted

2001: What I wanted

A cough syrup that would make me jabber
Lester Bangs style, cavalcades of words, and
a road that went all the way to Mexico.

A green light for the dock of my dreams;
a Humbert who would see my skin as a ream of silk
fed to the typewriter
for his inky letters to press upon.

Fingers round my neck,
a boy’s name in my jotter,
a ticket to places so far and so wild
the night hadn’t a name for them yet.

A small death of a small town and
feet that would run until their soles were
pages of Gideon’s Bibles,
worn too thin to touch, but still

running, still searching for
a kiss and a sunset and a cliché.

Bruises of life like carnations on my thighs.

Reasons for hyperbole and hysterics.

These days, I want for all this to be new
and not taste like two-day-old bedside water,

quenching my small thirst
in that small, dead way.

24: Polly

Brace yourself, Polly,
for the next thing;
you were my
my dayglo schizo
archetype for the


to a thousand happy radios,
pressing pause on
the seismic shift.

I’d like to plait neon
through the hair of your
cosmic ghost,
I’d like to
kiss you,
I’d like to scream the globe to fuck
and reverb in the squall of the
next storm.

I miss you,

I’m playing
Oh Bondage
in the kitchen

Wednesday, 27 April 2011

23: Dream Logic

We were at the crest
of the mountain writing
poems for your sister’s
debutante apocalypse when
a lick of pink fire
leapt from the side of the sun
and beckoned us,
the haggard finger
of the whorehouse’s
oldest madam.

You were singing a shanty
for her wedding; you had
promised the kittens to the Queen.

It was 5a.m. when the
sea hollered to hurry and
you packed our wicker,
trimmed our wicks so
the candles wouldn’t
sputter on the deck.

We set off for the party
on the spine of an albino
lizard who’d promised us
Moroccan scrolls,
strawberry sandwiches
for our troubles.

Delirious for one last
adventure, one more dip
at the apple bob, we whooped,
we leapt; we knew that
sooner or later
a hump
in the road
would wake us.

Saturday, 23 April 2011

22: good morning

I’m tired of all this scrambling for the right words and the right volume of white space surrounding them, so today I’m just going to howl like a Shakespearean monkey and barter with the keys until they give me something worth putting down; I’m not going to stop typing until I’m three coffees to the breeze and that sunbeam has clamped up the hatch and poked its nose inside to snuffle at my calves.

I’m watching you sleeping in a bed that I’m not lying in any more. If you had got out first, I would have sprawled like a weather vane and claimed the corners. I’d ransack the sheets, stake a flag in each town my skin landed, tell the mayor to prepare a banquet for my pilgrim toes, my discovery.

Not you.

Your body is still on your side of the bed like a comma punctuating the last thought of your dreams and waiting for the next clause. Your body waits patiently for my body’s return without a list of reconciliation demands, just a post-it note addendum on the pillow observing, “You can come back now, come inside, it’s warm.”

I am holding my breath because this time of the day is perfect. You aren’t saying a word and have a window fit for gazing from, I have coffee to worry my eyes like the fists of small children, preparing for boxing matches they are bound to lose.

I am sitting here waiting for that sunbeam and waiting for some words and waiting for more coffee to brew. I guess we’ll see how that all works out.

Friday, 22 April 2011

21: I don't even know the way this makes me feel anymore

We’re going to be superstars, can’t you feel it?

Dipped hand-in-hand in molten silver;
elbows linked, clanking like chains…

There’s not even need to scramble!

We’ll bounce, spunk-drunk nymphs,
up Pan’s mountain,

plenty time to pause, dip our toes
in the nail-polish pools
spilt on the hilltop carpet.

We’re going head over heels for the Milky Way.

There’s a world sprawled out with
matchbox Manhattans, waiting for the
flint and the spark.

I’m holding it out to you in an envelope
of lipstick moons and biro and

I’m holding out for a change of mind, I’m holding
my heart in my hands and
it’s heavy and

you haven’t

said yes yet.

20: Trainspotter

I kissed a trainspotter
on the Piccadilly line.

His hands were closing doors,
his lower lip a chair I dared not
rest my heels upon.

We missed my stop in
favour of spun sugar and
the rumour of camomile
on the breeze.

We missed his
while he taught me
to mind the gap.

Wednesday, 20 April 2011

19: Girl On A Bike

I’ve been watching the girl who cycles,
linen sundress tugging the breeze.

Her silhouette is a flag of surrender,
a dapper handkerchief on the deck
of a maiden voyage, and

she is unfazed by cobblestones.

I dream of what may cause her destruction:

a zeppelin exploding,
a terrier afroth at the lips,
a tipsy dragonfly, falling into her gaze.

I spy the skitter of the wheel as her
attention catches
like a thread on a screw.

I have been thinking all week about
pebbles embedded in her knee,
a bulbous scab to worry.

I’ve been watching the girl who cycles;
I’ve been trying not to shriek at bends.

It isn’t quite all of me
that is longing for the fall.

Monday, 18 April 2011

18: Dorothy Arnold

Fascinated today by Dorothy Arnold, a perfume heiress who disappeared one day in Manhattan after buying a pound of candy and a book of epigrams. I think this needs rewriting as there is much much more to say, and better. But anyway...


Mother, I’m sorry.

I didn’t die, I’m not hacked
into thick, meatific chunks
bobbing round the reservoir.

There was no botched abortion.

The World lied, I wasn’t hypnotised
to leap like a streamer from the deck
of the Fall River side-wheeler
overnight crossing.

I read the newspapers.

I discovered my penchant for
soirees and epigrams, I learned
my bones are lofty, my eyes serene.

They didn’t dare accuse Daddy.

He dreaded notoriety, but
there’s no silence as soft
as your daughter, no peace

as sweet as her skin.

Mother, I’m sorry.

I thought disappearance was easy.
I didn’t understand
it would cause such a scene.

17: Citadel

Last night we slept with books in the bed.

We crafted a citadel of their spines;
the hardy chapters served as parapets

to defend our dreams from the warriors of the night.

We made a mortar of conjunctions
to help the turret bricks to hold, and

rabid alligators circled a moat that swished,
commas beneath their claws.

They swam until the first sunbeam crested
our Ishtar Gate and roused the city from its slumber.

By the time we got out of bed, all the alligators had gone.


For the first time in my life I own a proper writing desk.

For a long time I eschewed desks. My desk as a child had faced shelves full of ringbiders and school notes and by the time I got my own flat I decided that instead of a desk I would have a nest: a computer tucked away in a small corner behind the wardrobe with a den of cushions. I curled up on the floor and spilled red wine on the carpet and tapped away.

When I moved into my last flat I created a boudoir that was for loving, not for working. Everything was red-lit and soft and horizontal, silken fabrics and taxidermy, an embarrassment of mirrors, polaroids stuck to the walls. I wrote in bed in my underwear or sunk in a squidgy red sofa or occasionally, when it seemed like the work was too tedious to sully my room with, at the kitchen table. I didn't have a particular place to write but at the same time I had a place for hiding when I wanted to. I pasted a Virginia Woolf quote to the door and shut it and hung out with the words.

Now I live with someone it's different, of course. I have never been successful at writing in kitchens (distractions: cheese, coffee, dishes) and I no longer start the day at my laptop in bed (distraction: flesh). I needed somewhere new to sit.

I coveted this desk for a long time. We would take the train to London Fields of a sunbeam Saturday morning and we would look at it longingly in the vintage furniture shop, whispering schoolgirl fantasies, leaning over to 'examine the hinges'. Every time it would still be £110 and I would leave it.

Then I spent a week copyediting a 220,000 word novel about an apiarist called William who hated alcohol, premarital sex, cursed marijuana and bad language (other than the word 'bally'). His moralistic tedium reverberated from every line. I tried to write and couldn't be bothered with words; words had become a plodding chore and I longed for picnics and silence. When I finally finished I decided to take some of the money from that work and turn it into a Small, Nice Thing.

I am sitting at this desk now staring out the window. The cherry blossom has almost all blown off the trees and I am about to write some poems. Later I will fill the book shelves beside me with Strunk & White and thesauruses (thesauri?) and all the publications I am published in. I will stick polaroid pictures of my old typerwriter to the wall and quotes that I will typewriter-type on yellowed paper. Every Sunday I will cycle to Columbia Road flower market and buy a fresh bunch to sniff at.

I am very happy. This is all.

Sunday, 17 April 2011

16: Bad Sleep

Last night we slept like soldiers
leaping over the last battlement.

I kicked and cawed and your skin
was no respite from the day,

your touch was a Turkish bath,
sticks lashing my back.

Last night I dreamt of fire escapes,
of Manhattan, of iced coffee cups

pressed against my forehead like
a cold compress: you just relax now,

relax. I did not want to hate you.
I wanted to be breaking through the

contact-lens surface of a cold, cold
lake, I wanted to sink, to sleep,

mud oozing between my toes
but I couldn’t get there.

I dreamt of the furnace, instead.

I dreamt I didn’t sleep.

Saturday, 16 April 2011

15: That Girl

There are girls like her, in the glacial north.

They have the patience of roadworks, they learned
to fold flowers and wait.

No bared teeth here, worried in flesh;
she lacks my predilection for howls.

She sits with Penelope’s quiet hyperbole
and weaves the downy duvet of home.

When his pinball rattled my neons,
I pitied her silken devotion, but

there is something in her poise which sticks
now that the gaudy is gone.

14: Conduits

You are on me and we are atop the mountain, hitchhiking to
another summit, wet eyes to the monsoon.

We holler at fate to strike us lickety-flick,
make the camera flash explode, we holler

and we’ve been up here five nights this week,
feet bare, shirts wet,
coathangers pointing up.

We are waiting for the bang, we are still
scurrying, we are termites
hurtling through the ocean
in the wood of the hull.

Your palm smashes the emergency glass
and my ears swallow the alarm,
red imprint glowing on my cheek.

We quiver while the storm clouds gather, and
I open my mouth to scream.

Friday, 15 April 2011

13: Bikeshed

She had copper penny eyes; she spent
summer trading glances for drinks.

At the local they called her
Kiss Chase Kate, they sold her

pints on the promise of a peek,
a snatch, a snapshot carved into a keyhole,
a freezeframe of the zoetrope, and

though she thought she’d left that all behind,
behind the bikeshed, she obliged;

the town was small and
there wasn’t much else, besides.

12: Zombie Girl

I don’t know what it is about you, zombie girl,
but I’d let you worm your stumps in

the soils of my shoulders, press me close
till your melon flesh oozed into mine.

I’d nibble upon the bits that crumble,
watch you dissolve beneath my sigh as
a sandcastle in gusts of April’s wind.

Zombie girl, let me bury myself in the
rot of your belly, wriggle in your meat and inhale;

let’s kiss, open-mouthed, sweet and putrid,
with our drunken-larvae tongues entwined.

Thursday, 14 April 2011

11: Leap out of the window

Build your home beneath the pylon.
The pressure is higher there,
the magnetic field keeps
your brain bound as
a Chinese slipper.

Don’t let yourself
slip and slather;
this afternoon isn’t
yours to send
awry, so

keep your gaze taut,
don’t fritter,
and don’t
be a bumblebee
dizzied by blossom,
giddy with

Back to work, leave the crooked-finger lure of the windowpane,

or just
fling your prudence
and close the laptop lid

10: One Butterfly Morning

We woke up, pawed the dozy covers from our eyes
and discovered somewhere in slump of sleep
we had transformed ourselves into butterflies.

You didn’t believe it was possible.
You were caterpillar-brained from the start and our
gaudiness made you blush and stutter.

We had seven days for flapping, seven days
to jitterbug and somersault and ricochet,
and challenge the Azaleas to leapfrog.

We woke up and we were whirlpools of spilt turquoise oil
with wings for flying, and

you pressed your eyes shut and rolled over
without so much as a flap.

9: Better Spent Time

I am listening to your day-tales,
though I wonder that
this time might be better spent

mistranslating health warnings
from foreign cigarettes and
pasting them to a gallery wall

or, perhaps,

composing a biro haiku
on the arch of a foot, proclaiming:

there is a tunnel
between your skin and the ground
for kisses to crawl.

I could be weaving a perpetual motion machine
from the hair of the girl in the typing pool
(she calls herself Rapunzel
and waits by a lidded phone
for no one to ring);

I could be staring at the sky as if it was a
Mercator map of the world,
firing an arrow like a pin
to pick the cloud
I would land upon.

I could, but I am here instead
with the heavy end of your day,
which is a quieter way to whisper
how I like you.

Monday, 11 April 2011

8: Wrapping a halo of daisies around your skull

I made you a daisy-chain halo to still the pylon’s electricity
as it squatted on your picnic and gnarled at your lobes.

A ring of white-skirted Maypole dancers intertwined their arms,
designated your skull the village green on Whitsunday afternoon.

They spun until their linens clung damp on their calves, until
they were limp and languid and briar-scratched ankles.

By seven o’clock they wilted.

You took them to the spot where the railway bridge crosses the river
and you crumpled them in your palms.

When they landed on the surface, they scampered off atop a current.

They became pond skaters hunting for the pledge of summer.

Friday, 8 April 2011

7: Pigeon Savant

Three days unslept, unshaven, wary.

That pigeon on Piazza Navona
- most streetwise of sky rats -
is holding communion for the hordes.

He kowtows, septic skull to the pavement.
eyes crusting with small, yellow horrors.

His body convulses.

That pigeon is a pigeon savant, clad in manky rags;
I can tell by the butt of his head.

He has travelled through the Inferno
where the eye-gougers holler and the snakes of fire
flicker and lick.

He has pecked the unravelling of the sublime.

On my forehead, the concrete is cold and
a benevolent nurse hushes,
presses the compress to my skin.

The cackles begin to recede
and I kneel alongside him and wait.

Wednesday, 6 April 2011

6: Bunking Off

I bunked off today.

I closed the laptop lid and cooed, “Hush child, stay here; I promise I'll return.”

The sun had already sucked the water from the marshland. All that was left was spittle, dandelion clocks, and fragments of glass glittering like the mosaics of waterfalls.

A Hasidic Jew cycled by through the grass. It was strange to see him there, so far from town. He looked like a black paper doorway pasted onto a painting of summer.

I did not try to step through him.

I was busy counting the buttercups and the daisies and recording their tallies in a squared maths jotter. So far, the daisies were trouncing the buttercups seventy-nine to forty and it seemed the buttercups were losing faith, preparing themselves for the button-lipped disappointment of the car ride home.

I was holding out, however, even allowing a jaunty cirrus to distract me from a daisy clump or two: “Aloha, buddy! How's the view up there?”

- I have always had a thing for the underdog.

At the end of the marshes lay an octopus tree beckoning for a hug with his open arms. There was nothing to do but clamber, scuff-kneed, into the boughs.

I found a nook to rest my cheek against and breathed in the smell of broken pencils. I knew I would be safe here from the protestations of the working week, from its spindly, tyrannous fingers.

I knew, if I wanted it, the afternoon was mine. I was free as a feather to play kiss chase with my brain.

Tuesday, 5 April 2011

5: A love letter to the glasgow transport system

Zip your cardigan close.

Skulk like a lovespun spider in a record store corner
on the orange formica subway car.

Ride clockwise in the afternoon. Write a poem about your heart
spinning like a waltzer and make a promise that summer will last

forever. Tell the boy with the cassette kisses about your sugarcane castle,
tell the tulip merchant you have polished the patent of your shoes.

You are ready to take to the fields of rapeseed, ready for the pollen
to dust your nose like a pillowfight between the sherbet fountain factions

warring in the candy quarrel. You have time to glue contact lenses
to the petals of roses, and help the flowers find the focus they are

seeking. Quick: to the hot house,
let’s blow our allowance on postcards to the bees, let’s

spend it all on honey.

Monday, 4 April 2011

4: Dewey

I want to create a Dewey Decimal
of caresses

383.02 for her lower lip flitting over his collar, like a dormouse
trepanning for gold


081.6, filed deep in the school of classics: his hands on her wrists
with a declaration of war.

I want to spend a hot, dusty summer indoors, ducking
between the shelves
a barefooted child who has no truck with sports.

There is a thumbed spine, towards the back, out of sight
of the front-desk blouse.

I want to slip its dust jacket off, unfurl the pages,
bury my nose in the fold,
and inhale.

The Sufis said God was a secret who longed to be known,
so he created the cosmos

and I built these library shelves to ask for a kiss.

Sunday, 3 April 2011

3: Ransacking Your Dreams

I am watching you, twitching.

Yesterday, you plied open your sticky lids, whispered in my ear the things you’d seen.

You had spent the night traversing a mighty sand dune towards the Bedouin’s daughter; the grains turned to stardust beneath your toes, set you tumbling through the blown glass tick-tock of time.

She opened her fingers and blinked peacock-tail eyes. She winked topaz and jade and

you realised you knew how to fly and you could talk to the elephants and the desert was a Mobius strip unravelling and the daughter

kissed like kaleidoscopes in the eyes of cats.

My dreams had been shelving unstacked and restacked, and I hated you.

I want to crawl inside your skin and

hijack the carpet, ransack your gems, embed them in the soft spots of my brain

for somewhere to escape to

when the lights go out.

Saturday, 2 April 2011

2: Flight 571

A black and white photograph,
the fuselage proclaiming

Fuerza Aerea

to the snow, but
these tundra don’t listen
to a word.

If we were stranded in
white corridors of the Andes, then

I would worry my teeth in your shank
and scythe your sweetest meats
for supper. If it had to be done,

I would parmesan my feast with shavings
mandolined from the crook of your arm, I’d
munch upon your cheeks and the pads of your palms.

I think of your shoulder adorned
with scarlet crescents, bubbling
with blood, I think of biting.

I wake from visions of
your flesh worked over by my tongue and

I pray for the crash.

Friday, 1 April 2011

1: Baking Bread

It's poem-a-day month! Whee!

here is an ode to bread baking.


We are waiting for the bread to rise the way
a bushwalker may wait
for the moon.
But our skies are black.

The yeast yowls a toast, raises a
glass and a serenade. Beneath the dishcloth
there is revelry:


and the champagne foam cascades
like cherry blossom ensnared in the
first gales of spring.

The bubbles snicker. The hands grope beneath
the Jacuzzi foam, the roof is rising.
We have not exchanged a word.

The skin of the dough quivers
like your sullen lip and I ball a fist and wallop,
knock the wind out, wallop again,

with a WHAP and a BAM and a DOOF.

I pound, eyes down, until my forehead beads
sweat, my knuckles bruise, until the dough
is limp and cowed. I don’t stop until your hands
are on my wrists.

I look up, and there is flour on your nose.
You kiss me dustily.

Thursday, 31 March 2011

sharp teeth

She doesn’t know why she can’t stop. Can’t stop inhaling, can’t stop worrying at the scraps of life. Her teeth are too sharp in her mouth.

She wonders how it is inside those damp, pink caves of other people. She’s sure it is softer there. At times, there have been kisses when her pointed tongue has darted inside.

Sometimes it seems like the time to catch her breath has been trimmed too short: a bad haircut. However, she is not, and has never been, the type to leave the barbers in tears. This girl swallows, promises herself life will grow out. But she is still waiting for the ends to soften.

In the mirrors of her dreams, feathered bangs dance on the first breeze of spring.


One night she finds a boy and takes his hand, pretending that perhaps his palm is a swatch of the finest silk which she can drape around her. She folds it gently and tucks it away into her pocket. She is terrified that maybe she will spill something and the red will blotch up like drunken wine on cheekbones.

Neither of them says a word. The walk home takes a long time without conversation to sharpen their skates. When they arrive at the door she feels sure she will need to explain, or ask, or invite. She opens her lips to do so, and he leans forward.

His face is softer than anything she has ever seen before. She has never kissed a blond boy. The wisps of his fringe tickle her nose.

When their lips meet, she is suddenly transported to Aberdeen, 1997. She is sitting with her best friend and they are listening to Placebo and drinking red wine, while her friend’s mother washes dishes in the other room. They are talking about bohemia and her friend giggles, and suddenly everything is soft and downy. Her kiss is like cherry blossom gusting on the breeze.

When they pull apart they are almost afraid to look one another in the eye.


This isn’t what she wants. She doesn’t know how to say no. His skin feels like pebbledash yet his lips chafe velvet. She knows she is melting, but she feels more like the churning innards of volcanoes than caramelised sugar. She tries to make her mind quiet.

When he comes, he howls inside her.


She doesn’t know why she can’t stop. She wishes she could be left alone by everyone; she wants to lock her skin away and promise it no more probing. Her soul feels like helium inside a leaking balloon.

He doesn’t call, and she feels like her heart is breaking.