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.