Sunday, 27 January 2013

I’m going to start this day with a poem about a daffodil

I’m going to start this day with a poem about a daffodil,
an easy yellow trumpet poem you’d be an ass to hate.

Who’s going to trample on the daffodils? That’s like saying
a dandelion is a cheap and easy metaphor for the sun,

That’s like saying snow is just frozen sky water and if
we lived in the turret of a castle of ice, we’d get cold.

And have you noticed we never see seagulls anymore—
just crows? Have you noticed we never launch ships?

I bet if we’d lived three hundred years ago, you and I
would have spent our Sundays summoned to prows,

You and I would smash a bottle across the figurehead,
cackle like cheap street gutter Glaswegians, hah-HAH!

We’d take a buckled leather bag and stuff it with words like
maraud and rampage and berserk and amok.

And have you noticed how the daffodils nudge out? I think
that this winter is going to end one day and we’ll be waiting.

You’ll have a quiver of seal pelt and your arrows nocked,
if need be you’ll take aim at the dogs and the moon.

I’ll have a flower for dowsing and if the trap is sprung,
I’ll bite. I’ll eat through your leg to get free.

Thursday, 24 January 2013

Dreamtime, for Priscilla

The engine rumbled to a stop somewhere in the blank sandpaper dusthouse of the outback—Sam said we'd lost the toss with the Dreamtime, he said he'd slept with scorpions and seen the destiny of snakes.

For a while we sat with our first aid cool box, mixing mother's ruin and pineapple juice, pretending for once the bucket we'd overturned was full of success and confetti. Pretending our holiday had aligned with the grand plan, and this--the sand, the sun, the broken bus--was just a tropical beach side adventure anyone would love to join.

We waited until darkness came and the sky unfurled and somehow it was so full of stars that it seemed like we were just tiny creatures camped out on a chunk of earth and fire that was hurtling through space. Oh yeah. Do you ever wonder about the ups and downs of the universe, and how we can tell? Maybe this bit of rock is just falling, not spinning. Maybe there's a bottom to dash our hopes and split our skulls upon. Or it's a bottomless pit, but then, there's got to be a top where small frightened farm children lean over the edge of the well and drop pennies.

In this thick velvet desert night we did a whole lot of howling. Arreeoooww! To the songlines and the fictions that are woven into this old, old underfoot. Arreeooow! To the thunder and the shards of electricity that split the sky like a deck of cards, shuffling, though the air, Vegas. Won't you please show me your poker face? Take your clothes off layer by layer until you're scrubbed pink skin and the difference between you and the night is that I can feel the night in my arms, in my bones, but I turn to you and you have already sprinted across a jut of rock, you're already halfway to the moon.

Pass out in a patch of scrub and try not to think of the beasts that scuttled across these walkways long before you arrived with your cough of petrol and your clumsy heels. Wrap yourself in a feather boa, because they say it gets cold here at night, but there's no whispering that in your ear, you're already gone.

The problem with drinking gin in the desert is that eventually there is no more gin but the desert is still there. After a long night we were dried husks, threads of pineapple in our teeth. The sun was sharp as an axe and someone was throwing it, some fucker was flinging it repeatedly through the air. I checked my body for bites and breaks, but I was all still intact.

I looked towards this horizon and that, I saw the world go on so far that the curve of the earth swelled like a pregnant belly. Maybe no one would ever drive this way again, and we had a new toss of a destiny--the orange days turning to deep purple nights, again and again, until we scraped out the secrets of this earth. Or maybe it was time to leave this husk and start walking, just for the sake of some direction, just to see the world's got over there.

Tuesday, 22 January 2013

The Showing of Teeth

Are you ready? Together we're going to take a deep breath; get good and angry, get ready to bite. You need to really be prepared for this one. We're going to practice the showing of teeth.

Start by opening your jaws very wide, open them till just before the click. There's a big cat waiting to crawl past your goofy front teeth, pad ever-so-soft over that velvet tongue and slither down your throat to your belly. You don't need a kitchen chair or a gold whip that cracks like cheap plaster or a round technicolour tent with sawdust on the floor. Let's play dentist, let me be your nurse and doctor. Open up. That's it. He's a good beast and he's going inside.

So now you are here with this beast in your belly, it's a strange feeling, but that's okay. There's a whole world of asshole out there and it's better, sometimes it's better, to be ready to be angry before you are. You’ve a comeback now for the cut-in-liners and the ones who tap their phones in the metafiction aisle. All you have to do is let the velveteen tigress swat a paw from your throat, let her growl at their ankles, let her snap. I'm not even demanding you force her to bite.

But maybe, actually, wouldn't biting feel good? Isn't all that’s come for far really just throat clearing before we get down to the actual business of it? Doesn't he piss you off, really, wouldn't you like to open your jaws wide, not to let some other cat lithe in, but just to pull like a rabbit snare and SNAP. Munch your mouth around gristle and skin, tear a sinew, snap an oozing socket and bury your face in the goo?

That, my friend, sounds like a party.

Why don't we host it? Make up dinky watercolour flyers with mint green borders and pasted pink stars, with WE'RE HAVING A PARTY!! written in marker point pen. We could send them to our neighbours, those stern looking adults we see on the stairs, we could invite them round for cake and balloons and teeth.

Doesn't that sound like something we could do? Don't you think that maybe it would be a blast?

If we're going to get horrid, we might as well get horrid, so let's throw a nice night in with entrails for bunting and screw the assholes who'd report us to health and safety for the dripping, screw the assholes who'd report us to the police. I've got a gold plastic phone that calls directly to Ms Kali. I have a box full of matches that have no need for candle wicks.

My friend, you have a nice face and I am sure you are a nice girl so let us sit down together and practice our teeth. I don't know if you've ever really ripped a man's throat out because you were curious about Adam and the apple. But I bet that, if you wanted, you have it in you to feast.

Monday, 21 January 2013


Distracted as an alley cat, sullen as a horse. Or at least, that's the way it seems to me, or maybe this is stupid and the only distractible creatures are us: the people. I know that I am useless and tugged forever and endless by underwater currents. I know my mind leaps on clicky links like catclaws on mice. I know, I know. But I don't know how to stop this little rat nose pushing the lever for more caffeine. I don't know how to say I've had enough.

You see, maybe if you're a duck or an anteater or a great blue whale drifting through a big ancient ocean, maybe it's impossible to talk about distraction. I'm being metaphysical here; I'm telling you that there has to be a difference between intention and action. Are you picturing a brown bear perched on a branch, half a grin on his face, thinking, how the fuck did I get myself in this situation? Or do you think that is sort of ridiculous? I know. It is sort of ridiculous. But it's a fine imagine to hold in your brain like a sticky gold paper star. You did good. Don't you worry. You did good.

So where was I? Ah. Distraction. Are you forever trying to put pen to paper and all you can think of is that game at the funfair, the one with the mallet and the goofy little rats that pop up out of holes? You have to hit them on the head, quick, knock them back down before they disappear. Before they go back down there of their own accord. Well, this is what bounces around my head sometimes: boom boom boom. Like, if I am not quick enough and don't do everything all at once, I will miss the chance to whack it. Is that a stupid thing to think? Would I be better off maybe just slowing down?

My boyfriend is taking a trip to a quiet place in the German mountains where they will prod him out of bed at 4 a.m. to sit on a mat and think about nothing. There will be no talking and, I must confess, I am scared. Or, rather, I am scared at the thought of what that would do to me. I think he is fine and quiet in that head; I am sure the goofy rats will pop up and out and he will sit still, sit quiet, not even slightly twitching for the hammer.

I will spend the same ten days in this nice house, alone. Did I tell you, in the mountains, they are also not allowed a pen and paper? Or a telephone? Or a book? That all their thoughts must ferment and stagnate, or maybe turn to pearls the way old grit transforms in an oyster's gob? Never mind. I will be here, is what I'm trying to say, and I am going to write like a goddamn motherfucker. I'm going to to talk to myself and I'm going to take a hammer and together me and the hammer and the not-so-quiet flat will start a-thwacking.

Distraction. Hammers. Snow falling on the balcony outside. Another hour of work I promised the day to do. This story, this story I'm writing about the circus. Melted cheese. Space on both sides of the bed.

Monday, 14 January 2013

Come and play?

Wouldn't it be nice if we could put on some big red woollen coats with gold buttons, and lift a tartan hood around our pink, freezy ears, and step outside into the snowstorm and see what kind of pleasures the afternoon had to offer? Wouldn't you like that?

Perhaps we could walk to the canal in our fur lined shiny boots and stomp, stomp, stomp over kerbs and keystones. Maybe the canal would be frozen. Maybe this little road for boats and tours discovered the New Year and said, time to reinvent myself, I'm so tired of rushing and running, forever, in the same direction. We could wind our tricolour scarves tighter around our necks and fumble down the grassy bank and let our feet be tentative beavers stepping out onto this brand new surface of the world.

We could build snowmen! Or, rather, we could construct a delicious and hideous snow reality like the Calvin and Hobbes cartoons you used to read, sitting on the toilet for hours, swinging your chubby little calves back and forth, thinking about dinosaurs. What about a snowshark? What about crying villagers disfigured by snowplague? Ooh, I know, how about we build a snowcliff with snow lemmings and spend the day flinging them off into a sad, suicidal snowhole?

Maybe you're not interested in that. It's ok! I have other plans! Why don't we anaesthetise our chilly fingers with a proud silver flask of coffee and brandy? Let's get buzzy and brilliant in that cobbled square in Rixdorf where the homeless men fill their shopping trolleys with empty bottles, adding Pfand to make a fund for a new and thrilling bottle of booze. Remember when we sat up late there that Christmas Eve and the Turkish shopkeepers brought us tins of peanuts for dinner, and we drank Krauter liquor, and I thought, this is the moment that we start to build a whole new set of histories and customs. This is our home now and we have plenty of time.

Then, there is always the Eis Stadium. I am sure that we will slip and stumble, but who could care less if it means we get to swoop like jerky, flightless birds trying to run across a tundra? I will hold your palm and we can be ducks on land, if you want it. I can hold your fingers and keep them oh so warm.

If you are unsure of the snow, if you worry about freezing and you think that there are better things to do with a day than let our toes turn to icicles, we don't even have to go outside. We could sit in the sauna if you preferred, where the LED lights warp from red to green to blue, where the lavender sends us to sleep, where a burly man in a tiny towel will whip us into sweaty and glorious shape.

Or, we don't even need to leave the house. I have, here, this duck feather duvet which you would do well to tuck yourself beneath. I will warm my hands first with coffee cups and fingerless gloves, and we can spend this stunning, snowglobe day in a burrow of our own choosing. Come, tuck up and keep cosy and press your soft skin on mine. I like it here with you. I didn't know we could ever get so snug.

Sunday, 13 January 2013


Meet Pepe the van. Hallo!

Friday, 11 January 2013


The pipestrelle chirrups silently
in a dense Scandinavian forest—

its words turquioise marbles
trying to bounce back, or

scribbled love letters sent and
lost to a wayward postal service.

A whale with a heart as heavy
as two grown men whispers

hello? into an ocean that unfurls
like space, like the whale is a

drifting satellite already given up
on signs of extraterrestrial life.

We sit in our garret, meanwhile,
tongues sticky from envelope flaps,

fingers tired. We send out words
to the world in small packets.

We wait for the words to bounce back.

Wednesday, 9 January 2013

Whisker literary zine!

The lovely Whisker just published a few of my poems in their first issue.

They are printed in association with Bookleteer, so you can either read them online or print it out and fold it according to this video and make a nice pocket-sized zine.

I love living in this future that is also somehow a hybrid of the paper past. 

A hint

Going to remember this. Going to remember this. Going to remember this.

Friday, 4 January 2013

areeoooww (take 2)

I just revisited this post from this time last year and it made me grin. New year last year was ripe with dalmatians and mycellium and the sweet forest mulch. This time we were in our penthouse, screaming at fireworks, limbo dancing to ABBA, acting the easy fools.

Recapping is nice because it means looking back and not being overwhelmed by the perennial refrain of I said I'd have a book by now, I said I'd have something done. 

So, we moved to Berlin. Suddenly, living is cheap and somehow easy. Life is full of kites to fly and abandoned airports to cycle down the runways. Turkish veg markets, Gl├╝hwein in plastic cups, naked saunas, rooftop balconies, cobbled streets, smoky bars, thunderstorms. Lakes, and the promise of a summer roadtripping in a van. Being in Europe, with all the sweet suggestiveness that entails. Not being in London. Making a conscious decision to quit reading the Guardian. Abandoning myself to know nothing about the world but the stories I can learn from books.

This year I had a story broadcast on BBC Radio, a poem published in the Best British Poetry 2012, a nomination for the Pushcast, and a fellowship from Summer Literary Seminars, judged by Mary Gaitskill. I got a letter from Tom Robbins saying how much he liked my story. These are my two biggest heroes. They have now read and liked my writing. This blows my mind.

Even better, I got emails from an agent who not only likes what I write, but gets it. She said she will send things to all the markets you have ever dreamed of being in, and I frantically quit as many jobs as possible to get up first thing in the morning and write, write, write.

What else? I read in Berlin, Paris and Edinburgh. On the internet, people I have never met contacted me to ask for poems and stories for their journals.

I finally got a little bit smart about working and a lot less stressed. I went on the internet too much, but didn't we all go on the internet too much this year? Don't we all kind of wish the government would decide what's good for us and block it all forever?

Resolutions? Mainly to remember two things:

"Happiness is a learned condition. And since it is learned and self-generating, it does not depend upon external circumstances for its perpetuation."      
 Tom Robbins
“The most solid advice for a writer is this, I think: Try to learn to breathe deeply, really to taste food when you eat, and when you sleep really to sleep. Try as much as possible to be wholly alive with all your might, and when you laugh, laugh like hell. And when you get angry, get good and angry. Try to be alive. You will be dead soon enough.”
 William Saroyan

Thursday, 3 January 2013


Have you ever, actually, heard a lion’s roar? Don’t answer that too quick, mind: think for a moment. Can you recall standing in a small, enclosed corridor with your heart in your hands like a lunch package wrapped in tight brown string? Did you look to the corner and wonder what was just tucked around it, what was waiting? Could you feel (I mean really feel) your heart, doing what it always did, shoving the blood around your body with two eager flat palms? A lion’s roar is not like a church bell or a firework exploding or even like the sound of the door slamming after a lover’s last goodbye. It is more like you are standing on the top story of an old colonial hotel in Constantinople, holding a gin and tonic, laughing about the future, and suddenly you feel the earth drop out from beneath you. I mean really move; I am talking about an earthquake here. This happened to me once, and it was like nothing else—this feeling that the very surface of the earth was just a slim and wriggling crust. Our cities and civilisations just palmfuls of fairy-coloured sprinkles strewn unceremoniously across the surface. Do you ever wake up at night, clutching your chest, thinking of the aerial footage of that tsunami sweeping across Japan? That wall of fire and water, brushing away buildings as if they were crumbs on a tablecloth, as if they were dust? Sometimes I am frozen by all this and I can think of very little else. Lions roaring. Earthquakes. A deeper and more fundamental realm that is impossible to access voluntarily, that you don’t get to slip inside when you need a clip round the ear to get you going for the day. Close your eyes, for just a second, please. Think about the earth moving. Let your stomach drop to the floor.