Poetry

So, here we are.  The moment I admit to the internet I write poetry.  This feels not unlike the time I put a poster up at college declaring I’d lost my hope and wanted to know if anyone had seen it.  I know, right?  Anyone who does that sort of thing is bound to write poetry…and here it is.

I’ve never had anything published since I was in my very early twenties and won a couple of small competitions.  Still, this seems as good a home as any for now.  We’ll see what happens.  I just ask that you keep the sniggering to a minimum.  I don’t want to have to start putting up sad little posters again.


self portrait

Trying to stare past the face at my window
I see night stumble and fall once more
The sky bruises
The sun sinks
Without signs of a struggle
As if it's scree
Bequeathed to the shore
But even when only the star honed shadows
Are out and striving to bloom
All the nightly
Bone white distractions
Can't stop me noticing
The face at my window
Continues to loom


the librarian

When you open the book
Mind your fingers
Those pages have sharp edges
Sharp enough to cut your fingers on
And once the words,
On those old pages,
Smell blood
There's every chance they might dart up your sleeves
Then there's no telling where they'll stop


Change

She draws serpent traces in the salt we spilt
On her table
She counts the change we threw down
In our wake
We were really in no hurry
When we left
Her behind

There’s a storm coming, but it’s okay
We’re close by
Roof over our heads
Room service but a call
And a tug on the credit card away

I don’t know about her
Don’t know how fast
Or far
She’ll need to run
Didn’t read her name tag
Didn’t really see her face
Didn’t even bother to count the tip
We tossed down for her

Could just be seeds
On stony ground
For her

We’d ordered coffee and something wicked
From her menu
We’d giggled about vanity and waistlines
But there’s a ship that’s already sailed and sank
For me, at least
We had watched the strangers hustle past our window seat
Smirked at their screaming kids
Pointed as their umbrellas twitched in the twisting grips
Of snarling winds

Birds had scattered
We’d had fun guessing at their names
Not caring that they had fled
Simply to get out their gentle wings out of range

She let us leave with a smile
She let the silence fall after the door swung shut
She knows
Soon the mermaids will claim her table
Soon the rain will flood the riverbanks and
All her salt lines will be washed away

She counts the change me and my three travelling companions
Threw down in our wake
Biding the last of her precious time


Vacant Spaces

Those lidless eyes
That lipless smile
The hollow foundation of a face
Stares back at me
From its place
Inside that dusty old case

History comes with handwritten labels here
Time can be counted by the dust
That gathers on the sill
Around the
Sunless windows

There’s a shadow moving
In amongst the human ivory
I can see it stirring
Wrapping itself
Around those
Discarded, discoloured
Anonymous Bones

It peers at me
Out through
Empty sockets
It lurks behind the crooked teeth
In that fixed
Rictus grin

It's sizing me up
Looking for the shadow
That will one day
Wrap itself
Around my bones
When they put me inside
My own case
Behind my own
Handwritten label.

between

Between the candlelight and the dark
Between the reflection, it's frame
And the accusing looks
Between the folded map and the uneven mud
They lurk
They watch and
They bait their crooked hooks


here be monsters

Knock gently on marble doors
If you must knock on them at all
And don't wait for a response
Or enter
If you dare
For once you pass beyond
Stone doors
You may never leave their waiting
Cold, dark halls again


CHAMBERS

These silent,
Sleeping
Pyramids
Line the crooked roads that
Guide you
To his
Home

These silent,
Sleeping
Pyramids
Hide the blood soaked valley
Where he will soon
Lay your
Stolen bones

In amongst the sand
And bandages
He keeps a long, thin hook
Ready to claw out
The pain
You’ve been feeling
Since the start

In amongst the sand
And bandages
He keeps a feather balanced
On the scales
Ready to judge if you’re worthy
To rule over the empire
Of his cold,
Dead heart


THE Zoo Train

Something feels off
Something feels flammable
The noise around us
Is honing its edges

The jitter of fingers
Tapping on armrests
Wild eyes stare, glancing left and right
Can they feel it to?

People snicker, people bicker
Over their place
In the pecking order
The laughter is bleak in the half light
Gallows humour from
Past the prison walls

It’s easy to snark
When you’re out of sight of your own noose

Where did that come from?
Why can’t I relax?
Take your coat off
It’s been a long day

Yellow teeth and sharp fingers catch my eye
As a phone flashes and
Grandchildren are texted

Someone trips up a step
No one helps them up
That’s when I see it

The animals
Aren’t just in the cages
Tonight
They’re waking up
They’re remembering
When they played the part
When they were wary of their own keepers
When they had faces pressed up against the glass

We’re fine through the adverts
It’s a no man’s land
Some small talk and sales before the goats are
Staked out
For dinner

That's when the darkness swells and
The silence festers

Don’t feed the animals, I think
Don’t make eye contact
They can smell fear
They can smell ten years misspent

Across the rows, the old senses
Turn loose as
The needle meets
The groove

Teeth show in the
Flicker glare
Claws claps
Howls linger after the punches
And punchlines

Thumbs up, thumbs off
The hair dye can’t hide the old spots
Lipstick on teeth
Blood on collars

Someone toys with a lighter
The friction scrapes a kiss on pre-worn denim
The wheel turns
A lick of sparks blooms

Cans hiss
The metal squelch pop
A rush of foam
The laughter sharpens
Eyes narrow

Deep swigs everyone
Deep swigs all round
Let’s drown those sorrows and
Get the animals off the back seat
Maybe they’d like to drive
For a while

We’re too close
We’re in this for the long haul
We can only wait it out
We’re strangers in a strained land
We’re in the zoo
That waits beyond the zoo

Chairs creak
Under a weight
That’s only ever
Noted down
In Imperial units

It’s food that falls to the floor
Cans clatter down
To join the debris
Is that a dog end?

The strangled hours pass
Soon to be swept away with
The stray, grey hairs and
The chewed corpses of
The straggling weak

I try to change my stripes as
The old exhibits watch
From the other side of
The old bars
I think the flashbacks
Are making
Their hearts
Burn

It’s only when the credits roll
That reality settles back onto their shoulders
Scarfs are applied
Gloves are chased through pockets
The lions yawn and
Stroll home
To their baskets

We watch them go
And wonder how long
Until it’s our turn
To head back
To the fictional
Hunting grounds
We once
Called home

trap street

The roots were crooked
The roots were bitter and cruel
They had grown dark,
Hungry and deep
Tracing a map from my track mark arms
Back to that
Ancient, hatefully bottomless heart


expiration Dates

Sand slipped through the hourglass
We watched
As they wrapped you up
In pipes and blankets
Propped you up on pillows
Sought out veins for fresh needles

It’s all routine, they said
It’s all routine, we repeated later
A simple prayer of science, I suppose
Ten hail Marie Curie’s

They ran tests, they exchanged glances
We made the dance look cryptic all by ourselves
They noted down numbers
And promised to return
Professional smiles, waiting beneath tired eyes
We did our best to say thank you
Cheap payment, really
From either side of the sheets

We dressed in plastic
To stand by your side
We didn’t ask questions whilst we stood there
We talked loudly for you
About nothing at all
Swapping short shifts
Changing ends and aprons
Is that really what you wanted?
I know it’s not how they do it in the films

The hourglass might not empty tonight
No numbers on a sheet can say for sure
Time hisses
As it falls

Machines chirp, wheels squeak by
You cough a little looser
You yawn, ready for the rest you’re hard at work resisting
Too warm, too quiet, too itchy
Wondering about the cost of time and car parks

In another room
A siren bursts into song
Weary footsteps rush to answer it whilst
The rest of us hold our breath
Avert our eyes
Count our own grains as best we can
With shaking, rubber fingers

Not everyone will win tonight


Flecks of Grey Crystal     

      Time turns, time ticks
Time runs in circles
I wait until
The numbers on the clock face
Reach the correct combination
       Later
Lighter, busier
Out in the cold
Scrape the windows free of ice and
Rush to join the queue
That never really takes us anywhere
       Of course, time moves differently
Once we reach our creaking seats
Now that it’s being paid for
Now that we obliged to give someone
Their money’s worth
       We play our music
To drown each other out
We check email
Take the I out of team
We sell ourselves by the second
To pay the bills
       Lunch turns out to be a fast hour
A polite feeding frenzy
The food isn’t filling, the conversation isn’t thrilling
Freedom wears thin
Then the afternoon comes for us
With teeth and claws
       More problems, less solutions
We see the blue sky thinkers
Looking up
But rarely ever t
hinking
       When it’s done
We stumble home
Between parked cars
Tired and quiet
Finding no satisfaction in earning a wage
Only in spending one
       You try and treat me kindly
I try and let you
The night weaves around us quickly
Early to rise, early to bed
I wrap myself
In comfortable cliché and
Pretend the next day will be
Written differently
       I watch the clock
Not long now
Until time turns on me again


Remember, remember

It’s when the mask slips
That his problems truly begin

Rain can fall on sunless shores
Shadows of clouds can spell storms
Over dry land
His smiles can slither away
As fast as driven snakes

That’s before the voice calls out
From behind a closed door
After he has shown them his teeth
For the very first time

There are winds that can rattle windows
From the inside
True pain can be written down in stone
Used to build
More windowless rooms
For the recent converts and the non-believers

He watches her choose to run
And holds no grudge for the swift exit
There’s no need to chase after her
If all the world plays at being a stage
Then the wings only ever lead back to
The next entrance

His violence tends to be born
In firework bursts
Flares of adrenaline
Pops and ghost trails of pain
It all serves to illuminate
The night behind his eyes
The spinning, spin wheeling, 
Flickering anger

Devil red, toxic green,
The burning amber flame

Alone, he listens to his heart
Pound against the bars
Of its ivory prison
He traces the sting that spreads
Around his knuckles

It’s when the mask slips
That his problems truly begin