A taste of you slipped into me
like moonlight in a locked church.
The flesh at first left me cold:
respectful fingers, diffident lips
spilling awkward mumbles in
The Angel’s fug. We hunted down
politeness with iced vodka
and flew outside, where the night
took your tongue and gave it to mine,
igniting a flame that swallowed
Soho’s oxygen whole to shape
the way I kissed you back:
adoration of seventeen again,
ablaze with the lost conviction
that this can be a state of grace,
this immaculate need to fuck in the street.
Poem of the Week, The Missing Slate, 22 July 2014
In the dark months the sea shows its hand,
dumping stones as big as cannonballs
at the doors of The Trafalgar.
Inside, a fibreglass Viking guards the flat screen TV
and Ida Kelly leads a sing-song on her squeezebox –
a gift from the last accordion factory in France.
Less than half your blood belongs here.
Past and future run through you
like blurred words in seaside rock.
Every August you drown in carnival crowds
that disperse at dusk, leaving you stood
before a Punch & Judy stall on the beach.
Looking out past its candy-stripe curtains,
you watch the fins of a basking shark glide by,
pointing towards other bodies of land.
One of 72 Commonwealth nation poems to feature in BBC Radio's Poetry Postcards project
The phone cord turns slick in my
fingers as your words surge through –
Hire a car and get to Liverpool now
and inside an hour I’m eating the M6
in a Vauxhall Cavalier, fuelled
by the salty promise of you served raw
on fresh sheets. I run laughing
past reception, my head full of
the girl from Clapham, my tongue
already pulling mussels from a shell.
In the Wirral, cut-glass lunchers hiss:
Look! They’re having two bottles of wine.
We laugh ourselves dizzy,
screeching like foxes over the cobbles,
Cavalier it to Cardiff for the Squeeze gig –
Jules Holland blasting the keys,
right arm in plaster up the elbow.
Tonsils trashed, we’re slippery as fish
with mosh pit sweat – our hearts
knocking down walls to be together,
our minds wiped sunshine white.
At five a.m. we wake the night porter,
get him on side with a ten quid bribe,
fling ourselves into bed to the clink of
a milk float – the riff of our tilted fairyland.
Damp twenties stuck to my back, room
full of rum fumes and luscious smoke –
your Park Drive spirals licking my
Silk Cut curls. You tell my hip bones
tall stories while I sing Another Nail
in my Heart, lit up with the thought
of twenty four hours more to drink
the place dry, fuck each other numb,
dance around the question Is that love?
Published in Magma, Issue 58
Doors will open
hearts will be racing
you’ll be moved
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exploring is beautiful
share it with the world
Found text poem, published in Right Hand Pointing, Issue 70
Lessons in Fuzzy Felt
In a mobile classroom with sticky lino flooring, Mr Akroyd gave Religious Instruction using Fuzzy Felt.
He talked us through each tableau in a tight monotone, his face perpetually red under dense pitchy hair – as if he’d swallowed too much wrath and vengeance, and sealed it in with grim forgiveness.
Sometimes it seemed we’d be stuck there for eternity, made two-dimensional by boredom; shrunk down and added to his armoury of matt vermillion kings with blunted swords, toothless yellow lions floating on clouds of lambs.
We wanted no part of it. We wanted edge: the thwarted roar of Babel, the stink of burning sulphur, thorns tipped with Mr Ackroyd’s blood.
Two years into the next school, his daughter Rachel told me he’d died of a heart attack. She cried and I touched her hand; caught the echo of six-inch nails hammered home under a pitiless sun.
Selected by Daljit Nagra for Poetry News, spring 2014
‘And do you think people are talking
about you on the TV?’ I croak ‘No’,
throat stripped by the grey snake they sent
down to suck the deathwish out of me.
He could be a newsreader, this ironic doctor
shielded by a desk; frost moustache aligned
with postbox mouth. Red when shut,
black when open. Reflecting my spectrum.
A gnarled part of me wants to ram
something too big in that black hole
and watch it fill with red. But more of me
is carried on Valium contrails, ghosted out
against a veil of dead stars that still shine.
‘And do you think the washing machine
is a spaceship?’ I wish I did think that.
I think I could be one myself –
a metal vessel spun across the universe,
burning up on this re-entry.
Published in the 2015 Templar anthology
The sky is white. Our house looks like it’s wearing sunglasses and behind them is thinking about giving me something. The birds were singing when I went to play out with Lisa. They’re not anymore.
I trip on the front step. My knuckles thud into the gravelly wall, sending a sparkler of pain through my fingers. I bang on the door with my other hand, sucking on my knuckles then my Swizzels necklace. I bang again. No one comes.
I pull myself up onto the lounge windowsill and kneel down, right onto the metal stub that sticks up in the middle. This time the pain is a proper firework, blotting everything out with its hot dazzle – so I don’t see how dark it’s got inside until I’m standing on the grey carpet that was orange and brown before I left. I can smell the flowers shaped like upside-down toilet brushes. Hyacinths. Hyacinths and burnt meat.
The slice of darkness that marks the hall doorway is getting bigger. A darker shape moves out from it towards me.
I can just make out the slippers with the daisies. The squeaky rubber gloves. The red cardi with buttons like eyes. The wolf’s head, white mouth stretched wide in what might be a smile.
I bring my fists up to my face. The right one tickles. My grazed knuckles are covered with pale, soft fur. It gets in my mouth. I remember a man on the radio saying that sometimes, some mother animals eat their young. My head fills with roars. I can’t remember which animals he said.
*And this bit of flash – published in Lightship Anthology 3: International Literary Prizewinners 2013