Poems

Womb

I am looking at a tree.

I regurgitate my tea and the water rushes up into the tap. It’s getting earlier and earlier. Soon, we are reversing around the Dordogne as summer flies unpick themselves from the windscreen.

Mum and Dad’s ashes turn to flesh in Rotherham crematorium as they go back to exhaling cigarettes and un-watching Crime-watch in a series of bungalows. Meanwhile, at the London Olympics everyone is running backwards. Fewer and fewer people are tapping at computers which are getting slower and slower, as their modems get louder and louder. East London is getting worse. Camden Town is getting better. Canary Wharf is getting lower, Brixton is getting blacker. I go back to university, unmeet my husband, the millennium comes in an implosion of fireworks.

In Berlin, spray paint peels off the wall, liquefies, is sucked into a can. The same thing happens in New York, where everybody is breakdancing. Suddenly, a lot of my friends are getting really small. They are stuffed back, scream-inhaling into the wombs of their scream-inhaling mothers. Somehow, I am still here and hair is being cut longer. The Beatles are back together and all their records are spinning backwards. Except the ones with hidden satanic messages, which are spinning forwards.

Soon, my mother is pushed back into grandma’s womb and women everywhere leave factories and start unpicking their knitting. Hemlines get lower and lower and dresses suddenly puff to  a sheen as everything gets slower and slower, but there are still wombs. Marie Antoinette finds her head. Men wear wigs, then tights and Columbus or the Vikings lose America. The Mongols and Muslims and Goths and Christians and Romans retreat, retreat, cities disappearing. Cleopatra brushes off her make-up. Wheat fields grass over. Ceramics turn to clay, stone circles are dismantled, cave artists brush ochre back onto pallets and it’s wombs and wombs all the way until the last few people hop back across the savannah, their arms getting longer and longer.

The trees welcome them back.

 

(Womb has appeared in anthologies by Emma Press and Dark Mountain.)

Woman as Stag Beetle Specimen

Was I ever alive?
Was my body ever more
than artifact?

I survive,
like bog-blackened leather
dredged from history,

or an ornament in jet,
uncharred by fire,

full of the nip
of the same dark stuff
that’s locked into crows.

The larva I was
feasted for years
in the wood at the edge of a copse,

but the adult I might be
barely lived a single summer.

A pin stabs through my heart
fixes me to a bed of cotton wool
in a house of tupperware.

I am caught mid-thought,
at the beginning of a beginning,
my pearl wing case split

open, two clear wings
tattooed with henna, out-
stretched for flight.

If you could peel off
the flushed cheeks of insects,
their buttercup, mirrorball masks,
those veils,
you’d see a realm below
of crowbars and wrenches,

skittery, virile,
the very claw of life.

My barbed arms end
in a bunch of hooks.

My face is a utensil,
precision tooled
for the ceremony of violence.

(This poem was written as part of Fiona Benson’s ‘Urgency’ commission.)

 

Blackbird

I pull from sound’s many gardens a worm,
a wriggling twitter repeated in thousands
the peaks quick and various as glossolalia,
never the same.

Quick, quick I must get this solo down
before the sun rises.

Wrong, do it again,
wrong,
the run of demisemi-quavers
sounds of a fiddle dipped in liquid,
a song called
called sunrise.

This is what I want to play
sunrise sunrise
in the spongey grass, listen carefully
to worm-slide, worm tremor,

my beak is tearing a glint of pink
as the last the bats flicker home

and the sun
will be here soon and all earth’s busy business

Quick, I need to get this solo down
I tear at the the grass, I tear at a song called sunrise
sounds like a fiddle dipped in liquid
a worming liquid spongey sound.

and when the sun rises with the chorus of cloud
and the orchestra of light
I will possess that dawn with my solo

(First broadcast on the Radia.FM network as part of the radio drama ‘The Assisi Machine’.)

 

Mid-afternoon

I rollerskate in

but am soon seduced

into the fog-slow unrolling

of a day stretched out and sleepy in front of your black and white telly.

 

Always drawn

to the hearth and its tranklements,

lulled orange by the coals, I stay to see

the little couple come out the clock as the barometer clicks to rain.

 

Afternoons

drip by, awaiting

kettle whistle, ice-cream van chime

waiting for you to leave the room so I can shake the bell in the brass lady’s dress.

 

You shake the tin

of Nestles for three languid minutes,

ease off the lid with liver-spotted hands

and sliding the cream over Coop pear or peach halves, smile at me

 

and these afternoons last forever

until they don’t.

 

(First published in the Moor Poets iv anthology).

Charles Olson is a Manx Shearwater Bird

A poem is energy transferred
from where the poet got it,
tiny crystals of magnetite around his eyes
enabling him to detect differences
in the earth’s magnetic field.

If he works in open or what can also
be called composition by field
his acute sense of smell may allow him
to follow all-over currents
as opposed to inherited line.

One perception must immediately lead
to a further perception.
and by star-gazing from his burrow
he creates his own celestial map
a high energy construct at all points,
an energy discharge.

 

(Charles Olson is a Manx Shearwater Bird is a found poem using cut-ups from Charles Olsen’s essay on projective verse and the RSPB Magazine.)

 

 

Learning The Ropes

My ebay seller had no teeth in

when I got to the bungalow.

She demonstrated teddies

every neat stitch identical,

got the singer machine nattering

showed me the ropes. So easy

for her, so hard for me this

regularity, this hushed life

in a moorland town with all the

power of a sewing machine

totally under her control

while the stitches only

run

away from me.

 

(First published in the Moor Poets iv anthology.)

Top Deck of the Bus

Knees to the window-ledge,
I am the brink.

I drink the winter tone
of ever-disappearing road.

Tar and glitter pour into me,
I gape at their flowing.

A break-neck speed erosion
of the speckled passing,

I am efficient
at erasing the present.

Horizon-bound, I fall

forwards at one second per second.

and the road keeps on blooming.
but I gulp it into my body.

I am pure hunger,
my life the pang.

The gap at my centre
is the end of all movement.

 

St Davids

Our father who art in heaven,

Newton Abbot, Totnes and Plymouth

Hallowed be thy name

this is Dave your station manager speaking

Thy kingdom come

on platform 5

is the delayed 15.23 service to Bristol Temple Meads and

Thy will be done

On earth as it is in heaven

first class is located at the front of the train

Give us this day our daily bread

the buffet car serving snacks and light refreshments is located in coach E

And forgive us our trespasses

trespassing on the tracks is strictly prohibited

As we forgive those who trespass against us

any suspicious behaviour will be reported to the authorities

Lead us not into temptation

customers are reminded that smoking is strictly prohibited within the station

But deliver us from evil

Swindon

For thine is the Kingdom

Windsor Lego Land

The power and the glory

London Waterloo

ladies and gentlemen, the 15.23 service to Bristol Temple Meads is now delayed

For ever and ever

customers seeking a refund are advised to speak to one of

Amen.

(Previously published in The Broadsheet, 2017)

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