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.
Woman as Stag Beetle Specimen
Was I ever alive?
Was my body ever more
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,
you’d see a realm below
of crowbars and wrenches,
the very claw of life.
My barbed arms end
in a bunch of hooks.
My face is a utensil,
for the ceremony of violence.
(This poem was written as part of Fiona Benson’s ‘Urgency’ commission.)
Woman as a Beech Tree
Not timber nor lumber, no
I am not my body,
more an accident of breath.
The way my halo grasps the sky
for sound and air.
Refraction of sunlight,
the felt pulse of water,
how my wishes shrivel to brown.
Yes. These are what make me.
I am coextensive with sky,
no more solid than the firework
I once saw bang in exactly my shape.
And don’t be deceived by my bulk, my grain,
and my bone-skin fingers.
I am a slow explosion.
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.
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.
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.)
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,
the run of demisemi-quavers
sounds of a fiddle dipped in liquid,
a song called
This is what I want to play
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’.)
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
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.
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
For thine is the Kingdom
Windsor Lego Land
The power and the glory
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