1995

The square was crowded with the
coffee shop gait of foreigners
leaning away from their ordinary.
 
Me too. Awkward on the shoulder
of a world class coxswain turned
irritable technician who
 
wanted to return to the luxury coach
with or without me. We were.
Young, tasting the flavours of this city
 
between training sessions, basking in
UV strip lighting before the shadow of
my escalating paranoia snuffed it out.
 
Breathe. He said, grinding his teeth
as he hoisted me into a seat
then moved further down the aisle.
 
The month after, I befriended the dawn
we flirted for almost six months
sharing brown bottles of all kinds.
 
Twenty years on
 
I still hear birdsong
between my ears
 
at night
 
sometimes.

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Telegrams from the 1970s

Written several years ago but recently dusted off at an event (via an iPhone recording due to my absence in person – love technology) connected with the Folkestone Triennial which has brought it back to the forefront of my mind.
 
BARBIES LINE UP IN A ROW STOP KEN SCORES THEM OUT OF TEN STOP HE LIKES THEIR LEGS STOP HE LIKES THEIR TITS STOP WHICH ONE OF THEM IS GOING TO WIN?

 
It was the heyday

of Miss World and Girl’s World

women were educated

from the get go

to go get a man
 

bag yourself a husband

juggle double standards

be the debutant

be the sweetheart

be that plastic dolly

with a university degree

and a double D up top

 

smash glass ceilings

fight for equal pay

try to break the mould

but first and foremost

be a mother and a home-maker

 

and in this girl’s world

it was essential to remember

that He’s in charge

 
CHILDREN ARE MESSY STOP FAR TOO LOUD STOP WHEN DADDY IS DRUNK DON’T ANSWER BACK STOP DON’T MAKE A SOUND

 

Blackbirds pull worms

out of his head

in the blue light

 

he stumbles over coffee

stomach churning

darning holes snagged

on his drinking

 

as dawn shakes

and paracetamol

rattles and rolls

 
he will put the brakes on

when mum leaves him

 

DO AS I SAY STOP NOT AS I DO STOP DO AS I SAY STOP OR NO-ONE WILL EVER LOVE YOU

 
Lipstick smart and desperate

she flaunts a large glass

of Chardonnay to

hush the dots and dashes

flashing in her head

as she Elastoplasts

her missing parts

 

with a husband

with a swinging cot

with a new kitchen

with a black labrador

with a wrought iron clock

for the mantlepiece

 

Until the night she meets a man

let’s call him Ken

he likes her legs

he likes her tits

he wants to score her out of ten

so he offers her a lift

then stops the car

 
SOS TOO DRUNK TO SPEAK STOP SOS THINKING STOP CQD DO AS HE SAYS STOP CQD SINKING

 

Blackbirds pull worms

out of her head

in the blue light

 

she stumbles over coffee

stomach churning

darning holes snagged

on her drinking

 

as dawn shakes

and paracetamol

rattles and rolls

 

she puts the brakes on

learns that every day

holds a new beginning

 

she finds hope

she grows a voice

she knows fellowship

she learns self-respect

 

but she never forgets

that sweet little girl

so badly glued together

with messages made from

dashes and dots

 

Our eyes meet

she flashes me a smile

because it’s not the

seventies any more

and telegrams are

obsolete

 

STOP

Staycation

I meditated this morning.

Trying to find a bigger

space

in the smaller space I currently inhabit.

Days become heavy with illness.

The light lasts longer

yet seems much further away.

The breath helps.

But it’s the first coffee of the day

that reassures me.

I am still alive.

I cried yesterday

and the day before.

I’ll probably cry later today.

But it’s not all Eeyore.

There is beauty too.

Minutes of deep appreciation

for the love in friends and family and myself

to tidy the fear away.

And books and words and TV

Though when I watch yet another episode of dodgy American sci-fi

the other voice in my head keeps turning  up to remind me

it’s not a fucking holiday. 

Dia de Muertos

In a geriatric garden room

dozing with the nearly dead

we hull one hundred pumpkin pips.

The knife slides through the orange flesh

we carve the nose, a spooky face,

our spectators sit transfixed.

My entertaining ten year old

holds the prize aloft and captivates

the crowd, his cheeks burning.

As he charms them, I can only think

maybe he will relive this scene

one day with his own offspring.

And I will watch them, half alive

half of me already on the other side

as outside, autumn leaves fall.

Cake eaten and tea drunk

it’s time to hug my gran goodbye,

as we do, her eyes dull.

(Oct 2013 Dedicated to my wonderful granny x)

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