Wednesday, December 9, 2009

A note.


I've never done a proper post on here before; I've always just popped my poems up without much else but I thought I'd just write a note to say thank you to everyone who has been reading my blog this year. I feel like it's been a very productive year for me and feel proud of my efforts. Considering this has been the first full year of my life working full-time I'm glad that I have found time to write 25 poems, run 13 Sundown events, performed my first ever paid gigs supporting Salena Godden and Jude Simpson, and started writing a novel! Ok the novel might only have a few hundred words written on occasional trains but it's a start.
2010 looks to be another exciting year (creatively): Il'l be running some poetry workshops between January and March for Women's Aid with fellow Sundown stalwart Jo Overfield, and we will be curating some spoken word and music events for the Union Chapel and The Tabernacle venues in London. So watch this space, or follow us at for more information!

So thanks again to those who are reading this: it's nice to put my poems out there.

Happy Christmas, readers.


Ray xXx

Friday, November 27, 2009

The P.E. GCSE That Never Was

The punishment
for my
physical education
was to ban me from taking
my GCSE.
“Rachel it says here,”
Miss Hitch says with a flurry of papers,
“That you got UNGRADED
in your mock P.E. exam.
Would you like to tell me
just why that is?”
I kick my Doctor Marten shoes around
on the dusty floor.
“Erm,” I try,
searching the inner recesses of my brain.
She glares,
I go red.
“Go back to your classroom.”
She says it with such a bitter bite,
like I’ve been found doing something
utterly shameful in the locker room.

My classmates are brandishing As, Bs, Cs.
I slope about, pretending I don’t give a shit.
When, hang on a minute,
in reality,
I don’t give a shit.

My hairy-eared BFG form tutor takes me aside,
breathing sour coffee breath
we used to think was whisky,
and says
“We need to talk about your PE grade.”
So solemn,
so despaired.
What they decided
was that they didn’t want a fail
on their league tables,
so asked me if I wouldn’t mind
not taking the GCSE.

For two terms,
two hours a week,
when my friends donned their
scratchy PE knickers
with names sewn in red cotton,
I roamed the library
in search of new adventures.
“You will use this time
to complete your English coursework,”
they sternly chirped,
unaware I had already finished it.
(I was a bit of a goody two shoes, then.
Um, I am now as well.)

I scoured the shelves
for Nancy Mitford
and her sister Jessica,
tales of upper classes,
mad Uncle Matthew
and poor old Linda
in Love In a Cold Climate.
I fed on strange new terms like
“Balling the jack” from
Jack Kerouac,
ached to go on the road
and explore the unknown.
I found Holden Caulfield deeply irritating
and wished I knew what the fuss was all about.
I dived into the Dewey Decimal System,
filing my schoolfriend’s outside glares
away from view.
I devoured Jane Austen’s heroines,
tried Jane Eyre on for size,
wished that I knew someone as great
as Rob from High Fidelity.
I disappeared into Kate Atkinson’s
strange and hostile pet shop,
in Behind The Scenes At The Museum
and felt a burning desire to write.

This wasn't the staid and structured reading
of SATs papers and coursework,
the lack of choice on what we read
in class,
this was freedom at last.
I couldn’t have been more pleased
to shelve those hours of netball,
cold knees,
the shame at forgetting to shave your legs,
the out-of-breath heaving
and tennis racket bruises,
the sporty girls laughing,
me edging to the back
of the High Jump line.
I kept the reputation of
the school’s P.E. examinations intact
and found my own world
on the library mezzanine;
between the pages
I had come home.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Station Life.

Based on Fenchurch Street Station.

The once-golden sheen
of hopeful charity collectors
shaking buckets
of dirty coppers,
pulling on the strings
of hurried consciences.
The loneliness of
food concession workers,
one by one,
selling solo
Chat magazines,
fruit Polos,
£2.95 disgraces of sandwiches.
The hostility one can feel
towards a so-called
tuna 'salad' sandwich
is remarkable,
eyes narrowing
at the three limp lettuce leaves
bruised and saddening.
The power play
of ticket barrier men,
who let through the mums
and buggies,
but tut and sigh
at those with a really big bag.
They wink at scraped-back city girls
in city heels
and cast frustrated eyes
over anyone over sixty.
Never has 'seek assistance'
been met with such dismay.
Stairs are carpeted
with Evening Standards,
Metros, Suns,
move up the steps
in swarms
don't look back,
don't fight the tide.
Crowds move
like those flocks of birds
that instinctively follow one another;
Fly towards Platform 3,
The train at this platform
Will call at Limehouse,
and all stations to Shoeburyness.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009


One girl,
big gob,
One man,
fat tie
strike up chat
just like that
outside of West Ham.
"Where you gaan New Year?"
"Ah, mate, gaan up London."
"Yeah mate. I know. What. a. touché ."
He drags out the words,
diction clicking,
tripping off his tongue.
She nods
Sauvignon Blanc-addled brain thinking,
New Year up London is well touché."
Touché, really?
Call me an
English lit, post-grad twat
but do you mean
a fucking cliché?
What exactly do you mean?
Small exchanges
between two strangers,
their bond
the London commute.
Alight at Benfleet:
Please mind the gap.
This station is Benfleet,
change here for bus links
to Canvey Island.

Thursday, November 12, 2009


I love it when there are
folded blankets of mist
hanging two feet from the dewy
moored and bobbing like
starched underblankets,
a child's chalk line in the air.
Spiked grasses fail to puncture it
and saturated moss
has never been so protected,
sleeping underneath.
A burnished sun fights for attention,
touching the cold morning
with gold, forgiving fingers
reflected in the hungry eyes
of twenty-six reeling gulls,
spinning their way
towards Pitsea landfill site.

Friday, October 23, 2009


A burnt white sun,
two piles of cockleshells,
your hand in mine.
The crunch and burst
of shells under feet
under the wheeling gulls.
two pairs,
The sting of cold
making beetroots of our cheeks,
our glossy eyes watering.
Mirror mudflats,
like pools of silver cloth
and a gurgling tide,
seeping in.
We made faces
at the thought of cockles
and began the long walk home.

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Drum'n'bass Night

The sick thump of bass
is seeping up through the ceiling,
creeping into my eardrums
to the thud of my heart.
My own blood pounding,
boiling with rage,
becomes in sync with the thick,
booting bass.
A bleary eye searches
for the time on the clock
and winces at the sight
of 3am.
A hand scrabbles for a phone
flicks open the screen
and waits to confirm the time and
yes, it really is 3am.
Peals of arrogant laughter
rise up through the floorboards
filling my head with hate,
eyelids stung with tired.
Hot eyeballs seethe
with the pain of no sleep,
and the drumming keeps on
until finally,
at 6am,
my alarm goes off.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Morning in Westcliff-on-Sea

The truck full of tyres
like a roll of muscles,
glistening with the dew of 7am.
The pile of tar left by the roadside
when they were going through their
'resurfacing phase'
now moulded to the ground
like fossilized dinosaur shit.
The race of snails
ebbing their way
from gutter to railway line
to the promise of damp,
more damp.
A tale told by a split dustbin bag
picked over by foxes,
a party paper chase of the night before:
sausage rolls
Special Brew
Tesco Value vodka,
a Kerry Katona trail.
The token abandoned car
windows put through
five party balloons curiously bobbing
on the passenger seat.
A Tilbury train skims past,
pocked with a few passengers
going the Lakeside way.
I start my day.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Do The Bunk

Three halves of shandy
at the Leigh-on-Sea Regatta
after a month of no alcohol
felt a little bit fun:
afternoon drinking
in the warm September sun.
Quick look at the watch
it’s an hour til X-Factor,
we’ll never make it
if we walk back home,
Got to get the train
so I down the last mouthful;
London Pride and lemonade
reduced to a foam.
Crunch along the cockle shells
holding my breath
past the sheds;
Past the teenage lovers in a seaside embrace,
Hear the click on the railway line
of a train approaching fast,
a leisurely stroll
becomes a sweaty race.
We run to the ticket hall
and the barriers are open:
a golden opportunity
for a spot of train bunking.
Twenty minutes til Simon Cowell
and Cheryl Cole,
no time for ticket-buying
no time for flunking…
We’re giggling in the carriage
as we fly towards Westcliff-on-Sea
triumphant in our twenties
that we Bunked The Train.
This makes up for the times
I never nicked sweets with my friends
Or had Topshop skirts stuffed under shirts,
I never was to blame.
I paid for every pick and mix,
my conscience always kicked in,
A fear of what my Mum would say
I never stole a thing.

We get off at the next stop,
and I feel in my pocket as we sail through the barriers,
And I realise with crushing defeat:
I’m not rebellious at all,
I had a valid ticket in my pocket all along.
Not so rock and roll.

Friday, September 18, 2009


Two ley-lines,
two contours,
both facing each other.
Two undulations,
two callouses -
one for each thumb.
A scratch aged eleven
and a habit for biting,
turned a simple score
into a life of its own.
A habit for even numbers,
multiples of two,
made me carve another
to match left to right.
Self-awareness hit:
an adolescent train wreck,
jumper sleeves
were pulled over my thumbs in shame.
I thanked the universe
that we had grown out of
‘heads down, thumbs up’
for surely
I would be exposed in that game.
An eternity of teenage years
spent hiding my thumbs away
where a handshake
brought on a fit of anxiety.
I changed the way
I held a pen;
the way I held
a knife and fork.
Winter was a blessing;
Time went on,
twenties came,
and I settled into my skin.
I met you,
and my thumbs became bashful again –
but you looked at them
and said you liked them.
You liked that they were different;
you could tell that they were mine.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009


Lay me down
across your Scrabble board
and I’ll shuffle my tiles -
I will challenge your rack
until you beg for mercy.
Explore with reaching hands
for those remaining letters;
and I will open up
my triple word score
if you play by my rules.
Count up for me
my score,
and cover your letters
from my curious gaze.
We slide the tiles
across the clean sheet
of the board,
your mouth curls
as you spell out the words.
I surrender all my letters
for a fifty-point bonus;
you are left, red-faced
with blanks.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Why I hated summer as a child.

“Summer’s coming,”
Mum says.
“Let’s put this duvet away.”
I watch her,
stuffing the winter duvet
into the wardrobe.
“That’s better,”
she says.
“You’ll be much better off
with just a sheet.”
I stop.
I panic.
A sheet?
Oh no.
No, no no.
What Mum doesn’t realise
is that my winter duvet
as stuffy and heavy as it is,
is my only protection.
Protection from monsters.
Do you see how easily a leg can be grabbed
under the flimsy veil of a SHEET?
How exposed a back can be
to a creeping intruder
under the thin, bareness of a SHEET?
Night comes.
I’m lying,
beneath the sheet.
She tried to tuck it in
but I wriggled free,
not wanting to be trapped.
I’m awake.
I look around in the darkness.
Shadows are morphing.
My mind is racing.
I try to hold my breath
in case I miss a noise;
a noise from a monster.
It all becomes too much,
I can’t bear it any longer.
I turn on the light.
I slide out of bed,
and shove the rejected sheet
on my untidy floor.
I haul the winter duvet
out from the wardrobe,
embracing it like an old friend.
I’m happy now.
Too hot;
swelteringly hot in fact,
but happy.
Take that, monsters.
And mum.

Friday, August 21, 2009


Pale highlights are waning,
fading in the morning sun.
Your GHD-straightened hair
flyaway and limp
stares at mine through the train window.
My waves are pressed up
cold against the glass
still wet from the half-hearted blow dry
Your Rimmel foundation
is not best matched to a skin tone
such as yours,
and your downcast eyes seem to know it too.
I see you coming towards me,
sliding your way down the carriage,
looking me up and down;
Don’t look at my shoes that way,
my £4
vintage doctor martens that way.
Just because I’m not in strappy
fuck-me heels,
don’t look at me in that way.
I see you looking at my tattoo
with a fucking Boots-own lipstick smirk,
just because it’s not
Winnie the Pooh
doesn’t make it not alright.
How can someone be this full of judgement
so early in the morning?
I could be smirking at your copy of
Inside Soap
wedged into your New Look carrier,
but I don’t,
I’ve got better things to look at,
like the way the cold light is bouncing off the cold water
in sci-fi rays,
or the boat called THE LONE RANGER
bobbing away from the anchored others.
I’m looking at the graffiti that says
and the jumper caught
on the railway sidings
one arm waving in the rain.
I’m looking at the woman at Barking
dressed all in pink
looking happy as Larry,
whoever Larry was.
I’m looking at my own face
in the reflection
in the window,
and I see yours looking too.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

To London.

I try my hardest
to make you break up with me.
I have grown tired
of your self-importance,
and the way you make
me feel.
We are in the centre of you.
You push me onto
sweating underground trains
and expect me to not mind,
when someone else’s body
is clammy, pressed up to mine.
We go south-west.
You make me walk
down upturned roads
full of nannies,
roads thinly disguised as representing affluence.
We go south-east.
You make me feel unsafe
going home on my own
in those areas I do not belong in,
and do not think to protect me.
I dream of escaping
to a creamy, country housewife
with dimpled elbows
who will welcome me
with baked goods and smiles,
and we will sit
with an uninterrupted lack of noise.
You try to make me jealous
with your scores of streetwise schoolgirl fans
but this pale attempt
does nothing to warm me.
I cannot commit to you
when you make me feel so cold
even in the middle of July.
I have grown to hate your touch,
and shrink away
when you suggest a weekend together;
I see enough of you in the week.
I think this is the end of us,
and I am sorry
that I entertained this for so long.
I think we knew it was doomed from the start.
I know that you will survive;
you can thrive on rebuilding yourself
after destruction
better than any lover I know.
But I am leaving you
for someone who takes the time,
and gets to know me,
someone by the sea, or looking out on fields.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Sunday, teatime.

My knees were an arm rest
as I sat cross legged
on the brown carpet floor.
My palms were a chin rest
as I gazed at the television
in our Sunday routine.
The Chronicles of Narnia,
wincing at the White Witch,
heart warmed back again by Mr. Tumnus.
I was not in my living room,
surrounded by my mother’s legs
and my grandmother’s hand-lotion scent,
I was in Narnia,
slippered feet on snowy ground,
a cross between Susan and Lucy.
It was post-roast dinner,
an afternoon spent whining and impatient,
wondering why adults have to sleep
after heavy meals.
My dad washing up,
I would look out into the garden
all brackish and wintered,
and long for some snow.
In came the tray:
cheese and pickle sandwiches,
tomatoes and cucumber
to soften the crusts left on the plates,
a pot of tea.
A bowl of my other grandmother’s pickled onions.
Why are my memories of Sundays always in winter?
We ate and escaped.
I longed for Turkish Delight.

Monday, June 22, 2009

Water bottles

You leave your bottles of water
still wet with cold,
emptied and spent
on tables
in rooms
like a calling card.

Your safety device
is fifty centilitres
of nature’s finest,
screw topped, sports capped,
never flavoured
always favoured.

If you ever went missing,
(a thought that makes
me shrink and wince inside)
we would all know how
to follow
and find you.

Look for the Highland Spring.
The Volvic.
The hollowed blue plastic full,
of the magic substance
that gives your skin that glow.
I follow your trail.

Friday, June 19, 2009

Take me by the hand

Take me by the hand
and I will show you

the creases and fine lines
that frame my eyes.

We barter;
your dimples reveal themselves,

in exchange for my smile
and smile-lines.

My hand in yours,
you tell me it is small,

I shrink in self-consciousness
until reassurance.

We exist
in a secret world,

where no-one else is heard
over the clashing din of heartbeats.

Between my back and yours
we can breathe easier,

say what we are scared to say
and realise this is it.

No doubters here,
they exist only on the outside,

unable to see in
through the frosted glass.

If they could only see,
we could be without prejudice

but for now we only worry
about who is going to make the tea.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

16:05 to Penzance

We sear through the countryside
like a sharp blade through suckling pig
This high speed rail service
will call at Reading, Taunton, Totnes…
Smooth West country burrs
as creamy as cream teas
fill the carriage
“Olright mayte, what’s happening gay boy?
Owe, laast noight was properr mentall.”
Seats 17B to 26A prickle
as he peppers his phone chat
with fucks and shits.
“There’s little kids on this train,”
a bulbous mother says,
trying to be loud
but not loud enough.
“Daddy,” one boyish girl says,
“I can’t remember what a marsupial is.”
Half term doesn’t exist
for inquisitive minds.
Two pre-teen tarts
hop on in skinny jeans
and New Look pumps,
holding their iPhones.
“My mam likes Taylor Sweft”
“Mine loikes the clubby stuff we’re into.”
A skinny back sinks into a seat
withered with the jealousy of a Cool Mum.
Hot tea slops on fold-down tabletops
and the rolling hills
and sparkling water
go unnoticed.
Time would rather be passed
staring into a device
plugged in a sweaty palm.
A baby cries,
a bottle of water rolls down the aisle
followed by a hasty pair of flip-flopped-feet.
We speed on,
forgetting in which carriage
the buffet car was,
drifting into a newborn sleep,
rocking gently,
“Owe mate, you were fucking WAnkered last noight.”

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Rocket lament

There is a leaf
of curling Rocket
dying on the stairs.

like those fortune-teller fish
you could get for 10p
in the toy section
of a newsagents.

I must have walked past it
at least three times today;
but nobody, not even me, picks it up
or throws it away.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

7pm in the Warm Months

There was something about that time of day;
that honey light,
shadows making giraffes of us all.
Something about the sweet
closing of a day,
the warm copper and bronze
that takes me to my memories;
A day by the sea,
skin tight with salt and sun.
The day ending,
searching for a jumper
pulled over sand-smoothed skin,
And those long shadows
ghosts on cobbled seafronts
peppered with dropped chips.
The smell of that last,
vinegar-soaked chip
squashed at the bottom of the cone,
sodden and tart.
The swell of water on picnic tables;
old condensation from sweating chilled glasses
washing the beer mats clean.
I would beg for a taste
of the lager my father had ordered,
and clutch the pint glass
with small, tanned hands.
Pretending I loved it.
My sister and I salt-crusted,
Mum would swipe our faces with
oil of evening primrose,
as we squirmed and squirmed.
Coastal sleep comes easy;
legs tired from swimming,
heart healthy from the
hot, hazy endlessness of it all.
I see that time of day
and the long last hours
bathed in spun gold,
and it takes me there;
evenings by the sea.

Monday, March 9, 2009


They're giving out
free Cadbury's Caramel
at Fenchurch Street station.

Spent wrappers
fly and tumble the platforms
in the brisk 5.30 breeze.

Monday, January 12, 2009

I'm Your Office Angel

My name's Julie, and I'm your Office Angel,
Did the pink suit give it away?
I'm not bothered by the credit crunch,
Temping recruitment is here to stay.
I provide you with office and temp jobs
But I talk them up in the job spec
It gives me a sense of accomplishment
Even though my nerves are a wreck.
I think that appearance is vital,
So I have a manicure every week
I've been Angel of the Month for six months now,
I thrive on this winning streak.
The clients come in with shit CVs
And I farm them out one by one,
To call centres and restaurant kitchens
It really is so fun.
If I was a colour I think I'd be pink
And I'm a girl so that's about right
My soundtrack in life is Capital FM
And I read the Metro every night.
I didn't complete my GCSEs
But my background in admin was solid
I thought that recruitment was the way to go
As being out of work is horrid.
I really do feel for my clients
As they come in and their CVs I read
I ask them what work they're after
And how good's their typing speed.
I think about the company ethos
Which I originally thought was a flask
That pink is the best, and offices rule,
And there is no such thing as a menial task.
My name's Julie, and I'm your Office Angel,
And I can't wait for the weekend
A big night out wearing angel wings,
And a glass of chardonnay, my best friend.