Friday, May 28, 2010

Two of hearts

I found a playing card at the end of our road;
the two of hearts.
I stoop and pocket it,
smiling because I know you like it
when I tell you I've found a playing card,
because you always say I
find the best things
like that teddy-bear still life greetings card
from a Maureen to a Doris,
that now nestles in your scrapbook.
Or the child's picture of a boat
with scruffy stick men family members sailing,
and a crayoned "I love my Mum".
I am also smiling because me
finding playing cards
reminds you of the Jack Berger episodes of
Sex and the City, and you always hated his
character and preferred him in Office Space.
We talk about this often.
I think about the fluffy sentimentality
of finding the two of hearts
but how fitting it seems to me as
we sail ourselves, in our second year.
You aren't a fan of hearts or
obvious romanticism,
you prefer to be punk rock about
these things.
Do you remember when you
crossed out the printed hearts on those pink post-it notes?
And put "pretend these are bananas" instead?
I would rather have a punk rock romantic than a
Clinton Cards bear,
so it works out well.
In our world is a warm weightlessness,
of evenings in and shared pints and
laughing really, really hard and watching Corrie and
making up recipes and going out for pineapple smoothies
and you talking to the window plants
and me doing my Shane Meadows accents.
I will put this playing card on our wall
and you can call me a soppy wanker if you like.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

A love affair

You coddle me on mornings when ice sheens the windows,
and I return the favour with my hold.
I press your delicate, porcelain form to my face and
warm cheeks and eye sockets with your caress.
We are one.
I fell in love with you when I was small,
when chubby hands clutched Tommy Tippee feeding cups
and squidged soggy Rich Tea biscuits with pressing fingers.
We were together always;
you knew me inside and out.
And call me a cliche but after twenty years of soothing
you always sweeten up my day.
You are always a hit with the parents, the grandparents,
who respond well to your liquid charm.
You fit in anywhere:
the Ritz, the doctor's waiting room, a fast train,
a greasy spoon.
If we ever meet abroad,
things are not the same. You are not well-suited
in a sticky climate. I'm okay with this:
your temperament suits mine.
We can while away hours on British soil and
toast our love.

Monday, May 24, 2010


I grate the tips of my teeth
along a hard, fine, powdered line,
a solid tube of white;
this is the cigarette that ghosts smoke.
My teeth aren't as white as this,
but maybe they will be influenced.
My stomach growls with envy for blackboards
and hopscotch pavements
and I find myself standing in post office queues
with three packs of my very own candy sticks
that children should have snatched out of
wondering hands.
You might think you understand a craving
when you think of a chilled glass
of white wine on a Friday night,
or you think about your lover's earlobe
taunting you to bite it.
But you do not understand how my
stomach yearns for these
bitter sticks of compact dust.

I want to draw around us,
a crime scene-line embrace,
so we cannot distinguish where I end
and you begin.
Call me magpie,
I will consume this unfood
and when my hunger is slaked
I will white your face with chalk.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010


I wrote this for a writing competition where the theme was 'Bust'. It didn't make it, but here it is:

You will methodically park your car
in your designated space,
you will straighten up
your name badge
and you will sheen your fringe with hairspray.
You will glide into your department:
sensible shoes on shiny floor,
greet Dora the cleaning lady as
she sways the mop in your wake.
You will hang up your frumpy handbag
in the Heat-magazine strewn staffroom
and make your way
to the fitting room.
They tumble in
like dropped peppercorns,
a steady flow throughout the day.
They are nervous,
just like you.
They have gone their adult lives
thinking they are a 34B.
You will tell them
with the pride of a mother at sport's day
that they are a 36E or
Double D.
You will tighten their straps
and delicately avoid
their lightly sweating backs
and recommend a tshirt bra,
or plunge for dramatic effect.
You will wave them on their way,
but they will not see you
as you
watch the spring in their feet
as they move from the B stand to higher.
You will remember them
on your drive home that day,
and you will hold them in your mind.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

A morning cigarette while revising for A Levels

She thinks she lives for her first cigarette of the day.
A pair of cotton pyjamas,
Christmas-present slippers,
the milkiest of teas.
Her ample rear is perching
on a damp patio slab,
her glasses slightly askew
with the morning hours.
She worries briefly
about clouding the new neighbours' washing
with her smoke.
She remembers her mother mentioning
the man next door is a vicar.
She wonders if they are allowed to smoke.
She hears the other neighbour shuffling,
filling a watering can,
as she sends her clouds like thoughts
over the wall.
She draws it in,
fooling herself into thinking
she needs this. The tea is gulped -
frog-like swallows,
with nicotine fingers
cupping the cooling mug.
She remembers the first cigarette she smoked:
stolen from a school play props table
with furtive, curious hands.
Now she lives in a blue, cartoon cloud,
with pathetic unpopular girls
sitting with her between lessons
and wishing they had the guts to smoke too.
Her mother smokes,
but she must never know.
Our girl will hang out of bathroom windows
until she is thirty if she has to.
She will never steal her mother's supplies
as her love of detective dramas
has made her a sleuth of sorts and she
would absolutely know.
The girl stubs it out between
patio cracks and
slides the butt underneath the fence.
Let that fence never be knocked down.

Monday, May 17, 2010


My health kick
has begun.
Four weddings this year
(no Hugh Grant jokes please)
and I have a stunning
tulip-hemmed dress
to squeeze into by summer.
My usual lunch of hearty soups
and tiger bread
is replaced by celery
cherry toms.
One wholemeal pitta
and an apple to follow,
good lord I'm being good.
But it's this crunch of
ice-cold salad
that makes me think of you.
You used to keep radishes in
old Vitalite tubs
in your heaving, visitor-friendly fridge,
and I would pop them in
to my mouth like sweets.
Rachel Radish,
everyone called me.
Well guess what, folks?
She's back.
A squirt of
Be Good To Yourself salad cream
and I am back at your dining table,
with one of your classic lunches.
Cheeses, hams, rolls, a basket full of crisps.
My sister and I would fight over
the last Smokey Bacon.
Grandad would ask for the ham,
and my small arms would wave
the heavy plate towards him.
You would stand an army of dressings,
condiments and sauces
and I would test my young tastebuds
with honey and mustard,
or blue cheese.
There would be pie or cheesecake for afters,
after you hovered around the table
making sure everyone ate but you -
we would have all nearly finished
as you cut a tomato in two and
buttered a piece of bread.
I would love one of your lunches now.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010


The estuary is made up of lines.
Seams of pale blue
and brown are being
pecked by wading birds,
with Tim Burton branches
for legs and
eager, striving necks.
Kent is staring at us,
all giraffe pylons and
squat gasometers like
tubby cans of paint.
The pier is our offering:
stretched out,
a laid-down Eiffel Tower
in a dirge of water and sand,
limpets adorning
each rusted girder.
Pompeii crab claws are jammed
in one last reach for air
and someone's welly
is forever lodged in molasses mud.
The streaks of sea glitter
and shine like mirrorball specks,
and they gurgle with the
creeping tide.
A dog barks,
four seagulls wheel,
the boats are being pushed back round
to face us.


A poem of mine has been featured in Issue 2 of the wonderful Minus9Squared magazine:

Many thanks to Anna Hayes for putting my poem 'Grandad' online!

Ray x

Friday, May 7, 2010


Home means
getting a seat facing forwards and
a fully-charged iPod battery
and only a few pages left
of my tattered paperback,
and me thinking about how
much I enjoy watching people's faces
on trains
as they near the end of their books;
are they sad?
are they smiling or frustrated
or do they do what I do
and contentedly sigh and go back
through the beginning pages
to make it all make sense?
I like looking out at the pastures
between Upminster and Laindon or
between Pitsea and Benfleet or
just by Hadleigh castle,
standing strong,
and watch the speeding flashes
of sunshine rape fields, like
steamrollered sherbet lemons.
I watch cows lying down,
standing up,
swishing tails,
and cyclists on the sea wall
rumbling along on the tufty grass.
There are phone calls
approaching Canvey Island
arranging pick-ups
takeaways and
"Have you remembered to drop the dvds off?"
and I uncross my numb legs
and stretch like a languishing cat.
People drop off,
that tired hometime dullness in their eyes
and Evening Standards drift
between different pairs of hands
and I think about cold germs and
just peer at headlines over
shoulder pads instead.
I jump off at Chalkwell,
climb the stairs,
call you even though I will be there in
six minutes.
I kick stones along the pavement
keeping an eye out for good ones.
I walk up our garden path and
sometimes I hear Chet Baker
or the Sex Pistols drifting out,
depending on your mood and
sometimes I can smell garlic
and I turn the key with the weird
90s acid faces plastic cap on
and I climb more stairs and that,
that's what home means, actually.
You tell me what's for tea.

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Coming second

Saturday morning,
Your mum dropped The Guardian
through the door,
we've got plenty of milk for
pots of tea
and maybe I'll make
those Jamie Oliver pancakes,
fluffy and round
and crying out for
crispy bacon.
I waft about the flat
in domestic bliss,
angle for a pancake kiss,
start wittering
about what to do today.
I have a habit
of talking to you while
my head is in the fridge or
while I flush the toilet or
while you are making the bed
and this time I am saying
"Have you watered the tomato plants or shall I?"
But I get no reply.
I remember what day it is.
the day your other lover
comes round.
You suddenly ignore me,
favour not me, but him.
You do not reply to my chatter,
or cut me off and tell me
how funny he is;
"Read this! Isn't it FUNNY?"
I scowl.
You interject my comments
as you clutch him in your greedy hands.
He lies, sanguine,
firmly in your hold,
staring face-out at me,
and taunting me to fight.
I hate him.
I cannot compete with him.
He is your favourite,
your weakness,
the best around, and
I wander out of rooms
with a teenage frown.
You were mine until ten minutes ago
when he slinked his way
into our lives,
slipped between the sheets
and turned me out.

Guardian Guide,
you stole her heart.
I wish I had the courage
to tear you apart.