Monday, October 27, 2014

5pm, 27th October 2014

The hollows of five swallow the dusk,
all peach-skied and twinkle distanced.
A gloam sets in, where
brackened-trees stand Burton-style, picked out
against the sky.
Traffic hums unseen, a soundtrack pocked by
calling birds, a crow perhaps,
or another you don't know.
Across the water, chimneys sparkle,
bouncing lights of cars going home.
Blink and the dark is in, settled
for the night,
where walking home becomes
a look over your shoulder,
or a collar turned upwards against the cold.

Friday, October 24, 2014

Hometime

Blaring flatscreens tacked on walls;
in front, sit open mouthed little ones,
doughnuts for eyes, glazed with colours and flashes,
a bookcase looming in the corner - the forgotten middle child.
A woman sits, stabbing at a tablet,
legs curled underneath her like a languorous cat,
a router on a telephone table the heartbeat of the house.
I walk on, cold outside and watered eyes,
wind whipping at the phone lines,
fluttering leaves down to meet me.
More windows invite me in, no curtains drawn,
a hundred fishbowls for me to peep,
a child practising dance moves,
a couple moon-faced from laptop screens,
while the TV blazes.
The open fire replaced by a Nickelodeon window,
a Fantasia dance of cartoons in the run up to teatime,
teenagers on Snapchat
and a wealth of homes with bare rooms, all
furniture pointed towards the television,
fake blue glow and
dipping when the adverts come on.
This is six o'clock,
the flickering light of LCD,
HD, Netflix, Now TV.
Press for Guide, pause and rewind,
catch-up in case you missed it.

Thursday, October 2, 2014

The tower

Written for #NationalPoetryDay

The boy in the hi-vis jacket circles
the circular tower.
They call it The Lighthouse, but
the nearest sea is two hundred miles away.
The looming, chimney structure beams its
casting eye over the hills of
Middle England.
Estates grow outwards from its watchful gaze,
and cows in the distance look up
when the grumbling sound starts to peal.
The tower was built to test lifts,
a column of nothing but lift shafts,
a vertical abseil through the night.
It's a boring job,
keeping watch for the nobodies
- who would come here?
But the girl who works in the cafe nearby
asks him for stories,
as though this job is shrouded in mystery.
He longs for something to happen.
His jacket is crisp and clean,
unmarked from no midnight scuffles,
the walkie talkie never in danger of
running down its batteries.
All he hears is the steady growl of lifts,
going up,
coming down. The clank and shutter and shift
and mechanical cranks,
then silence: all is well.
He questions why they employed him;
with such little security needed here.
He tells this to the girl,
who whirls her dip-dyed hair around her fingers,
elbows on the counter,
surrounded by iced buns and eyes flashing with intrigue.
Everybody round here knows the tower,
but even the listless kids don't try to come here anymore.
Maybe it's surrounded by a force field,
the girl says,
handing him his tea. He laughs,
not knowing why this place does this to people:
brims them with curiosity year after year.
He longs for something to happen.

Monday, September 15, 2014

Margaret

Clutched cookery books spike out
from dimpled, freckled arms
held in a sweet caress
in the library queue.
You spare a thought
for your childhood game
an upside-down 'T' of Lego
swipe, stamp
swipe
stamp;
How do children play
at being librarians now?
Beep, beep, beep.
Do they even go to libraries anymore?
You stack the books neatly
in your canvas bag for life,
fraying at the handles,
canvas stretched like a pregnant belly
with sharp book spines the kicking baby feet.
You will take them home
and devour them,
salivating over glossy pictures
of egg-glazed fruit loaves
that women are supposed to make for their husbands.
Your dining table is a floury wasteland,
a giant worksurface
where your family would eat.
You cook meals for four, six, eight.
Eating them is no mean feat,
but diligently you do.
Nigella wrote a chapter
on eating for one,
but it started with a quote about masturbation
so you decided it wasn't for you.
You spin out your days
in a dutiful cookery cycle,
imagining all the people you would cook for
if you only knew someone.
The man who works in the library eyes you
and your book choices
curiously,
while you rummage for your card and
he aches to be cooked for by you
just you,
but you will never know this
until it is too late
and the girl who works across the road
in the bakers
gets to him instead.
Your monster refrigerator
suffers a coronary,
laden with too much tupperware
and lurches forward,
no arms to stop him
and the refrigerator repair man
is your saviour,
scraping up the lost food life.
You make him a cup of tea
and he makes you laugh
and you may feel unsure
but that feeling in your cheeks as you smile
and that feeling in your hands as you pass him the sugar
is life itself
and you will be ok,
Margaret,
you will be ok.

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

So long, summer

A collar up,
a fuck-you to summer, now
sand-tanned limbs
are covered
for the first time in months.
Trees dance wildly in a mosh or
pogo, depending on your generation.
Converse drum on
pavements,
they'll be studded with berries soon,
not dropped ice cream or
hot copper coins.
Birds look blustered,
pissed off,
blown off course
and clouds seem bigger than before.
Parents buy pens from WH Smith,
in the hope that a Parker reflects a course for straight As.
Buses bloom with teenage uniforms,
blazers with rolled up sleeves and
cheap Primark scarves,
cramming crisps and
sexting from Blackberries,
whispers between bitchy girls about
the kinds of girls
that I was then.
It was all airless,
oil-hazed,
remembering how to breathe.
Now we think about change. Loss,
and what it means to miss somebody.
Looking for a face in the clouds,
those upside mountains that grace the blocks of flats and
doggedly pursue the shitty parts of town.
Change comes.
It's easy to forget how warm it was,
when you drag a cardigan like an old cat
from the back of your wardrobe.
It's a closed door now,
slammed straight into the face of an open one.

Friday, August 8, 2014

A tooth, and a silver spoon

Written for my Writing Group, when given the two random objects of a tooth, and a silver spoon.

The two words that always chilled me in news reports: 
human remains. 
It conjured up an image of mudded, dirty bones, or 
scuffed limbs: grazed, clotted with old blood, 
turned black on icy white skin. 
All that remained of a life.  
And now here I am with some - 
how did it come to this? 
It's burning a hole in my pocket, 
blooming with DNA, 
threatening to tell. 
He just wouldn't listen. That's what happened. 
The tooth, his tooth, 
is a sick talisman that I have kept about me at all times. 
It was one, crazy moment, one hideous little minute. 
He arrived for his appointment and I knew, just 
knew what he was going to say. 
Ten years in psychiatry can teach you a lot about people. 
The things they'll do. 
He was a patient, naturally, and naturally, 
we got closer. I ended it: 
how could we go on? Even he'd said it to me; 
I was married, I was a professional, I was upper class. 
I was born with a silver spoon in my mouth, he'd said. 
And what was he? A common fuck-up, 
who happened to move me in ways that my husband
couldn't even imagine. 
And now he threatened to tell said husband: 
showing up late at night, looming by our bins. 
I lost it in my office that day: I couldn't get rid of him, 
and I couldn't face the music. No-one must know about the affair.
And there it was. 
My award. Asset to the Community, 2009.
For the drop-in therapy clinics. 
It smashed through his mouth like an oar through water. 
I only meant to threaten him back, not kill him. 
But something about the hard resin of that iceberg-shaped award just...
obliterated him. 
I shoved him under my desk, and led 
three separate therapy sessions that afternoon, 
staying late to clear him up. Bound, gift-wrapped in bin-bags and tape, 
the entire office washed down in antiseptic. Gloves.
A washing line to tie the bundle. 
It's amazing how many devices one learns from
television detective shows. 
I drove out to the lake with Radio 3 lulling my busy brain. 
Some days have passed. It all went on as normal, until I found it. 
The tooth. The tooth I whacked out of him
with the force of my rage. 
Languishing under a pot plant on my desk and emanating
unseen DNA all over me, my room. 
I have to get rid of it. 
I must get rid of it, out of my pocket, out of this building, out of my life. 
Then everything will be ok.

Monday, August 4, 2014

The faceless men

Written for the Great War memorial event on 3 August 2014 at Leigh Community Centre, inspired by Christopher Nevinson's painting 'Paths of Glory'.















We are not sleeping,
we are not daubed in pride.
We are not heralded on shoulders in some
tickertape of home.
We are at one with the land,
this land that isn't ours; and boots
and straps and
rifles
litter our final resting place.
Face down, the line between us and mud is
blurring,
with snags of wire and bootlaces
a meld of silent mess.
This earth is blasted,
a bitter wasteland murdered
by the tramp and smash of us.
I didn't know him.
He called to me to warn me
and I couldn't place his face.
I didn't know him;
not in the ways we should.
What was his girl's name?
Did he have a child?
Had I offered him a cigarette once?
I didn't know him,
but here we lie.
I am him,
and he is me.
We are bookends to the violence:
toy soldiers in some awful game.
Ten minutes ago, we shot at others
who shot at us in return.
The metal sound of gunfire
perforations in my ears.
He grabbed me, shoved me down,
and then a puff of mushroomy smoke.
I knew we'd landed on a mine -
my ruptured insides blew apart with all the
vim and vigour of our patriotic hearts.
His too.
And here we are.
We are not sleeping,
we are not daubed in pride.
We are not heralded on shoulders in some
tickertape of home.
I am him,
and he is me.
The orphaned men,
whose final dreams of wives and homes
were diminished in an instant.


Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Chalkwell beach.

Cirrus clouds are meteorite scars on a
great blue hope of sky, all
streaked and cotton-candied,
best wishes written on a greetings card
in a hurry,
reflected on the water.
The trees on the way to the beach shush each other,
clapping leaves over their mouths
to quiet their sound.
Right now I'm thinking of the time
we made huge pieces of art from
old doors found in alleyways,
and burned them on the sand. We
danced,
and drank and people
played guitars and banged on drums and
smoked cigarettes and
wandered into the sea.
They were the trees that watched us,
creating grateful rooms of shadow
on a hot day,
lending us a place to stand.
Someone has pressed bottle tops into the soft,
tarry pavement by the beach,
and each time we go, there's more.
It's easy to forget the trains that
slink past us,
lean and purple cats, stretching on a strip
of track from our universe to the real world.
We swim.
An old man comes down here in a wheelchair,
grumbling across the sand
with legs that don't work but a
will that works a hundred times as hard,
hauling himself into the sea to swim,
at high tide every day.
In that moment, when you see him,
your heart goes with him, out into the swell.
With sun on our faces and
soft sand at our feet, I pick at bits of driftwood and
coiled shells, beachcombing,
watching the trees dance their dance.
Watching the man swim out where weightlessness
makes him feel alive.


Friday, June 6, 2014

Fear

Another piece from my Writing Group on the theme of Fear.

One night, one
silly little night.
I was a bird in flight:
two glasses of Prosecco
two Coronas and
three Jack Daniels and Cokes down,
always the bridesmaid,
him, the clown.
The dancefloor was spinning,
with pinched feet in rented shoes and
the dizziness of hearing The Pixies
for the first time in years.
With a headful of beers
and
someone who knew all the lyrics to Debaser,
I was gone. He led me out,
out behind the function suite,
and I travelled to the moon.
It was a good story for the bride and groom -
romance on their night.
We dined as two couples,
showed each other our holiday photos,
had picnics on summer days.
I loved his eyelashes.
He said he loved my dimples when I smiled.
Four sweet months of this,
a rented flat and commonlaw bliss.
Then,
a shift,
no longer love but something else instead.
He accused me of having somebody else in our bed.
Every text beep scrutinised,
even if only from my mum.
Every day at work, he's there,
coming too early to take me home.
Paranoia, arguments, sleeping in the spare room.
He is a darkness, a walking gloom.
He struck me hard in the face first,
and told me to say I fell.
Underwater,
I hear the distant sound of an alarm bell.
This is it:
my life now,
living in fear,
giving anything to be back where I was last year.
And now this:
my growing shame.
I can't help my mind drifting to a favourite name.
A boy, they said, but no-one knows,
and I dread the day when I start to show.
If I tell him, he won't leave.
If I don't tell him, then what?
A little tiny human lives, where a punch of his once landed.
I wonder how far I can get before he notices I've gone,
before he knows what fate has handed.

Friday, May 2, 2014

Two worlds

It's all too over complicated,
like
three pages of TV channels in the Radio Times.
He remembers a simpler time.
Nobody is taking cheques anymore.
Touch-screen check in at the doctor's.
The lady at the library
has been replaced with a machine.
Where is all the paper?
The girls who come in often,
(it seems like every day) they talk about
who texted who
did you get that app
I watched it on catch-up
while they billow sheets and
pop gum and
tap at little flat screens with
gem-stuck fingernails.
They talk about Facebook
oh my god did you see her status?
as if she put that photo up
she doesn't even know how to use hashtags.
They speak in another language,
of technology, and phones.
He picks at his jumper,
is that soup?
Maybe mashed potato.
What did he have for tea?
This jumper is clean on.
The girls say, why don't you put some new clothes on
change it up a bit?
But he tells them he bathes and dresses in fresh clothes every morning.
They look at each other,
but don't believe him,
conspiratorial smiles.
He doesn't need them - he doesn't know when they started coming.
They whirl out in a cloud of
counter-top perfume samples,
see you tomorrow they say,
but they must have got it wrong.
The house is still.
Nothing moves outside.
The cul-de-sac is an open mouth,
looking up to the clouds,
quiet; a simple smile stunned into silence.
Just the clocks ticking now.

Thursday, April 24, 2014

Success

I wrote this for a writing group exercise on the theme of 'Success'. What better topic to write about than a recovering alcoholic being forced to go to after-work drinks? ...

Breathe deep, breathe, breathe deep.
His colleagues are talking,
mouths flapping loud and open
with the bullshit of Friday at 6.
The bar's ceiling is low,
with tinny, nondescript dance music
and the smell of beer is mingling in the mix.
The bar staff are exclusively pretty girls,
with Disney fake lashes and
broken English tones.
The bar is swarmed with working drones
doing anything to prolong the day
and keep from going home.
He breathes, breathes deep.
He's doing everything he can to keep
away from temptation,
away from the beer.
Every single work function he's paralysed by fear.
6 months sober,
 6 months proud,
6 months of avoiding the booze fuelled crowd
He knew if he came later,
under some fake pretence of overtime,
they'd be a few beers gone by now,
 or they'd all be on the wine.
It's all too close to home for him,
the smell of beer, and booze,
there's way too much at stake now
and too much strength to lose.
The guys' eyes are swimming,
following those Disney girls back through the crowd,
and the girls from the office forget themselves
 and are dissing the management way too loud.
The time comes and they say what you having mate?
and they're thinking what beer, what beer?
What cheap and nasty lager do you wish to partake?
Or is it shots? You cheeky devil, of course,
he wants a shot, facking ell mate, you dark 'orse.
Just a Coke, he says,
and waits for the peal of crowing laughter,
‘just a Coke’, mate you won't last long here,
it's Friday, let yourself go!
Their exclamation marks hang above his head
like a bird shit in mid flight,
waiting to drop on his head and ruin his night.
His face says sorry and theirs say suit yourself,
be boring mate, see if we care,
but we are ON IT TONIGHT.
He wants to slip away, hide away, shy away,
but one of the girls says don't listen to them,
you can do what you like;
anyway, it's not all about boozing tonight.
She sips on a straw, holding his gaze,
and he feels his new-boy-in-the-office cheeks ablaze,
and the new job suddenly doesn't seem so bad,
and the nerves in his stomach are a passing fad
and the Coke gets drunk
and the people get drunk
and it's another good day.
He stands with the new faces,
another urge suppressed,
another sweet proud feeling in the middle of his chest.
These after work socials don't need to be a test.
The booze doesn't own him;
success, success, success.

A video of me performing this poem at Cafe Utopia in Southend is here.

Friday, March 21, 2014

It's World Poetry Day!

...so I wrote a poem to turn in for my office's writing group on the theme of Seasons x

Shoulders against the cold

Give me hoar-frost,
fogged and rimey windows,
glittered mint-cake pavements.
The sea a churning grey, in a lovesong
to point nine on the Beaufort Scale;
a landscape dogged by low-slung clouds and
brackish branches dancing out into
the end of time.
Delete my memories of hazy,
muggy days,
beachfronts pimped with Lowry people
in an Instagram-filtered throng.
Strip all trees of roaming leaves,
and stagger their witchy fingers against the sky;
pack blossom away,
pressed and dried, in
confetti boxes for some other day.
Huddle shoulders against the cold and 
forget how hard it feels to 
breathe in summer -
where cups of tea sit redundant and sad,
old-fashioned in the shadow of lurid
faddish frappes.
Coat parkland with a sheen of silver,
icing rooftops and freezing pools,
an everyday Narnia where
sugared snow meets coats and hair with dusted, brittle love.
Push suncream smells into the void,
with barbecues and burns,
save instead the beautiful tang of morning cold.
Collect up radiators, scarves and mugs and soups and boots:
and give them five months of fame.

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Poetic paintings

The front cover of my poetry book features a painting by my very talented uncle, James Jaggard. An amateur painter, James posts all of his paintings on his blog www.jagpaints.blogspot.com - which I heartily recommend you check out! He sells them, so do get in touch with him via his blog should you be interested. Three of his paintings are currently for sale at Elsie's Place cafe in Leigh Community Centre, Leigh-on-Sea. They are often calming, always beautiful, and very reasonably priced! Do have a look.

Beyond the Crowstone; by James Jaggard.

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Come buy, come buy

Hello! You can purchase a copy of my poetry book I am the swell of each wave, a collection of my poems based on living by the sea by clicking on the 'Buy' button on this blog.

Big thanks to Abbey Star for helping me get it printed, to Steven Collins for the photo of me, and to my uncle, James Jaggard, for his beautiful painting on the front cover.


Friday, January 10, 2014

The Shipping Forecast

Dance me through the Faeroes,
a softly spoken Wight,
of Cromarty and Humber
seafarers of the night;
Stand me at Trafalgar, or
throw a Fastnet wide,
and fill my head with visions of
the lulling Malin tide;
Through Dogger, Fisher, Hebrides,
occasionally poor,
becoming cyclonic later -
variable four;
Swim me past the Fitzroy,
the Bailey, and the Sole,
showers veering northwest -
showers at Rockall;
Shannon, Forties, Fair Isle,
and southwest six to gale,
I am with the ocean,
on this spoken weather scale;
Finally, to German Bight,
west or southwest five,
the night no more a quiet place:
the sea always alive.