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.