Remember I've not edited any of these! ;-)
1. Blank Canvas – for Andrew Lawston
A tundra of canvas;
silken talcum, waiting
for the spider crawl of words.
Mocking me, the
its blank remainder
a test of my will.
A day stretches out before me,
like a languid cat,
a yawn of time ahead and
many pages to fill.
I start my day and
await what comes.
2. Tough Call – for Trevor Morgan
He stands, bare feet on the flagstone floor.
The kitchen window is a television to the world;
sparrows making a show for him.
There is a hot, carbon smell of
and the warming of the toaster as it toasts.
He knows his wife is stirring upstairs,
so takes her tea.
He creeps back downstairs, a
humbug stripe of dressing gown his attire.
Crouching before the fridge,
he debates it in his mind before the toast pops up.
It is a tough call between
two toast toppings.
He locates the butter knife;
just one in a drawer full of purpose-knives
(fruit? paring. meat? carving. cheese? cheese.)
still turning it over in his mind
and slathers the Country Life on thick.
Is today a tart, acidic, humdinger of a day?
Or is it a soft, sugared, over-syruped day?
He scrabbles for the marmalade in the fridge,
nodding an apology to the jam.
3. Spring forward, fall back – for Jill Morgan
To lose an hour,
to force your daily ritual into a shorter day,
is the curse of autumn.
sending reminder texts to their grown-up young.
Newspapers warn the previous day.
Modern technology confuses us;
the television needs manual altering,
but your mobile does it of its own accord.
We stumble, as heating sparks on,
cruising the house for timepieces that need changing.
oh, sweet spring,
with its extra hour of luxuriating,
its initial horror then the soft,
sinking back into a pillow,
the wondering of what to do with your
extra hour (sleep)
and how you can
make the most of it (sleep)
and before you know it you’re
(back to sleep).
4. Shelina Permalloo haiku – for Julie Collings
Alphonse mango queen,
Not afraid of saucy eyes
To old Gregg Wallace.
5. Drama on the cobbles – for Lisa Dowdeswell and Nikki Spoor
The rover returns;
read all about it as you pick up a gazette in
the Kabin, stopping for a quarter of mint humbugs.
The spray carnations outside the corner shop
tip their hats to you as you tread the cobbles.
You arrive just in time to see a long-standing pillar of the community
escape wet-eyed in a taxi,
only to be replaced by loud-mouthed family,
who you think you hate,
who you will grow to love.
You will find yourself wanting frothy-topped beer,
or a thimble of sherry with a church-going resident.
Someone’s nicking from the till,
you overhear a shop worker/barmaid/business owner say.
Someone’s been killed over the factory,
you hear a factory worker/business owner/local gossip-monger say.
Just how many people have died in that pant factory? you wonder.
Someone gets chucked out of the pub, during the day,
for being drunk and disorderly/ for being drunk and offensive/for being drunk.
Someone lets a little kiddie run out into the street, or
buys a shop-bought bacon sarnie and tea even though they’re seconds from their house, or
gets a job less than 24hrs after being sacked from another, or
manages to magically buy a house despite only doing 2 days a week at the hairdressers, or
leaves their drink half-drunk in the pub and doesn’t think to finish it.
But these are minor details,
for this is home,
on Sunday, Monday, Thursday, Friday nights.
A 30 minute home,
sometimes continuining in half an hour,
but not when there’s football on.
Drama on the cobbles; who killed who?
How can they afford to buy so many pints?
And why is Ken Barlow STILL in it?
6. A spring in my step – for Anna Ganley
The morning is bright:
a big, sunny bastard of a day,
with a ridiculous blue sky
and birds so cheery I’m expecting
Disney bluebirds to land on my shoulders.
Early morning newspaper buyers are straight-backed,
out doing their ‘I’m active’ schtick,
all ‘work from home’ and
‘must get back for the Frasier re-run’.
I walk to the train station.
True, the weather is helping; no more
hunching or, scurrying, or
tying your scarf in a -1 noose,
and slide my ticket through the barrier.
The trains are killer whales,
coursing through the stations and
I look at my platform vista:
beach, mudflat, estuary, Kent.
The mud sparkles with sea as it
gurgles in to shore.
Birds peck and snark at each other,
playful in the sun.
Even Kent glints, all
gasometers and giraffe pylons,
majestic in the morning light.
I hop on my train,
the 7.48 to Fenchurch Street,
and pass the smug-walkers,
power-walkers and I
nod in thanks to spring.
7. Olive – for Greg
From zero to hero;
she stalks the stairs,
don’t pick her up
it’ll give her the scares.
She never caught mice,
her owners would say
Until she decided,
to catch four in a day.
8. LA LA Land – for Karen Penman
A burn of hot petrol simmers on the road,
as cruising cars with air conditioned interiors
stalk the tarmac.
Blacked out windows glide like
holding smaller fry captive in their
creamy, leather insides.
The small fry stab at Blackberrys,
make calls on iPhones,
to publicists and stylists and
agents. They are on their way to
Designer clothes slide easy on the seats,
in a bubble of quality and wealth.
Outside the street signs point to poorer parts, where
mobile phones don’t see the light of day,
where wearing one wrong colour could get you shot,
where basketball and
skateboarding replace the glitter world,
where shooting replaces the shoots.
9. The Train – for Liz Hayett-Clark
The steady roll of tracks,
jumping and bumping us as we sear through the hillsides.
Lambs play with each other in fields like saccharine Easter cards,
and we strain to see the stations we zip through.
You panic-bought Heat magazine at WH Smith,
but I’m not judging you for it,
even if we don’t even know half the people in it anymore.
There is a man pushing a cart of
oafish Grab-Bag crisps
and gin and tonic in a can.
It’s dead chavvy, we think,
but before you know it we’re guzzling the
one-and-a-half units of Gordon’s and the
fields start to look like a seamless green dream.
10. Toxic Saturday Night – for Patricia Cartwright
Picture the scene; the takeaway’s been ordered,
the Chablis is chilling in the fridge, nearing its icy perfection,
the eldest is bathed and pyjamaed,
and the youngest is splashing in the bath.
The only stress is deciding which DVD to watch;
which box set to crack open.
The Killing II? Homeland? The Wire season three?
A bone-chilling scream fills the house;
there are scrambles to get upstairs.
The eldest is sitting in goth-like dark.
His mouth agape, a neon mess of toxic paint.
You’re not supposed to EAT the glow sticks,
the youngest offers, helpfully, from the bath.
The cracked and opened glow stick lies,
dead and spent on the carpet.
He is scooped up,
with the other hand calling NHS Direct,
and they’re not poisonous no, but there might be some…
The doorbell rings.
It’s the takeaway man. Happy Saturday night! He says, disappearing down the path.
Happy Saturday night.
11. Somnabulist existentialism – for Andy Briggs
I am awake.
I scour the house for signs of life, but
they do not come.
The cup of tea I made before bed and did not drink
is not there;
no scummy ring of undrunk milkish grey,
no dead teabag lying on the sink, my usual habit.
My slippers are not on my feet,
nor are they on the carpet by my bed; their two only homes.
The clocks are stopped.
The tick and pendulum have ground to a halt.
No night birds sing outside,
no late night taxis pass.
The last train that usually sears through the back garden
must be cancelled, or late, or
I am drawn to the mirror in the hallway,
my usual place of vanity.
I tousle hair, or fix my lipstick, or
comb my fringe into place. Not tonight,
for I am not there.
A rushing sound in my ears comes,
I am hurtled back into real life where a clashing
cacophony greets me;
a train horn,
the zoom of cars,
my own breathing,
hard and quick.
My slippers are on my feet.
And I throw the cold tea away.
12. The cursed ones – for Lucy Paget
Remember us in ancient times? A
delicacy for thrones. We would be poached,
plucked and poached again, and served
to the great and the good.
We would grace heaving tables of goblets, gold,
grapes and pies and joints of lambs.
Now, we are scum. We are the estate family
nobody wanted to move in next door.
We are the smelly classroom child, who has
last night’s dinner down their non-regulation jumper.
We are hated, kicked, besmirched, and sullied through time.
Nelson’s Column is a courtyard for our play;
but do you want to join in?
You do not. You wish to waste your idle days with
cameras bouncing on your overfed bellies,
throwing coins into fountains, making indolent wishes.
Spare us a thought; as we cobble and coo
We are not dirty, we are true;
we are not that different from you.
13. So wrong, yet so right – for Timothy Keen
It was one of those mornings
where we were both being bad. Me:
shop bought toast.
You: a sausage sandwich. We drank our
shop bought tea and talked of the frivolity;
among the empty desks of the open plan office.
Oh, flexitime, a gift for the early riser;
and chance for us to discuss the merits of tea
before the coffee scores pile in.
You peek over the divider between our desks.
“You know what would really go down well with this tea?”
you said, a mischievous spark to your voice.
What? I said.
“A Twix” you said, and it was officially Out There.
You swept out of the office and back in
just enough time
for me to get another tea.
A rustle of gold wrapping,
a dip and crunch,
guilty pleasure smiles.
14. Gin – for Jenny Rix-Trott
your bursting berry flourishes
give such a pure joy. With chilled
tonic and a clink of ice,
a slice of lemon or lime,
I feel a luxury and beauty.
It makes me think of my
a striped apron with dusty hand prints,
and a stemmed tumbler of G&T
ever-present in the kitchen.
With Radio 4 a buzz in the background,
and my dad going to fetch more tonic,
it symbolised a grown-up drink
that one day I would love.
My young nose pinched and stung at
the thought of drinking gin;
it seemed so tart, so
but now I understand. It takes time,
when I cook,
I pour myself a gin and tonic,
and I think how much like my mother I really am.
15. Baby Joe – for Anna Ganley
It was the office Christmas party.
We were expecting you; still away on maternity leave,
your little one a tiny bairn.
There was mulled cider, and a pile of mince pies,
and we all took a turn at performing in the board room.
The doorbell went, and we knew it would be you,
and twelve uteruses flipped at the thought of meeting Joe.
You wheeled him in, a beautiful roundness of a boy, swaddled in an enormous blanket
and dressed as a Christmas pudding.
The office heating was on full crank,
and it was all too much for him.
his cherub face bright red and struggling
to make out the faces of who we were.
You hauled him out of the pudding suit,
your precious little boy,
and to this day,
as he can walk and talk,
and probably until he is eighteen,
I will think of him as that gorgeous,
overheated little Christmas pud.
16. Ode to the chubby stick – for Kate McFadden
I love the Clinique chubby stick,
Enough to write this limerick;
the colours are hot,
drab they are not,
as the kids would say they are quite sick.
17. Freight – for Sean McLoughlin
They course by,
slicing through our estuary like whole towns on the water.
Barrells, crates, cargo –
they have left London behind and ease their way out,
out, out, away.
The North Sea calls to them,
pulls them on an invisible thread,
draws a line from the Thames to the rest of the world.
Sometimes I hear a lonely foghorn at night,
or think I can hear the crew shouting orders.
I wonder what it feels like,
to pass through these shores and not stop;
to look at them with outsiders eyes and not feel
I wonder if for them, the North Sea means going home,
and the Thames is a cold stranger.
I watch them pass for hours;
a cure for insomnia,
or feeling alone,
or that this place is a bubble away from anywhere else.
We are a thoroughfare,
and a means for escape.
18. Psychedelia – for Emma Ryan
A blank wall calls for filling;
you can wonder for hours what it needs.
Does it need a photograph,
an IKEA print,
a poster of a film you love?
To hang something on your wall is to
bare your soul; to say,
I like this. This is my taste. This is me.
Hours of scouring leads you
to a limited edition 1960s gem;
by Hapshash and the Coloured Coat.
It lends the wall curves,
a slick of psychedelic colour. It
shouts, and screams, and says
this is of a time, but is also timeless.
It says you like this, this is your taste, this is you.
19. Oh, you don’t look it! – for Juliet Tewungwa
It’s a curse-loaded question, when all you want is to say nothing at all.
So, how old are you then? they will ask,
and you wish it had never come up.
But for all the times you’ve said it,
people have said Wow,
You don’t look it!
I never would have guessed.
Which are lovely platitudes,
it means that for a good few minutes
everyone’s staring at you.
Looking for early wrinkles.
Trying to spot greys.
Assessing your age.
Just remember this: for every time you cringe at your age,
there are thousands of people – many you know –
who are older, and who think,
oh, to be that young once.
20. Park keeper
You tend to the borders
and bask in the sun,
in a padded gilet
that harbours a gun.
21. Are we eating outside?
Summer only truly began
when mum suggested eating dinner in the garden.
Up in my room, I would hear the tell-tale
of cutlery on a tablecloth, and the unpopping of a cork
from my teenage garret.
Smooth risotto smells and
wafts of garlic bread would taunt me,
wisping up through the jasmine to
haul me downstairs.
What having you been doing up there? Mum asks innocently,
but getting a scowl in return.
MSN, I say, knowing I’m moody but blaming it on my hunger.
I soon forget my teenage angst and
tuck in to dinner; Dad gets more wine
and my sister slopes in late,
not saying where she was.
Bees buzz; I make a slight scene,
causing my sister to delight in calling me a wimp,
but soon I calm down, and we sit,
enjoying the luxury of dining outside.
Dad spits a cherry stone into the borders,
and Mum tuts. We copy him,
and have a stone-spitting contest,
as Mum starts packing up the plates.
This is summer, our south-facing garden a tiny oasis,
the grass still scuffed from our pre-teen swingball days.
This is summer.
We argue over whose turn it is to wash up.
The dinner plates cleared,
I haul out my mother’s mother’s Smith-Corona,
and I start to type.
My dad is washing up,
my sister is taping the Top 40 upstairs,
and my mum and gran are asleep in the lounge.
I am eight years old.
I say I want to be a writer.
I am indulged with notepads and
fountain pens and
extra creamy paper for the typewriter.
I always forget to get the Tippex out of the crazy drawer;
every house has a crazy drawer,
of sellotape, scissors, elastic bands and fuses.
I have decided that my career will
take the form of Enid Blyton’s. I will write
endless reams of story about
siblings having adventures by the sea.
I feel I really know this subject because I live
by the sea.
I also know the subject very well because
I have consumed every book Enid Blyton has ever written.
I ache for a dog,
cakes for tea,
aunts and uncles who are willing to take us in,
and a mild scandal that get swiftly and safely resolved.
I tap tap tap away,
crunching down the keys and looking forward to the end of each line,
so I can swipe it sideways.
Dad has finished washing up and is now pottering in the garden.
I am alone; this is my time. I write,
My stories are rip-offs, with too much description
and no linear structure.
They have beginnings, but no middles, and no ends.
But I am happy.
I am going to be a writer.
23. Park walkers
The sun beats on the paths like a microwave oven.
The tarmac stretches and grows in time-lapse,
a spongey tread for the park-walkers.
Ageing couples are arm in arm,
keeping each other upright. They have crinkley,
watery eyes and I fall in love with them.
I cannot hear them, but I hope they are talking about life.
24. Dottie – for Sarah Mayhew
The thing about Dottie,
is she’s wonderfully sweet,
even though when she met me,
she pissed on my feet.
25. Dirty Dr Pepper – for Kelly Buckley
We were sinking amaretto and cokes;
sinking them a little too quickly.
You asked the barman;
what can we have that tastes like this but lasts longer?
He leaned forward, teatowel in hand.
Do you trust me? he said.
He turned his back and we gossiped at the bar.
He presented us with two pint glasses
of what looked like gravy.
That’s got a head on it,
He stirred it with straws,
like fucked-up Mr Whippys.
I call it,
he said grandly,
the Dirty Dr Pepper.
We sucked the straws.
It tastes just like a Dr Pepper, I said.
That’s right, he said.
It’s amaretto and coke, and half a lager.
We looked at each other,
and drunk it down.
By the end of the night we’d drunk six;
but he was right, they lasted.
We danced with sticky shoes to Northern Soul,
the talcum floor our world.
26. Poolside Scrabble
I had eaten a three course breakfast again.
Start with fruit and muesli,
go on to fried,
finish with a Krispy Kreme and a coffee.
It was disgusting
and so good, so good in fact
that one day I had champagne too (at stage one).
We were beached, poolside,
trying to share ipod earphones between two heads.
Note: this doesn’t work.
I was about to move out of home,
and I remember talking about varnishing chairs.
It was warm; not hot,
but warm, and the tiny 5mm squared magnetic Scrabble tiles
were melting in the sun.
I said I was hungry.
27. Love – for Sarah Broomfield
Love is not two munchkins holding hands.
Love is not Clinton Card,
bollocky heart flummery;
it bites you back.
It wakes you in the night in a cold sweat,
and wrings your neck in public.
When you’re falling it’s the right turn of phrase;
you’re falling, no ropes, no stage mattress to catch you.
When you spark with someone you fear for your life;
can you die of chemistry socking you in the face?
Feel the electric sparkles in the air,
crackling between you as you case each other out.
Looking into someone’s eyes becomes a sport;
you see so much in there.
Look in their eyes and you’ll see
truth, beauty, hurt, pain, life, their soul,
the whole fucking world and it
hangs you out to dry,
your mouth swells up and
your heart swells up and
your use of the English languages dries up and
you’re panicking because things are scaring you, like
an impromptu hug with this person.
Can they tell you like them through that hug?
What if you accidentally jump on them,
or start kissing them on an impulse?
You calm yourself down,
and begin your pursuit with a series of
well thought out text messages and wait for the reply.
This is the cowards’ way to say how you feel;
no Marianne Dashwood pining for weeks
to hear if Willoughby’s manned up
and written her a fucking letter yet –
just wait for the beep.
This is love; liking-panic,
first kisses and the rush of massive otherworlds,
and you can’t describe how it makes you feel,
you just know.
You just know.
28. World Poetry Day – for Cerys Matthews
Writing poems for #worldpoetryday, I must be insane, in a literary way.
29. Fundamental - for Deanna Romano
I can’t write a rap
this is just fundamental
don’t treat me gentle,
No, seriously, I actually can’t write a rap.
This is just embarrassing.
30. Phlegm – for Sarah Broomfield
A hock of turgid mass;
a yellowed lump of
now paraded near our feet.
This is a teenage boy marking his territory:
The bundles of joy swock to the pavement,
throat-glue from their undernourished owners.
Slime, rime, council-property grime,
A thick slick of common time,
We skirt to avoid it skidding under our shoes,
And a nation wonders what’s wrong with tissues.
31. OMG BAT – for Jo Overfield
The perfect middle class day; two writers in an arts space,
tapping away at laptops in separate rooms.
Later they would go to a wedding and drink
Pimm’s and dance to Hot Chip.
One is near an open sash window; breathing in the hot August outside.
A storm cloud looms over the house,
and the enormous trees outside bow and sway.
The other one is looking out to sea; vaguely aware of a kerfuffle.
A BAT! A BAT! The first one cries.
WHAT? says the other.
A BAT JUST FLEW INTO MY FACE!
The other one runs out. Are you sure? It’s probably just a sparro…
She looks. Flapping crazily on the floor is a tiny little bat.
They panic. The first one says how it flew right through the sash window,
heading straight for her face.
The storm cloud grows, bringing thunder and wind.
The two writers look at each other.
32. Spring Haiku
Blossom falls like snow;
a puppy runs to chase it,
the sun on its back.
Five years old, curled up against your rugby shirt
and watching you draw cartoons.
You were the fun one; you bought us toys,
and pulled funny faces for us.
Now we’re drinking buddies; we love a nice ale,
strong local cider,
bucket of mussels and tipsy afternoon.
Your paintings are white and blue streaks of
oceanic beauty, stamped with your mark
and proudly on walls.
We listen to music; classic 1970s,
pop from two weeks ago that
makes Dad shake his head.
You love Gaga, and I love you for it.
Salt, crushing beating waves,
a crash on sand that
tells a million years’ history.
A boom of rolling brined tide,
breathe the saline lick of
pray for sailors,
walk right in when there’s nothing else to fear.
35. Bunnies – for Claire Longrigg
Floppy ears and cotton tails,
the bunny knows its strength.
They exude fluff and sentiment
made for adorning greetings cards;
but spare a thought for carrot-intolerant ones.
The sting of puffed eyes,
styed by too much crying;
the blubbered lips of a weeping child
at her sixth birthday party.
She is hot, clammy fringe stuck to her head
in unbridled bawling,
over what? Over a game that is long over,
but still she cries,
lachrymose, locked in the downstairs bathroom.
To accompany her cries,
are the happy sounds of other children,
playing hide and seek or
pin the tail on the donkey or
bouncing bright balloons.
She hates them.
She is dragged out of the bathroom
by her furious mother,
by her furious father,
by her smirking sister,
to have her photo taken as the food is served.
You could see cakes, in this photo,
the beaming faces of friends, or
cartoonish piles of crustless sandwiches or
the buoyant theme of Mr Men for the paper plates.
But you do not see them.
All you see is the puffy-eyed wail of the birthday girl.
37. Snow – for Holly Morgan
It had been forecast; the snow that day,
But as we ordered pizzas it looked unlikely.
We ate Italian; you, mum and I.
We walked to the Albert Hall,
in scarves and hats and gloves,
and talked about work,
We sat at the top row, towering over the crowds.
Mum and I got vertigo, and you said we were such losers.
We grew accustomed,
and before you knew it, we were crying,
at the carols,
at the orchestra,
because we are all such losers. Including you.
We squeezed Mum’s arms either side of her, and bawled some more.
We also sang;
sang Christmas songs and loved it all.
When we came out, after it all,
it had snowed. London in the snow; something magic.
There was a real, tangible excitement in the air.
By the time we got to Upminster it was proper.
Mum said, Slow up on these roads Holly,
and we smiled. This was Fun.
We skidded into Southend, only stopping for
a minor moment
when your VW Golf slid into someone’s front garden,
and Mum and I pushed it out,
in our fancy Albert Hall wear.
You left me at the top of Chalkwell Avenue, unable to get back up,
and we felt like Christmas had arrived.
38. The number 26A from Canvey Island
A hollowed-out face, two days
early for a halloween lantern.
A bus stop: two wheeling children,
a blind eye,
and the desolation of a late running 26A.
Boy 1 is called Tony. We know this
because this name is cawed a thousand times
but it does not stop his play.
Boy 2 is Dylan. He is a writhing,
wriggler of a child.
It is a frozen day; a cold hard sun,
and they are without coats.
The hollowed face wears a parka,
but they have no coats,
no coats on a day like this.
They jump in
of the bus lane,
only names called: no explanation
of what they’re doing wrong. The bus comes,
they scramble on,
and press the bell.
IT’S MY LITTLE BOY
the face shouts,
to the patient driver.
E’S PRESSED IT AGAIN. MY LITTLE BOY.
Tony shows Dylan how funny it is
and press the bell.
They jump on seats,
crawl on the floor,
and the face says
I’VE AD ENOUGH OF YOUS.
She stares out at the estuary,
eyelids not flickering
at the piercing,
39. Writing haiku – for Jessica Patient
It fills me with doubt,
But I don’t know what else there
is to do but write.
40. The summer room
I am burning up;
the hot sun is beating through the windows of the summer room.
I am sweetly offered tea; but I want water,
ice cold water,
and an open door.
My brain overheats, sends
panic messages to my limbs,
and I get a headrush.
Too many poems – not enough air.
41. Found shopping list – for Choco Girl
I think she’s a 1950s housewife;
planning a big bake and afternoon tea for her friends.
She will dutifully clean up after herself,
hide any evidence of her soiree,
and be ready with a whisky for him later.
Feed my chocolate need:
Melt and crumble bars of it
and run me a bath.
43. Canned – for Michelle Bappoo
She held the last can in her hand.
It was weighty; powerful.
She knew it was keeping her alive.
Without ring pulls, her hands were broken and raw
from dealing with the ageing can opener.
How many dead and empty cans were there?
She looked around, casting for another pile.
This was it.
She looked out of the window and saw
the barren landscape,
What would happen after this can?
She hacked at it with the opener, rusted and bent from
The brine spilled out, pooling on the floor,
which she would have to mop up later.
Here they were. The final tin.
Canned artichoke hearts; the last remaining survivor
of her pre-bomb supermarket shop.
She laughed wildly at the irony of the fact they were hearts,
and picked the first one out.
She had grown indifferent to their taste;
now nothing. She savaged the can until it ran dry.
And then she waited.
rhyming takes time and
I’m fine just
People think poems
and odes should rhyme,
but I’m doing just fine
don’t doubt it.
45. FREE LATTE DAY – for Kumar Kiran M
The City was abuzz with life;
did you hear?
have you seen the ad?
did you get yours yet?
Starbucks are giving away FREE LATTES!
free I say!
some for up to 30 minutes at a time
for a free double shot latte,
and judging by the state of the staff toilets that day,
some had double shot bowel movements too.
46. The temptress
liquid hot. She looks at you with
caramel hues and
tempts you gently.
You want me, she seems to say,
with a promise that she’s good for you.
you could just drink her up.
You want to hold her in your hands,
feel her heat warming you,
take in her fragrant aroma,
and keep her to yourself.
Tea, tea, I love thee.
47. Milkybar woe
It was an unnatural few months,
when all I wanted to eat was Milkybars.
I would slip out of lessons and
void the vending machine,
blazer pockets bulging.
One particular lunchtime, a craving hit
and I escaped.
When I came back to form room,
something was a-clutter.
I had missed a FIGHT, a
genuine, bona fide FIGHT.
The relationship with Milkybar was over.
You suck my soul and yet
we come back for more
The love we had for MySpace
is sadly no more –
I used to spend weekends
filling out questionnaires
posted in bulletins
for show-offs to share.
Then it was Facebook,
the overlord, god,
who assured us that MySpace
was a load of old cod.
MySpace is laaame!
We suddenly thought
and into Mark Zuckerberg
we faithfully bought.
Ray Morgan is…
the statuses read
and we suddenly cared
what our ex-schoolfriends said.
Photos and top fives and
everyone with the internet
getting their fill.
And then it grew tired,
we don’t like the new look!
And a threatening bird
lead us from old Facebook:
TWITTER! IT’S SNAPPY!
WE LOVE IT! we cried,
and in 140 characters
saw the upside.
No cringe-making wall posts,
no Scrabble results,
no bitchy ex colleagues and their
no Bejeweled Blitz!
no honeymoon pictures of fucking St Kitts!
So here we are now,
and that is just that,
is now where it’s @.
Don, Don, he’s simply the Don,
oh how we’ll miss him when Mad Men is gone;
his Brylcreem-slicked hair,
his fantastic suits,
his long-distance stare on his Jersey commute.
And Peggy! She’s modern!
She’s who we want to be;
just without Peter Campbell,
and pregnancy – she worked her way up
and we love her for that,
she sure ain’t no hussy
with her cute-as-pie hats.
And Joan, Joan, we all like to moan,
we’d kill for a few minutes with her alone,
her rear! Her rear!
I could write a thesis,
but when it comes to her husband
she’s the queen of ascesis (yes I used my rhyming dictionary for that).
And then we have Roger, and Kenny, and Lane –
with their office antics it’s never mundane.
Oh ad men, oh mad men,
oh 60s New York!
Indulge me with caddish and sexist smooth talk!
I’ll cinch in my waist
and lacquer my hair,
just make me a creative;
I so belong there.
you’re nifty as can be,
just how many poems
do I have left in me?
It was a bad kind of tang;
The outstretched pier is a skeletal girder;
one giant terminator arm lodged in the mud.
It looks like it’s straining away from us;
away from the slot machines and
adventure crazy golf and
Sunk in the deepest estuary mud
it mocks us;
asking us to walk its length,
so we do, and we get blown to pieces
by the North Sea wind.
We realise there is nothing there for us;
nothing at all.
We hop the train back,
staring through the slats,
thinking how it is our only offering,
and how it escapes us.
52. Open plan office lament
Be gone, open plan.
We do not want your vastness,
and crave cubicles.
53. Bleak – for Sarah Burton
We are two teenage goths that never happened;
you were too busy queuing outside under 18s clubs,
and I was too busy watching Friends
so we never did the Marilyn Manson thing.
But we could have: you love black weather,
and so do I. We would sit,
in our shared office,
faces full of delight during a storm.
If Hollywood made a movie about us, we be
getting into witchcraft,
but it was always just about the atmosphere.
A cold day; wind; threatening rain; massive thunder –
you understood the thrill it gave me and I understood it in you.
Give me hail and give me rain;
umbrellas, and waiting on doorsteps for it to pass;
kicking up puddles
and how it made us want to write.
I desperately don’t want it to rain on your wedding day,
but perhaps the day after,
so you can eat leftover wedding cake, and drink tea,
and say ‘weren’t we lucky?’
I hope you have that; and I will write about it too.
54. Bellyfull of Skittles vodka – for James Jaggard
It was a bad kind of tang;
the kind that hit the back of your throat
from all the E-numbers.
120 Skittles dissolved in vodka
seemed like such a good idea at the time.
But it was the sort of hit
that made you say ‘cunt’ a lot when playing Scalextric.
I’ll make some more next Christmas.
55. The pitfalls of karaoke when you’re pissed and emotional – for James Jaggard
It was 2010.
Bargu – Westcliff on Sea’s dubious ‘Thai restaurant’
(that had a bed downstairs) was very empty.
Two Thai ladies were mixing lethal margaritas behind the bar.
Bowls of prawn crackers that had
clearly been sitting out all day tempted me.
The tequila took hold.
Suddenly I was
behind a plastic palm tree,
belting out a very bad version of
Christina Aguilera’s Genie in a Bottle.
Let this be a warning to you.
56. Scrabble – for James Jaggard
Excuse me, quiz master, I heard myself say,
But you gave the wrong answer to question 5A.
My team mates were cringing,
just out of sight
at the legendary Sarah Moore Sunday quiz night.
The total for ‘QUIZZES’ in Scrabble’s 34
But you said 36; are you sure?
He said, listen love, it’s only a quiz,
don’t go getting yourself in a tiz,
But I said again Excuse me,
but I think I am right;
it’s just I play a LOT of Scrabble;
I don’t want a fight.
He ruffles his papers,
and looked with a guffaw.
You’re right, NERD, he said laughing
it’s thirty fucking four.
57. Networking – for Kim Ansell
don’t you be shirking,
the reason you’re AT this event is for lurking;
for seeking out clients and secretly smirking,
hand out your cards and do the legwork-ing,
Teamworking, caseworking, meet complete berk-ing,
these are the joys of professional networking.
58. Happy Bank Holiday!
Easter bank holiday
Hilary Swank holiday
Minted lamb shank holiday
Septic tank holiday,
Walking the plank holiday
Teenage wank holiday
Rachel Unthank holiday
S&M spank holiday,
Diary of Anne Frank holiday
Redemption of Shawshank holiday
Dan Cruikshank holiday
Drawing a blank holiday.
59. Two women viewing a one bedroom flat
You do realise this is a ONE BEDROOM FLAT? she says,
her alice-band quivering with rage.
Yes, we say, simultaneously, because we’re annoying like that.
Her face pinches,
her green padded waistcoat twitching with the thought of it.
We look around. It’s a shitty basement flat
with very little natural light.
You do know my ELDERLY MOTHER lives upstairs?
She must be allergic to same-sex relationships,
as we call the estate agent to say it’s a no.
60. Have you ever thought about getting into teaching?
“What do your parents do?”
My dad’s a teacher, and my mum’s a teaching assistant.
“How about your sister?”
She’s a teacher too.
“What does your partner do?”
“Have you ever thought about getting into teaching?”
*bangs head repeatedly against table*
61. Soft light
Afternoons where the light dies so slowly,
where even grass looks gold,
make me feel a deep sense of nostalgia.
I think of having friends round for tea,
playing in the garden in school uniform,
the smell of chips – a treat for friends.
I think of avoiding homework,
getting the last bit of sun at the bottom of the garden;
mum and dad home from work and
sitting drinking tea.
“Tea tastes different in the garden,” I say,
and dad rolls his eyes, laughing too.
I think of afternoons on holiday
when faces are salt-crusted,
when noses are suncream-coated,
when limbs are overtired from healthy outdoor activities.
This is the time of day to haul on a soft hooded jumper,
think, at fourteen, how you might want a hair wrap,
and dream of a shandy with your chippy tea.
4, 5, 6 o’clock is made for lounging,
looking at the sky,
and forgetting what winter is completely.
62. Bag for life
The bag for life – essentially a normal bag,
the kind our grandmothers used to use
before plastic carriers because the norm,
have become entrenched in our way of life.
We are sold them at supermarket checkouts with
aspirational messaging on,
or Orla Kiely designs on,
or ‘vintage’ food labels on.
I am so obsessed with them,
that I have a bag for life FULL of other bags for life.
I worry when I’ve forgotten to take one out
that I might have to buy another.
I am also so obsessed with them that during a game of
Pictionary, when drawing a supermarket checkout,
I drew bags for life.
Pictionary only allows 60 seconds to get the drawing across,
and I wasted a good 10 of them drawing bags for life.
I feel this is a representation of modern consumer culture
and I’m SORRY.
Sixty three poems in one sitting,
My hand’s seizing up, I’m really not shitting
you; these are the perils of RSI,
if I have to stop here I think I will cry.
64. Ode to farting – for Sadie Hasler
You don’t think it’s funny
but I’m willing to bet
through the course of our friendship
you’ll laugh at farts yet.
I’ve tried to persuade you
with gentle opinion
that the key to fart humour
is thinking what’s in them;
We all do them yes,
including sweet you,
they’re nature’s precursor
TO DOING A POO!
65. Five left
Five leaves left, Nick Drake said,
only it’s five POEMS left til I reach 70 instead.
66. Premenstrual anger at an Audi driver
He cruised over the pedestrian section of the crossing;
smirking at me from his white Audi beast.
It screamed “I have a small willy but I’m better than you!”
I looked at him hard,
and he, amused at his own work, looked back.
The green man tinkled loudly. I walked up to said Audi,
seething with rage,
and said into the driver’s window:
Well that was fucking clever.
He said fuck off, and off I stalked.
And now I can’t remember:
is it actively encouraged to berate Audi drivers
or frowned upon?
67. Cycling haiku
Drivers hate cyclists
So we’re sectioned to the cold
strip of cycle lanes.
68. Sash windows
I think it’s the fourteen year old Sense and Sensibility lover in me,
but something about sash windows makes me want to
throw them up in wild abandon
and call after a lover below.
I want blossom to fly in, twinklingly,
and sparrows to land on the sills.
They make me think of heaving romantic stories,
and then I tell myself to stop being such a wanker
and think about how impractical they are
and bloody freezing in winter.
69. Electric Avenue Man – for Troop Davison
He’s the sound sound man,
who’s a real coffee man,
he’s a commute to London man
but a respectable man.
He’s a three-band man,
he’s acoustic/electric man,
he’s the cricket loving man,
he’s a man with a plan.
He’s the Mogwai loving man,
he’s the bass-playing man,
he’s the engineering man
he’s ELECTRIC AVENUE MAN.
Allo love, he always says,
and we talk about his day.
It could be:
just a bit of pottering in the garden
oh, nothing much,
just watched a bit of telly,
had lunch at the Lunch Club,
had a sangwich,
well of course tonight’s the chip van so not had my dinner yet,
thought I might take myself into town tomorra and go swimming.
We talk about my day
and he says every day
“Heaven help the working girl”
and we laugh.
He’s my 6.30 fixture,
a phone call on my way home.
We talk about Coronation Street,
what we’re both having for dinner,
and he says
“Thank you so much for remembering…”
and he puts on this fake shaky voice
“an old fella like me!” and we laugh.
We say we’ll chat soon,
and he says that sometimes he’s lonely,
but I know that he’s ok.