Some poems – for adults

How To Have Your Baby and Eat It and Unsleeplessness are published on And Other Poems (December 2018)


Ginger

I’ll never forget, says Uncle Malc,
that time when Ginger Rogers tripped on the two-step
and tumbled head first from Hollywood to Hartlepool.

We all rushed down to the shore
and took turns nudging the washed-up body
with our loafers and creepers.
To check for signs of life, we said,
though really, each of us hoped
to make an impression.

We dreamed of how, later,
over a steaming Bovril she’d ask,
Whose were those light-as-a-feather tootsies,
the tippy-toes in white winkle-pickers?
Now those belong to a hoofer and a half!
Then she’d call Fred and tell him
she’d found her ‘Top Hat’ and wasn’t coming back.

We waited and waited.
Then I guess we moved on.
In the end it was young Tyrone next door
who finally made it and moved to L.A.,
but by then poor Ginger was picked clean by seagulls
and the old musicals had pretty much had their day.

First published in Under the Radar, 2017 & Maggie Smith (ed),
The Best New British and Irish Poets. Eyewear, 2018.


An Easy Mistake

He had mixed up his musical instruments
and the contents of his fridge.

Neither the instruments nor the food
had the heart to embarrass him by pointing out the mistake
so, come breakfast, a violin volunteered
to be toasted and slathered in wild honey.

At coffee time, a piccolo posed
as an amaretti biscuit and for lunch,
he prepared a lightly grilled snare drum
while his wife practised arpeggios
on an under-ripe tomato.

But then a nervous cauliflower piped up,
I’m not musical at all, I seriously doubt I can pull this off.
Whereupon a sideboard shouted, Oh come on, a talking cauliflower!
What are we supposed to do with such an absence of limits?

First published in Domestic Cherry, 2018.


I Always Meant to Ask

Did the illness fill your life with dread,
or your dread of life fuel the illness?

Did you build the wall to keep it all out,
or keep avoiding it all until: the wall.

Did the kindness of a child warm your cooling heart,
or your heart’s chill snatch her childlike kindness?

Look: the bird, wings, flight – are these but side effects
of the egg’s devices to make more eggs

and was disease the cause of death,
or did death, pressed for a reason, give disease?

First published in The Interpreter’s House, 2016.

Drifted Down

Now and then
I walk through
the business district
at dawn
and pick up
all the concrete blocks
that have drifted down
in the night.

First published on a Guernsey bus (Guernsey International Poetry Competition / On the Buses )

From Blueprints for a Minefield


The Axe

The day we met, I started work on the axe.
By the time you promised to love me forever,
it was done. Now, how to swing it?

I fetched string, tied it to the kitchen light.
Fired arrows at it while you whipped up
oysters kilpatrick, beef bourguignon. It held strong.

I poised it over the shed door. Hadn’t clocked
your reluctance to mow. Long grass grew
over the spatchcocked fox my lolling axe slew.

I laid it in the dead centre of the bed between us.
You climbed in with me on my side,
held me tight all night.

To buy time, I aped some sunken sister on TV –
hid my weapon in the arse-end of the deep freeze.
You found it. Made me axe ice-cream.

It melted. I promised to love you forever
and started work next morning
on blueprints for a minefield.

 

The Sculptors of Small

You’ve heard the one about the camel?
A horse, built by committee.

No joke – it’s you,
that saddled beast
spuriously cobbled together
by the citizens of your life
chiselling away at the rock of your being,
knocking out shards of brilliance
and splinters of certitude,
nightly sweeping away all this hewn-off holiness
till you’re nothing more than human
and will easily fit in anyone’s hand.

Being Straight

Sweetie, I want you to be brave.
I’m not one to spend time folding paper
or ironing creases into espresso machines.
There’s a variety of cake for every kind of sandwich
and you know how I feel about fillings.
The rest, as they say, is blasphemy.

Darling, I want you over a barrel
with the whiskey still in it, roasting nicely.
I’m not the type for frightened ale
or too much ketchup on my filter tips.
I’ve seen the way you bake your hand gestures.
History, as they say, is as good as a rest.

Sugar-lips, I really have to draw a line.
Get me a pencil, would you, before you go.
I’m not being straight with you, am I?
Ah well, that’s the way the pastry flakes
and land-locked countries do whatever they do without sea views.
The rest is a symbol used in music notation.
It indicates silence. Keep the change.