Friday, 5 January 2018



You never understand until the first death,
the unexpected pressure. How the descent
into it will often make a psyche pop.

Shoals of poetry books beach in the bathroom.
The margins are coast roads you can only scribble along.
Your childhood rearranges itself into ruins.

A gaggle of accents circle the ceiling,
shatter the window before necking north.

Scissors are concealed. Your head becomes
a reservoir. By its edges, bones begin a strange
bedding in. Among the reckless tufts of grass
that grow from your thoughts, skeletons burrow.

Down and down the cartilage swims.
Until the rooftops of your brain can feel
them drizzling there, haunted rain.

Centuries of memories wake.
Stretch their limbs in time to the padding
of marrow as it feeds your joists.

Up and up they rise, delirious seeds of hurt
that snag in, believe themselves emotional harpoons.

Loss begins to excavate from the skirting boards,
scuttles among your toes. A school of wood lice
familiar with the slow archaeology of death.

The bedroom becomes a beech tree with a hollow trunk.
You hide yourself inside its pulpy stomach for months.

Something begins fluttering again at the centre of your chest.
An accidental alchemy that births from the edges of silence
that swarm in close, infatuated with the damage.

Soft kisses that push with relentless thrusts.
Truth begins to molest the very bathysphere of you, hard.

Deformed embryos ricochet from your mouth,
your fingertips, your empty eye sockets.

For decades afterwards, the village will be infested by them.
Thousands and thousands of paper moths that murmur
from lampposts to moonshadow, convinced they are hearts.

Friday, 29 December 2017

Blowtorch Heart

Blowtorch Heart

Don’t think it’s gone unnoticed,
the way that chest of yours flames.
The way the very centre of you sets
everything it gets close to ablaze.

How many beds have you burned in your sleep?
Ask that scorched spider in the corner,
the one without legs that wears itself as a speck
of soot but cannot convince itself to piss right off.

The dynamics of you are more thermal than Socks.
Some scientists claim the holes in the ozone layer
are exact replicas of the shape of your heart.

They’ve even been observed growing larger
and smaller depending how in love you are.
Which means the world is ultimately fucked.

The Inuit swear the sounds icebergs groan
as they succumb to melting is always your name.
And I think I am beginning to believe them.

You’re the new God of matchboxes,
of candlewicks, of fire pits. I’ve convinced
my sister to stop smoking because I keep seeing
your lips sparking kisses from her lighter's flame.

Although I’m obsessed right now,
don’t assume the frost in me will melt daft.
The Hans Christian Andersen character that mirrors
my soul has always been Gerda, not a matchstick lass.

Tuesday, 19 December 2017

Halfway Here & Halfway Home

Halfway Here & Halfway Home

Like a fist that wallops a mirror,
the city smashes into furious segments.
I leap seams of pavement to avoid shattering
someone’s mother’s unsuspecting spine.

The braille of concrete tempts toes to read wonky.
The dreams of a man pour themselves from the head
of a saxophone. Northumberland Street goes full-on bird.

Ghosts of owls hoot from every market stall.
The Christmas crowd does its starling thing.
A choir swoops from St Thomas’ throat , distinctly rook.
No-one else notices the feathered similarities however.

I become a paper fox in search of an envelope
to tuck myself into. The jaws of Haymarket station
gets to vomiting gnawed people from its Hadesian stomach.

I watch Orpheus disguised as a four year old daughter
prepare for a future of being off her head by plucking
the hem of a distracted father’s moon-washed coat.

Everything flows topsy-turvy here.
The multi-story car park believes itself an ancient beech.
Headlights pollard its corners as they seek out places to nest.
Exhaust fumes meadow into noses and burst sneezes
through the air that are convinced they’re wildflowers.

My bones remember their origami ancestry,
consider folding. There’s no river running in reverse
among these sylvan streets though.
No throughway with a secret fetish for unravelling.

A gilded swan glides past embroidered on the side
of a silver handbag that wonders whether to turn blue.
Below the surface of serene faces, a furious paddling.
I slide my sonar to ‘mute’, prepare for another dive in.

Wednesday, 11 October 2017

Silent Weaver

Silent Weaver

This is something stupid, but when I saw that old bike, the one that’s going to sell for more than the entire contents of my house are worth, I thought it was made of straw.  I thought maybe it was a piece by Angus MacPhee that I wasn’t aware of.  And I got stupidly excited until I remembered that all of his stuff is decomposing anyway.  And even if the bike was one of his, it would more than likely be little more than a memory within the next ten years.  And then it reminded me of that thing houses do when they believe no-one is looking, when they wear themselves without a disguise and they become heads again.  And how when I told you that, you thought it was hilarious. And when I started having those recurring nightmares about just being this creature that was living in the very skull of something else and I started going out and sleeping under the alders by the beck’s edge, you were the only one able to convince me to come back indoors even though I can still sometimes feel the house as it blinks and turns its gaze back towards the north even though it was built to only ever be in love the west.

Of course, that was when all the ghosts decided to start visiting me, when I was co-habiting with the alders.  And I was okay with that until the ghost of my mother showed up even though she is still alive.  Isn’t that typical though, of me?  Being haunted by someone that isn’t even dead.  I look at her lately and I see that MacPhee effect creeping all over her skin, that slow disappearing.  And I don’t know why this isn’t something that gets talked about, the time afterwards, the years of our lives when our parents are gone.  I asked my cousin once, just after my mother’s heart started failing, how does someone manage without a mam.  And she had to pull the car over on that back road over the Higgledy-Piggildies where the farmer that likes to murder his wives still tries to train his cows how to remain calm before they go to have their horns hacked off even though he’s never succeeded yet.  And between the sobs she said you don’t.  She said you never really manage without them, you just pretend the way bairns do when they get to fighting those imaginary dragons at the bottom of gardens.

And that’s where it gets messy for me.  I once told my seventeen year old niece that unicorns are real, and just like you, she laughed.  There’s emotional blind spots I think, in our timelines.  Teens to early twenties, that was when I found my thoughts turned so myopic I could barely see the outline of myself in the life I was pretending to live.  I was swimming the dark lakes every day back then of course which didn’t help.  And it isn’t like we can just casually drop into the local opticians and go, ‘oh, by the way, I can barely accept anything as real these days, so will you sort me out with a decent pair of spectacles so I don’t impale myself on a unicorn while I’m walking to advanced physics, ta’.  It just doesn’t work like that, it can’t.  And we both know plenty of people stumbling through their forties who still claim unicorns and being able to love others is utterly imaginary.  And it isn’t necessarily that some people are able to see and some people are not, it’s more to do with how our genes learn to tie themselves in knots as we grow.  And how fast we had to run through the cornfields as bairns and whether the person we were running to save is someone that still matters to us.  Mine is disappearing with everyday that passes now, just like MacPhee’s art.

Yeah, but that bike, the one that isn’t made of straw.  That could be a blind spot as well, seeing things that aren’t there or dressing them as something else.  The same way feeling things that aren’t there can be too.  But just because I feel them and you don’t, does that automatically make them an illusion or some kind of absurd costume?  Who knows.  I just know, when I saw that bike I thought it was made of straw.  And for a moment in my periphery thoughts, Angus MacPhee was alive again and speaking to the landscape with his polyglottal hands.  I could feel the very skin of him pulling up tufts of grass to stuff into his pockets.  Could sense his gaze turning to the barbed wire fence where a little cloud of wool had let itself be tethered.  Could see the bridle building itself real inside the crofter’s cottage of his mind as he brushed the strands over his cheek.  Could feel the pull of muscles in his face sculpting a smile along the beck of his mouth as his fingers began that first twisting, that first dreaming.  And another unicorn got to weaving itself into the world, for real. 

Saturday, 19 August 2017

Night Swimming

Night Swimming

The sky is saturated.
In the next village, a girl
puts a puddle of pond in her pocket.
My heart is a goldfish dream. It leaks.

Last night as the hoarfrost left,
an owl died - not yours, thank god.
One of those born from a barn
behind the pylon of peculiarity.

The one that electrifies these fins
that wriggle underneath my skin.
The ones always swimming
and flipping, for you.

Someone's nanna once said that Elvis wasn't dead.
That the King of Rock & Roll had abandoned Graceland
for a glass bowl on a table in a kitchen with too many cups.

That he discarded his quiff for the circling, watery bliss
of back-finning through a place where sound swims slower;
hooks in deeper. Penetrates scales like buoys.

We laugh. Go home that night and fuck.
Imagine whales singing from jam jars on dusty shelves
belonging to some matronly deity adept at bread-making.

And if we eventually visit her, we'll watch 'Love Me Tender'
bubble through water that always turns cloudy on tuesdays.
And because of that slowness, how sound swims through water;

memories of long-gone fathers
crooning little things never said
or done from storm-wracked rooms
in far-out-to-sea houses where love

learns to drown inside nets of broken songs
singing from hinges of wardrobe doors
in corners full of darkness and air.
Until shoals of fish wearing skins

of little lost girls, learn how to paddle
through shadows without fear of lit fuses
reeled from fangs of dynamite monsters
that explode the soft ponds of living to pieces.

Monday, 31 July 2017

Keraunophilia’s Song

Keraunophilia’s Song

It's the lightning, the way it dances through the field.
The way it tickles the leverets until they are dead.
The way it hollows all the molehills into furrows.
Even hooks a cow inside the bellybutton of the mast,
becomes the creature's first and last jaunt beneath
a pylon's peculiar tummy. Now she's no longer in a hurry.
But her bones will know, and her volcanic marrow.
The way the ache in the landscape is kinetic, is kindling.

And the three bairns with their jam jars full of things
with wings that cannot sting, they will know too.
Skin is such a delicate thing; soft as moss on the throat
of an ancient oak, soft as breath as it abandoned its path.

There will be stories about the dogs; wolf hounds
behaving like stoats. All skittery and wary and tired.
The way they have now of existing inside their fur.
Haunting two homes smelling of ghosts, of storms.

Tuesday, 18 July 2017

Ghosts on the Bridge

Ghosts on the Bridge

There's a certain place on the bridge where, if you stop for long enough, you can see the whole world turning on the strands of a jellyfish wind chime in an abandoned bedroom's window.  The chimneys watch it, and the clouds.  Decades pass, pull thunderstorms and deathstorms in, then away.

He stood here, once, in the dark, listening to the ghosts caught along the cobwebs strung out between the flags of peeling iron.  Felt the whisper of the river as it passed below him, emptying itself into the sea, endlessly.  He remembered that woman, turned into a shell, the way she fit the curve of his palm as he lifted her to his ear.  How he tried ever so hard not to swallow her.

Somewhere in the belly of the city, the gallery sleeps.  Day spectres gather in the brushstrokes of centuries, snag their spelks into the souls of children wearing the skin of grown-ups as badly fitting finger puppets.  It's the silence that unsettles the most, how it slips from the frames, pads along the walls.  In the snoring cafe, a moth murmurs between the coffee machine and two lovers carved from a block of Frosterley marble.

I watched another woman kiss him once, in the kitchen.  Saw her fingers transform into tentacles, swim themselves onto the diving board of his skin.  The hacky microwave shuddered.  The peach pip in the ashtray turned away, embarrassed.  The photographs of his family blu-tacked onto the cupboards fluttered, closed their eyes.  I tied knots in my tear ducts, begged every dripping god of water not to betray me as that woman sighed through her octopus ways.

Lips are peculiar. Soft, like the pages of diaries conjuring faraway memories.  Hooked, like the briars on pathways abandoned by dreams.  On the outside of the library’s door, someone has taken a piece of the fallen cathedral and scratched initials into the wood.  It must have taken hours, this dedication to scars.  The was a bathroom once, in a derelict house, where the men from the mines used to go to fight.  Pieces of broken mirror lived in the sink with a family of bluebottles.  In the dark, they shimmered, imagined themselves fairies for a moment when the moon tumbled its light through the missing pieces of the window.

I’m tired of living my life in reflected things.  Puddles pursue me, the constant gaze of the neighbourhood cats throw back the image of myself, all bent and misplaced.  Rain on leaves has become an enemy, the metal on the hinges of gates laughs straight into my distorted face.  I am thinner than tracing paper these days, on the inside at least - see through and whispery.  Half-woman, half dandelion seed on the wind.

He wished once, on a passport and a ticket.  Tried to promise to relearn the forgotten ways of being a signpost, of becoming rooted.  There was no tree in his ancestry though, no lighthouse.  How can a whirligig bird convince itself it can be content without its wings?  Sometimes though, I feel the memory of him on the bridge.  How he stilled himself for a moment, folded his feathers in for once.  Allowed the zebra part of his DNA to bend in close, sniff the lass inside the shell as she spring-tided herself riverwards.  A finger puppet of undertow that swirled itself landlocked, became me.