Simultaneous Equations

The fire stares at me
as we spend the evening together
in the Spanish mountain cave.

Each persimmon petal
offers to cremate the familiar,
spruce my soul,

the pain of burning
the pain of what is burnt.

But I am too scared.

First published in Sarasvati


La Realidad es Nacer y Morir *

Consider the toddler Alice,
hair untidily askew,
the remains of porridge on her face,
wobbling as she tries to walk,
wailing at some unknown slight,
unable to be left alone –
her vulnerability makes me grin,
feel a need for closeness,
enjoying the memory  of what I was,
wondering at her potential.
She will leave this stage.
And I feel good.

Consider the pensioner Alice,
hair untidily askew,
the remains of porridge on her face,
wobbling as she tries to walk,
wailing at some unknown slight,
unable to be left alone –
her vulnerability makes me blanch,
feel a need for distance,
flinching at what I might become,
wondering at her potential.
She will leave this stage.
And I feel guilt.

* The translation of the Spanish is “Reality is to be born and to die.” These were my grandmother’s last recorded words.

First published in The Journal



cans, nappies and condoms flower the lawns
where youths jerk their heads
to earphoned grime
by the entrances of the estate blocks
until they push past
a resident with a fob key
so they can
reskulk in the stairwells
or hang
at the crack den on the fourth floor
pointed at sternly
by somali mothers
sitting on the overgrown play area
where toddlers
are flaking residual red paint
off the climbing frame
after being wrenched from the sticky plastic
overflowing the recycle bins
besides which
dismembered mattresses and televisions
are dumped
from flats so pregnant with debris
that council employees have to wear
white boiler suits to enter
clambering over vigorous mice
scurrying near blocked water pipes
oozing the marinated rotten egg smell
which fights
with skunk fumes
from the schizophrenic rasta
by alkies visitbombing him
on the day they know
he gets his disability benefits
which will soon also be claimed
by the young mother in the angelic dress
circled by three police cars
and an ambulance
being restrained as she screams
“don’t take my son away you fuckers”
providing eyeglue
for the morbidly obese woman
on the first floor
installed on a deck chair
outside her front door
under tents flapping on the washing line
pushed through by her vested son
bringing back the family bulldog from a walk
without a pooperscooper
hurling him inside
as his barking
always sparks the fiery moaning
of his neighbours in the neon saris
who he does say hello to
though there will be no more hellos
to the irish woman
by her drunk husband
in the flat opposite last year
when everyone knew what was going on
as the windows are barefaced
save for the few pasted
with st george’s flags and newspapers
and the aspirational two
furbished with net curtains
charcoal with the muck
that seems to get everywhere
except on the bizarrely magnificent oak
at the edge of the estate
which i am staring at now
from my ground floor flat
whose windows i can’t open
without having things light-fingered
from the sill
digesting my dinner
at six in the evening
when after the skyorange and before the navy
an unearthly rose
washes allthrough the air
creating an urban impressionist masterpiece
and paul simon’s jangling african guitars
suddenly blast out from someplace
for a full half minute
making the corners of my mouth dance
showing me that
even here
we are not forsaken.

Winner of the Over The Edge poetry prize



Anxieties gather at three a.m.
corvid black and fear-scented,
escaping the cull,

scavenging what victuals they can,
swapping tales of fallen confederates.

Flexing their hot spikes
they ripple unease,
defy the slaying light
and waiting piles
of cerements.

First published in Ariadne’s Thread


The Kiss

I got engaged to him the day after we met
because I wanted permission to sleep with him
in one of the hostel sleeping bags in reception,
away from the only other woman
in a separate room,
a Canadian bruiser with an Alsatian.

He was called Anthony, ex-army,
dressed in politeness and grey,
playing chess near the sink-flies.
He suggested that we celebrate
with a date under the stars.

I was excited.
I had somewhere to sleep
and someone to sleep with.

I bought a bottle and we sat on the pavement
as the snow fell, quaffing in turn,
sharing tales from the homeless front,
as if we were in a French film.

I smelt roasting chestnuts.
smoked socks,
and a slightly acrid note
from the yolk-coloured stains near his groin.

He had ash-coloured teeth,
black gums,
and green tendrils that I couldn’t make out.

He drew me into him,
opened his lips,
and I went in with my tongue,
his saliva feeling like jelly,
hobo passion coagulating.

His rough stubble didn’t draw blood,
for which I was grateful,
but my tongue encountered
odd bits of grit and gristle.

I gagged,
but this was a party,
as I knew he was Socrates,
my all-time idol,
the ultimate tramp,
reincarnated to save me
and bring me home.