A Drowning

Nobody screamed

not even when blackness came
and small waves bounced upward,
obscuring the shoreline from sight:
biting at the sky

not even when their necks numbed
and boreal steel filled their pockets, 
with weight like loss: the rush of 
fear in a vacuum

Still, nobody screamed

instead, their throats made small alarms,
guttural from behind clamped jaws;
layers of yellowing silt shifting until
they all saw sky

instead, the march of steady breath
fell out of step with each arterial beat;
one by one they hissed like matches
softly dipped in water

Volta

Beyond weak, she
was now spelling it out
for him, like a mother –
holding the small
fat hand of her
first born, pushing
the stubborn fingers
around, as they
clutched a pencil
to shape the letters
of his own name.

His name.

How many times
had she said it now?
Could she count
how many times
she had laughed it,
asked it, stuttered
and moaned it
and even once –
in the vacancy of
quiet hours –
called for it, loudly
across an ocean
of silence.

Effigy

I start with a wooden barrel
for a chest, 
smoothing the planks down
with grit paper until
at long last
I put my cheek to it, to check
it feels right.

It does, so I then move on
to your arms – I strap on
thick ropes,
wrap them round,
and tie myself in
a knot that won’t break,
that holds tight.

For legs, I pile stones,
two towers,
unkickable as the sky –
straight and tall,
they hold
and do not sway or bend,
in their might.

A lamp for a head –
the light
of a mind that shines,
leaving no shadow
it throws
a yellow glow across me,
and burns bright.

Alas, for a heart, a blank.
Only space,
an emptiness,
as I have nothing
to take the place of
the thing that loved,
just for spite.

Now, when you burn,
you will burn right.

This song reminded me of you

You probably already know about them:
where the group is from and how they banded,
what year their first EP came out,
if the lead guitarist is left or right handed.

Maybe you own a few of their albums,
perhaps you’ve known of them forever,
but this song reminded me of you
though we’ve never listened to it together.

We didn’t ever hear it in that place we like
where the barmen all wear pocket flowers,
and we never queued it on the juke box
that night we drank and laughed for hours.

And it wasn’t playing in your car
when you dropped me at central station,
but this song reminds me of you
and fills me with a blue elation.

So I reckon, several year from now,
needing something to get me through
I’ll play this song I’ve played so much
because it reminded me of you.

The Moths

As they sat in the garden
with sun on their shoulders,
they saw two moths mating:
Elephant Hawks, enormous,
olive winged and brightly tipped –
pink as a kiss,
their bodies tail-pinned
in a union older than them.
Both gawped and tutted
at the audacious clasp.
This is a family neighbourhood,
he said, smirking, and
they left the Fornicators to it.

*

What she didn’t tell him though
was that, later that same night
as she went out to lock the gate
she saw them again –
still stuck together,
one dead, the other not,
but flying low, unable
to breach the garden wall
or free itself from bondage
as, in frantic flutter,
it dragged its cold mate
through the blue light
of summer night.

Punisher

do you remember 
when we 
had to cancel
our very first date
because I had a 
last minute shift
at the bar, but you
came to see me 
anyway and
asked me about the 
movies I love and
drank gin and winked
when I walked 
back and forth past you
serving other people
but how
I’d always 
circle back 

and another time
you asked me
to get free drinks
for you and your mates,
got hammered
hogged the juke box
broke the top
button on your shirt
and called someone
a fucking rat
lost a tooth
threw a glass
and got
kicked out
and I had to quit
later that week
standing up
for you

I just remember 
that’s all
and wondered
if you might too

Dream Shark Secret

Dream

The other night I dreamt you came into my house and wouldn’t leave. At first, I didn’t mind – we were just sitting together in my kitchen – but as I neared the dregs of my second cup of tea, I started to wonder when you planned to go. When I woke, I considered the parallel universe where we now somehow coexist: your keys in my fruit bowl; your hands on my bath taps; your feet on my couch. And in the haze of my morning I wasn’t sure what it had meant or whether it had even been a dream at all, and half expected to see you pass by, step-less and slight, like a ghost on the landing.

Shark

Finally! A good one. Can’t remember who asked. Who knows how these things come up, just go with it fast. Which creature would you least like to be killed by? If you had to. If you just had to. Doesn’t matter why. We dipped into silence, underwater in thought, each seeking an answer in the fashion we’d wrought. The lot of us sat in a circle of green bottles and spent ends, barely friends in a debauched fairy’s ring – and, for a second, not saying a thing. Godzilla doesn’t count. Then one spoke out. A grizzly bear. Why? You could just run. From a bear? You’re fucking joking, son. A few others offered and we talked through the zoo. But I didn’t have to think – I already knew. How, being frozen in the deep, I’d die thinking of you, as it swam, torpedoed steel, and took what it wanted. It’s eyes gloss and haunted. I wondered if you’d feel it burst you apart. Turn your organs to mulch. Teeth through the heart. After a while, we spilled beer, and turned to something new, but I sat for a while, and thought of the blue, of the dark and of death, and of it, and of you. 

Secret

Later on, as I’m walking back to the station, I remembered when she used to do her lists. They started years back, before she started ditching mass, before she started pinching things – even before Nan. She would spend hours somewhere secret, because I never saw her do it, writing list after list of all the families we knew – our neighbours’ families, our teachers’ families, our friends, their mothers and fathers, families off the telly, their names, their ages, aunties, uncles, cousins – all the many ways in which they belonged to one another. All the families we had ever known, all but our own, hidden away in drawers and under mattresses for years. In that quiet house, I always found them, and when she didn’t think I was in, or if she didn’t think I could hear her, she would cry, and no one ever came. 

Night In, Light Out

An hour into Scarface
(for the fifteenth time)
the power cuts

and the sloping Bolivian hills
snap into darkness.

The silence thrills us;
it hits like a car crash.
We slowly clank into action.

You use your phone light to find the fuse box –
Who owns a torch these days?
I light a candle:
the one in the burnt yellow glass
and look out the window
at the street in pitch.

I imagine our neighbours in the dark
arms outstretched, like swimmers,
reaching for lighters and batteries –
whatever glimmers.

I wonder about kids crying,
dinners spoiled,
and hands
feeling in the dark.

After a while, still nothing:
no spark. We step outside.

The night is balmy –
the bricks hold the heat of the day
and it floods back into the house.

I fetch beers from the warm fridge.
The bulb is out so I feel for the tins:
I know where they are
and grab a few.

Outside you’re looking up
and I at you.