Cache

sometimes it feels stuck to the back of my chest
as if it has caught one of its many blue threads
on the door handle of a room I’ve just left

sometimes it feels still, and lurks like a mad ghost
cursing its haunt in the long well of my throat
as I am trying to speak gently to it

sometimes it feels hard. It tightens with each thump
and one day I will not be able to wriggle even my
littlest finger inside it

a red knot
I can’t unpick

Painting the kitchen in your new flat

it’s one of those nights 
when we decide to give in 
and sack off the cleanse –
two friends 
with enough rum to feel
sore tomorrow

you’ve still got paint on
from where you’ve touched
your forehead and cheek –
it’s midweek
it cracks when you laugh
and drink

I remember you as you were 
when we’d stay up smoking
wiping a CD on your jeans –
just fifteen 
we’d talk about where we’d 
go together

doesn’t tonight feel almost like those
and still not quite the same as before
when we’d sit, sentries of dawn –
and yawn
sleeping long past the birds and
the sun

I ask if it’ll ever be like it was 
when we were kids, and you 
smile and don’t say a lot –
probably not 
then we laugh and we don’t 
know why

and now it’s one of those nights
when we sit and remember
and pretend we’re not blue –
it’ll do
but I’ll never forget being young
with you

The things we do for one another

in a lukewarm bath
with you perched 
on the side 
I watched as you 
scraped pink curls
off the soap 
before you told me
you needed a walk
and left
but before I heard
the latch I heard
your voice
on the phone
and I wondered if 
absent mindedly 
biting your nails
later that night 
you would taste 
that soap or if 
someone else might

Things you do for me

when you had that
big work do thing
the one where
you couldn’t bring
anyone because it
would be weird
I sent you a photo
when I was
a bit drunk
just for you
just of me on the
sofa with the cat
and later on
that night as
we finished the rum
you had half inched
from the bar
I asked you why
you didn’t respond
to my messages
and you stroked my
legs propped up
on your legs and you
finished the rest
of your drink off

don’t be weird
you said

Things I do for you

last autumn you told
me that Radiohead
were overrated
and then you
showed me some
new bands I should
really listen to but
only in this order
and did I know the
original line up for
that five piece no
one has ever heard
of and then you
smoked another
of my cigarettes
without asking and
blew the smoke
towards the window
before you put your
clothes back on and
I would have punched
you in your mouth
when you said it
if I could have
but you were
holding my right
hand at the time
so I couldn’t do it
but I wish I had now
because you never
hold my hands
anymore

John

There was something queer about his mouth, too. Not to say that I didn’t like it, but then I always liked a few flaws in a fella. I think I got it from my old mum – she was always after a bastard so I grew up around them, and look what that lead to. Attracted to what I was repelled by. I don’t think that makes sense, does it, but it makes the job easier. I once tricked a fella from Lincoln with warts on his hands. He called it a condition; I called us a cab. Is this being recorded?

Didn’t one of you say I could have a Coke? No, no one brought me one. Hang on, let me get my lighter out. Now, where was I? Yeah, so there was that thing about his mouth, the way he had this habit, yeah, of snaking his tongue out – like this – when he wasn’t talking, not thinking like. Couldn’t stop looking. And he was older. White male and fifty, did you say? 5 foot 8? Sounds about right. Quite a bit older, then, if I’m honest. Didn’t mind. Daddy issues they call that, don’t they? I bet you lot do. Well, answer me this then. How can I have daddy issues if I ain’t got a daddy? I don’t blame you for thinking it. See it all the time, not just with people in my line of work, I bet. Shit goes on at home, and next thing you know you’re picking up some lass for trying to shackle a midlife crisis with a bad dye job and a Jag – trainers too young for them, and all that. You can tell a lot about a person from their shoes. They say that too, don’t they? Do you like mine? Heel’s coming off this one a bit. Is that Coke still coming?

Not that I was trying to shackle anyone anyway. That’s not how it works in my line. This isn’t the movies. He wasn’t bad to look at, though. He wasn’t the sort you’d take pity on at all, not like some of the others, I can tell you. A fella who thinks he’s ugly and is right (they’re the best for it, I find) is a far cry from one who doesn’t. It’s like they aren’t trying to trick you into thinking you might like it. Fucking Richard Gere. God, they’re the worst. Nah, he wasn’t one of them. He knew what he was about. It’s partly why I remember him. Why does any of this matter? I’ve not seen him since, and that was months back. 

Yes please, 2 sugars. No, I still want the Coke, and all, thank you. He’s nice. He asks polite. Not like the rest of you lot. Hey, did I tell you once I got my head slammed over a coffee table by one of you, just because I happened to be working a party at a house in… Yeah, that’s the one. Drug dealer, the news said. Well, how was I to know? 

Anyway, this fella. How comes I remember him? He wasn’t like the others. Usually a smirk and a shandy is all it takes before they’re putty in your hands, grateful for ‘owt, but this one took some doing. I remember he was a little rbloke with little hands too, but broad like a brickie’s, and a neat dresser. I had a banging little number on that night myself. I did. Not too much because you don’t want to make it obvious, do you; got to make them think they’ve pulled you, even when they know they haven’t. I’d winked at him across the bar, and he smiled but then turned back to his drink. It took the wind out of me! I tried again, moving closer, and pulled the forgot my purse one on him, and I could tell he saw straight through it, but he bought my drink anyway. Bacardi Coke, double – ‘cause why not? 

His voice was funny too. Slow talker. Kept each word in his mouth a bit too long, like he was eating a sweet, but it wasn’t daft. I asked him what he did for a living – they always like that, because they always have an answer for it, even if it ain’t true. It’s like they’re grateful for the talking point. I can’t remember what he said he did in the day, but reckoned himself a bit of a writer by night. Started on about the stories he had to tell. Can you imagine it? There’s me, eyeing up the nearest toilet to save a trip back to the Travelodge, and he’s on to me about writers. He said it’s all the little things. The little things is poetry. Think he lost me, to be honest. Then he asked me the same question back, but I said I was just interested in getting to know him a little better, and would he like to nick off somewhere for a bit, to read me some of his work. I called him Mr Shakespeare then, and he laughed. 

I know what you’re thinking but you’re wrong. He knew. He must have done, they all do. Few drinks later and there we were, back at the room. We chatted at first. He tried to play some music on his phone but I wanted to get down to it and he didn’t stop me. I’ll spare you the details. Is that other one coming back in? He looks like a right go-er.

Yeah, we did. Can I leave yet? I’ve said everything I know and I’m expected back out on the strip tonight. Oh, I don’t know. Nothing too much, just let me jabber on. You know something. I don’t think too much when it’s happening. I zone out. I don’t mean I’m all silent – I mean, we’ve all got our go-to phrases. Yeah. Like that. Do it. Some like you to scream the place down. Others want you to shut your mouth. You can usually guess it right by looking, if you care, but not that time. I couldn’t figure him. Forgot myself. Don’t get me wrong, the earth didn’t move, but something about it caught me off guard. 

Anyway, to answer your question, I know he was there all night because so was I. I knew I shouldn’t have, because I’d not half get a thrashing the next day. I left as soon as it was light enough for me to see where I’d chucked my clothes. Took the money straight out of his wallet, while he was still asleep. Part of me thinking he hadn’t quite clocked the situation, and something about that I liked.

It’s funny what you remember when you really think about it. It was a strange old night. He just smiled and listened. Asked me if Candy was my real name. I don’t know why, because I usually wouldn’t, but I just told him. Expect you can see I’m a talker. Then, get this, right. He turned to me and said that my name means gift, and I laughed. Said he’d seen it on a bookmark one time – the kind with the different names on. I mean, you’d have laughed too. All the little things is poetry, he said. 

Dumped

There’s no need to measure out –
paint-stripper, heel-tripper,
drink like there’s a drought.
Knocked back neat, forget that cheat:
tonight we’re going out.

Down the dregs and out the door –
liquor sweet, aching feet,
dance until they’re raw.
Then blow a gram, and phone your mam:
ninth tequila: floor.

Lights go up and stagger home –
kebab gnaw, slack jaw,
smell of old cologne.
Think you’re fine, but miss the swine:
fall asleep alone.

Homecoming

Welcome to the city of soft-focus. Blink once and miss nothing. The brick-and-slate vista forms a dingy skirting board below the rising fog. Can you taste it yet? Wait for it, it’s coming – and once the acrid twang of fag ash and river sludge begins to probe the meaty paunches of your mouth, you’ll know you’re here. I watch it smudge past me, from outside the taxi window. I wait for the sign, as if I need reminding. As if this place needs announcing. I can be nowhere else.

The taxi man is chewing a biro. He is an old hand, but he’s not actually as old as all that. Perhaps he’s fifty – fifty-five tops. Some of his back teeth are missing, and his fox-like grin pulls far towards his ears. He begins his patter. He asks me if I’m here for the holidays, his head cocked up towards the mirror. I meet him. I start to explain that I don’t live here anymore: that I’m here to see my brother. Asks me if I’m at yooni, if I like what I’m studying, and if I miss home. I say aye so many times it starts to sound like eye, and I wonder if I’m having a stroke. I ask him if he lives local. Oh yes, he nods. All me life.

Continue reading “Homecoming”

Unsplash

Here’s what you don’t know:
I already knew you’d come
because I imagined us here
I conjured your arrival
crafted it, like a scheme
like a slight of hand
so you never saw it happen.
I put a lot of thought into it
before I even needed to
formed and divined you
but – and here’s the thing – 
I made it look like I didn’t
so when you showed up
what you don’t know is
I already knew you would

I just didn’t know you’d be this good