When we were kids we’d sometimes
sneak out into the plum orchard
and steal our parents’ wine to drink.
In the dead of night, like jailbirds hidden
beneath the trees, we picked at branches
and planned for foreign days ahead.
It’s funny now to think we never seemed to
eat a plum in time, being always so
bitter, or sick and wet with ferment and rot.
Each season brought a purple harvest;
the sweetly cankerous smell
hanging low above the slack, damp ground.
Even now I sometimes remember
us, and how the whispers of
anxious leaves would rustle up the dawn.
Though we don’t know each other now –
and isn’t that always the way? –
I remember when we weighed our futures
and how for us, the dark, rank fruits
burst their vernix jackets, and spilled
violet ink beneath a chasmal sky.
(Ophelia by John Everette Millais)
Limply sails Ophelia, whose pretty mouth
imbibed the river’s liquor,
now she wears her rue with a difference;
the flowers venture slowly south –
long past her hung-wide jaw –
coiled about her seeping flesh;
her tongue’s gone bad and
she’ll sing no more.
A throwaway. Even before the echo reached the underpass ceiling, it had sunk like a bullet into her. He had impressed them, and there was laughter. It was repeated, by another. A little stiffer than before, her arms pressed against her side; two pink pillowcases full of cake batter. He’d spat out his tab as he’d said it, and for no good reason. He saw her gait change. Her hair was flat from the rain. She did not look up. The two of them strangers, immortalised in the moment, as the vowel hung ripe like the fetor of shit in the air. Her thighs rubbed fffip fffip fffip, quicker now. Soon she was part of the distance. He stood stunned with regret, wanting to touch her, to make it okay again, but the lads had finished their tins, and the motion to get on was made.
They all thought I was a lark, when I swam out from the northern coastline one arctic February afternoon, until they saw it poking out from between the salt-lashed rocks. An arm, swollen and ghastly pale, it beckoned and fell in time with the tide. They screamed me to shore – a hand, a hand, a hand in the water!– and I spat and thrashed my way out. We peered, shivering; the hoard of us, at the puckered fingers, until one more brave than the rest fetched a washing line pole to release the drowned body from the depths. Could be anyone, we said, could’ve been you, they said. I thought of mam, how she would have cried had they lifted my miry corpse from beneath the clacking bay stones. I imagined the news spreading around town. I considered my funeral, the music, the sickly stench of lilies, and thought quiche might be nice for the wake. Maybe Jen would turn up in a black veil, and she’d cry and want to take it all back. Marble coffin. He was so young. Cheesecake for the sweet. But as they pulled the pink rubber glove from the water and threw it splat on the sand, I joined the chortling chorus, not daring to venture back in to the black water, or revisit the empty memory of my death.
Affectionless, beetroot-red psychopath, you
thrash your balled fists and buttermilk feet
against me –
throaty guttural howl.
Our languages are different, and you will not listen, or
leave off tempests and tantrums – you pit yourself
against me –
gurning night wrecker.
My trifling pleas melt as flakes of ice in your hot breath, and
I feel the weight of you in my cradle arms as I clamp you
against me –
floral nightgown muffles
Peek-A-Boo Bunny Blue Money Box,
My First Tooth Enamel China Pot,
Gift Box Set of Four Rose Petal Cupcakes.
lie down in the bath tonight
Pair of Ellie the Elephant Ribbon-Tie Booties,
Organic Natural Cotton Love Snuggle Blanket with Pastel Trim,
Yummy Mummy Scented Candle Gift Set.
roll off the changing table
First Impression Handprint Clay for Newborn,
Baby Blossom Three Part Photo Frame for Mother and Child,
Customized Apple Print Washable Burp Cloth.
neck nipped in between the cot bars
Blessings 9ct Gold Baby Bracelet with Inscription,
Little Birds Wind-Up Pearl Detail Cot Mobile,
Rock-A-My Baby Rocking Horse in Caramel Wood Finish.
hear it call, wild and naked in the dark
I met him in the woods,
by the creek. The
desiccant grass bristled
underfoot; the trees refused
the coaxing wind,
as we traipsed our awkward path
to the water.
Absurd, to say he
have loved me.
As absurd as stepping
into the creek itself,
amidst the plaited weeds –
tremulous and sleek.
The moonless night has wrung out
hours of day,
and snowflakes gather like lint
from the open pocket
of the sky.
Somewhere, a corncrake caws into
its echo rings,
and in the woods beyond, branches
crack like splintered bones
in the chill.
I lay low beneath the frozen earth,
sink my body,
and you will not think to look beneath,
so you will not hear or
see me there.
The eyes are green. Who
knew? He has a look.
A wolf is in him.
He has figured out that the
most part of him is
and it lurks and seethes in his eyes, snarling
Everything else is tranquil and flat.
Cool as cruel.
This is a disaster.
Sharon was on the telly the other day. At first, it was just a quick mention – her age, where she’s from, all that nonsense – and then another channel threw her picture up. I made her sit in front of the screen to watch, but she was shy and kept quiet, just sat there, all stiff. That’s you, that is! I pointed to the blurry old photograph they’d scavenged from somewhere. Not many people get to be on TV! She didn’t look too impressed.
Later that week, at the dinner table, she didn’t touch her food. What’s the matter? I asked, but she wouldn’t say. Just sat sort of slumped in her chair. She’d been in bed most of the day, and I could tell she hadn’t even bothered to shower – she was starting to smell bad.
Continue reading “Sharon”
The Boilerman is tinkering in the other room. That’s not the proper name for the job, is it? Is it electrician? I want to say thermal electrician. Thermal engineer? Heating specialist. Hot water professional. I should have checked his pin badge, when he knocked. Coffee, milk, and one.
He’s battering away at something, throwing noise down the hall; every few seconds I can hear flushing sounds and scratching sounds, and the sounds of a drill. We didn’t have proper milk, only soy. Prentendy milk. I imagine him waiting for me to leave the room and then tipping it down the sink.
Continue reading “Boilerman”