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

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.

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

You Are Six, And I Am You

I woke up this morning to tell you
I love you still
and how brilliant you are
because you like to learn things

You are six, and I am you

I know I’m late but I had to see you
I see you still
and say how grateful I am
because you were always kind

You are six, and I am you

I play us back on old VHS and watch you 
I knew you well
and think how once I hated your small voice
because you wouldn’t be quiet

You are six, and I am you

Now I know I was too slow to forgive you
it’s not your fault
and I’m no longer mad
because of what happened when

You were six, and I was you

Exigent

He plays music
to bring it into being
like birth
and puts out his hands
this way
then that

leaves it alone
gets to it
leaves it again
washes a brush in a wine glass
downs it, seconds flat

then, watches it take form
lets it lead the way –
a mountainscape in colour
its hues push outwards
its ridges bold here
soft elsewhere, another

you wonder if it’s like
playing chess, and
try to see the precision,
or if it’s accident
in his vision

see what it is he shows
without saying
it’s fine to
make it up in your head –
perhaps you wouldn’t know
otherwise where to
let your eyes tread

and it’s not a secret
but you wouldn’t ask
how it feels to colour the world

to revel in the making
and unmaking 
the way colour can unfurl 

each hue a rung upon a ladder
he climbs with ease
like falling upwards

and how he longs for colour now
his fingers itch, 
harder to ignore
a feeling 
stronger 
than it ever was before

Deep Impact

When she said it, the air left. It was as though the exact words she’d spoken had rung something out from inside his head. The grey matter of his brain, rinsed, like an old dishcloth. He couldn’t believe it, what she had said. 

Then everything felt brittle. Soundless. He wondered momentarily if, in some alternate universe, he was living through one of those scenes from the movies he loved: the ones set in outer space; the kind he’d watch over and over and over, where the big red button gets pressed, mistakenly, opening a hatch that vacuums out the crew into the gaping maw of space, and then maybe they’re okay, but maybe they’re dead. He wondered which he’d be, but – mainly – he just couldn’t believe what she’d said.

For a bit, the only sound he could hear was the sonar sound of his heart from inside his ear: the sonorous thud of each beat, landing like a dull missile, and it wasn’t until he looked up and around him that he knew that nothing had happened – no explosions, no rapture, no dread. For the first time since she’d uttered the words, he looked up at her. He just couldn’t believe it, what she’d said. 

Around them, the wait staff still continued to serve, bussing from table to table. Cacophony. Nearby patrons scraped forks over plates, glasses clinked on teeth, chair legs squealed and dragged. He saw the mouths of others open and close – even hers, so round and so red – but no sound came, and he couldn’t believe what she’d said.

His brain simply refused, inflating defensively inside his skull like a pufferfish, blocking all access to his consciousness, extensively, so that even the smallest wisp of her voice would not be able to sneak its way inside. Code red. His body simply refused it all, materially: he couldn’t believe what she’d said.

He felt swollen, all of a sudden – raw – like the blisters he’d get at football when he was still a kid. The kind his dad would burst with a hot needle, before wrapping his feet. He recalled his father’s explanation for them: nature’s airbags, he’d say. They pop up to protect what’s beneath. Good lad. When he’d finished, he’d always touched his head. He thought about him now: how long he’d been dead. He wondered how he’d have explained the words that she’d said.

And now here he was, but older – the injury unfamiliar, and not the same pain, but the body’s defence kicking in, all the same. It had been a long time since he’d stumbled or bled, but he felt like death, after what she had said.

Pieces

I remember when I stole
a piece of your jigsaw puzzle;
slid it across the countertop
like a miniature credit card;
half inched it like a thief
and hid it in the cat’s basket.

I watched you work for hours;
lay down bit after bit, unwavering
in your focus, unaware of my small
hostage, as you spread out across
our dining room table, smiling
at each of your fresh conquests.

More days passed as the picture
became clearer, and I remember
thinking: at some point, this will
all have to end. Then one day
I looked up to see you shovelling it
back into the box, as if you had
known it would come to nothing:

and just like that, it was forever undone;
it wouldn’t be finished, and neither had won.

White Sky, High

There’s something
about a sky like this.

Your mother’s clean cloth
laid out like a map –
it’s lace landmarks, hazy.

A ghostly flag, hung half mast,
to the four corners of
your eyes, pinned with pearl.

We walk into it, and it’s as if
our heels lift upwards –
blown far, like paper or steam

and I feel buoyant beside you, as
we walk lighter, lean in together
towards a sky like this.