The Pigeon

I was seven when
the neighbour’s cat caught a pigeon
and dragged its twittering, tattered trunk 
through our kitchen.

The cat and her mouth,
now clean and empty, seemed innocent,
but the errant trail of crumpled feathers
gave it up.

We hid it from mam,
stayed up in shifts, fostered and fed it sugar
water from a spoon, playing each other’s 
game of nurse.

I remember the thrill
waiting for the magical renewal we were
led to expect: a resurgence promised that
would never come.

It fell still then,
its beak soaked, sticky with sugar, as its
drowned and silent body lay between us,
ruined and scrap.

Sometimes I wake from 
shadowed dreams to see the smothered thing
in its throes, and I do not sleep. We were not
what you think.

Some Give

I don’t feel bad about how
the world might be ending –
and I don’t feel guilty,
if that’s what you’re getting at.

I’m more concerned about how
I can feel myself bending –
a little like this, at first
and also, somehow, like that.

Brother

When it gets late, we watch Cops on TV,
once all the rest have made their way to bed.
Then you make cheese on toast, and I make tea –
we feel inclined to sit up late, instead –
and though our conversation is quite plain,
you’ll show me something funny on your phone,
and when we laugh our ribs vibrate with pain,
as though at something we should have outgrown.
At three or four o’clock we start to shrink;
my tired mind begins to wonder whether
you’ll think about us sitting here, in sync,
when you and I no longer live together.
For me, it’s that I’ll miss, though it seems trite –
when we watch Cops together late at night.

Love Letter

You write about the moon
its opalescence
a bowl of shadow and pearls

the way it paints over 
everything it sees
the world in pallid gloss

You write about art
its multitudes
the lawlessness of expression

the ghost that shapes
everything we do
the bent arm behind us

You write about love
its essence
and of the helplessness

the violent shooting heart 
without restraint
the thunder after the strike

You write 
You write
You write

and it makes me sick

Ghost


It was you that taught me
to put newspaper between
the bottles so they don’t clink
when you put the bins out,
and how to read a map;
you’re handy like that –
a born navigator

I still get lost.

There’s a rolling boil deep
in my chest these days,
rumbling in my tight throat;
I let it out in slow sighs,
like bleeding a radiator,
and pick plaster off the walls
you built in the house

I still get lost.

Listen to the soft fricatives
of the leaves outside;
I think it’s autumn now, and
I still see you in the bath water,
and smell you in the sea –
I want to hear it over and over.
I wish you’d tell me

so I don’t get lost.

Only Dickheads Ride Vespas


Alex watched a large brown fly circle the sticky perimeter of his glass, and wiped the sweat from the back of his neck. The heat was stifling, and his focus had long since shifted from his parents’ conversation to the distant, silver spatter of the municipal fountain on the far side of the smouldering plaza. He imagined himself beneath its aquamarine deluge – feeling the cool water sweep into his armpits, and slick down, across the backs of his knees. He fancied he could smell the scent of chlorine and pennies from where he was sat, but the fantasy soon fell apart in the heat of the airless day.

He turned his attention back to his parents. His father was three minutes into one of his recapitulated monologues on how the game had all changed since the 1970s, and how Alex’s generation couldn’t possibly hope to recreate such a prodigious era. From the bits and pieces that he had tuned into, Alex knew that his father had already covered the problems with digital refereeing, and obscene player pay packets – “It just beggars belief, son.” – and would soon circle back to good old-fashioned love of the game.   

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The Edge

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The night before, it was supposed to be Lucy’s turn to close up the shop, but she’d had to nip off early because the baby had the croup, and Tim had a work thing to go to. I’d offered to do it for her, because I actually quite liked the silence; the soundlessness of the shop floor as order is once again restored. Like a big jigsaw. In a way, I thought it would do well to prepare me for the following morning. Something practical, to take my mind off things.

At closing time, Arthritic Maggie had said Rather you than me, petal, and asked if I had plans for the weekend. How’s your fella, the one from Hull? She’d asked, and I’d told her he’d gone back home for a while because things around here were too depressing. So, he went back to Hull, of all places? She’d laughed. I laughed too. Why not, I thought.

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Passing Thought

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Yesterday, you said you had thought about me
and I didn’t ask why.

I didn’t ask if you had been imagining saving me
from an inferno – snatching me from the strong arms
of harm, so that you might not be forced to live
without me;

or if your thoughts were of craving me
in that orange dress you like – at a party where
people stare, and everyone wants what you have
for free.

I didn’t ask whether it had been first thing
in the morning – if my image slid into focus with
the slow light of day, and stayed in place like
a ghost;

or if it was the evening when cicadas croak
their song into the darkness – if you had it then
when we cannot help but think of what we want
the most.

No, I didn’t ask. I just wanted to hear it –
needed to know nothing more of overcoming obstacles
large or small –
it was enough for me
that you thought of me
at all.

Friend Request

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She had met David online when he, a mutual friend of an old colleague, had sent her a friend request. Following what had been a taxing, if not entirely tedious, day of processing innumerable forms, she had returned home to find the little figure in the top right corner of the home screen was coloured red, proffering a tiny speech bubble containing the single number ‘1’. It wasn’t the case that this alone had taken her by surprise, or had stirred any greatly anticipatory emotions within her. She was used to friend requests, from distant cousins, neighbours, and the like, though most often from middle-aged colleagues who, having recently discovered their own effervescent online presence, would proceed to forward video compilations of dogs falling into swimming pools, and grainy, garish reproductions of inspirational quotations from pulp fiction writers. But David was different: a stranger, a spark of promise amidst the quotidian hum of the everyday. She knew at once that she would accept the request, but humoured her shy sense of dignity by scanning his profile briefly, as if to vet the man at the other end of it, flicking through profile pictures and noting which school he had gone to, before sending her response.

After she had accepted, she fed her cat, folded some laundry, and completed the minutiae of the quiet evening, before getting ready for bed. That night, whilst brushing her teeth, she looked up at her face reflected in the small oval mirror that hung above the sink. She had never been considered a beauty, even in her youth, but she fancied that her face still retained something of the girl that came before the woman. She was grateful for her mother’s high cheekbones, which, even now, seemed to beat back against the inevitable pull of gravity, keeping her jawline from drooping – though her own aging had never truly disturbed her, as it had others.

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Fever Dream

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I dreamed last night
of an empty room,
of absent colour,
swaddled tight
in pitch and gloom.

I woke in fright, in
spice-lined sheets,
the heat of night
having bled a cool
clarity from my mind – oh
I dreamed last night.

I saw darkness seep
into the lines, and
blur the light
and though I know
I have no right

I long to tell you why
I dreamed last night.