We Talk When It’s Late

whenever she’d get bad
my mammy would say baby

we come into this world alone
we go out of this world alone

how funny it was
that she chose the word we

how inclusive!
all of us, suffering
together,
knowing the same

low down, gutter-licking,
earth-swallowing,
blackout blues

misery en masse

the tragedy not in feeling it
but in feeling it alone

and not realising how
we aren’t

Spell

Look up directly at the sky:
see how quickly it has turned
white as a blanched almond.

Notice how the yellow sunlight
has slipped into the ground
where we were just walking.

Now stop talking.

That way, you can really hear 
the bristling shush of dried ferns;
they sound so like the sea.

Sink into the sound of this.
Let your breathing bow to the wind
as its veil billows before us.

Now insects join the chorus.

They might be flecks of dust haloed
in gold, stung by the sun:
stitching a map across the day.

Trace their idle threads of flight
and sink into the upturned palm of earth.
Feel yourself breathe out, at last –

but hold still with me
until the moment’s passed.

The Old Men and the Sea

By the time we’d realised that there weren’t any glasses in the caravan, we were already pretty cut. As explained in the rental email, we found the keys under the garden statue of the stone frog, and had spent the first, hurried half hour dragging the bags in from the car and lining our stomachs, before we started on the wine. This decision had been one of convenience, rather than particular taste, as it had been easier to locate the green bottles, clanking in the boot, than the vodka, which had been pilfered from Fran’s older brother, stuffed in a pillowcase, and hidden in the depths of her suitcase. 

We hadn’t noticed the absence of glasses, because the protocol with wine was to drink straight from the bottle. We’d seen that photo of Rod Stewart and David Bowie doing the same thing and never looked back, but the spirits would need something for mixing. We weren’t pissed enough to take it neat. Not yet. We were after a vessel. 

After a bit of a scout around our very limited surroundings, and a brief but considerate glance at the ashtray, the cracked sugar bowl, and the dusty ceramic vase by the sink, we were ready to concede, when our eyes settled on the empty Pot Noodles. 

Continue reading “The Old Men and the Sea”

Pet

She’d insisted her father meet her outside in the car park, because he’d make a big deal of it, and she didn’t want the others to see. She knew, before it happened, how it would go.

He’d be stood up. He’d have arrived too early. He’d be waiting, in the same make of tan suede loafers he’d worn every weekend since she could remember, arms outstretched, pinning a wobbling smile to his face. He’d sob into her hair. He’d take big, heaving breaths of relief and there would be surging emotion that he himself probably wouldn’t understand. His cheeks would be wet and, because it was a Sunday, he wouldn’t have shaved, so his beard would scrape against her face. She dreaded the performance of it, and felt ashamed to dread such love.

As it turned out, because she was still a hair’s breadth off eighteen, they wouldn’t release her without the presence of a nominated guardian, so he met her in the reception. He needed to sign for her, like a package – a fragile one he’d strap into the front seat of the Volvo, and hold fast as he turned sharp corners.

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The Fall

The sun shone, though the day was far from warm. As she’d sat, waiting for him, the first few flakes of snow had fallen. It had seemed strange to see it happen, in the sunlight, and they had come down so slowly that, at first, she hadn’t been sure it was snow at all, so fragile was the offering that it looked to her more like debris. Ash. Like the aftermath of some great fire.

Sorry I’m late. The fucking dog’s been driving me mental. She’s in heat.

He’d been scowling into the cold air, as she’d watched him round the corner past the chemist, and the lines on his forehead had not yet settled back into his face. She thought he looked tired and irritable, and the possibility of being punished by one of his foul moods had spurred in her a desire to keep the walk brief, or to avoid it altogether. Disappointment hit her in the stomach, and she began thinking of an out. Fake a phone call. Feign a limp. But it wasn’t long before he was smirking at her, dancing on the spot to keep warm, and she found herself smirking back. Once again, the open morning seemed to roll out before them, like a bolt of gold fabric. 

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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