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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

The Hurricane Diary

Hey listen, here’s one for you: what do women and hurricanes have in common? They both start off a breeze, but then they destroy everything you have! Always liked that one, but can never remember where I heard it… Jim, maybe, or Andrew in Marine Forecasting? Or perhaps just a stranger on the bus, which is equally plausible because – and I’ve always liked this – weather has a place in everyone’s daily lives, not just ours down at the Met Office. You hear it come up in all sorts of conversation. In fact, just the other week, an architect friend of mine met the Queen at the opening of some war memorial, and you’ll never guess what she said to him. One’s hair is being drizzled on. That tickled me pink.

Of course, in my line of work we’re not so focused on your everyday downpour. In Paleotempestology – that’s the hurricane business – you’ve all sorts of meteorological implications to consider, not least of all the official naming of storms. I bet you never thought about how they do that, did you? Well, someone’s got to. I often think back on my career and wonder what prompted me to classify them as I did. How I managed to choose names to summarise each cyclonic thrill. Of course, I realise now that the inspiration was clear all along.

My first was Lisa. Gale force two, if memory serves. Winds of about nine kilometres per hour, fingernails bitten down, and sparkly polish on the nibs, short wavelets with no breaks. Some airborne spray. To be honest, tame, and pretty unremarkable, but there’s a first for everything, isn’t there. It was middle school, after all. Followed swiftly by Monica. Gale force three – a definite let down, with very few scattered whitecaps. Freckled, too. Some experts in the field had said she’d go anywhere, do anything, but no more than a slight draught and flutter down by the football fields and it was over.

Anyway, Naomi came after. Eight, and what an eight she was. Dark, with a stare that smothered, east-coast-American, beachy-type. Winds of about seventy kilometres per hour, that’s-more-like-it, well-marked streaks of foam along the coastline, filled out, college. Whirlwind romance. Came to nothing with surprisingly little destruction, but after all when you really looked her in the eye there was nothing there. 

Olive next, gale force five – six at a push – heavy-set, natural, fairly typical for that time. Winds of around thirty-eight kilometres per hour. Bit scattered, but punctual – arrived and left without a fuss. Some airborne spray, and occasional whistling. Classic, but not common. Low expectations, but could actually move you, in the midst of it all. 

Paula surprised us all, predicted a four, and turned out a seven. Sea heaped up high, moderate wave breaks and considerable tree movement. Brisk, free-spirited, adventurous, gusts from all angles, refreshing fifty-five kilometre per hour winds, but died down slowly, only to be caught blowing in new terrain, if you catch my drift.

Then all too suddenly was Rita with was – what, in hindsight, I now see – ten written all over her. Redhead, with a mind of her own; one hundred kilometres per hour tempest winds, erratic, dizzying with very high waves and overhanging crests, resulting in reduced visibility. One way and then the other, knocked your socks off, uprooted you, blew you away. Considerable damage left in her wake. Remembered often.

And as for today, the reading is meagre – light precipitation with mild winds, of no real consequence to anyone not planning to fire up a barbecue, wear a floaty dress, or paint fences. Mild inconvenience, but even so, it unites us in that same way. It’s an opening, a crutch, a fall back. The weather is the Godfather of small talk: always there when you need a favour, but with a price to pay. And yes, today’s is pretty uneventful, but that’s the thing about weather – it changes. Tomorrow will be different – it will bring something new. Tomorrow could bring Sarah, or Sandra, or even Sunshine. Tomorrow could ruin plans, or perhaps make them. It could change it all. But, then again, in this game, who knows – it could well be a lot of hot air. 

Stage Fright

Gunther did not remember much about his death. In fact, the moment had passed somewhat uneventfully and, had it not been for the audience’s few gasps of surprise and an ill-timed giggle, he might have thought he’d dreamt it up altogether. 

Emily had been sat in the second row, slightly left of centre stage – not that he’d been able to see his wife during much of the performance itself. The stage lamps had masked the audience from the players with a brilliantly intense void of white light. He had felt the glow draw conspicuous beads of sweat to his forehead almost the instant he had taken his first steps on stage, like the rapid onset of fever. It had felt like being in the presence of a dying star. 

Continue reading “Stage Fright”

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.

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.

Continue reading “The Edge”

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.