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poems

 

Enlightenment.                                          

In dreams I ride a tiger
shifting sun-striped power
padding soft-foot lover
wisdom in a golden eye.
Look!
Now you see him –
just a glimpse, nothing more
before I fall
awake.

* * *

 

Hill of the Magic Hare                  

I came across it unawares,
still, dark sides a footfall away,
flattened in the summer grasses.
At first I believed it dead
and walked past, face averted.
But something about the form,
like, yet unlike a rabbit
took me back to gaze into
a yellow eye, wild yet wise,
before she took flight.
And afterwards I imagined life
in all the dead things I chanced upon.
things of flesh, and bone and shell.

* * *

Assignation

Newly born she crosses the room,
clandestine breeze from the city trees
a foretaste on her skin,
echo of the phone’s cry still
in her ears;
opens the wardrobe; her arm
disappears between shadows of
herself. Fingers seek, select
one more nebulous than
the rest; a nearly-dress slips,
slides, over breasts-hips-thighs,
lies on her body like a breath –
his breath; suddenly
gasping she flies
down the stairs
and into the street
forgetting to comb her hair.

* * * 

all first published in Obsessed with Pipework, spring 2004 #30+

 

A Little Death                                                     

Do you remember how as kids
we used to lie in summer grass
among the dandelions, paint milky sap
on arms and legs in shaky
patterns, and how I
dared you taste its bitterness?

And how you faked agony and
death with such proficiency that when your
jerking body stilled at last I cried
to God that I’d do anything
to get you back, held you in my child’s arms,
my tears on your face,
and cried again to find you were alive.

And how, years later, we lay in
summer grass, and you held me,
among the ghosts of yellow flowers.

* * *

first published in Littoral Magazine, spring 2006  

 

Mothers’ Day                                                                  

This is not a tender spring brought in
from the snap of cold for safekeeping
like the first catkins wriggling in the warmth
between four walls nor a kindle born too soon
boxed in a woollen bed by the stove and fed
with cow’s milk from a doll’s bottle,
but a white room wild with fierce daffodils.

This is not a celebration
of earth’s resurrection after her winter
death nor decoration to draw the sun indoors,
blind the half-blind to dust, decay,
but an old woman opening clouded eyes,
deaf ears in an avalanche
of yellow clarions.

This is not the joy of light-filled buds
the burst of a quadrillion stars
shouting April! April! April! but Lucy
waking from her nap, raising her face
like a lizard to the sun as she calls
to the nurse that the angels have come
to trumpet her away.

* * *

first published in South # 34

 

A White Blind                                    

        covers the window. Time to
face facts. HIV hasn’t gone away.
HIV is an issue for everyone. Eight
plastic chairs, blue, like your cardigan,
cream walls. Want to stop smoking? Mottled
lino doesn’t show the traffic. Meningitis
can quickly kill or disable. In the corner
a small table, magazines.
Please take a leaflet – Did you know?
Regular smear tests can save
your life. Mustn’t forget your stick hooked on the radiator
and there’s Help for families
affected by drugs. That secret on your
scalp – incorrigible ostrich – how much
longer will you be in there? A man
struggles up the last few stairs, gets out
an inhaler, collapses in a chair.

The door opens. It’s okay, you say,
it’s only a special sort of wart
– can’t remember what he said it’s called.

* * *

first published in Iota

 

Betrayal                                             

I take up the palette, squeeze
the gay serpents from their tubes.

Cerulean, Naples yellow, cobalt violet,
these are his colours, the ones he loves

and here’s the pink shirt he wore for our anniversary,
the pale green jacket – just the right shade of eau-de-nil

brother to the trousers which are the same but darker, and
how could I forget lamp black for Dom’s twisted strands

of elephant hair that lie always at his neck. I mix the paints until they’re
rich and buttery, head swimming with the fumes of

turpentine and linseed. The brush moves rapidly now;
yellow ochre, flake white like that streak at the temple,

a touch of cobalt blue in the skin, (scarlet lake
just inside his bottom lip), his shaded

eye Hooker’s Green with a mixture
of aureolin and white in its depths.

I pause, smile, imagine the surprise on his face
when he returns, finds I’ve painted him

a whole new wardrobe.

* * *

first published in Weyfarers magazine

 

My Favourite Jumper

                      is pink and thick
with cables on the sleeves
and clever bobbles round the neck
and the Tree of Life on the front
and Yggdrasil on the back.

The wool was plucked from the flanks of wild sheep
and spun by hand
(probably by virgins)
and knitted up by an old woman
who used to reside on a rock in the Outer Hebrides
(she’s dead now).

It must be washed by hand in lukewarm water and pure soap
and rinsed until the water runs clear,
then rolled in a clean towel and dried flat
away from direct                                                                   heat

which is why

it lives at the

 

bottom

of the laundry basket.

* * *

first published in Iota magazine