Three Piece Suite
Mother is a rickety chair, teeters,
needs a wedge to steady her,
prop her up. A chair from the Old Country,
carried on backs, luggage racks, smuggled
across borders. Father is a wooden ironing board
shut in the under-stairs cupboard. Lost
in a cloud, the piercing hiss of steam-iron
hearing aids, the irritable bash of his klomper.
Grandma is a pouffe, leathery, round; smells
of olives, lemon tea and occasional
shit on her shaky fingers – teeth in her
dressing gown pocket. Between chair,
ironing board and pouffe, I am their horseshoe
magnet bristling with pins.
Eating you wasn’t an easy decision. We’d always wanted a girl, but you weren’t the kiss curl kind. Grubby-kneed. Nose-picker. You tore those frocks grandma made you. You answered back, couldn’t have that. You dimpled nicely though, when pressed with a finger. And grandma had big teeth, which she kept in a pocket, so we told her to slip them in and popped you in the oven. You were never sweeter than in that pie.
When it’s dark the man behind the wardrobe in the corner gloops like hot marmite I try to ignore him then say in my loudest voice MY DADDY’S A POLICEMAN AND HE’S IN THE NEXT ROOM except he isn’t and he’s deaf. When it’s dark the branch-fingers scratch to get in and the chimney moans but I know it’s the really-dark ‘cause I can’t hear the TV any more which means the hall light is off and Mummy and Daddy are in bed and there’s only me. Just when I’m nearly asleep they start YELLING through the wall behind my head YOU BULLY…DON’T YOU YELL AT ME…BASTARD! I put my fingers in my ears and then it stops. Just when I’m nearly asleep they start up again. But now I have my Koshy-cat he sleeps with me. Now I have Koshy I pretend we fly through the really-dark on a broom and come back when all the shouting’s stopped and I go to sleep.
Art of Fading
Mother wanders off
for fifty years, swore to leave, but never has,
loses her in…………high street,
once………in a church,
people take her in.
Better to go to the…..centre place
paint……..thing with feet……dance
her daughter corners her in the
It suits you doesn’t it?
determined to reach that……of her that still ,
knows it does,
now you can be looked after
get away from him.
Mother’s fluent reply still shocks,
How did you guess?
Mother sits……..in……………unable to……food to
That one………wipes the war between them
leaves the daughter lost for
I thought I’d left something on.
There was a sound at night
persistent as a metronome –
She told us it was a tiny toad.
We traced it to the yard wall
behind a piece of board.
That night in Dordogne we shared
childhood tales of being Jews
in Belgium, France, England.
The silent undercurrents
sense of foreignness,
lost families, the gap
they leave in the sternum,
a myopathy that
paralyses the soul.
It will not be silenced
the song the toads make
calling to each other
through the dark
like a heartbeat.
A hidden noise in the dark
that you can’t ignore
tapping its Morse code –
chants a rook to nuns who never left
as the bass throat throb of raven
wings northwards to the alpha omega place,
of before the beginning,
beginning of the end.
We wait for Iona’s convent stones
to speak. The isle’s newborn head
popped above Earth’s amniotic fluid,
two thousand million years hence.
Snails quietly sleep away the day
on ledges of orange granite, dark slate
curtained by fern and toadflax.
When I leave, a drop of its nectar
goes with me in the phial gathered
from such places; like landing on Zakros
from Egypt; that step to the offering room.
I knew it at once, only three thousand years
since I last placed my foot,
declared a wish for knowledge.
All that went between – as nothing.
How I long for such another nothing
the chirrup of temple sparrows
that hug the walls of Philae,
Minoa, Mnajdra, Iona.
The honeyed hum of their bees.
Fifty Shades of Beige
At the meeting of cardigan and caravan –
crosswords, Countdown, honeyed tones
filtered by conservatory blinds,
plump cushions ease ache of bones.
In Clacton, Burnham, Bexhill – taupe interiors,
folk immersed in fish supper, a cheeky glass
of Liebfraumilch. Coupled contentment,
buff and dun, gliding into beige heaven.
Those who rage against the beige
opt for a thistle reality, yell scarlet,
proliferate purple, black contempt,
laugh as they hurtle headlong and
…………………………..kicking over the cliff.
I keep it in my pocket
my special inside pocket,
I snuck it back while he was eating.
We were in one of those stellar restaurants
that arrange pulled pork in the centre
of white plates, with smears
of pea purée and juniper coulis.
That was his dream.
Mine is an altogether quieter affair,
one that involves robins, blackbirds,
watching grass grow, sock-mending.
Mine is a soup bowl of rags, weeds
and moon-gazing. He’d taken it by stealth.
I wanted it back.
Three Piece Suite & Toadsong (also Amarylis) – commended in Poetry Space Comps.
Good Enough – Three Drops Full Moon and Foxglove Anthology
Fifty Shades of Beige – Prole
I Keep it in my Pocket – Broadsheet.
Now – Three Drops for a cauldron