He hears a sound, plip plop. It’s small stones thrown
or wet insects on glass. The noise is getting bigger.
It sounds as if stones are being shovelled onto the house.
He asks his cousin if she’s experienced anything like this.
He frowns when she says, It must be possums.
He smiles when his neighbour says, Perhaps it’s like
when my wife left me. He laughs when his wife says
Yes, I’ve been hearing it for a while, it’s like memories of home.
He looks up through the leaves of the tree.
Stones are coming down through the branches.
Stones are bouncing off each branch in turn.
Stones are plums falling down like blue stars.
His neighbour looks and says, Who can be responsible?
Is it the work of clever children? His cousin gasps and says
Is it the work of aliens, these bright disks as they fall?
Is it, asks his wife, all the words that need saying?
In the room, the stones are all over the bed.
The stones are all over the rug but there’s no holes
in the ceiling. He looks up and there’s no footprints on the roof.
The stones are raining down and he asks his cousin
Why do the stones not fall straight down but seem to turn in the air?
He asks his neighbour, Why do the stones have no shadow?
Why do the stones fall on my house and not on yours?
Why, laughs his wife, it’s all the stones that ever got stuck in my shoe.
Young girl with a tree in her brain
Her tree is a rooted scream. She’s shown
the lit up neuronets. Coloured lights on the screen
shift and glow, her intimate knowledge branching
out into hungry leaves and buds. She learns
the idea of the object causes the same interference
to the pattern as seeing the object itself. She remembers
his shout in the playground. A grown up once told
her the self is intangible: you cannot
touch the self. But she starts to realise
sometimes her mind can control the shapes
on the screen, can switch and arouse
the lights on and off, so she thinks
maybe, one day, in the same way
she might let him, or not let him.
It was a place he used to think about, the beginning
of a walkway, a glimpse from the getaway car
a corner of a concrete pier, a straggle
of fireweed under a motorway bridge
a one step forward, two steps back place
a scatter of glass on the tarmac. A whisper
saying, If you recognise this place, it must
already belong to you. The unloved
places of your body, the back of a knee
the back of your throat, the small of a back.
He was walking unobserved in that place
slippery with leaves after rain
afraid of falling, watching his steps.
A just don’t even go there place.
A what were you thinking place.
If he knew who he would meet one day in that place.
Grammatical second person talks back
Had it up to here with being You, everyone
wants a piece of me, writing about me, giving
instructions. It’s, you do this, you think this
you do that, you feel this, so over it with
epiphanies, swallowing ego is becoming
increasingly uncomfortable, not as authentic
as in my youth. After years of angst, my amygdala
is like a whore’s whatsit, if you get my meaning.
Guess it’s been a full life, travelled a bit, but time
to put all that behind me, go into recovery
get a few people off my back − find my own glass
slipper, swan in my duckling, flesh in my wooden
puppet moment − no forwarding address.
Tried cloning myself, franchising the concept but
success just meant more meetings. So here’s
a substitute for you to interview, maybe not totally
satisfactory, not as inclusive as me, less likely
to be mistaken for fiction, not much presence
very short, but from my point of view, it likes to be
first to take its clothes off in public and that’s
the person spec in a nutshell.
He’s wrong in so many different ways.
Wanting to step up.
Believing what he longs to hear.
A creature with many places
to fall down into.
Cross-gart’d under sticks.
Smiling inside the mower.
Hibernating in a sack
of turnips. Penned in.
He’s hooded, mutilated,
emptied out, set on fire.
And there’s the way he howls,
I say to you this house is dark.
As if he knows what he’s talking about.
As if he speaks for us all.
Acknowledgements are due to the editors of the following publications in which some of these poems first appeared. 14 Magazine, Artemis, Blue Dog (Australia), Iota, Mslexia, The North, Obsessed with Pipework, Poetry Review, Poetry Wales, The Rialto, Stand and Under the Radar.
Poems from Dreaming of Our Better Selves, Vanguard Editions