Breath

I like smoking at parties now

My fingers are dusty with ink
from packing sentences into paragraph packing crates
so I can leave out of the front door one day;

You are telling me you’ve found a new way to kill you.

You shared a lighter with the boy
who put me out with tepid water,
who would have kept my bones as keepsakes.
His lips, your lungs,
my wings.

I have passed from breath to breath
until I was ash caught in the mercy of the wind.
I am not smoke. I fly free from his lips and your lungs.

Smoke your cigarettes.

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Words From an Empty Building

The key that they cut for me is lost.

There are cobwebs because my lungs are exhausted.

That floorboard is a bruise; someone kicked it too hard.

Once I had poetry etched into my brickwork.

Once two lovers loved so hard
that their rhythm was my heartbeat.
I thought I was their world, I started spinning,
but they left. First me, then each other.

Smash all my windows before you leave.
nothing is left to bleed out.

Urban Forest

This town smoulders
Under a dull sky.
We don’t have stars.
They got lost,
They ricochet off the graffiti garages,
Breaking shop windows
with their razor shoulders.

I think I will leave,
She says,
Four wolf whistles into
The ten minute wait for a bus.

I’m already gone,
He thinks.
Every time he tries to rise
The thud of the bass pushes him down.

We become black holes,
Skeletal and starved,
A vacuous attempt
To feed off these unyielding streets.

Too many pavements. Not enough concrete
To hold up all the lost souls.

This town lies within us
And we will burn out.

Spike

She had ballet pumps
Studded with spikes
To make her invincible.

She scattered them like Cinderella;
Went tree climbing instead.

He found them at the roots.
Saw the sequinned swirl of her
Curving around the rough bark
Like flushed cloud.
Tangled in the leaves.

He took a spike from her shoe
Like he was entitled to it,
Like it’s his business
How she arms her feet.
She untangles her hair from the branches,
Drops down, sees him,
Exchanges pleasantries.

He will drive the spike into her heart.

Mind the Gap

First came the noise;
with it the scarlet panic
that our eardrums would implode
and we would dissolve into pools
of ourselves
before we knew what we were made of.

Then we learnt to keep up with the baseline of adulthood,
every step like a new trespass,
stealing from the puckered night,
glances, kisses, remembered only in the flashes of strobe lights,
tinted ice green.

Knolls that became mountains
before they knew how to arrange their rocky skirts.
Crumbling like loaves against the frail dawn.

Thick Skin

It is impenetrable.
Ruptured, tough on the balls of feet;
tarnished by freckles;
dyed to the curve of spaghetti straps
across the sheet of your back.
Cuts which open like scarlet storybooks.
Then there are your eyelids,
soft as birth.

Fingers worn down into battlegrounds,
You surrender.

Throw yourself at the world
with your thick skin,
they say,
oblivious.

It will graze you in all the wrong places.
They will ignore your tough feet
to sand down the swirls of each fingerprint.

Things to Say Instead of I Love You

I’ll take all the memories
and package them like boiled sweets,
twisted at each end so we can get at them
and I will save them for winter
and for everything else
because we need them more than we think we do.

And as much as we’ve right and reason to hope
we’re entitled to what we once had
just as much
if not more.

Wait

Coffee that has stewed
for half an hour or more.
I gulp it down;
I will wait.

As Mumford and Sons shrink themselves
small enough to run chord-fuelled races
down my left and right headphones,
Strings plucked to the rhythm of lust,
I will wait.

As his fingers wonder what they were made for
other than pressing morphine buttons, call buttons,
as her skin cries out to the muffled sun
for freckles, pigmentation, anything,
I will wait.

As God’s own finger dents the atmosphere:
causes a tsunami which barely splashes his knuckles;
As I feel the earth spin one more rotation
and the hands count down 24 hours more
I will wait.

And your endorphins shake hands with each other
for the last time
and make for the exit.
Your blood cells feel their final bullets judder and backfire.
And as the amber glow in each tiny cellular window
goes dark,
you evacuate in the silence
between the bleeps of all the lives put on hold.

It’s the coffee that wakes me-
lukewarm, hitting my own roaring bloodstream.
My thumbs trace the sensitive inside crease of your arm,
and as the last nerve flickers through the clinical air,
I know that you would have told me
to stop waiting.

The Fourth Wall in the Cubicle

They’re in the thick of it.
Ruthless suitcases of bare essentials
nipping at their ankles.
Cut-throat textiles
stiffening their caffeine bodies,
preparing them for the post-mortem.

Their heads tilt upwards only
to check the train times.
If they’ve missed it, they do not show it.
If it’s delayed for another four hours
because of an accident on the line,
they do not show it.

If the lines of their veins
are exploding like rigid sherbet sticks
because they are so, so scared,
they do not show it.

What did they trade in exchange
for anonymity in a three sided cubicle?

I wonder who is there to love them,
if they’ve ever been high,
why they last cried.
If they always wanted this,
if they ever wanted this,
when they noticed the first wrinkle.

I wonder if they ever want
to dissolve into the sunlight
and glisten across the ocean,

disrupted by nothing but clouds.