For Ben

The ungloved parts of my hands are cold.
The adventure playground clings to Tarmac;
it is dark. We can’t see the tips of our toes as we swing.
You have too many fingers for the monkey bars.

Fifteen minutes ago.
Past the middle-class postage-stamp estate which holds most of us.
Our friends chase the coloured blooms back
to the chemicals that made them.
You say it’s poetic.
I like the way the ash lingers;
the way the grass flames like a city under siege.

A child as high as our empty hands
stands, cupping each explosion with the o of his mouth.
To him, they are still just fireworks.

Who’s idea was the park?
We, old enough to know that skin
sticks to slide; perhaps we have exams tomorrow.
The LED screams of your phone screen find no listeners in this blackness.
Gaudy primary colours, chipped,
revealing rusty bars.

The horizon is a mauve bruise
behind the red metal fence.

We would annotate those fireworks.
Stack them into equations;
solve them so that they explode
with no remainders.

A gold plume ruptures the night.
Forks into paths like a bird’s foot.
It is your metaphor for how we will leave,
separate, carving lives through the clouds.

It’s the saddest thing I’ve ever heard.
But look, you say,
how they sparkle when they leave.


I am not a habit killer

Old habits die hard
They say
Which is why there are tremors in my fingernails
Caused by earthquakes in my chest
Caused by you.
Which is why I am still at the first
Of the story because I want to savour the weight of the words
Which is why it is cold and September,
Yet ukuleles and trampolines and dusty air
Are keeping me afloat.
Old habits die hard,
They say,
But you are new and fresh and familiar
And I like you.
In spite of myself, I do.

The Type of World That This Is

This is the type of world
where everything passes,
but not always with grace.
Where explanations can be purchased,
or shot verbally in the heat of the moment,
or stamped across the sky
like a storm.
Where people move along rigidly
intent on matching footsteps
when all they want to do
is move in overlapping circles,
so that goodbye would only be
for 360 degrees.

This is the type of world
with horizons welded to the sky;
where all you can ever see
is the edge of a dome.

Library Card

Your name.
A starting point.
A return-by date
that passed as emptily as all the others.
Overdue penalties will not apply,
I assure you.

You left me with the mess,
and I organised tears into parallel lines;
scheduled drunken phone calls
after appointments with faces I chose not to remember.

All I have left
is this cold card,
a joke missing her punch line,
the legislation.

I packed up every memory.
Now, stood in the empty room of us –
pale walls with paler shadows –
I’ve forgotten which box will tell me
how to tell you to come back.

Cafe in the Crypt

Here he lies,
below table 52,
and every time a stiletto jars
into the faded lettering of his name
he winces.

Tongues from different wavelengths
fight to be heard.
He’s trying to sleep,
thank you very much,
he’s six feet under,
doesn’t care much for lunchtime.

He gets rattled to the core by the Bakerloo line.

Death settles below their feet,
above their heads.

Every Saturday at 7:40,
ten minutes into the orchestral recital,
a foot comes down
taps out the beat of the symphony,

and the cores of his grey bones run warm.


Concrete carbon copies
stamped with steel balconies.

Children’s bikes:
journeys stunted by dustbin fires
and threats that come out with the stars.

You have learnt to crawl and to scavenge and to hide,
you wear your fear like notches on a belt
until it fades into weariness.

There is someone who has to light the candles on tabletops.

The city is alive,
but the people sacrifice their heartbeats
to sustain hers.

There goes Samuel Peyps:
cannot afford a train fare,
electric went off yesterday,
the gates close at twelve.

Fool’s Gold

You find it nestled in a basket in the corner of a gift shop, displayed with pride, aligned with the glass necklaces with insects embedded inside and the ‘lucky Cornish piksies’. The pieces clamour and jostle at your touch, roughly shifting. The gold chipped teeth of the earth.

fool’s gold. £1.00

Take your embossed circle and swap it for a wild piece of crag. Ladies and gentleman, in handing over your money in exchange for this quirky marvel you have been cheated. Take a hammer to your gold coin instead; violently reshape it until royalty loses her stance and the numerals of the date bleed into the letters.

fool’s gold.

If you must, question yourself. Will it fit inside a coin operated shopping trolley? Can you exchange it for something edible, scented, sensual? If you flip it in the air will it respond lithely, can you feel it run like a tongue down the inside of your sleeve, a magic trick?


It sits, cumbersome, in your hand until you see fit to find some other bearer for it. It is shiny from every crevice because it has never been smoothed by the inside of someone’s purse. It is useless.

So do not exchange your gold for ‘gold’. Keep your coins nestled in your pocket with the knowledge that you can stack them into a lean tower when you get home. Sit next to your love and fight to keep the same stale phrases buoyant. Flatten the carpet which peels at the edges with your foot for the thousandth time. And as you sit, stagnant, stitched into a cubicle that projects grey from every side, earning piles and piles of pound coins, be glad that the fool’s gold never followed you. Think of it, glittering and desperate, condemned forever to a basket in some seaside gift shop.

Pity it, to avoid pitying yourself.

Melodies Stolen From the Wind

Chords rise like smoke,
balance on top of each other,
unstable skeletons
from an unstable skeleton.

An impromptu serenade,
out of place on a street where all must be paid for.

As the rain slips between each note,
settling like damp,
weary nerve endings
continue to pluck strings.

There is a guitar case with a gaping mouth,
grinning still.

They do not smile back.

The Passenger

Your wide eyes
are my favourite place. 

Bursts of Technicolor,
flowers that bloom and connect like dot-to-dots
when you laugh.

Fingers that flow rather than tangle,
hands that settle rather than hold.

And although humans are like clocks;
scattering seconds across the world like raindrops,
drowning each other out with ticks and chimes,
I still like the way your gears turn best.

I am trying to pretend that you aren’t special.
That I don’t see the parts of us
which are intrinsically the same.

But like when a new word is born into my vocabulary,
you have settled.

Sometimes, I have to remind myself
that your wide eyes were shattered into mosaics
by someone else.

That One Day

He left
in the middle of a day so hot it seemed static.

If people marked their purposes
across the ground as they moved forward,
you would have clearly seen where his ended:

left hand side of the M1
veered off course
bank steeper than he thought.

two closed motorway lanes bake beneath the relentless sun,
The funeral procession of traffic keeps its distance.

Packages dribble like sweat
from the roof of the overturned lorry.
The driver’s cab,
vacated in a sickening split second,
glistens beneath the sun that bid him farewell.