Tuesday, 15 December 2015

Belonging

Belonging.

They say the carrying of bones in your pockets helps. If there's no pockets, unthread your hems and curl them there instead. Or do both. If you're a vegetarian, don't think of the flesh, don't think of the bolt. It's over quickly, they say, anyway.

Once upon a time, hair grew to moonlight. Stretching upwards, fronds of feelings rooted to a skull, but dancing to the nightsky regardless. Pinpricks encouraged them, and meteors. And the way cattle used to sing when the moon was fat and rolling. Sound can do that too, to a belonging.

Gates know the secrets of severings sharper than knives. It's the swinging supposedly, and the hinges. Not the latch though. Being a clinging thing, a thing forever wanting the fitting, latches diminish themselves too easily. Probably why so many of them go rusty in the end.

And that's another thing. Endings. They're supposed to be loud. Loud like dragonflies glaring over fences. Loud like soot scarpering up chimneys. Loud like giants under hills. Loud the way angels can be sometimes when they're ill. If there's silence, you've become a comma, so dust your knees off, continue on.

Of course, everything they tell you, it's wrong. The way clouds in a tearduct are wrong. The way distance whitening a doorstep is wrong. The way dandelions in December can be too, if they're swimming with whales. Decembers are for beaching, for the boiling of things until they're cold.

They say the carrying of bones in your pocket helps. And dancing sometimes through the wearing of your vixen teeth, after dark. And howling through the trees. Unthread those hems of yours, dear desolate one. It's over quickly, they say, anyway. So discard your fraying piece by piece - watch each shard of stitching as it soars.

Then watch as your belonging is decided and unravelled among the ossein shrieks of the winds.

Thursday, 10 December 2015

Always Going Home

Always Going Home.

It's the geese departing at midnight, I think;
the way the stars have learned to tiptoe.
The way a sky can be a farmyard full of mud
because all the best things need to be clarty.

Like your laugh in the dark, and your knees.
And those beliefs in your pocket, tucked under
a fingernail of forever bitten from the breath
of a memory no-one’s thought to remember.

For clarts, they need the rains, need the storms. 

And a dust that's not for settling, like us.
Like those geese in the dark, necking northwards.
Gobbling wind like it's chocolate. Like it’s love.

All the soaring and tumbling, stripping attachments down to bone.

Because the distance doesn't matter. Just the always going home.

Friday, 4 December 2015

They Just Can't

They Just Can't.

Her voice rang out and startled the birds in their nests. She was calling for Peter again over the drystone dyke where the ghosts of forgotten soldiers kept her granddaddy occupied on starless nights. A pair of jackdaws squawked. The screech of their anger flew from the space they were preparing for their younguns. Before the sound could reach her ears and redden them, it faded away as the birds settled themselves inside their feather and twig pretense of not being scared.

She envied them. Her fear was as big as Farmer Jeck’s shaggy coo, the one that was twice the size of the barn when she looked at the beast with her eyes squinting. Her granddaddy said the eye squinting stuff was daft. A blurring of boundaries like that, a cake-mix of confusion, that’s what he said it would bake up. But Peter, he’d gone again, and the ghosts were about tonight.

She could feel them breathing in the damp that hugged the moss on the bottom of the dyke. Smell them too, on the wind. Like bagpipe music dipped in horseradish sauce, that was the smell. Dark it was, and Peter, he was still gone.

“Ain’t gonna do ye much good, lass, standing about in this cald. Ya’ll nither yer fingers and I ain’t putting an extra boil on the kettle to do ye a bottle. Get thee yem, bairn…”

She knew he was right, but she wasn’t supposed to talk to him, not since he’d went and died. Mammy said it wasn’t good to be talking with people that weren’t there any more, even if ye loved them a bit more than yer favourite Tamagotchi. But how do ye ignore yer granddaddy without getting a good belt around the lugs for being an ignorant whelp? She was still trying to work that out, work out how to stop seeing him, and how to stop talking to him, especially when she was lonely and scared.

“It’s Peter’s fault, Auld Pa. He’s ran off again. Said he wanted to see the world, but really he just wanted to gan and look for frogspawn in the tarn, the one where auld Shep fell in that time he thought he’d heard that lost Selkie calling his name again even though he weren’t at sea …”

She squinted her eyes, not because of the shaggy coo this time, but because she thought if she didn’t look at her granddaddy, maybe it wouldn’t matter so much if she spoke to him. Because she knew when she got yem and her Mammy asked her, she wouldn’t be able to fib. Fibs were like dandelions. When ye broke off their heads to try and make them small enough to fit in yer pockets, they left stains. And Mammy always checked her hands. And fibs, they stained her voice just like dandelions stained her hands. And Mammy always knew.

“That lad, he’ll be the death of every bugger that knows him, he will. I’ve a right mind to go and drag him back yem, and hang him over the end of the bath and whip his arse…”

Granddaddy didn’t know he was dead yet. And she didn’t have the heart to tell him. Or even the words. How do ye tell an old man that one night when he wanted that last bit of fruit cake, that when he got up out of his favourite chair, that his auld body just decided not to follow him? Just decided to sit there, mouth open, drooling allsorts of spit and uncaught hope over his stubbly chin, all the way down to the gap at the top of his shirt where his auld badger-headed carved pipe waited to never be smoked again?

It was bad enough watching Mammy screaming and screaming and pulling at her hair like it was full of wasps, pulling at her own cheeks like they were made from nettles instead of flesh. Then watching her fall, and it going on for ever and ever even though it was moments. And all she wanted to do herself was climb up on granddaddy’s knee and bury her head under his chin that was covered in drool, and already it was properly dead because his false teeth fell out and he never bent to pick them up. Aye, she couldn’t tell him, not without sitting on his knee first and he never sat down nowadays, not to even form a lap.

“Auld Pa, he’ll be back. Silly Peter always comes back, ye know that…”

But granddaddy had gone. His ghost never stayed around for long.

She thought maybe it was too difficult for new dead people to be ghosts, too tough. Like trying to reach the end of Tomb Raider with just a pair of pistols. Not impossible, but tough. And Peter, he was still gone. And although she’d just told a little fib to granddaddy about him always coming back, she hoped it didn’t matter enough for a belting.

Because some things, some things that ye think ye know and can understand, sometimes they try to get up for that last piece of cake, and they just can’t. They just can't.

Wednesday, 2 December 2015

Why God Made Moths

Why God Made Moths.

She used to say that God made moths so that polar bears could have snow to bathe their fiery tempers through on a solstice. But what God hadn't thought about was how much the bears would fall in love with the feeling of the cold flakes sliding through their anger, melting over their hurt. So then God made moths, to make sure there was always snow.

I never understood it, the connection. But I knew she had to be halfway right because her knitting needles had concocted woollen skirts for every single one of my special peg dolls. Only someone that knew stuff would be able to do that, be able to take pieces of wool that were more used to holding peapods to their canes so they couldn't escape to run off with the full moon and somehow force that wool to form into patterns and become skirts.

She'd once had a pet fox. It had tried to chew its own paw off when a trap next to an oak decided it was tired of lying around in the damp grass, and wanted to let the world know how annoyed it was about being out there getting wet. Only the fox heard its whining though, so only the fox understood. But whenever the bairns saw it limping past with its not-quite-a-paw-anymore, a lesson was learned. That's what she told me anyway, before I knew about the moths.

She said that was why moths flew the way they did, because they knew what they were for. She said it made them sad. She said God was never as hard on the butterflies because God was swayed like that too, by pretty things. I think she'd had a falling out with Them once and they'd never properly made up. She was stubborn like that, my Aunt. Stubborn and magic. Most witches are.

When they took her Gingerbread house and sold it on as a curiosity to the posh shop in the middle of the city, all the jackdaws flew off and blackened the sun. The news said it was just an almost eclipse, and not to watch because you'd go blind, but all of the village really knew. It was because of the birds and how they cried as they flew and flew and flew. Some of them died. Just fell out of the sky and became rainclouds because that's what some birds do sometimes when they lose something like my Aunt.

I still have one of her moths. It sits on my shoulder and sighs when the sun falls over the western horizon and the landscape pulls on its blanket to keep warm. I still don't know its name. I just know its not meant to become snow, not this one. I worry about the polar bears of course, I worry quite a bit. But the moths she gave to those she loved, they're not meant for a life of cold. They're not meant for falling and trampling and ice forts and glasses of coke. They're meant for sunsets and dancing and memories of witches that defy the temptation of fading.

Monday, 30 November 2015

Rabbit Skin

Rabbit Skin

It's raining again. I've been hoping for snow, but the weather's not listening the way you're not listening, and that's okay. I've put my rabbit skin on again. The dust in the seams is making me sneeze, but it's better than crying. The whiskers don't fit any more. I should give them away, but no-one wants anything of me, and that's okay.

I dreamed I was a doll last night, because of that song. You slipped me under your pillow and wrapped your thumb and little finger around the threads at the corner of my heart that can't stop fraying. Then you fell asleep, and I was trapped. Luckily dolls can't be smothered, just unravelled. Just bitten. Just discarded, left behind. But that's okay too.

The air of your adulthood, I'm allergic. But still you make me breathe it. Inflating my lungs with puffs of impatience. And all I can do is cough it out. Cough it out and watch it ghost away, a dissipating dogma being eaten by the ether. Until all it does is haunt. Yet one more thing inclined to a mimicking of you.

This rabbit skin, it sails in with its tiredness. I'm battening down for a giving up. Anchors of apathy - I think you'd appreciate that. I'm broken of course. Some wreck being eaten by sands and the constant persistence that turns the indifference of tides. Out. In. In. Out. A heartbeat of hopelessness inflated by the winds of going away.

Like you did. Like you do. Again and again in my head. Do all dead things do this, or just you? Haunt and haunt, on and on. In the dream of me as that doll, you pinned all your secrets on me as you slept. On my left eyebrow, the bones of a could've-been-happy puppet jangled its echoes. On my right knee, the skin of a might've-been-a-murdering inflated itself morbid. In the curve of my bottom lip, I got greedy, claimed you for myself. And then I woke up.

And you're still dead. Still gone. Still holding me captive in the lyrics of certain songs. Still unknitting me with all of your needles, all of your patterns. Still throwing me backwards, still turning me inside out. The boy with the ball and all the walls to bounce against. The Mr. Wolf that stole the time. The one that darns me statue-like as you prowl closer and closer to whisper, 'why aren't you running, lass. Why aren't you soaring?'

It's the rabbit skin of course, the rabbit skin stalls me. Holds me in place as the memory of you begins its howling. And I try to wait, without shivering, for this day to perform its devouring.

Wednesday, 25 November 2015

Goose Down

Goose Down.

She used to put eggs in the bottom of ponds to test their freshness. If they floated, the were stale, but definitely not witches. She'd cackle that as she plucked them out and began folding them into her dress hem. When the eggs remained sunk, she'd wade into the pond, tucking her skirt into her knickers as she went. She was always wet and caked in clarts.

In winter, she smelled of slithering things stopped by frost. Her hair could knot down the Northern Lights, although they were always in her eyes. She was a night-thing, full of vixen secrets and the endless press of eternity. She flowed in tides and forests, a border lass born from lochs and locks.

In the city, doors disgusted her. Alleyways catted her memories with scratched-to-stinging possibilities. The way of her walk unwalled abandoned churches and community centres too detached to care. The flare of streetlights stalled her, especially in the rain. Too much brightness for a lass bred beneath star points and the rumour of sky whales.

When they broke into the bed-sit, skeletal leaves fell from her pockets as they carried her down the stairs. She was lighter than fog in their fingers, lighter than hurt. But heavy as shadows caught in corners, heavy as love left to flounder

They buried her in a unmarked plot, unremembered her in the drizzling rain. But the eggs in the pond, and the Northern Lights, they sang as the snow goose soared off with the wind.

Monday, 23 November 2015

It's Sticky: Lampposts & a Shoal of Moths

It's Sticky: Lampposts & a Shoal of Moths.

I thought once that gluing my hair to lampposts
would give me the magic to master shadows.
My own lightning rods - metal haloes to lasso
the darkness before it could bolt.
Like logic says everything does.

The street doesn’t understand the moon.
Or the stars. On the inside of my left arm,
an orion’s belt of freckles itches to be remembered.
Itches to be included in some mythical retelling of me.

Maybe they'll say my skin is too much gone
with the foxes. Or too much gone with the mists.
How the claws of me leak inwards before ghosting
over the fenceposts of familiarity they try to stake
around this peculiarity - a girl in a camouflage of clouds.
A girl of the rains that drizzles in, capsizes lives.

We're not supposed to do this with words.
Allow a drenching of ourselves to burst out.
Spark from light-fittings, realign ourselves with stars.
We're supposed to sponge ourselves to shallows,
become a blurred around the edges shadow.
And we're supposed to deny every jellyfish,
abandon the language of whales and Whitby jet.
Beach ourselves in quietly, until we're nicely dead.

But the fox in the marrow of certain lasses’ bones,
it aches for the re-wilding, it aches for every furrow
slashed through the mud-charts of meadows.
It aches for selkie sanctuaries, not a slow drowning.
It aches for a chaining of dog daisies with alchemy -
A bathysphere existence of delicious and distance.
Of narwhals and wolves racing far away constellations.

A place where lampposts snag nothing more than rust
among shipwrecked streets - the occasional shoal of moths.

Thursday, 19 November 2015

Iris

Iris.

He said her eyes were beautiful, for a mistake. For optics conjured from a broken strand of something rooted in a time when all of the memories of them were still exploding, he said they were startling.

"Like a flower, in some border, standing out. Yes, like that."

He was a tulip dreamer. A student of strands mangled in the plans of some mythical creator. He appreciated flaws. Imagined them cultivated on a pedestal, blooming.

"To breed one bulb without disease, without the need of deadheading even though it's a mistake. How divine!"

His mind was a stem she wanted to break. Wanted to lean into, wanted to become a trellis to trap him. His fingers were bees she wanted to sting, wanted to bud for. Thoughts of him pollened her gaze.

"If I tethered you, took a cutting from the part of you that decided those eyes, if I was clever enough and had time, I could feed it into a flower, fuse the two of you together..."

The clouds frowned. The wind shuddered. The sun in the western sky slid itself cowering beyond the horizon's spine. And still she wanted to sniff him. Arrange him in some vase, press him forever among the pages of her favourite book.

"...a fabulous freak, that's what would become of me mixing your genetic patchwork with the tapestry of its stamen."

She blinked. He sighed.

"It's impossible of course...So I'll offer you this goodbye in place of a posy that would only die."

She watched him petal away. Didn't hear his final whisper as he turned the corner and left her thorned forever:

"Still though, such beautiful eyes. Forget-me-nots for sure."

Wednesday, 18 November 2015

First Brushstrokes on a Matryoshka Doll

First Brushstrokes on a Matryoshka Doll

Imagine Malyutin,
hunched like a wish opening
above that table, holding his doll.

His brush dips delicately,
becomes a blue beak seeking
wooden skin to petal.

He smiles, paints the surface
with a gliding softness a lover
envies - he gives it flowers.

I imagine you, and the yous
you have been and will become;
perfectly slotting together

. . .and I wish I could be an artist
with colours on my palette worthy
of affecting a miniature part of you too.

Tuesday, 17 November 2015

Cigars and Ashes

Cigars And Ashes

The bats woke up last week;
those pummelling pieces of dusk
that rub this scar of you back to blood.

Back to fugged up windows and smoke.
The skin of hips and lips - a delicious licking
of time sparked up and life inhaled.

There’s a box, pipe-caught and flat-capped;
insider laughter inflates glass shells,
sleeping bag memories that shatter

the bells of you and the clocks of me
to a million madnesses, a million sighs.
A million delusions waking to fly.

Like bats at dusk, the rake of settled embers.
Black meteorites streaking a mind 

as it tries not to remember.

Saturday, 14 November 2015

They Heard Me Singing, And They Told Me To Stop

'They Heard Me Singing, And They Told Me To Stop'

Find your voice, they say. Find your voice and when you do, don't ever let it go.

I check in yesterday's jeans pocket. It isn't there. Just lint and memories, a crumpled train ticket, and a claw from a dragon. And this shadow, that I can't define the edges of. So I push it back in, and try not to flinch when it bites me. No voice though, not in my pocket. Just a soundlessness. Not even an echo turning itself inside out. Just those yesterday things, in need of washing.

I go to the window, and open it. In waltzes the rain. Three threeing itself all over my skin. Like it's some kind of diva. Or a memory, maybe. I can't make out its words. Just this wetness, and this urgency, pushing at me. Then the wind falls in, drunk. Topples the nodding sunflower I keep on my mantelpiece. Ignores the candles though, and the spider trying to cower in the corner. Then it falls asleep on the settee. I tut and refasten the window's lock, push the wind's feet up, so it can properly sleep.

In the kitchen, the oranges are laughing. Giggling themselves silly next to the cauliflower and history of every cup of tea I forgot, in the pursuit of some aloofly distant plot. Above the place where an old man's ghost once jumped to a pretend-death because his doctor forbad him toast, a dead moth stalls itself in a crack. But there's still no voice here, still no quest that's near to closing. Just this wondering where to look next. Where a voice would hide if it had stropped off vexed with being ignored. All the bloody time.

I switch the lights off and listen. Something sighs from the bedroom. Quiet at first. Then it does it again, louder. My ears flatten. The fur on my imagination rises. I hackle my hope and it expands outwards. I follow the sighing to the door I know wasn't open before. In the inbetween space, there's something caught on the door handle. Something small, that flops around.

One spring, we found a sheep caught on barbed wire, in a field we weren't supposed to enter. Its throat was cut. A vivid grin of red bubbled patterns onto its tangled wool. I wanted to vomit. It wailed as we walked closer to it, and shook itself harder. The grin became a leer. A leftover stain from something belonging to the horrific side of life. And then there was a death of course. I still remember that sound. That slash, how it shuddered into its stop. Shuddered into us.

The door handle entices like that. Whatever's hanging there, it's leery even as it tempts me to trace myself closer, become something it can paint itself against. In the darkness, everything changes; colours cower, light loses itself, silence starts screaming. But there's still no voice here, nothing I can touch my ear to, nothing to anchor my heart to.

I sneak back into the livingroom. Wonder about calling you even though it's late and sleep's in love with you like I'm in love with you. I look at the jamjar that plays on the shelf next to all the dreaming books. I see pieces of you in there. A rusty key, a sliver of dead tree, a bottle with some girl inside - a girl that never tries to climb out. And everything's singing. The seaglass in the velvet bag, the octopus with too many legs, the two bears that know the secret names of you.

All these voices, everywhere. Singing and singing as they sever my heart. Letting all the bad things out. And letting this ache of you - this need of you - letting it all chorus up into this love, and roaring itself right back in.

Friday, 13 November 2015

Subtext

Subtext

“Oh. You look so well!”
(where are the exit wounds from all those bullets of betrayal?)

“Do I? Hmm. How are you?”
(I hate you! I hate you! I've spent a thousand pounds on pins just to voodoo you!)

“Busy, you know? So much to do.”
(When I left, I died. Fell into an abyss of aimlessness, and died.)

“Haha! Me too. Life, it's so good, no?”
(I grow nettles now, in my heart. Saves the effort of seeking them out in the dark.)

“Babies?”
(oh fuck me, please! Squealing little snivelling things, that never give you a moment's peace.)

“Hmm? Well, not really. You?”
(My breasts are full of stones, dragging me downwards, to remind me you’ve already had me drowned.)

“Oh. Eventually, you know? Being so busy and…”
(...still in love and loathing of you. How can I give my freedom to another someone that isn't you?)

“Yeah. Hmm. Sounds like a plan. You and your plans, eh? Yeah.”
(I'd have massacred mountain lions for you. I'd have wrestled every single one of your imaginary monsters for you. I'd have torn Gods from their pedestals just to give you a better view of the world you scoffed at having to belong to. I'd have lost myself, for you!)

“Well, you know, there always has to be a plan. Ha! Ha?”
(When you said you'd marry me, disbelieve in fairies for me - when you said you'd lose your wildness for me, temper down your flightiness for me - when you said you'd forfeit your wings, I never believed in their truths. So I tested you, tested you, tested you again. And every one of those you passed, I needed the barriers of exclusion to extend.)

“Indeed. It was nice. Seeing you, I mean.”
(As nice as thistles in my soup. As nice as needles in my soles. As nice as silence on my birthday. As nice as being haunted in our bed by the ghost of you, fled. As nice as Morrissey without Marr. As nice as fuck yous screamed out of an accelerating and leaving car.)

“Yeah, me too. A stranger, don't be one. Ok?”
(Please? Please? Oh for heaven's sake, please? Come back and claim me as your own! Someone said if you love a wild thing set it free. Only do that to wild things that aren‘t me! I miss you! I miss you! I miss you. I'm a mess. My life without you is just one long leak of light and laughter depressed. I've become a deflated balloon. Without the air of you to raise me, it's impossible to seek out the moon...)

“Take care of yourself. I'd hug you, but you know…”
(I'd begin, and forgot to unlatch myself. I'd never be able to let go.)

“Bye, love. You really do look well…”
(and as I watch you walk away, the street's emptiness leans in again. The sound of your footfalls as they collapse into echoes, that’s the mixtape on repeat in this compartment that’s you shaped, in my bespoke vision of hell.)

The Onion Man

The Onion Man.

It’s that magic of being under a table
while the grown-ups are going through
something grown-up and sad.

And you know, even as you sit under the table
watching legs from the knees down drift past,
that when you come out from under the table,
everything is going to change.

So you keep sitting under that table,
occasionally taking a peek from between
her Sunday tablecloth and the chewed chair legs,
up to the Onion Man sitting on her windowsill,
at the single tear that forever rolls without reaching
the end of his pottery face.

And he's the colour of beetroot, the Onion Man,
though he's supposed to be brown - but an aunt
believing earth hues sad - painted him with a bottle
of nail varnish, the brightest betalain red.

But you still don't come out, you just sit there.
And you close your eyes, and pull your knees up
to your chest, and try not to hear the voices
from the other room sing sadder and sadder.

And then it starts raining, and her window
where the Onion Man sits is leaking
because no-one remembered to shut it,
and you're too little to reach even if you could
crawl from under the table, but you can't.

And then the Onion Man really has tears,
and they're rolling down his nail varnished face,
while the dog barks to be in but no-one lets him
because they're too bewitched with being grown-ups and sad.

So you look down at your knees, and the scab on the left 
is like an octopus without legs, and the dimples on the right
are like eyes in a face, and because you're a kid, you kiss the face
and try not to think about the other stuff in that other room.

Just about being under the table
as the rain comes through the window
and washes the onion man happy because
finally he can illustrate the intricacies of tears.

Thursday, 12 November 2015

Stings Always Linger, Even In Books

Stings Always Linger, Even In Books

Inside, scribbled memories;

black biro tipped kissing
and an intimate leaning.

'for the last time you were happy -
              slapped by a jellyfish
                            in Oban
                              xx...'

 

Small cases and dots.
 

And a head full of comets
as I touched them and left.

Sunday, 8 November 2015

The letting go

The letting go

The leaves have begun a letting go.
Throwing their decisions into the air.
I watch as the wind encourages them,
'come fly away, my pretty dead things,
come fly away and be gone.'

Geese are gathering above the river;
an intricate stitch in a weeping sky
that snags the greyness of last goodbyes.
You were always such a pulling thing -
a kitestring, an old book. A whale.

Skies forever tumble thoughts like this:
The memory of returning swifts; frost leaning
in to caress exhaled breath; shrugging away
the birth of a kiss. A gate, its creak. Love lost.

Monday, 2 November 2015

Smoke

Smoke

There are moments when memory sparks me;
bits of broken flames catch on the sticks that life
whittles around the ordinariness of my myopia.

I see shades of you in the embers that rise
with the surprise of discovering a field full of crows
warring themselves mad above cut-back wheat.

You buy baccy the day before you die, and skins.
Such simple things to lick and roll into the mythology
that is going to become the hurtsparks of you.

And sometimes I can't remember the ways of your walk;
the ways of your hands, how they always dance as they
sing louder than your no longer world-hooked whisper.

And notice how I do this all in present tense?
Pretend to myself the dynamics of death don't matter
because you're still here, not floating fragments in the ether?

I miss your open window, those 5am mists rising
from the womb of your city as it sleeps, oblivious
of its occupants, as much the exiled child as this lass
that still sits by the spectre of your feet in the dark;

inhaling the memory of smoke rings rising.
Ghosting towards dissipation as reality leaks in.

Friday, 30 October 2015

The Return Of Invisible Things

The Return Of Invisible Things.

No-one is exactly sure when the angel disappeared. It may have been gone days or it may have been gone centuries. Some say it had never been there in the first place, but no-one is sure. Just one day as they stand by the bus-stop, the little girl that never speaks with her mouth, opens the hand that isn’t clasped in mammy’s and points to the empty space in the hedgerow where it had always stood among the remains of a tumbled drystone wall and ghosts of poppies.

Of course, stand isn’t quite right. It’s more of a stooping that the angel does. Or a leaning. Like the weight of itself - the weight of its truth - it pulls it earthwards, back to the sanctuary of clarts and the conviction of roots. Even its wings have consoled themselves among the twisting brambles and the necessity of nettles as years have grown themselves decadent above dead foxes and abandoned bones.

“Were it even there, that angel? Were it even an angel and not just a stolen statue from the auld manor house?” Someone whistles the words out. “The one that we burnt that St Swithin’s day, when the village turned itself inside out?”

A rook flies past, shrieking. The little girl that never speaks with her mouth looks away from the space that the angel had filled and lets her gaze go off with the bird. Over the rooftops and chimneys they soar - up into a sky filled with lazy clouds and not enough wind. Someone at the bus-stop drops a purse. Loose change scuttles away from the kerb and out into the road. A fifty pence piece gets stuck on a dandelion stretching skywards from an old drain. Someone yelps a bad word, then laughs. Another someone tuts. And the bus still decides not to arrive.

“The thing about departures, it’s their going.” Another someone mutters, “when the sand lets grains of itself rush out into the shallows when the sea clatters back in, no bugger’s sad, are they?”

The purse is picked up, and the change. All that remains escaped are those words about the coast. Someone shakes their head, shrugs themselves smaller. A blue tit snitters over the fence by the bus-stop, stopping and starting as it massacres greenflies from the shivering rose petals of a new gardener’s experiment with love. A car snarls past, gloating. And still the bus doesn’t come.

“Yer saying the angel’s like sand? It’s took itself waterwards? Were it hoping to drown the sorrows away? Like some tired auld writer plodging out and going away?” Whistle, whistle. “Yer daft if yer think there’s a connection between shifting things and lost faith. That angel that disappeared from there, it’s took itself off for some peace, I’m telling yer.”

Someone coughs and kicks their boot heel on a crack in the path. Three ants scritter out and run off to the bottom of the lamppost that holds the bus-stop in place so it can’t go gallivanting through the bright hours of nighttime when no-one’s looking. The little girl that never speaks with her mouth bends and lets one of the ants climb up to dance on her palm. An old woman with an apple in her bag watches, then smiles.

“Weren’t nowt there anyway, everyone knows that. Were just something the bairns made up to keep adults out of their heads. ‘Let’s pretend there’s an angel, got caught in the briars, that cries. When the bigguns ask what we keep gabbing to, we’ll point to the gap in the hedgerow and sigh.’ ” Whistling someone growls, “ ‘say it’s a secret only for bairns, only for certain folk. Say only those that are properly special notice it standing there.’ It were all just a daft, stupid joke!”

The words come out angry, like lions escaping a cage. Or unicorns mistaken for goat-babies and sold to the circus to diminish. The girl that never speaks with her mouth, she looks at the speaker and scowls. She lets go of mammy’s hand and she runs onto the road. Over the middle lines and the safety, out to the other side and the gap where nothing stands in the space that’s there. There’s just bits of sunbeams pouring down and flickering atop of the dandelions and buttercups, around the daisies and the midges. Flickering for the places where the confines of expectation break and the world’s allowed to be lovely, allowed to just to get on getting on.

“Come on lass, don’t be silly, the bus is on the way! Come back to this side of the road. Howay bairn, come back to mammy! Howay!”

The girl that never speaks with her mouth climbs onto the small pile of stones where the angel used to stand, bends down and shakes her fingers gently until the ant plops off her hand. Down it falls to the moss world, down it falls to the grass. Down it falls to the solitude and the glimmerings among the borderlands.

And the bus, it juggedy-jugs up the roadway, juggering and jaggering up, climbs itself from the downlands, until it sighs and stops. And the girl that never speaks with her mouth, she runs from the ant and the space that the angel has left. She runs back over the borders to her mother - pants her quiet and herself onto the bus.

“Two nil I reckon for our black and white lot. Two nil or I’ll eat my hat. A goal in the first minute easily. That goal or I’ll even knit the bloody hat!”

And the bus, it juggedy-juggers, behaves all bus-like as it trundles away. While the girl that never speaks with her mouth waves from behind the glass of a window at an invisible thing present again: a returned angel bending with its hand outstretched for an ant doing pirouettes on some moss. An angel so happy and loved for itself, that it smiles and it smiles and it smiles.

Thursday, 29 October 2015

This Thing, Called Oh To Be In Love

This Thing, Called Oh To Be In Love.

I just can't handle it.
Our thumping hearts hold the ravens in;
now I'm waiting for something to fall from the skies,
but every time it rains, you're here in my head.

I can't get over the way you love me like you do.
I should be hoping, but I can't stop thinking
this world has only one sweet moment set aside for us.
Diving off a rock, into another moment -

I think I'm a banana tree!
This is where the shadows come to play,
born - to love you.
If I could learn to twang like a rubberband.

I'm hearing secret harmonies
pulling up the rhododendrons,
so don't become some background noise;
the grey of a ghost.

Are you ready? Hey, are you ready for this?
I feel I want to be up on the roof
across the water, across the land.
Do you want to hear about the deal that I'm making?

Save me. Save me. Save me!
I've got a pin-up from a newspaper of Peter Pan.
I'll love you 'til I die,
Leave behind my Wuthering, Wuthering, Wuthering Heights.

Crazy, little thing. Called love.
Were you only passing through?


(A cento, made from Kate Bush and Queen lyrics)

Tuesday, 27 October 2015

Monday, 26 October 2015

The House puts on its Coldness.

The House puts on its Coldness.

The house has put on its coldness.
It swaddles in corners and between books -
an ice-cube cat purring shivers through cracks
where the stonework has given up fitting.

I listen as it re-knits its cardigan heart,
loosens the moonboot toggles of its attic brain,

allows frost thoughts to zip on their creaking coats.

It's too early for this, it's too bright today.
The spectre of summer still haunts the windowsills.
Outside, a sunflower tents the wind and tethers
its petals to prevent the unpegging of a gale.

But the house has put on its coldness -
that possessed prowl towards the glacial world
where the landscape will button its ghosts on again.

Sunday, 25 October 2015

The Witch Behind The Window

The Witch Behind The Window.

Once, upon a turning clock face, I roamed.  I planted seeds in the soft seconds, broomsticked through the moist minutes of clouds above their future boughs.  Over hours, the seeds became trees and rose, fruiting apples full of spacedust and stories.  On frosty middays, I’d carve words into their flesh as they flew and fell, then harvest them to the overlooked doorsteps of halfway houses that breadcrumbed in rows between reality and happily ever after.  I chimed the sorcery of smiles, watched the surprise as children inside ventured out and  bent, to discover a word:  ‘Magpie’, ‘Acorn’, ‘Gingerbread’, ‘Igloo’, ‘Catfish’.  ‘Hello’.

Then I’d go, become myth.  A shifting thing hugging hills, leaping twilights, swaddling map marks, kissing starlight.  So the apples would rot, slip their skins and words, allowing each story the space to tick out.

“White as snow, they said, when the found her dead after the truck dumped her…”

“Met through a dating site, apparently extremely nice.  Hasn’t spoken to her folks in forever because of that cape of bruises she wears.  Mr. Wolf he’s called, according to some old granny.  Probably take that with a pinch of salt…”

“Two of them, just bairns, lured with ever afters and love stuff they didn’t understand.  Straight off the bridge they say, holding hands.  They were always so sweet…”

And so I retreat.  Behind unwound pocket watches, behind windows.  A witch-thing from a past that misfits its telling, hag-boned and horrified as the stories toll through the cries of midnighted children.  Little more than a gloaming ghost, caught behind the confines of fairytale expectation and cold, grubby glass.




(image by Rui Palha)

Saturday, 24 October 2015

Thoughts from...(xviii)

Thoughts from...(xviii)

Open windows leak the last of summer's recklessness.
Wind whomps in with tales of leaves and airborne pirates.
Anchors have become kites snagged on hurricane
remnants and archaic rich tea crumbs.
In a galeglobe, tiny vixens pin a harvest moon
with laughter ladders while mounds of ploughed thoughts
turn the fields of forever into burning equinoxes.

My head is heavy with chapelfeet and undeciding.
A dormouse has stolen hope's handles so everyone is stuck.
The spider of sensuality cuts her legs with not belonging
and falling rowan leaves.
Her ball of beautiful is fading, becoming a nothing below
the memory of July and jubilation. Comets have caught
themselves shattered between trunks of oaks and soaring myths.
All around, the garden groans.

Reality is rigged; a too heavy die with not enough spots.
When it's thrown, dead dreams get up to dance carrying
wasted babies addicted to rust.
Scarlet cannot be fed, her neverhere ghost gulps
the want of walls in another house where Sadman Urt
smokes ghoulbines rolled by fingers of forgotten foxgloves.
All the rooftops growl, pattering tiles obsessed with crows.

Somewhere, a decision bleeds.
Powdered choice blows like ground-up paracetamol.
Pieces of lost poet decipher the moon with lozenges
and unoriginal, non-committal imagery.
Its shattered soul halos illogical ideas with librarian
liberties and unwanted groupies.
A crack in the cushion of creation eclipses itself with albion
accents and settling crumbs of iridescent apathy.
And no-one can stop the flow.

As I turn towards tumbling,
bonfire smoke animates a chimney history
unrehearsed in madlish and cold bones.
The sky swallows embers and all that’s left
are ash aspirations and arrows shaped like albatrosses
and cloud-choked whales.
So I take my silver melancholy and roll home.






(artwork by Katie, at Assorted Unrelated Dreams)

Friday, 23 October 2015

The Ghosts Of You

The Ghosts Of You

There are places where the ghosts of you visit;
the bottom of a matchstick box glued to a dusty moth.
A lining of silver that blinded a still to be painted whale.
That place in the corner where our indecisions cowered.
The hem of those torn-to-laughter patched together jeans
where the seams of us unravelled thoughts of forever.

Even lampposts know your ghost;
the steady way you'd fray and delay the parting
with a song from your pocket to the breadcrumbs of us.
Fence posts had no chance, being stuck in the muds
of the everythings you would and shouldn't do so you did.
A king wearing his crown of never being pinned down.

Now the streets are haunted by your absence.
The chameleon of the city replaying these memories;
a cigarette tip of a comet streaking Northumberland Street.
An unexpected accent turning a bus-trip to misery.
The spectres of windmills turning shadows at dusk -
blading the ache of distance through a landscape of loss.

Leaf Declarations To The Wind

Leaf Declarations To The Wind

Outside, the night is grinning. A purple-spotted horizon leaps for metal masts and kippered dreams. Behind the ghost of a drizzling shed, two moonbeams yawn and stretch. Next door's dead are dancing again; bright bluebells on a knitting pattern, six puppies yowling cartwheels, the way the gate just knows.

Somewhere, a century sleeps. Skittered histories count the monstrosities, backwards now - like hope. A billion dandelion seeds stalk the fields. And the foxes do not come. In a moment on a clockface, this undeciding could be home. Could be contentment in an instant, but the heart's heathen, so it roams.

Memory's turned violin; a plucked place of diminished choices where bones become a pendulum mis-beating wrong decisions, 'bar dam, bore dom'. And all the map points are wrong, like licking sunbeams in the rain in the hope a calmness will flame after the burned branches are gone.

And outside, the night's still grinning while the gate in your soul just knows. Just knows and goes on moaning, the way his name does when you're alone. And no other melody matters or dances past the persistence of loosening leaves; all this knitting of frost into love songs for the ears of Autumn - for the wind.

Tuesday, 20 October 2015

A Vixen Thing In Need Of Wings

A vixen thing in need of wings.

There was a time when I wanted to collect the bones of things. The insides of birds, the spokes of rusted wheels, the pieces of falling clocks as they burst on chipped tiles on a hand-made table made special for second-hand jigsaws that never worked.

It wasn't for the working of things, but the hidden pieces. How things were made up of themselves even though they were separate. Like mushrooms between the spaces where trunks had decided not to grow.

I dreamed about spores, about roots. About systems of language hidden in mirrors, and below the cracks in attic joists. I wanted to become feathered. A thing made of sinew and bird’s-eye views. I imagined drilling my bones, to let the air in so wind could rush through the places where the spaces had grown.

All the clouds were mad-things from God's cellar, full of the scent of angels and every little decision still to be taken. Tumbling thought-confetti still waiting to find a home.

Mostly I wanted to roam. I envied the bones of saints in gilded caskets, moving from island to altar to island. I closed my eyes looking for witches in the places were fish were furious with the lure of mythical DNA. The days divided like blown eyelashes with wishes attached like leeches.

But always it was the air, the adventure of balloons let go of too soon. The line of a meteor in the dark above ruined castles and skulking badgers. I sometimes thought I had a bat-heart stuck inside a fox soul. A vixen thing in need of wings and a wind to take me away.

Monday, 19 October 2015

Distorted Starlight

Distorted Starlight

I remember seeing the reflection
of your smile caught in a cup
of strawberry cider gone flat.

It had roses on it. Three chips
mwah-mottled its lip from the girl
with a camera trying to fly on
blackcurrant and vodka.

We laughed about wings on arses;
the madness of malteser-mouthed
angels attached to dislocated shadows
with not enough thread.

Now you’re dead, memories distort;
a bit like reflections in cider gone flat.

Cups with chips are thrown in the bin,
oblivious of comets chasing rainbows
above frost-fingered leaves reflecting sun.

Friday, 16 October 2015

Season's End

Season's End

Silence strains inside a brain;
a diuretic terror leaking every hour.
Outside, seas of leaves batter themselves
beautiful inside tides of unloosened September.
Everything sails in a blizzard of blueness.

A forgotten snail saunters on,
dragging its shelled history wallwards.
What lies behind are glistening trails and severed stems;
another endless summer suiciding inside oven aspiration.

Chimneys call to chimneys in crowlish;
wheels worry kerbs and undrown worms.
A van passes by wreathed in Hamelin history.
But there are no pipers here, just roads gone mad;
cul-de-sac rats mapscratching their cartography
over dust muffled paths of prosaic melancholy.

Next door's fence has turned sylvan.
Foxes and stoats abandon their turned-to-stone
existence inside a peppering of autumnal luminance.
Butterflies stain the spaces between substance and ethereal;
delicate winged-things oblivious of beginnings
and the unbending quality propped around death.

Clouds collect themselves intentional;
yesterday's corn rattles golden stalks,
a lascivious lament to the dying days
of a swift-stippled, youthful era.

On the horizon though, the Pennines keep singing.
Old, rooted royalty crowning the north's boundary.
Constant as sunsets and the ache inside bones;
older than the Moirae, and still continuing on.

Thursday, 15 October 2015

The Rumour Of Whales

The Rumour Of Whales.

A pod is spotted heading down from the Highlands.
Like the thought of another accent is luring them.
As they cross the border, the language slips -
loosening around vowels as consonants tighten.
They swallow meaning that sticks in their throats.
Dives down through their Atlantic hearts, then hurtles
out to a narrow knot of northness trying to fray.

They say a whale remembers the way bone remembers.
A fractured forgetfulness that breaks among tides
and a pelagic ache of shorelines and horizons
beckoning and breaching away, again and again.
History is horrific like that, a hvalsalen of moments
strung together on hunts and hooks until they're extinct;
a curio of decisions flensed to dust and skeletal regret.

Tuesday, 13 October 2015

Late Bloom

Late Bloom.

It comes as the frost yawns.
Five yellow petals opening to a grey sky
that wants to strip dreams down to bones.

Funny how a flower buds words
towards the rendering of tallow.
It's the boiling of thoughts, the staying
solid at room temperature, the light.

How sometimes a feeling takes root
in the pit of a stag's stomach as it ruts.
And the clouds collapse into evening mist
and swallow the beast as it antlers an oak.

And no-one wants to remember the monster
that haunts November. That bitter time of year
for deer and sunflowers that arrive too late
on spindly stalks expecting to smile for July.

A deadheading can be described as murder.
Five yellow petals become drippings from fingers
under a grinding grey sky, stripping down to bones.

Thursday, 8 October 2015

On Being An Angel

On Being An Angel
(i.m Francesca Woodman)

She wears her life around her neck;
a hand-me-down camera, the lure of a noose.
In shadows she knots moments,
records pleasure in ten thousand painful
poses - her monuments to hurt.

She co-exists in blurred time
and black and white.
Loops herself ethereal via yearning
and long exposure.
She screams a silence that soars
from a pair of wings that don't fit her.

The mythology develops in darkness,
is exposed onto paper.
Her boundaries ghost between solidity
and the realms of eternity.
Until only the leaving can free her.

Out from the loft window she steps.
The memory of a moment shines as she leaps;
‘Then at one point I did not need to translate
the notes, they went directly to my hands’.

Hands that become wings in a tumbling -
hands that blur with a falling woman as she soars.


(photo, Francesca Woodman, 'From angel series - Rome, 1977, Sept')

Sunday, 6 September 2015

Spoon Fingers & Moon

Spoon Fingers & Moon

There were flies in her hair.  Not around her hair, but in them, in the middle of the strands, hundreds of baby flies.  They went there to hide, from the spiders.  She didn't do well with eight-legged things, so the flies took their babies there, so she could look out for them without even trying too much.

Her fingers were spoons, too.  For stirring cakes while she slept.  She slept a lot.  And the cakes were glad of that, especially the butterfly ones.  In the wonky woods, the butterfly cakes did well, although it was disconcerting to walk there, in the summer.  Avoiding midges is hard enough, so avoiding cakes with wings and frosting licks is quite something else.

Those that risked the woods though, they didn't mind so much.  The sight of the lady with the spoon fingers was worth the discomfort.  And at the end, there was always victoria sponges waiting for their tongues.

That's one of the funny things about cakes, they like to be eaten.  Flies, they don't, particularly.  Although it does happen occasionally, even to butterfly ones.

The woman was old.  She'd been born with the Moon.  They tolerated each other because of the things they'd seen over millennia, together.

'Do you remember when the first fish crawled from the sea and fell in love with that grain of sand?'

That's what the Moon asked one full September night, as they sat together at the top of the rowan tree. Spoon Fingers did remember.  She remembered everything, even when she didn't want to.

'And because the fish couldn't breathe next to that grain of sand, it grew itself wings but refused to be an angel.  And over time, as it lay next to that grain of sand, loving it while slowly dying, something felt sorry for it, and transformed the wings into arms, do you remember?'

The Moon was massive that night, and melancholic.  So much that it turned men into wolves and bats into biting myths in some forgotten place somewhere in the quiet heart of a country in love with snow and castles. Spoon Fingers tried to block out the sound of the howling and the scorch of the screaming coming from that old country to the east of the Dawn.  But her ears weren't shaped well for fingertips made from the heads of stirring utensils.  So she listened, as the Moon drawled on.

'Then somehow, when the fish was land-caught, the world got shook and the tides shifted.  And that grain of sand ended up in the ocean, beneath the waves that turned and turned and took it out to the deeps where not even mermaids remember the assurance of song?'

Spoon Fingers sighed.  She knew how this story ended, just like so many others that the Moon spoke of when it was full and feeling sad.

'Why do you tell these tales, again and again, when you're fat and low on the western horizon, waiting for morning to make your melancholy sleep until the next month?  Why not make a new one up, a one that weaves as it should, with smiles and sun and tomorrows full of laughter?'

Moon snorted, rolled a little from the branch it was leaning against, affronted by the old woman's words.

'You do it then.  Tell a story that ends happily.  With no separation, or things being shaken.'

Spoon Fingers closed her eyes.  The nearby leaves of the rowan unfurled.  Burst out a bunch of berries of such a vivid redness all the rubies in the between world sighed.  A blackbird flew onto the branch, sat on the old woman's crossed legs and used its beak to unpick a bit of wool from the caterpillar silk the old woman spun all the outside of herself from.  It flew with the wool towards the Moon, hooked the red berries to the craters on its ancient face.  Then the old lady's fingers began stirring as she slept.  Round and round they went, faster and faster until the world rotated beyond the blink of eyes and trajectory of thoughts.  Then her old lips opened and out it fell, a damp oyster shell.  She woke up.

'Open it, Moon, open it.  Then remember the grain of sand.  Remember the arms of a fish giving up on being an angel, so love could grow.  Do it, old friend, and tell me what you see.  In your sky limbs, that are unfamiliar with feather and arms, open this oyster, and tell me what you see.'

But the Moon was gone.  Fallen behind the last roll of night on the horizon, a ball in search of a forgotten something never quite wanting to be caught.  And Spoon Fingers crawled down from the rowan tree, her fingers clicking stories as she descended, for the waking morning as it yawned golden from all the roots and wet places that waited among the quiet places of her secret quiet world.

Tuesday, 17 February 2015

The Landscape Of A Head

I fell in love with the colours in his head. His mind was a walk among a forest of kaleidoscopes. Every shade and pattern altered into wonderful, intricate landscapes with each thought he opened up and shared. It was like standing below stained glass as the sun rose, being bathed in arcs of emotional rainbows.

He was North weather; billowing clouds, sunbursts, frosty mornings, heavy downpours. I loved the leak of his walk, the crests of the sea in his throat as he laughed at the stories I tried to snag him with - the big salmon surety of himself, comfortable in his own skin.

Then the greys slinked in. Beautiful beasts hanging low along the furrowed anguish of his brow. He became fields caught unsteady beneath the pressure of an existence lived racing the edges of a plough. His horizon was foxes skittering into cities, the meat of his history grown haggard and slim.

And I lost the brilliance of him, the suddenness of his laughter in the dark along the kite-string destiny that held us together and apart. The corners of his rooms chameleoned him into a dusty thing, cobwebbed and weary - an unravelling string being.

His colours faded, became shadows and ghosts. The landscape of his life eclipsed by the thought of endings and tombs. He became an exclamation mark lying flat along the borders of his hope he’d given up trying to breach.

He became chalk on a wall, disappearing wetly under the weight of his rainstorm soul.