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Ash

The joss stick burned

in the painted jar,

thrust in a half-stick of celery,

entwining mysteriously

like river fog.

Leaving

incense ash

on the newspaper,

prosaic, dun-coloured,

no longer speaking in tongues. 

Numb

You were a cranky baby

crotchety and vocal,

we mollified you.

When you grew

you went mute,

we could not prize

a word from your

perfect lips,

and your eyes 

would smoulder 

like embers.

So we looked back

from the sullen boy

to see if we’d done wrong.

While you bit your nails,

crunched your toast aggressively,

staying stubbornly dumb,

resenting our wan smiles,

our awkward banter. 

Autumn Toys 

Rose petals on puddles

and squelchy leaf mulch

and sour windfall apples;

these are for me to tinker with,

to work into fecundity. They are

my autumn toys, having

the poetry of wet riverbanks,

and plump blackberries,

sweet as temptation.

Elephants 

She wore an elephant amulet

at her throat,

the cord was abrasive,

and she was forgetful.

But she held the ivory

in her long clever brown fingers

and dreamt big things.

Until he died. When she 

tossed the broken charm

in a wheelie bin

and never again believed,

in absurd, good luck.

Seeing Things

Once I woke

elated, shivery,

I thought I had

answers. 

I dream-walked the corridor

to the nurses’ station,

high-fiving an inmate,

dizzy with joy.

Nurse asked if I knew 

my name. I paused,

and said, with a slur,

it was immaterial.

Because I’d seen a design,

I’d envisioned the weft of things.

But my certainty grew shaky

as nurse made notes,

and the jouissance 

was gone; it fled,

scattering like starlings

and would not revisit me.  

You

Your bed is rumpled

your clothes strewn everywhere. 

There’s the smell of you

like a randy fox.

But most of all

I like the coffee cup rings 

that stain your desk.

And your certificates

tacked clumsily

in a corner

like you never care.

And the greasy comb

you’ve had for years 

swimming in a pool of sunlight.

And the unopened books 

like you can’t read.

This is all you.

Collection 

I wipe with my fingertips

the line of dust 

coating my bookshelves.

There are silverfish

between the pages 

of the few volumes

I love, yellowing 

their stories, which 

have succumbed to time 

and broken spines. Like

so much of the neglected treasure 

that made me tall.