ashes and tea-leaves

maybe real disaster comes slow like the mould that grows
in the disuse of empty homes. The living haunt the dead,
tug at their toes for something to remember them by.
the silence of the skies seems like a warning to the blind,
reaching for their tattered umbrellas in the heat of July.

i kept all my secrets stirred in a teacup by my bed,
in its bitter residue and the messy corner of my head,
where all forgotten things must filter to when out of use
where street-signs lead back to when the world is confused
back at the bottom of my cup, the things we must lose.

turn these words into sphinxes that shrug the sand off their wings
to fill the tenebrous hourglass right up to the brim
let loose all the wrath they promised to us for our sins
let the world collapse like Samson’s pillars fell on him
let it bury me in the moist earth of love’s tender deceit
ground to dust and ashes and tea-leaves.

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lost at sea

Shoulders drop and the world capsizes
Under the weight of its own indifference
in the part of your heart
That still mourns for
Softer things lost at sea.

‘Did you leave a tip?’ asks a friend as they
Leave the coffee shop. ‘Almost. That was
Close.’

Old ladies still putting out flowerpots on
Windowsills, office-rats wearing out
The soles of their feet, our epidemic
Of bad fathers and rage still leaves us under
Streetlamps, pining for some more sober youth.

I laid down brick after brick to build myself
A sky but tore it down before it threatened
To rain down on me.
How does the pigeon aspire to fly with the hawk?
How do the unloved wear the skin they keep?

‘I wish I were dead.’
‘Did you wish to be alive?’

Prickle

We are as broken
As the wind against
The cliffs of Dover.
Bones like candlesticks
Snap like twigs,
Fumes of the strain
That holds them together.
Mama said don’t hunch
But I have always been
Too small for love
And I know that
Sisyphus so strong
Still bent his knee
When that rock came rolling
Down the hill.
All those years ago,
When I fell
Into a thistle bush,
Maybe one stuck in too deep,
Maybe festers,
Maybe grows,
A visceral prick
That gnaws at the heart-strings
Until it tears through the skin
And sticks there,
Skin-deep but deeper
Than it’s ever been.

Lily

They don’t care about death
They talk about it,
It fills their libraries,
Their stadiums
And stratospheres
But they don’t care about death
Even while death hangs
Between your fingers
Rolling back and forth.
They care about how death
Chews long enough
To let our toenails grow,
Like rotting peaches.
So they leave death
Like the madman
on the pavement
Beating his chest
But never taken seriously.

how to say something else

that I could forget like snow
engraves its residue in footprints.
what death is this that stands there
waiting for us to lunge at him—
like a snowman.
outcast, misspelled, misbelieved—
poor little miscreation.
if palms were only big enough to wipe these tears.
four ticks, two clocks, one tsunami
like all the snow in the world.
and still not enough for thirst
of something more than blood.
like snow white
killed by seven dwarves.
a thousand knotted faces, cluttered in hope,
bound by a prayer of ‘regeneration’,
kneeling before the god of helplessness.
love is a cry of desperation
love was never enough.

image credit: Rachel Harrison

after this

otherwise:
it could have been worse.

could all
our stories fit into
honeycomb cupboards
like we did
when we were children,
strung out like warm cheese,
still taste the same
but different
to the touch?

(no winters ever spared the trees,
our birds were forlorn pragmatists.
nostalgia is for those that stay,
felt for those that leave and promise
to come back)

unless:
there is no other way
to love ourselves
but in the absences
of those who never stay.

unless love can
beat us down and abandon
us to pulse and skin
can patch blue thorns,
not hide but become,
a cover of wistful darkness–
or whatever you find
in cupboards.

sixteen waking hours
and I have given up
what little
i couldn’t throw away.

a little space between your legs
i can weasel mine into
for something I could mistake
for warmth.
who knows what really happened
between you and me.
two halves of story
together still incomplete.
two halves:
incompletes of something else.

(i am all sides and no centres
the depth of the burgundy tide
that rolls over your feet
and then recedes into everything)

you left me canyons
in whose depths coruscate
the vital pebbles
of my own storming memento
as i slip over cascades
that end
in the ravenous nothing
of empty cupboards.

and if nothing else:
this is the worst it could ever get
as long as there is something
after this.

(featured image posted by @ozanguzelce on Instagram)

skin

Thought of a sky buried beneath the wound
Cracks like the sail of a battleship, against the candied scab
Of all that aches for more than shore,
But there is no deeper meaning to suffering.
Babies born in feathered wombs struck with the wings of frost
That follow down every seedy motel bedroom
Until they find a way inside and hunger fingers for the taste
Of salt and sea.
Lungs of fish-bones and orange rind, trees tear through the tide
Of breathless bodies, arise
In shells scattered across beaches blunt bruised by battered blue whales,
Reaching for air across currents and countries moving the world
To deathly dance with fury and replaced
Faith with drowning faith.
But home is in our fingernails, buried in unfinished sabbath dinner
Curved in the shadow that lines two hands sewn
In anguish and love.
The mind is coffin for those whose funerals are scarce,
Heaved beyond the clumsy synapses of stubborn memory.
There is no deeper meaning to suffering
But our wounds are only as deep as skin.

half-and-half

I have often feared of great disasters, and kept my keys
Where I can always reach them, if ever I needed to
Lock the door from within.
My brother once said odd beginnings had odd ends
But the sum of my life is always a study in
Half of what it could have been.
I have reached for metaphor after metaphor
But found that nothing ever truly
Equals something else.
I have reached for that note too high on the fifth string
And made do with one that fits just
As well in everything.
My father never came home before the night was dead,
And smoked by the window. I always thought
He was talking to me
But now I see I can’t remember his voice and
Today’s not the anniversary
Of dead nights.
My brother was a madman who never loved himself
But always found enough in his heart
To love me.
So many ages have sagged in my spotty arms
And the weight of helpless despondency
Has turned my eyes
Into the dark marbles of my musty youth,
Into pictures without time
Into hatred.
I feel the shadows of this lampshade taking over
And the scurrilous pounding of ancient nerves
And I can’t find my keys.
Oh well, there’s so much to tell but so little
To tell it with. I have often feared of great disasters but
The little ones got the best of me.

purple rosebud octopus

purple rosebud octopus
i thought you were ready to pounce
with a curve of your back
and shadow whiplash
but you came softly through,
slid your watery cups across
my bruising skin
and there infused
your gentle toxin that
turns sand into ice.

purple rosebud octopus
i wish i could cry
so i could weep away the slow sting
of your phantom limbs
and turn your dull cutlass
into the spear in my side
and then feel your limp
tendrils entangle my spine,
and to deceive myself
of all feeling.

purple rosebud octopus
where do your tentacles reach
when they wade into my mind?
do they reach around
until they find
that closet door
those years ago
where i hid away my sadness
and emerged
but only a feasting ground for octopi?

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