DANCING WITH ERESHKIGAL (1980-1990)
'There is no such thing as a work free transformation. We know that we will have to burn to the ground in one way or another and then sit right in the ashes of who we once thought we were and go from there' Clarissa Pinkola Estes (1992)
This collection of poetry is from the ashes.
'What is the source of our first suffering? It lies in the fact that we hesitated to speak. It was born in the moment when we accumulated silent things within us' (Gaston Backleard)
DANCING WITH ERESHKIGAL
Dance with me Dark Sister,
in your cloak of rotting flesh.
Let us polka down the avenue
And as we danced you turned to me
with a twisted hideous grin,
and much too late
you warned me,
"You should never have let me in."
The dance went on
until every nerve in me was raw.
And when I pleaded "Let this stop"
you answered, "No, there's more".
We waltzed and then we tangoed
And you forced me into step.
And when I said I'd had enough
You answered, "No, not yet".
The fiddler took up his part
and played with strings ripped from my heart,
grated his bow of blame and shame
until I begged you, "Stop this pain".
You laughed and span me round some more
whilst the dead and haunted filled the floor.
And as they rang the changes
on a beat of two
you said, "You hear those bells,
they toll for you”
I am the poet,
I sculpt the clay.
I am destruction, the smell of decay.
I am the mother,
I am the wife.
I am the blade with which you severed that life.
I am the woman,
I am the dream.
I am the whore who makes you unclean.
I am the hopeful,
I am at ease.
I am your doubt, I infect with disease.
I am the spear,
I am the lance,
I am the rhythm and I am the dance.
I am the power,
I am the thought.
I am the 'should have beens'
I am the 'oughts'.
I am the adult,
I am the wise,
I am the one who shows you the lies.
I am the serpent who offers the prize
I am the mirror that reflects your disguise.
I am the voice, the strength of the thread.
I am the whisper, I am the dread.
I am the hatred that sleeps in your bed.
I am the vixen, I am the scream,
I am the suckling who will never be weaned.
I am the fury, I am the witch,
I am the shadow and I am the bitch.
I am the living, and I am the dead,
And I am the chopper who will chop off your head.
ON BEING DEPRESSING
There are those who write,
and those who don't.
Why won't you understand that the hand that crafts
despair allows your disapproval,
your superior wisdom,
your tedium with the angst and
self flagellating artists
who flaunt their cares.
I lift from you the burden
of minute examination,
I allow you to sit in mocking gentleness
and blame me for depressing you.
Your peace of mind is
undisturbed by the cacophonous playground.
The sounds you hear are voices merging into joyous fun.
But should you take those children,
one by one,
dissect out the bruised look
and the blanked out stare,
the worn care of an old man with scabby knees
and tease from the clashing orchestra of noise
a different reality.
Then you will hear the plaintive, desperate note,
the one that sings to me.
But you can walk right by,
smile and rest assured that the
children are sounding well.
Leave it to the artist
to sculpt the gates of hell.
If I depress you with my words,
then take my book,
replace it on the shelf
and fill your life with happy things.
because if you felt the world the way I do,
Then you would carry this burden,
and you'd write too.
Block of clay.
A day that starts and ends
without a friendly smile
or some inconsequential chat
to while away a few hours.
The empty space,
the creative void,
the moment when all doing is suspended,
nothing in and
And in my head,
just the question.
Am I alive or dead?
Words, made up of scattered shapes,
scraps of curves,
lines and dots.
Not anything alone,
save for the I,
The X which sends the kiss.
Miss out just a few
and you will make no sense of what I write,
might even be that it will make no sense to me.
Words that cannot stand alone,
except the 'Help',
but even that would be undone if I did not write
The 'Come' but where?
The 'Love' but whom?
The fond 'Farewell' I write in blood upon
the bathroom wall, as I slip into another room.
So, there would be some understanding after all.
With just one word,
then you would seem,
the pain I couldn't stand in me.
Words, elaborate bridges
beneath which my psyche flows.
The ebb and flow of what I know rubs away
at the stones which goes to build the edifice of who I am.
Rocks into sand, sand into dust that is thrown into the wind.
If I compose the things I know,
to try and help you see,
It will be too late by the time you do
for there will be no more of me.
Words, my legacy.
Like a child's castle built with so much care,
will not be there upon the turning of the tide.
The sun will sink
and in the blink of an eye
I will pass you by.
You will think it is the breeze that brushes softly through your hair.
There will be nothing there to see.
But in the wordless
silence you will hear,
you may realise it is me.
Blue butterflies dance in front of my eyes.
Harbingers fluttering an early warning as
my mind collapses inwards and
The black ice of despair,
the inexorable slide out of control
into the ditch of my being.
I am no longer here.
onto the page and leave
devoid of sound.
Sand dry tears I cannot cry.
Won't someone hold my hand?
Women flutter at the school gate,
early with their fears of being late.
New identities of being somebody's mother
reduce their individuality
into ownership, subjugate
their maturity into a regressed state
as they wait.
The shy nods,
the cliques who conform with the norm
and discuss the weather with studied concern.
They earn their place by the cars they drive,
the clothes in which they pose,
and in the splinters of time they call their own
they fantasise about their Laura Ashley homes,
and the plumber's mate, whose broad brown back tingles
in the crack where hope has dried.
And then there is the wolf who stands alone,
the she devil whom, if they invited home
would steal their peace,
stir up their thoughts
with all the oughts of what they could have done,
what may have come.
so they turn away,
don't ask her kids to play
and tighten into knots of solid motherhood,
drop their voices when she walks by.
Refuse to catch her eye.
Huddled together, all good friends
until one smiles and breaks away.
The others watch her go and
comment on how fat she looks today.
Closer still, they knit together,
determined not to be the next to go.
Suddenly, streams of children
clutching the paraphernalia of their day
hurtle through the door.
The mothers move away with
one to play,
another off to Brownies
or piano club.
The pop themselves back into their cars
and wave goodbye.
already wondering what to wear,
what style to perm their hair.
The she wolf turns and heads for home.
Her clubs surround her legs
and tumble in the grass.
Nobody looks at them
as they walk pass.
What is this constant threat,
within my words?
Life declared bankrupt,
there is nothing more to spend
and in the end,
passed beyond ambition
I would achieve ambition.
The gaping grin that ran beneath the chin and
along the man's throat was stitched up with cat
gut by the physician's capable hand. He said it
would not stand the pressure of the hangman's
noose. Hanged, the man stayed alive through the hole
he'd made. Bubbling desperate breath. They
bound it up and punished his wish to die,
by hanging him to death.
Words, outpourings from hell, splurging onto
paper pathetic allegories which show a world
that couldn't care less, the mess
and how it feels
Verging on the obscene, this wish to
verbalise my soul,
make clean in black and white
upon the page.
I hear Ereshkigal call that killing myself
will show you I was serious afterall.
Worked out, worked through, worked in, worked with,
the therapeutic tool salvages from the horror something
marvellous. But in its dreadful accessibility, the fragility
of what I know - that I have come to the place where it all stops
and there is no place left to go.
Relieved of fantasies in the perverse logic of creation.
Other dimensions employed to act for the blade
and fade out the wounded animal screaming in the void.
But as I name them, one by one, breathe them into life
through metaphor and verse or mold the clay, I
become a seamstress,
sewing tiny stitches to show how much I care
and end up with a cloak of grief and truth,
I do no want to wear.
Your voice is sleeting rain bouncing off a window,
hammering to be let in, whilst
the bit you see
completely self contained.
I could undo the buttons on my shirt,
one by one
so you would see my soft sucked breasts,
and as your goldfish lips puckered to feed,
I could claw into my ribs and wrench my chest apart,
then introduce you to the Medusa, who lives within my heart.
You are so easily fooled by this mannequin whose
skin is made to measure, like a lampshade. I
detect you coming and light up into the gentle
hues of the roe deer. You admire the view, not
knowing that if you touched, you'd touch nothing but
the wrapping of a long dead jew.
I wipe away the unshed and halt the flow
of the unspoken. My token smile shows I
know you tried. Standing up on the battlefield
of my private, lonely war, you say you are glad
that you could help,
as I walk out the door.
Porpoising between the worlds,
currents of conversation
and distant laughter
lap at the edges of conscious thought.
Ought I to smile,
or shake my head.
I cannot judge the required response.
And when all goes quiet,
flip over and
fall between the cracks.
No longer trying to bring around my thoughts
to fit into this semblance of reality.
Chaos holds some dignity for me,
no more pretending that I see the way you wish for me.
My world is build in fragmentary lines
and sharp and jagged shapes, made
up by the sounds you make.
You suggest I take a pill.
Rather I am ill and sick with drugs
than showing you the underside
of your precarious existence.
Belly up, my throat exposed,
no more for me the clothes I wore to
hide this raw and painful vulnerability.
Rejoice in the gap
that burns the bread,
and turns all that is normal on its head.
Don't think to grieve, but dance for me.
I am the one who's free.
Turn out the lighted porch.
The owls know where I live,
The bats don't need to see.
Nobody will bump down the rutted
path tonight. No one will visit me.
There is no evening here.
Just day and night, and with the
dying light I lock and chain the door.
Today it will not open anymore.
This loneliness is almost more than
I can bear. Once I held and kissed
and touched and talk was free.
Once barely a task could
be performed without someone
Now I check the phone is working
and wonder why the postman doesn't call.
There is nobody out there who will rescue me.
There is nobody there at all.
no polite conforming nod,
no smile to
fit in neatly
with the joke
Just my uncomprehending stare
so unaware how
vast the space
where we sit.
You do not see that I have gone and
in my place a woman who wears my face,
supports my clothes and loathes
the ease with which you tease
And call it conversation.
I cannot imagine how she and you were friends.
When did it end?
At which strike of the unforgiving clock
did she stop belonging
to your world.
Unfurled her sanity
and slipped from the bit
Do you not see the darkness
where the light once shone.
Do I owe it to you to warn you
that I am gone.
I lay my pillow vertically along the bed
where it rests softly against my spine,
feeling like a lover,
caught between breaths.
For a snatch of time I imagine
I am not alone.
I could turn and make a joke,
hear a gentle laugh to frighten off the demons
that haunt me in the dark.
Could any moment
expect to feel
another living soul
to prove I'm real.
And if I turn, there is a place
for my redundant arms to curl around,
to lay my head against and
hope upon hope
to catch the faintest trace of smell
that tells me it has not always been like this,
that once I would have found a kiss
to ease an endless night.
I love you.
Let me breathe you in
to make you one with me again.
Through molecules you will course beneath my skin
and tremble in my veins.
The very scent of you will find its way
into my heart until it is so full,
it could burst apart with loving you.
I watch you sleep.
Private state that few should see,
and lie here as the sentinel
guarding your fragility.
You mummer and turn away
as though my love intrudes upon your dreams
and needs to find some space
I touch your hair,
aware and almost hoping
you will wake. Filch from that
unconscious state more than is my share.
Final child of my womb,
if I could only freeze time,
entomb us both in the safety of this room,
this bed. In the morning I will pack your bag
and you will leave,
because I left you
and all I can do is grieve.
Lying still in my bed, my head two inches from the pillow
so as not to miss the footfall on the step.
I bet he'll come here soon.
The moon shines through my window and illuminates my room.
There lies Teddy, his steady gaze glinting in the half light.
Paper flowers, big and bold, fold and unfold in the draught of this Christmas night.
Downstairs the tree is laden. The maiden bright on top in pristine frock.
I put her there, held up in adult arms to stretch above the green stickiness
that snatched my dress. The light beneath her skirt flashed on
and off and made her dance. Entranced I watched, then fingered
packages. This one for me, this one for you, this one for him.
Slim layers of glittering paper hiding all those secret joys and toys and smells.
I rattled and banged until adult hands removed me from the room. Too soon.
So now I wait with bated breath. I've left the mince pie by the fireside,
the glass of port. 'Ought Father Christmas take off his shoes before he comes
upstairs? He will make a mess unless he leaves his boots beside the door.'
More important, will he see the signs I've left upon the chair showing where
my sack lies empty and waiting for his care.
Just drifting off to sleep I hear the creak and start awake.
Through squinched up eyes I see the handle turn and landing lights
intrude into my room. My heart speeds up a beat. I see his feet.
Neat and clean and bare. He must have left his boots down there.
I will not peep. He only fills the sacks of little girls who go to sleep.
I hear him come inside. The door clicks shut. The floorboards squeak.
I feel his weight upon the bed, his breath beside my cheek.
The sack is by my feet, not under here where my body lays within the heat.
And when I felt his beard between my legs, reindeers stampeded through
my head and down the stairs. The Christmas tree flashed once more, then toppled
over and smashed against the floor. The presents ripped, the paper flew,
and balls and baubles from the tree, they blew apart and shards of glass ripped
through my heart, as Christmas died for me.
You said the house would
if I told.
The bricks and mortar would
The tallest yew that grew outside my bedroom
and spoiled the view,
would wrench its roots from
and smash into my room.
In my bed
I heard it creak out in the gloom.
It was so old and wise and knew about small girls
who told disgusting lies.
I dared not fall asleep
within a deep unconscious dream
I shouted out
and let our secret scream into the night.
My greatest fear
that the tree would hear.
Where are those Honeysuckle days in which I played.
Where is the shout that called me in for tea
when I would rather be lying in the long grass
and counting clouds as they scudded passed.
Where is the loving touch,
the healing kiss to take away the hurt
and bandage up the graze.
Lazy days of innocence
that smelt of freshly cut grass.
Where are they now?
The pressures rise behind my eyes,
spill and overlow.
Not tears, just evidence of years of waste,
and it is the acid realisation
that I taste so sourly
at the corners of my mouth.
How old I have become.
My life one third complete and all I
can do is shovel it into a heap and weep at things
I cannot redo and cannot mend.
Is there no end?
Go fuck the truth,
forgo the honest way to live,
give me back one tiny place where
I can happily go
and remain the lie that suits me so.
I do not want to know.
Of what am I most afraid?
A primordial world of vast emptiness
at the core of my being.
My heart beat stops
and waits for a reply.
My scream echoes
around the tundra
searching for the responding cry.
If neither comes, then I will die
for the deathness of death
will be more of a life
for the creature of the in-between
Thou and I.
The stark psychotic insight.
When I am alone,
I do not exist.
Why then the fear to end the complex accidents,
chained events that put me here?
Why hold on when I do not need to see
another dawn cresting purple on the horizon.
Nor need a lover's arms
to charm away the loneliness,
knowing none can reach that deep.
The songs I have not heard,
the books not read,
the hope that should be spread
in front of me, lies
dead and buried
deep within the frozen
sod of this perpetual winter.
Of what am I most afraid?
PACING THE FLOOR
Pacing the floor, raw and jagged
I blast around within skin that feels too tight.
Splitting at the seams, my needle gleams
in the light as I try to keep myself together.
Frantic stitches, whilst witches
scream inside my head,
dead voices begging me to tear,
let in the air
and light, and sound of children
laughing in my soul.
But I cannot do,
undo the thought of you,
and how you took my core
and wanted more that I could share.
Whereupon you stole the rest,
destroyed the best.
Left me bereft.
The fear, that all those tears
will cause a tidal wave of grief.
So I hold them in, pin down the rage
and pinion wings that beat
of the defeat of showing you
the wound you wrenched
by ripping childhood out of me.
Just wait and see.
I can sew so fast
you'll never glimpse
the places where the seams
And what price to pay
for this hard fought dignity.
Now I want it out,
to shout the rage and
bang my fists upon the floor.
No more sure that I can
swallow back the pain which
festers in my throat, bloats my chest
and bubbles up to burn and seethe
inside my swollen brain.
So many years of hearing
how my ugly tears just made you
hate me more.
Sore and bewildered,
eyes closed tight,
bite down and clamp them in.
The sin was not you on top of I,
but just the fact you made me cry.
The lie I lived ties like a noose
around my grief and kills the hope
that I could find relief.
I am disposed.
Do not belong inside the empty shell
wherein I live.
nor live in peace with unforgiving.
Can neither cry
nor happy be.
Can feel as little now as then.
And when kind eyes reach into this
dark and hateful place,
I turn my face,
pace around the room some more.
Would a moment of allowing tattered trust
just open up the crack in time I need
to enable me to plead for help long since denied.
And if I cried,
let out the sob which suffocates and deadens me,
would I hear that crushing whisper in the dark
or be set free?
My body's sore with holding all this hurt.
The dirt that was not mine
but was ejaculated into me and
conceived the woman I've turned out to be.
I am weary now, can pace no more.
I only pray that someone stands outside
the fortress wall,
and knows I'm here.
If I had faith
would I redeem the sinner
and only judge the sin?
Would anybody answer me or
set my conscience free
amongst the roses of Gethsemane
so I could genuflect the debt away.
Or as I pray, would I too find
bitter sweetness in another kiss
that will betray.
If I believed more
would I grieve less keenly?
Would I find some purpose
through another's tortured life?
I may not believe
but it is all the same,
voices merged in pain.
hope that dies
with the cries
that echo down the centuries
as we ask the father,
'Why hast thou forsaken me?'
'OUR WOUNDS SHALL BE SEEN BY GOD NOT AS SCARS,
BUT AS HONOURS' (Julian of Norwich)
There is blood on my white sheet.
A mark of pain,
of torn virginity,
of womb that fills
with the moon.
Of the grin,
of split skin
where the razor's steel
lets the pain come in
and helps it out.
Before the doorbell rings,
I will clean it up.
Follow the rust path
down the stairs
to the place
where this understatement
The stiffened towel,
the blunted blade.
Evidence of a silent ritual of despair.
I do not care that you may see
the tramlines, red and angry
streaking cross my arm,
but am alarmed that you
might witness me,
whilst I still bleed
and I will have to watch the hope in you recede.
The door is locked,
knock as hard as you will,
I have no key,
no handle there to turn,
you cannot get in to me.
play every trick you know,
puff and blow,
throw your weight against the hinge,
whinge and complain,
rain down your fists
and still out there remain.
I will be just here.
Put your ear to the wood.
Do you feel the heat of my back
through the cracks you've made?
Can you smell my fears
or taste the tears in the tiny space
where floor and door don't meet.
Do you know what you would greet
if I let you enter here?
My fingers stroke the beaten wood
which shows you care.
My lips caress the shards
and splinters that you made.
And when you fade away,
as I know you will,
I will press my body against
the cold unyielding frame
and try to heat it up again.
You didn't hear my voice
rip from my throat and
disrupt the stagnant waters
in the moat that surrounds
this strange, forbidding place.
The birds took wing in fright and
in the night the stars went out.
The moon, she disappeared
behind an avalanche of tears
and all went black.
I tried to call you back
and whisper words to make you stay.
But as they formed inside my mouth
they shouted 'Go away'.
TO MY THERAPIST
Within my frozen watchfulness
I see each change.
The fullest range of everything you think and feel.
Like time lapse clouds that scud across the sky
and for an instant, block the sun,
the dappled changes in your eyes are
not disguised for me.
I see the moment that the tide turns around your thoughts.
See the ebb and flow, know straight away
when I am left alone upon the shore.
More I feel the fragments of sand that shift
amongst the grey, tumultuous waves
within your brain, feel it swath each exposed nerve,
to scratch at me, and then to move away again.
I am ready for the undertow, know that it lurks beneath the flow
to snatch my legs, to pull me down below.
I see each fleeting thought,
the answers sought,
the battles fought, and lost and won.
Yet I am numb.
Alive only to the perils within each gift borne,
each promise waiting to be torn,
the stroke that snatches for my heart,
the kiss that rips my mouth apart,
the tender word that jars and shatters in my ear,
The love I long to feel and which I fear.
For there is no peace within this knowingness.
No moment for a sweet caress.
No instant where i can curl myself into your care,
unfurl my thick protective cloak and let you come
into this dark and haunted place.
Just in case.
I scan your every move,
need you to prove that I am safe.
I am lost within the headlights of your gaze,
am phased by seeing things I do not comprehend,
cannot defend myself for I do not see what I expect to find.
Your eyes are kind.
Your hand rests steady in your lap,
no slap twitches at your fingertips to send me
hurtling for the door.
But I cannot be sure. So rather here I rest
however lonely that may feel,
than think you care, and find it isn't real.
Standing on the ledge,
my toes curl around the edge
of the concrete sill.
Below, the street streams and
that falls between
is filled with shards of glass
and blades of steel.
I could forever fall,
never nearer to the gourd
nor flying to the stars.
A severed astronaut
in a never ending space
of my own waste.
I see you calling me to jump,
unclasp my grip,
This is the only place I know.
I hate the sureness with which you
and tell me smiling that
it is safe to throw myself
from this high tower of defence.
Brick on brick I dripped my sweat
into each drop of concrete that I mixed
and built my tower strong
and high into the sky
and far beyond.
And every stone I laid,
and ever window that I locked and barred,
they served me well.
So take your view of how my life could be
and go to hell.
Don't tell me now how all my labours
amount for nothing more than shoddy workmanship
and out of date design.
Where were you then
when knowing you might have made me think
it worth my care to build a stair
for the climb back down?
For now, it is just too late.
I cannot undo what I have done,
cannot unbecome the structure of my history,
the architecture of how I came to be.
And if I leave this all behind
and your kind words
dissolve into the void,
and then I find your certainty was not for me,
but just some passing, vague philosophy,
and I the blind white rat with whom you toyed,
then death will seem a luxury
compared to the sentence that would wait for me.
THE WHITE ROOM
take me softly by the hand
and lead me up the stairs
to the white sheets
in the white room.
And as I lay I will watch shadows
lengthen until they fade away.
No more this day for me.
no more tomorrows either do I wish to see.
Wrap me in your love
and as I stare out of the window, count
each last breath
and witness it.
Hold me as tightly as you can
so I can slip away,
gently, and without a fight,
into the unglory of this final night.
Where did you go?
Man with the brown eyes that sort me out
for a moment, before I turned away,
embarrassed by the nakedness that
lay in the smoke and talk between us.
And in my coyness, missed the chance
to know your name.
That is a shame.
Sad smiling eyes that hold me with their gaze,
touch me in ways no hand could match.
I catch my breath and feel my stomach dance.
What chance that you should meet me now?
How many other ways could we have spent today?
I replay the multitude of thoughts
and happenstance which made today
turn out this way.
Another hundred tiny chances
which end in glances across a room
and change the tracks our lives have sped upon.
Strangers when we woke,
but like the twig that in a footfall
broke in two,
exposed new shoots
that started growth anew.
A moments unconnected thought,
a maybe should
that in an instant redesigns the map I had
of who I was and what I headed for.
No more the same.
I know your name.
Fate beckons at the semi opened door
and I must walk through
or forever wonder
what I am living for.
and found myself afloat
on a viscose river of sleep
Gently I tumbled
Smelt your hair where it lay
across my face.
We were so entwined
I could not define the edge of me
from you and still half lost
within drifting dreams my hand
to your curled up crown,
hot and soft and calm
and nestled you gently in my palm.
Your smell upon my arms and belly
mingled with the perfume from my neck,
had long since cooled from when I let you in
to burrow through the pink soft pillows.
Like petals I folded and hit your bud,
covered and held you in that velvet glove.
The embers of my memory flickered,
and I felt you twitch.
As though bewitched, I whispered
your name, felt it smooth and lovely
on my tongue, rolled it
around my mouth, then
kissed your ear,
and let you hear my love,
like sweet droplets of rain,
that softly crept into your sleeping brain.
Your eyes open
as if the sun had broken through a cloud.
Now proud, you move within my hand
and like the ripple of waves upon the sand,
I stoke your skin.
lovers treats before the beetle bites
and finds himself hurtling across the grass,
above your naked arse and out
into the shimmering lake.
A raucous duck laughs as we fuck
and the bats swoop down,
around and around
looking for moths.
A satellite slides across the sky
and state secrets
as you lick and flick your tongue
across my breast.
Night loving on the cool, cool earth.
My backside slides into the cups of your hands
and you worry about getting dirt,
on your shirt.
I take it off and your nipples rise.
The moon shields her eyes
behind a running antelope who
passes swiftly by.
I see her smile.
as you sink
into my bones.
Is that the earth that groans?
My gentle man,
brother and lover to me
as each new day mingled with one another.
Love and tenderness grew and unfolded
like a wondrous flower.
Hours merged and seem to fly
unnoticed though the sky got light
and dark again,
and the unrelenting clock ticked
its cruel reminder
that the week would end.
Each precious moment was like a cup
from which I supped sweet wine,
drank and drank and thanked whatever
God I know there has to be,
that bought you here to spend
this time with me.
You held me in your arms
and calmed a place that long
has restless been.
It seems as though I must have died
to reach the paradise for which
I've searched so long. Like
the sweetest song,
the purest sound,
I found a perfect harmony as you
touched the chords inside my heart
and strummed each part of me
until my body sang and danced in time with yours.
The wars that raged inside were dead
and angels filled my head
with softly beating wings of silken gold.
The cold that froze the laughter disappeared
and something in me thawed.
It trickled first, then poured into a river
where a million gleaming fish
lept and sparkled in the winter sun.
Flashed colours splashed their tails of silver filigree
and swept into huge pools of dazzling blue
to dance amongst the gushing waters
of the love I felt for you.
But then you had to go.
Flow back into your other life.
As you drove away I watched with a heavy heart,
as though a part of me had been dissected out.
No shout I could have made was loud enough to call you back.
The house more empty with you gone,
The melody lost from our week long song.
Today I took down the tree,
the gleaming brightness with which it shone
when you were here, had gone.
The food had lost its taste, the drink its bite,
and when it was night and time I slept, I wept
then laughed and smiled again with no regret.
Don't leave it long before you find your way back to my door,
it will wait forever on the latch for your return,
and every fire that I burn, there will be a a chair for you
beside its warmth.
At every meal a space is laid and waits
your grace, and in amongst my arms and legs,
against my body warm,
within my bed,
there will always be a place for you,
a place to lay your head.
I am a grown woman. Why am I
hovering by the phone. This is
so undignified and when it rings
I scatter the room to get to it, then
stand, my hand resting on the
receiver to the count of five, until I
sigh 'hello' as though my mind is far away
on more important things.
And find it is my mother, or some
other voice that isn't yours and now I'm
engaged. As I try to chat I wage this
is the very moment that you'll dial,
a few precious moments in your day
you snatched to say 'Hello, I cannot
phone you later as we planned, in fact
I have to leave the country,
I hope you understand' and I
will never know you tried.
OK, you haven't died, you're just
tied up, this doesn't have to mean you
lied to me, or found another number
you prefer to ring. It doesn't have to
mean anything, apart from the fact that
I'm too old to feel so young.
What have you done
Grow up for heaven's sake.
Get on with something else.
You're right, of course, I won't be so affected,
but just before I do, I need to check once more
I've not been disconnected.
Between the words
I listen to you breathe.
sitting in your other life
where I have no place.
I cannot see your face
but if I close my eyes,
disguise the miles,
you could be here.
Your voice, liquid tongue
that whispers in my ear.
As though a touch
your intaken breath sucks
at the breadth and length of me.
And when I tell you
that I want you
down the phone,
electrifies the wire and
fire burns inside my breasts,
pulsing beind my nipples
which ache for your caress,
to feel your mouth,
the heat of you.
You tell me that you want me too
and we become silent in this furnace of desire,
where common chat and daily toil
boil away in the heat,
evaporate and disappear
and your breathing
is all I need to hear.
Holographic lover beneath the covers
of my sheets. You leave no trace,
no smell, no sign will tell that you were
here, whispering these sweet obscenities
into my ear.
I move into the grove of your words,
the rhythm of your voice pushes softly
as if buttocks between my legs and
they gently spread apart in this lonely bed.
A sharp intake of breath tell me that
you have regressed between my breasts
and you lose your train of thought
as you find my nipples with your
mind and remember them on your tongue.
One hundred miles and more divide us
yet I can feel you slide down my body
you feel so close. But it is a ghost
with whom I lay and the sound
that breaks from deep within
my chest is a keen of grief.
I do not want my sheets to stay so clean, I
wanted them rucked and stained, discarded on
the floor. I want to smell your sweat and taste
the wet bitterness of your desire and then,
in the end, I want to fall asleep
wrapped in your arms.
Our soft goodnight chants aren't enough
to fill the void and like my bedside light,
it only takes an outstretched hand and a flick
and you are clicked away into the night.
Waiting for somebody is less
lonely, until they do not come.
I take off the dress that never got
to dance, wipe away with tears
the makeup around my eyes that
did not entrance. I brush out the curls
and pull a dressing gown around my
This was a shoddy
way to let me know that
we had nowhere left to go.
I used to send myself Valentines
so when the school prefect who handed them out
arrived at me, and the other girls turned around
to see, I could hug them to my nub like breasts
and look surprised, bask in the envy that
shone in their eyes.
I'd open them slowly
and read the inscription
signed with my left hand.
'From somebody who loves you.'
In the dormitory they took pride of place
upon the side table by my bed
and only I saw that the red rose bled
and the entwined hears broke
because they spoke only
of being lonely.
Every year I'd hope, let there be just one
I didn't send. To be the aching true love
of another's pubescent dreams. I'd even
settle for a rather sweaty fantasy,
It was all the same for me.
And now I'm all grown up I pour derision
on commercialism as I sift through the bills
and circulars that flop through my February
There is nobody I need to pretend to,
It doesn't matter anymore.
Where did it go?
Like the memory of snow
remnants of the love I felt.
Small scatterings remain
on distant hills,
but after the beauty of it all
there is just a chill in the air,
crushed and dirtied
by articulated dreams
that hurtled down the road
in opposite directions.
I saw a woman on the street, she walked toward
me and lifted her head to meet my gaze. She passed
me by with just a flicker of a smile and I know I'd seen
her somewhere else. The way she wore her hair, the movement
in her stride, I turned around the stare but couldn't find her
there amidst the crowd.
I walked on and wondered where it was we met, like a
fading dream my knowing her just seemed to be upon the tip of my tongue.
I'm sure I knew her name.
I turned the corner, and there she was the same,
coming toward me and once again
our eye collided in the throng.
I had not got it wrong.
I knew her once.
I stopped to let her near and she stopped too.
She held out her hand to touch my face.
I felt the smooth glass in place of flesh,
stood closer still and lost her then, saw only what
was in the shop, behind the glass and could no longer see
the woman I then knew was me.
Swollen with unshed tears I look around this place,
empty of my years of collections and acquisitions,
empty of my children's needs,
their greed to feed from me
when I had nothing more to give.
Just me alone
In a place I now call home.
Empty of the man whose ring I wear,
There is no one there.
I've lost them all, careless in my struggle they shed away,
I picked them off like strands of loosened hair
and dropped them there,
they dropped me.
The house bends and whispers in the dark.
I am alone.
No one would hear my shout,
no body to stand between my fate
No other voice to fill the silent void.
No sudden laugh.
And when the floorboards creak
it is not my children's feet that cause
the wood to groan.
There is no one here but me.
Child, wailing siren of despair
as the helium trophy of a a good day out
slips from his grip,
twists for a moment in a
current of hot city air,
then rises above the crowd
and buffets out of site.
He cried all night.
His mourning wafted it
over the spindly tree tops that
guard my home where I was so alone
and imagined love had floated in to me.
Amidst the greens and greys
hinting sprays of summer on the turn,
the heart's string snagged suddenly,
strained convulsing on a branch
and danced for me in pink incongruency.
I saw the vicious twigs
against its fragile skin and
waited for the pop
as the end rushed in and sucked its shape
into a dangling corpse to hang and laugh at me,
this parody of love that is not free.
As alien and unbelonging as a spot
upon the face of a freshly scrubbed chid,
I want to squeeze it out,
shout proudly that I just don't care,
have no desire to see it hanging there
in a place where even the washing on the line
is like an insult, intruding
on this fragile peace of mine.
I close the door.
Don't want to see it anymore.
If it breaks, so what. If it flies away, then good,
it should be somewhere else.
For if it stays it will graze my eyes,
an ugly monument to the utter foolishness
of longing for a sweet caress
whilst snagged and caught
in an impossible relationship.
Sharp needle of sleepless nights,
thread of woven guilt,
patches of memories
in different hues,
stitches of looped thoughts,
A strange exchange.
I have torn the fabric of who we were
to keep me warm it must be sewn.
I get so cold when I sleep alone.
What prompted this?
Secret, private communication, artistic masturbation
Only he can understand.
Not made for sharing
Except with pitiful students who'll take years
To glean what it is he means.
Picking up the book I break its back
With a snap
Smug cat that got the cream
I dream about.
Maybe I need to be more oblique.
Incomprehensible. Let them lap it up
Not daring to admit it's crap,
Incase it isn't.
I will aspire to be modern.
No self respecting critic would want to
Be seen twisting his neck in confusion
By some allusion
He thinks he ought to comprehend
But can't quite bend his mind around.
Let the crowds mutter intellectually
About my work.
intone about the
Breadth and depth, the scope.
Let them hope they can
get in out of the rain, before
being overcome by the urge
to get someone to explain
What the fuck I was trying to say.
Then let me die young
Before I get too old to.
The lady with the dead
cat on her head sat on the
'It's dreadful being old,' she said,
as she noticed me watching her.
Pulling at the smoke from my cigarette
I smiled as a response,
it seemed heartless to agree.
Her opaque eyes
shone with knowing in the light
and I saw the pity was for me.
She didn't have to fight anymore with
the force of gravity. Her sagging
breasts rest comfortably upon her
redundant womb. I am the clown
for only wanting to be seen naked
when standing upside down.
She grasps the handle of her little
brown trolley, symbol of age and
decrepitude, whilst my unruly purchases
exude like sweat all over the pavement.
My shopping list twists in my hands,
I have so much to do. She eats toothlessly
on a chocolate bar, and relishes the view.
Her tiny pink scalp bobs beneath blue strands
of hair. Benevolently I stare, then wipe
the matted storm drenched curls out of my eyes
and think of my own grey that says
I'll soon be there, disinterested in style but
hopeful that the hairdresser will talk to me awhile.
She gets up to go and I leave too. I'm late
and although it is her time that is nearly over,
I am the one hurrying.
The laughter stopped with the pop
from the fat man's gun. Leaded bodies
crash out of the leaden sky to lie
twitching amongst the reeds. It is only
safe for summer to fly today.
Nights when I have lain, an uninvited guest
listening in to yet another party on the lake.
Awake I would wonder at the joke and feeling mean
would glean delight at the coming plight of my
Now it seems too quiet, the thin pitch
whistle demands the dog go fetch, and
from a tender jaw, a broken wing tries
in vain to touch the sky once more.
The fat man turns and smiles at me,
then spots the pheasant thrashed from the
cover of the trees. He aims and shoots
but the shot lands too far. I close the door
informing him it is cheaper,
to run them over with a car.
Inside outside, outside inside.
A pigeon lives inside the cafe roof, drinks
from a fountain fed by no spring and feeds
itself from crumbs
dropped from old ladies mouths.
The plastic ferns that grace the place
afford no rest for this tatty bird who
for the rest of time will fly around and never
feel the sun, nor breeze disturb the plumage
on his dusty wings.
Piped Puccini replaces
traffic rumble and he craps,
splats on the marble floor
as the octogenarian grips
for more tea, more cake
and slurps the taste
before she smears pink lipstick
around her face.
Trapped inside this aviary, the pigeon sees
the sky and thuds his toughness
against the toughened glass.
The people smile and feel continental
whilst the veteran of two world wars
paws her plate with claws bedecked in
diamond rings, her yellow nails painted red
and flashing in the light.
Like the pigeon, she will sleep alone tonight.
The years have filled you out.
The ill fitting younger man has
disappeared, and in his place a
face that echoes him, but is changed,
rearranged by time.
You have lost the angularity of youth,
your eyes are not as bright,
your beard a dappled grey and
as we talk the night away,
recapture who we were back there,
you hold your Whiskey glass with too much care.
Our student days, remembered as a haze
of Autumn nights and Earl Grey Tea when
I was too young to understand
the love you had for me.
When Elliot and Hesse filled our talk and I
was sure how every story ought to end,
All these years down the line I watch you now.
How hard the time has been. The dream that
stood before us then lies wasted and suddenly
I wonder how I look to you. Am I old too?
I never knew the time would pass so fast.
If I Had, I might have tried to make it last,
might have relished every moment, made
sure I lived each minute up to sixty seconds, so
I could store them up and squirrel them away,
reinsurance against the harshness of this place,
of being face to face with who I was
and what I am today.
In and old trunk, long neglected
and covered with junk and tins of paint
my children found some memories of mine.
Badly packed, yellowing letters
stacked in disorder of time and correspondent,
some photographs of my old school,
pupils standing in neat lines,
the one or whom I thought my heart would break,
the teacher's favourite child,
in the middle,
my wild hair and uncompromising stare
daring the cameraman to think I cared.
Beneath a ragged doll,
a souvenir of some forgotten place,
a card, which when wound up still played
that I was 21 that day,
lay the halter of my old horse,
the buckles dark and rusted now,
the leather worn
but still encrusted with his smell.
I held it to my nose
and for one
could not tell if I was fourteen
or thirty four.
I wrapped it up carefully
and put it back.
Replaced the letters
no neater than before,
rescued the other remnants of my past
from my children's clamorous hands,
and closed the lid down fast.