little morning birds.

 

they sing of joy, of hope;

exultant in the darkness,

made brave by a blind certainty

the sun will rise again.


tiny hearts’ rapture bubbles up

to greet each new dawn;

unsurprised, delighted.


these little morning birds

are an echo of the flicker, the pulse

from your brittle twig chests

that sang from the machine

in dark hospital rooms


telling me you were not lost

(though with each of you I thought

this shell may not be enough

to keep you safe till sunrise)


now you greet each new dawn;

unsurprised, delighted.


fledglings with a fearless faith

in their mother’s love

as certain as the sun...


because of this, your faith in me,

your steadfast song of joy and hope,

I promise, my little morning birds:

I will rise and rise and rise again.

mix tape.

 

those lines wrap themselves around me now, make me think

of a future I dreamed long ago: my head full of Donne

and every Smiths song, my little impossible heart.

 

because he said, every time I see your face I think;

how can someone so young sing words so sad?

and it’s funny but it’s true, the only answer I had

is that they took a child and made me old...

 

(maybe we fell into a songbook

or maybe we are looking for

a future in the past)

 

and I said I’ve been singing sad words my whole life, love,

I don’t think I remember ever being young;

not even when that song was new, not even

when I first dreamt this dream that I still have of you.

small

what is the smallest you have ever been? 

small as a sparrow, darting branch to branch?

matchstick-brittle bones,

heart a rapid flicker in your downy throat.

 

maybe you have days when you’re

tiny as a pebble, sea-smooth and shy?

lost amidst a throng, 

or rolling in the palm of some strange hand.

 

have you ever been a grain of sand, 

have you been ash,

so nearly nothing, lifted on the wind?

a dandelion seed or salt crystal,

or an atom: have you been too small to see?

 

as minute as you could think yourself to be, 

you’ve never been as small as hope

or me. 

 

 

 

shanty.

 

no man is an island

but some women are

one, at least;

the sea rushed in years ago

and flooded everything I’d known.

 

now only my head

is above water

high tide almost drowns me

and there is nothing, nothing

to be seen from here

but sky and ocean,

ocean and sky;

on the greyest days

they could be the same.

bone-deep.

 

I’m tired

of living the half lives

of almost loves.

 

I’m tired

of looking away

from my present

away from

the little that I have

towards the more

that I never will,

no matter how

I hope.

 

I’m tired

of finding reasons

to believe that I, this I,

the only one I have

is not enough

must be better

is only ever

a work

in progress.

 

I’m tired

of wanting, needing,

hoping, hurting -

I’m tired,

so very

tired.

baptism

an amber sea at my feet

and I am walking on water. 

copper surf rolls, glowing

as I splash, crunching across - 

 

a sudden gust pulls a whirlpool

up around my boots, and higher,

until it whips my hair. 

 

I think that I could disappear

beneath this autumn ocean

until I’m just the smell of woodland

and soft decay - 

 

then I will rise, reborn:

a little green bud phoenix,

given time. 

 

 

silt.

I am wading

through a mire of

wrongs done,

I am dreaming of boats.

 

my bare feet sink into the silt

of tiny decomposing lies

washed by this dirty water:

I’m remembering

floating

 

when we could see down

to the bottom as the light cut

straight through

and we could

swallow as we swam

without getting dirty mouths.

 

I keep splashing

through the filth

towards a shore

I cannot see

and I am aching for

those sailing days

when our water

was still clean.

sea glass.

small, smooth, opaline,

I rest here amongst the

pebbles and the shells.

 

once a fragment of

something shattered,

I was thrown against

the shore, dragged

back into the depths

over and over and

over

until I thought

that was my life.

 

but see me here

in the shallows

sharp edges

smoothed

by time

and relentless

elements.

 

no longer a piece

of some brittle whole: 

strong and beautiful

a new moon

born of the sea.

clean.

 

a clean slate they say, as though history is chalk

and can be washed away with just a little water.

I’d have lost you to the rain countless times, love.

 

no, we’ll not go down that easily. we fought through storms,

figurative and literal; waves over that little ship,

there you go again, saving my life.

 

yet now here we are, or rather here I am

and here you aren’t, and it has rained

so hard for so many days

(sometimes even from the sky)

I must have the cleanest face

but there's nothing godly

anywhere near here.

the lily and the rose.

 

when you

lay me down

for the last time

when my embers

all turn cold -

 

you put my body

in the white dress

to show my purity,

a resting angel

blessed

and saintly -

 

washed clean,

as though

my life had

never been:

no blood,

no bruises

no fight.

 

(saying

this now,

this is woman)

 

or you put me

in the red dress

and I will be a fantasy:

bursting curves and lips

and thighs

and hips

all made for sex -

 

so dirty

you could

have

fucked

me up.

 

(saying

this now,

this is woman)

 

no, throw

the dresses

on the pyre:

leave me 

uncostumed,

undisguised,

naked as

a promise -

 

lie me down

in the dirt,

let my body

speak its truth:

all the damage

and the love

open to the sky.

 

(saying

this now,

this is and this was

and this will

only ever be

this

woman)

through.

 

 

it surrounds us, now.

we got swept up, long ago:

many minds on many paths,

but once the wind hit,

once the floods came

and lightning flashed blind terror

through our veins,

the devastation,

oh the devastation

was the same.

 

we were beaten down

by rain, so heavy

that it dragged our bones

and stole our sun,

left us choking grey,

with no horizon.

 

it swallowed us,

whipped at our flesh

soaked our skin

we became elemental then:

lightning minds

thunder splitting

our crushing

leaden skies.

 

shaking in terror of ourselves,

bellies down to the ground,

bloody raw crying rain spitting dirt,

we crept to the storm's calm eye, to lie

spent and bruised and torn.

 

this is how we've managed to survive.

but surviving is not living

and we long to know a

temperate life.

 

the only way out

is through.

it is only now.

 

I need to feel the wheel turning, to know

that I am not standing still inside this year

(after the last spent half-frozen,

barely moving at all.)

 

but here I am: lost in a jumble

of uncertain days, nows becoming thens

that pile up behind, until a sudden

lurch and

tumble forward

passing in a crash

into an unmarked future -

 

so without marking time

(in a tally on my prison wall)

all I know is I am here:

here is all I have.

 

this journey round the sun

the days, the all of everything

are leaking into one and I am

out of time: I am forever

and I'm never, always here,

already gone.

the poems that aren't.

 

half started

or half finished

but nothing whole

I'm fragmented

as my words

scattered over

several notebooks

in bits and

in pieces

ideas tailing off

or falling out tangled

on top of each other

tumbling onto the page.

 

I am all the lines unused

all the stories that go nowhere

all the poems

that aren't.

forget-me-nots.

out in the damp grey evening,

melancholy clouds barely holding in their tears:

a choked back sob of a sky.

 

all is clay and slate and ash

in the absence of the sun;

yet, though subdued, spring is still here.

it's in the blue forget-me-nots

with their yellow star hearts

that grow wild, shouting to the sky,

reminding it of better days,

trying to tempt

a tiny smile

of sunshine

to break through.

 

I am the sky tonight,

so heavy with sorrow

and I am thankful that

these incorrigible wildflowers,

thriving against the odds,

are true to their name;

a thousand tiny promises

so I won't forget

that the days when I shine

blue and clear and open

will come around again.

black dog

the black dog doesn't howl

it's always quiet, panting low

shuddering breath rasping,

wheezing through cracked ribs.


it is talked of as though it is

a muscular, powerful beast

but I know it well and it is shivering

skin and bone, dry hollow eyes

that reflect a broken soul.


the black dog whimpers at the door

begging for more scraps of me

so hungry, skeletal, desperate;

though it will not, cannot ever die

its emptiness aches, screams inside:

it needs to feed...


and it will not leave it will not go

until it has eaten enough to fill a little of the void

that sucks its insides out: poor thing can't bear the pain,

it only hurts me to heal itself. its dirty teeth sink in,

ravenous and ashamed.


when it has had its fill, the dog hurts a little less

(and I a little more). it slinks to a corner of the room

and settles in, looks at me with sorrow in its eyes,

almost an apology: but it knows no other way.

all living things must feed, some dead things too.


the black dog is a shadow at my feet

my dark mirror, it has consumed so much of me

that we are now inseparable, sliding together

until we merge into a feral piece of night:


always quiet, panting low, whining softly,

we devour ourselves in little pieces

but there is never enough

and we are always hungry.

paper boats

 

grasped at joy

but it

slipped

like

water

through

my

fingertips 

 

rivers run

and hope runs too

I closed my fist

it flooded through 

 

spilled at my feet

and drained away

I grasped at joy

it didn't stay 

 

these little hands

can't hold a sea

I clutched at hope

it ran from me 

 

love didn't float

when it was

downed

but in

a sea

of hope

was

drowned.

yellow is the colour of hope.

 

daffodils stand straight together;

sunshine trumpeters, heralding springtime,

a little mardi gras in the parks and gardens of the city.

 

celandines, a riot of golden stars;

a galaxy nestled on the grass verge,

sparkling bright in their universe of green.

 

primroses sit softly nearby;

shy petticoats sing quietly of hope,

delicate promises of kinder days ahead.

 

and the dandelions! they are everywhere:

mischievous firework faces bursting out

like the feeling of a smile,

pushing through the cracks

tiny but invincible,

a blaze of beauty

against concrete and tarmac.

 

dandelion flowers shout of love;

a little fire not easily contained,

roots running deep to keep

those small sparks ablaze, 

relighting over and over,

despite the odds.

 

all these tiny drops of sunshine

remind us to dream of light;

even when the sky looms dark

and hearts are distant, clouded grey.

the ocean doesn't need a reason.

 

I have a telephone call to make:

such a small task, but

it takes so much longer these days.

 

before calling I go over and over

the questions I must ask-

simple questions,

a practical call, nothing more.

 

after the call

which was, of course, uneventful

I complete a few more banal chores, quietly,

just birdsong accompanying my progress.

 

later, I sit down to write

and notice I am shaking -

 

then everything at once, a tidalwave

and all the breath knocked out of me

lungs crushed I'm spinning can't breathe

my mouth is salt, nausea grabs my guts

and pulls me down -

 

the terror grips tight and won't let go

no matter how I try to count, to regulate

these gulping breaths I'm underwater -

 

my chest is a clenched fist

but it can't fight an ocean

rushing in my ears so loud

I am sinking I splutter, gasp

drowning in pure fear -

 

I kick and struggle I have to stay afloat

it will subside I will not drown I know I know

I have survived this before.

 

it feels interminable, it always does,

but gradually the waves soften

into the shallows that suck at the sand.

I'm not going to drown, the salt is only tears

I shake and shudder, helpless as flotsam,

wishing someone would help, drag me out of reach

of the ocean, past the high tide line on the shore.

impossible heart.

 

I am not possible

I'm just fantasy

though I feel like a girl

and I thought I was me.

 

didn't know I was false hope,

believed I really was true

but I'm just wishes and wants

when the dreaming is through -

 

I don't know what happens

to a girl that's not real

whose impossible heart

believes it can feel -

 

it's hurting so much

but how can that be,

when my heart's just a part

of impossible me?

dirty laundry

 

I try to kill the thing inside, to blunt its claws

with alcohol with sex with pills with blood;

try to drown drug stab break lose it in writhing ecstasy

because I long to feel something, anything

that is not teeth.

 

if I can send it under for a while

it stops scratching at my heart

stops opening old wounds

I am so alive, so joyous then:

I feel everything, but I don't hurt.

 

this is a revelation, every time;

I start to think maybe I am not beyond repair

I start to think maybe I am good enough.

 

and oh I am reborn, lit up with maybes,

on fire with thoughts of good enough;

but they can see me as I am, and I am good

for nothing

 

I am wasted useless I ricochet

off walls I start sentences and

finish others I slur I am distracted

urgent but not really here

 

I am threads unraveling, gaping wide

inviting anyone and all to see right through

to the years of dirty laundry underneath;

an exhibition of embarrassment

crumpled and wailing.

 

once again I wake to patchwork memories

as guilt needles my woolly consciousness:

tattered rags of mindless rage and sorrow 

are stained with bruises, frayed hazy at the edges.

 

as remorse winds tight, I start to hurt again.

I need to forget before I start to remember, before I

see what they saw stumbling and ragged;

I need to try to kill me one more time just one more