This is kind of a love poem, and kind of the opposite. Love poems are stupid anyway…

See him write.
See the lip curl and the tongue curl,
The pen he holds in his mouth.

See the gentle arc of his name
As it falls from those lips
Like a song, a crying cup.

See the rose fade from those lips:
Love has held him secret from his family,
And made him mild.


Gin poem

This one’s about an ex I moved in with – to his mum’s house, which was pretty weird. Anyway, we drank all her gin, which made it easier, in a way, and more difficult, in other ways…

How that summer we lived off your mother’s gin.
She must have watched the level in the bottle drop each week
(Did we mark it with a felt-tip to check how much we’d drunk?),
Each week saying nothing, knowing she’d not sipped
          Anywhere near so much as was gone,
          Patiently buying another of those discount litres every Friday.

Those big, deep-green bottles masking your lies,
Pulling the wool over my eyes, taking the edge
Off the whatever – I dare not guess –
Whatever she felt washing my holey knickers
          As I swigged her gin with low-calorie tonic because
          You said I was fat, and, as your sister said,

“Fat people should all be rounded up and shot.”
Funny old gin. Even now it’s soothing the pain
          Of this wound which I have nursed
          These many years, a glass in my hand.

Missed out

A friend of mine died. He was a close friend and i miss him. I never spent enough time with him.

Thank God there was no priest at the crematorium, lisping
That our friend is sleeping till we meet at the trump.
He was twenty-nine, his marriage new,
His business fledgling –
Life did not get enough of him.

Nor did I take each scattered chance to spend a day,
To pass three words, or catch his arm and smile;
My absence then, he’s absent now.
And the girl I was – who waved goodbye
So gleefully to God – lies still, coldly awake,

With no catchphrase as good as His, afterlife,
To answer this:
                    my time with him is up
And I’ve but few memories to last across
The span between his death and mine.
Whenever that may be, the recollection’s stretched
Too thin to bear – a slim glass bridge between us,
Tapering to an end, high over so much hollow air.

A stone dropped down this well of sadness and forgetting
Echoes back the tender truth:
He is gone. He will not come again.

Grow up

Came across some photos of old school friends on Facebook. It was a shock seeing those faces again. Not sure I liked it…

Concrete looming through fog,
Memories best not to linger over long,
Knotted down my spine
Like red ribbon through a plait:

I have not got any photographs of school.
Online, the kids in the cage are digitally replayed:
Brawling to sit on the slope
Next to Josie, Craig and Eddie-Joe.

Unlike them, I’ve never brought a camera in,
Or only once. There’s a snap
Of a strange, awkward me: posed,
Though unsure of how to pose;

A ponytail; cheekbones drawn more forcefully;
Forced hauteur; uncertain,
Like a little royal, lost, illegitimate,
Rightly given up at birth.

Too painful to linger over long,
Knotted down my spine
Like red ribbon through a plait,
This memory:

How savage school has been.
Each of us, top to bottom
Fighting: to stay on top, out of trouble;
Not to lose friends, not to care when they go.

How tired my arms are!
I see the shoulders of those around me drooping.
We cannot win this war and shut out
The clamour of failure, of loss

Of face and friendship – raw now as then;
And so little time to mend the wounds.