Unwilling

016_imogen-cunningham_theredlistThere are differing forms of narcissism

and sadness

wrenching and unyielding

can produce

solid fat trapped in water

thickened floating, unformed intention

we cannot breathe

holding hands to jump rope pinching noses

against fumes of exhaust

her knees were smoother and brown

elbows protrude like question marks

and when you are both fortunate enough to be old

her breasts will still point upward

whilst you shall swing heavily like a dowel

losing time with the rest of the world

she is lighter, her skip higher, cheeks flush with

the sting of cold weather tingeing red pinpoints

you don’t know yet

a time comes, the path breaks

one way is without constraint

the other a heaviness

you cannot shrug like boiled wool

as you see her wet feet climb upward

there is nothing to stop the relenting undertow

that’s what children don’t know

when they play behind wire and protection of youth

but if you look closely

like the colt whose legs and teeth are examined by horse breeder

tapping his aquiline nose

you can tell the furlow of a soul

in their pedigree and infection

do they have worms or marrow?

she was born hot and unwilling

jaundice beginning with first labored breath

but if you gave her a chance to dance

she would break over you, turn into water

a hundred fingers enclosing

circles of diminishment

no matter how fast she danced

legacy caught up and held her down

Queen of Thorns

grandma why didn’t you

prune me back when you had the chance?

cut off my head and let dead parts turn me violet

before you grew demented and wan

why didn’t you tear into my stuffing and let

the tartan apple seed scatter

maybe I would have stopped being a child

turning into a great ancient tree

where the girls who had smooth unwrinkled brows

could climb and flash their starched knickers

hanging upside down catching bird song

reflecting off fish pond surrounded by nettles

I was always better at being a spectator

than entertaining life’s specters

you should have cut the cord

played your last best record

let the needle run it through

scratching out hurt and

unwilling children

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IF

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If depression were a shadow

when it is my shadow

waking me up with glass behind my eyes

replacing authentic feeling with

stifled, muffled, agonies

depression tells me; don’t get your hair cut

the hair dresser will stare too hard and you cannot

bear to be scrutinized as your father who called you

many things like plain-faced and ungainly but most of all

stocky leading to a starvation worthy

yes that father who because of his own mental defect

could not really stand long in the sun of parenthood

you’d have been better off loose and lopsided

with latch key children

to climb dog piss stained trees that barely held your weight

as they pushed through concrete with white pealing hands

as city green must

an effort make

we would chew on wild rhubarb, give ourselves stomach aches

eat dandelions and wild plums and share a precious few

hard-boiled sweets sticky in our pockets

some turned our mouths the color of tar

behind the corrugated iron where bombed out houses

stand like disfigured moments

collapsing in tombed neglect

we chased skinny wild cats and built fluttering camps

fortresses around destruction and sadness

something I learned to carry inside

when I sought to travel far from the city

its anonymous bricked faces

lending little grace

when I said goodbye to prefab family who

had their own lives

I was an appendage

needing to find my tribe

instead inheriting faulty DNA

tingeing my wake with sorrow

much as I tried

even on the warm days I wore leg warmers

pretended to be auditioning for FAME

when I ordered a hot chocolate and watched curling waves

change sequined shoreline in slow swell

though the world amassed around me

glorious and glittering like water touched by fire

as bleating sun dipped low against horizon

I could not find a way to feel unburdened

or climb aboard the impulse to slough skin

care nothing of what others would say

try hard as I could to become

laughter

that ephemeris

out of reach … thing

Joanna

56akpbgJoanna

I never knew your last name

Benjamin wanted you more

than he ever wanted me

for your madeline face and framing water fall

of black hair

Joanna

as thin as if you only ate thought

your knees could not hold together you

came apart like a dearticulate doll

everyone felt so sorry for your ragged sorrow

though no one knew why

looking perpetually like you would cry

a Picasso blue girl of faraway gaze

Joanna

if I had not envied you the heart of a boy

who had bewitched my own, or felt your ability

to balance upside down on monkey bars

making you superior in the rules of horse chestnuts and marbles

I may have seen the threadbare grief in your eyes

how from the hollows came the cry

it is apparent now in a way a child refuses

blowing her rage with swollen cheeks

as if temper lost her place in a world of shut doors

why wasn’t I kinder to you?

why did I try to compete when all you wanted

was respite from the terror of being

Joanna

Children with no reflection

girl-fishingMy feet were always too big for vintage shoes

granny said

girl you’re outgrowing your ancestors

measured my 1980’s girth with pokered face

disgracing corselet historians with modern gait

I never was the black-eyed-girl of my father’s heart

his own ungainly DNA bore him a chip off the old block

who knew his self-loathing would rub free like lint

on the broad shoulders of imperfect kin

you’ve no delicacy in your frame girl

your hands are too wide for these kid gloves

you cannot fit into the stays and confines of the past

where did you come from? changeling?

half and half in one world and the next

part girl part boy part aberration an inverse

it was easier to steal a pair of dungarees

climb the old knobbly willow tree

dropping apple pips in indigo pond

a disappointing girl with one eye patched lest it wander

I saw my delicate mother and her child’s form

rush like a dancer into applauding future

gone from those who would love her best

she left a horse hair brush that smelt of her skin

and I did not know what to be

standing there with my unliked shell of pallor

a mockery of fallen relations between two lovers

retreating to the verge of attention their child

I waited until nobody expected me home

muddied, stained and bramble scratched

children with no reflection

if you asked me then whom I loved the most

I would have pointed to the owl

grand in his luminous white feathers

for he saw the little girl’s disappointment

and together they sang

low into night

to beckon timorous vole

closer

Felix (part of the memory series)

0f43a8692e2f903f820b1a40a7add30cHelix boy

green was the color of your insight

you thought you could trust the girl who stood by your side

before your fame

and you were right

my back made a good drawing board and I knew the rules to

Dungeons & Dragons

when you called leaning out of your window in Earls Court

watching the washateria fold n’ smooth in your Judge Dread shirt

you’d ask me questions you didn’t let others hear

why are we here? what’s it all about?

we were philosophers in children’s suits

fame struck you as an unnatural quill

you learned and you unlearned playing base

with the rigidity of adults rules

some days you fit in like a diamond in the rough

Jewish boy with a blonde quiff and James Dean turn-ups

other times it felt all wrong that’s when you’d call

tell me ordinary things so I can come back down to earth you’d ask…

let’s listen to telegraph wires buzzing in the night

the B side of that Springsteen LP where he

refers to love and madness, escaping down a dark road with chains

terraced and quiet in our honeycomb middle

breathing the air of normalcy and my dad’s bad cooking

switching the globe of the world on to illuminate dark

in our Batman PJ’s a joint under the pillow

what you didn’t know what I never told

you held me up when I was drowning

it was the tender of your soul that you recognized

pain and didn’t shy away

even in the show-biz world of false and fakery

they may say oh he’s just a player who has no scruples

different woman every week, he’s just like the rest

I could dispute that if we bothered to believe idle talk

I saw your heart

beat

one night

when I told you I couldn’t go on

and you said

yes

yes you can

I’ll show you how

and we planned our revenge

in pretend knots until the sun rose

and school began

vanquishing dreams of

escape and super heroes

The waves

12523897_1631510570443424_1060343369498657444_nAll the trees looked away

on raw knees

shingle and sand castles

wet newspaper of old stories

yellow fag butts, half empty cider cans

containing sweet succor

one last piece of chocolate give the child

before she loses herself

her best toy clean from wash

smelling of home and tulips

sea makes ghosts of us

running brine like hot semen

searching fruitless loins

kicking against tin cans

bricks do not prize apart

one wet wall from another

we clamor against ageing need

spill the first glass

pour the benediction

here we leave our umbilical chords for advent

what came to be in deserted fair grounds

gold paint flaking against scarlet mouths

wooden horses rolling their eyes

softly dancing on platforms with scratched song

walk out as far as the pier takes you

he watches from his metal bed

strung with his spot lit horror

thin muscles tight with longing

hips like razors privately digging into

your flailing conception

it’s the price

bed sheets left to rinse out your scream

don’t cut your hair don’t spare your wrists

his was a sharp entry into your sleep

run on water-logged deadened feet

past the chip shop hording its quiet fat

where veiled women stare at first light

breaking over cracked lips the train

crying past in low throated whistle

down damp cobbled steps emptied of market

into space without endings or slow buttons

the sea is white with fury

her mouth mounts your need

swallowing the bitter salt of ragged release

beneath stains we see the outline

here lay the girl who caught a bus

carrying her clean underwear like a flag

climbed into her part as a glove

here she is pinched by her starvation

horror painting her eyes purple

ebbing on tide with scissored legs fighting

their eventual knot a violin played in fire

she opened her flute to high ceilings

reedy sound echoing off salvaged walls

fast fury unzipping protest

be a good child bow your head

stay still when flame chews

stroke the boy who demands

fist around your throat starving

paper ghosts fall into obedient rows

feel the rush of angels in her touch

he said I hope you give decent head

I’ve been waiting to break your alabaster

like new buildings devour old

never knew what stood before

leaving thin pockets full of stones

better swim with indigo weeds

hair imprinting shadows on hot breath

goodbye is hello

you learned hard on scalding youth

taking a straw from a tall glass

sucking it dry

my child is the color of clouds

meeting at the point of horizon

where storms gather to make glass

he indented himself like a tattoo

when she climbed out she could not feel

where he pricked her empty sadness

leaving a colander of spilt torch-light

pent-up boys with dusty souls

touching warm radiators, hanging

apologies on skinny shoulders

sounding against sagging mattresses

one two-three is all it took

a sharp knife cutting the choir

freedom twists at a price

he rose like the swell, filling her

the first time you never forget

they whispered behind sticky fingers

girl pull down your hems

cover your spindle chest

close your legs to the roar

hear the waves

hear the waves overtake you

On the other side of rebuke

freja-beha-erichsen-arizona-muse-by-terry-richardson-designscenenet-02I used to say

O talk to me

open your maraschino mouth

pull the glazed words out

until they come undone

now I say

keep quiet

stay absent

I have found what I didn’t yet know

standing on the other side of rebuke

we forsake our blazing joy

under the suffocation of those

who demand all of us

and none of us

I spent a life time waiting

to stop hating myself

when the girl with the sparrow in her limbs

took me by the hand and bid me dance with her

entreat I may rinse my history in her cupped smile

held under chin like buttercup tells fortune to

gilded child, with her smoothness and her beguile

latching emptiness and filling it with stars

bursting over us like white flames caution the acrobat

to walk steadier in the marsh of emotion

I didn’t think I could start over, my chapter was

dulled by the passage of hands holding me back

she knew I could

when I lost my footsteps on the other side of rebuke

she picked me up, held me still until my heartbeat

slowed and the music filled me anew