At bedtime

I lack the words to describe this feeling

My sense of oneness with you

Who grew out of my flesh

And into this world

Making room for yourself

In our lives as if

You had always been there

On the edge of existence

Just waiting to step out

Into the light

We hold you

Folded tightly in arms

That we now see

Decaying

Withering as those

Of our parents did

Limbs curving

From old embraces

Into a touchless existence

You grow as we shrink

Such is the way

Of the world

But for a moment

I may yet hold you

Suspended in the bliss

Of a mother’s love

You fall to sleep

In my arms

I can pretend

We are still one

Cocooned

In this microcosm

Slim Pickings

I cannot watch another film

Filled with wispy heroines

And their ‘to die for’ figures

Those dreams were snuffed out

Alongside Diana’s candle in the wind

Like Havisham’s Estella

They are conceived in spite

To break lonely hearts

No, give me a fat-hearted flick

With plaster food on every table

And I will feed my soul

In comfort

A change of scenery

I went to stay in sunny Italy for a year
Living in a town world famous
For haute cuisine, truffles, fancy ham and pecorino
The very foodiest of destinations
I did a lot of cooking
(Well, it was to be expected)
Navigating new ingredients by taste and smell
Before I learned their names
Only poisoned myself once – not bad on the whole
Made some new friends,
Lost touch with some older ones
Painted, wrote, sewed
Hung around market stalls
Trying to find my own rhythm
In a land of foreign charms.
Rode trains, went to the beach
Burned my pale, freckled skin to a
Delicate shade of lobster
Learned some new swear words
From the Pharmacist
Whose prickly, heated suggestions
Soothed more with their familiarity
Than any packaged pills and creams.
I sang with a choir
My immodest soprano soaring over
Earthier tones of local talent
Evaded a would-be stalker
By placing myself out of reach
To sing with a different choir
With a better grasp of syncopation
On the other side of town.
Flew home for a funeral
Then back again before I lost myself
This new me, forcing down my feelings
Keeping family at arms’ length
Hoping to hold on to that
Hard-earned accent
Avoid de-tuning my ear
With old quarrels and new grudges.
Felt a bit lost. Dropped some weight.
Photographed forgotten corners
Wandered streets teeming with lost souls
Gazing at Architecture – with a capital A
Treading dusty marble in heat and snow
Watching my pockets for stray fingers
Trying out new meanings for ‘home’.
I treated myself to the cinema
A foreign-object-lesson
Surrounded by pitying groups
Sporting sunglasses, crisp shirts
Smooth skin and sleek, shiny hair
Putting my bushy auburn curls,
Ill-fitting jeans and t-shirt,
My lack of entourage or escort to shame.
I signed up for a course
Taught by a woman
Whose intimate knowledge of
Ancient sarcophagi and killer heels
Screamed bride of Boris Karloff
Just like the Fulgor cinema
With its dusty portico and
Timeless playbill.
I squeezed into the third row
Of a crypt, asking questions
With a confidence I did not feel
Alabaster windows, gold mosaic tiles
Dressed to impress as best I could
With my mismatched wardrobe,
My evolving makeup collection –
Dark brows, red lips, sunglasses
Bright headscarf to set off
My noir-inspired look
Blending in by standing out
Pale anglicisms dwarfed by design.
My fellow strangers seemed
Unmoved by most of it
Buildings of such rich decoration
Crammed with foreign students
Rubbing elbows with the natives
Who rarely looked up
At the painted ceilings
Youth wasted on the young
History forgotten by those entranced by
More modern pursuits, fashion, technology
I learned to exist in a different landscape
Blended in as a natural oddity –
Imperfect scenery, but unremarkable.
Yet, all this wealth of experience
Failed to move me from my mundanity
And I returned to rainy Manchester
Salivating at the thought of a cheddar cheese sandwich
On wholemeal sliced
A slick of marge, all the way to the edges
Maybe with a dab of Marmite to top it off
And a mug of supermarket-own-brand
Red-label tea to wash it down
Brewed strong enough to stand the spoon
With a splash of milk
As comforting to me as rain in August,
Grey skies and green fields.

Debussy hour

As the first strains of the piano
Arpeggios arch through the gloom
Of the blinds-pulled living room
You curl in my arms
Nuzzle for a breast
As if you were not outgrowing
Your babyhood
So keen to stretch skyward
When will I be a Big Girl, Mummy?
Soon enough, my lovely,
Soon enough.
This hour is my solace.
Your warm breath on my shoulder
Legs folded around my thigh
We embrace upon the sofa.
I ignore the floor
What little of it remains visible
In the chaos of your wake
Toys strewn like flotsam.
I am drowning by inches
Yet this is not playtime
I will not despair
For my once neat home
It matters little
And shall be overcome
Once we are both back on our feet.
Eyelids flutter as we reach for
The second movement
Ears adjusting to familiar rhythms
I reach for the mouse
Scroll to the next page
Of our story
Welcoming this forced pause
Suspended in our time
Inhabiting this shared space
To the end of the lullaby

Flounce, Fluff and Flattery

There is a world of difference
Between those who seek the
Company of women
To bask in it
Hanging on their every thought
As one transported
By the beauty
Of a strange and fantastical mind
And those who fancy
A quick in-and-out
Ego-boost before
Zipping their feelings,
Upping sticks and moving on
To the next conquest.

The difference is obvious
Even to the most casual observer:
One is the stuff of
Fantasy and freedom
Of late-night talks
And deep discussions
Long philosophising over
Personal projections
Maybe with a bit of
Barefoot dancing
And a casual pinch of laughter
Thrown in for good measure.

On encountering the other,
I will take the lonely
High road to nowhere
Hiking in stupid, pretty,
Too-tight shoes
Risking my own skin
To preserve sanity
Rather than share transportation,
Food or drink
In exchange for temporary
Flat-footed flattery
With bondage-grade
Strings attached.

I enjoy womanisers
Who enjoy women
In all their complexity,
But have no time
For bed-notch chasing
Egotists with
Straw for brains
And cloth for ears.

Fabula rasa

This new life chafes at her
Like fresh skin, stretched
Taut over familiar tenderness
Of an old, raw wound
Nothing fits her now
Not time, nor place
As long-jawed expressions
Must face up to unflattery
And quit sliding into view
Over blank slate

Hedgehog

I once moved country
With a sleeping bag
A dictionary
Two dresses
A blue t-shirt
One pair of jeans
And a change of underwear
To live in a nine foot
Square box with no
Toilet or fridge
I cooked ravioli
In the tin over
A five euro
Electric kettle
And washed both
Food and clothing
In the bidet
Entertaining friends
One at a time
As I acquired
A single mug
With no handle
Singing songs
With strangers
Who were also
Far from home
So do not dare
To presume
That I will permit
Myself to acknowledge
The inconvenience
Of personal growth
There are other things
Upon this Earth
That chafe

That’s OK! (by me)

Never try to date musicians
Actors, players or politicians
All who make fame their lifelong mission
Feel compelled to keep ambition

Uppermost in their mind’s eye.
Resisting those whose hopes may lie
In other kinds of pie-filled sky,
Aspire to happiness: decry

The complex marketing campaigns
To fill your dreams with endless strains
Of violins, and chilled champagne
(Someone is selling something vain)

You’re not obliged to join, partake
In putting out, appearing, fake
So falsely cheerful, on the make
We don’t all want the same big break

And there are many paths to tread
That do less harm and keep you fed
You could just read a book instead
To fill your soul, first fill your head

Survivor

I am right there
Surrounded by cockroaches
Squatting in the ruins,
The wreckage.
Collateral, damaged
In the fallout
Of a truly
Decadent society
That looked up to its
Graven images,
Photoshopped.
Idols, now idle.
How they glittered
In their lame, sequinned
Lifestyles.
Just me – a bunch of
Bad habits
And under the rubble,
One drug-addled
Rock guitarist.
Perhaps if we put our
Heads together
We can try
To find words
To remember.

Something we call beauty in this world

Thank you, hallowed searching tool
For showing me that there is, still
Willing, chilling, filling, brill,
A sugar-coating for this pill

Somehow, you find for my desktop
Pit stop, hip hop, belly going flip flop,
Scotching, sketching, scratching, stop
One more taste of cherry pop

However pixelated, shrunk, compressed,
Understated, down, depressed
Liberated, cool, undressed,
I remain, more than impressed

So attainable, and claimable
Grasping, gasping, blameable
Sinkable and stainable
And food for hungry brain-able

Cut and paste and double click
Play games with words ‘til figures stick
Save your sanity and pick
More images to trick your wick

Whatever algorithm, aphorism,
Downright no-good plagiarism
Someone else’s solipsism
Undermines my pessimism

I can revel in these slideshows
Lose myself in random rows,
Rosy, delicate, composed,
Stare at nature, beak and nose