Shopping List

Never send a man

Whose skills require

Seeing the bigger picture

To obtain anything specific

At a foreign supermarket

That is how you end up

With a reputation

As the family

Who rolled into town

And purchased two

Jumbo packs

Of incontinence pads

On the very first day

Of a two week

Holiday

Attention to detail

Was never your strongest

My dearest

That said, they proved both

Useful, well padded

And highly absorbent

So we left the remainder

In the bathroom

For the next tenants

To spare them the

Embarrassment

Of a middle-aged father

Having to ask

The Spanish word

For tampons

At least we didn’t need

Contraception

God only knows

What might have

Been the result

Water balloons?

Firecrackers?

Or merely

A tasteful calendar

Populated with

Saints days,

Helpful hints,

Thoughts, and prayers

Loft Lyrics

I grew up with an internal radio station

Better than our parents’ clock radio

My ears played on through

A sea of uncomfortable silences

Blasting songs that chimed with my psyche

Until I was old enough to find my voice

These days I don’t have to hide

My mental playlist

Hoard records like a miserly dragon

Perched atop a sea of

Battered cardboard sleeves

And faded pictures

I just talk to a box and it starts

Opening chords strummed on a guitar

Take me back to a time before

I knew more of the world

Than my own small patch

Middle-aged thoughts

Humming along

Drifting homeward

On a smooth, Atlantic sound

To a time before we were grown

Feelings surface like an old bruise

Half-healed, then suddenly pressed

I can taste the air

Dusty summer evenings

Hollyhocks and forget-me-nots

Claiming the cracks in the pavement

Outside our front gate

Flip the record over for the sound

Sunshine and staying up late

Neighbours over the back fence

Drinking and smoking in their yard

Trainers airing on the roof

Outside the bedroom window

Across the way

Someone picking at a battered guitar

Me and my imagination

Staring at lengthening shadows

On the cracked barley-white ceiling

As the switch to night lit up

Our rainbow.  We lay back watching

The tower block on the corner

Each window its own colour

Turquoise, pink, yellow, mauve

I was never alone in the dark

Surrounded by signs of the high life

We never saw up close

Just a little stifled

Bedtime would find me

Trying to splay my coltish limbs

In their hand-me-down, too short

Darned pajamas

Neckline off-centre

Their cartoon cat’s face

Twisting with each rotation

Feet up on the wall to keep cool

Through the night

Waiting for sleep to overtake us

In our overheated box bedroom

Postcards and photos stuck up

To disguise the chips in our plaster walls

Cover the lack of care

For our decaying ruin of a house

That was home – patched but not mended

We took it in stride

Knowing nothing else

The five foot three bunkbeds

I shared with my sister

Squabbling for a turn

To enjoy the view

From the top bunk

Thin tartan mattress over

Groaning metal springs

Until I left home at eighteen

In search of a new set

A brand new sound

And someone to play with

Holding it

Can you make it a little further?

Just to the next bend

Almost home

Mere steps really

Cross the road

Jump the puddle

Past the bins

To the front gate

And through

Can you cross your legs

On the doormat

While I fish for keys

Elusive in pockets

Of tissues and masks

And useless pennies

That nobody takes

Anymore?

Can you keep your cool

Your calm?

Clench and unclench

Fists without disaster

Until I push the door

And you rush past the

Escaping cat

Whose plaintive mews

Mean the feeling is

Surely mutual

One in, one out

To next door’s garden

Trousers down

Flowerbed

Aaaaah… at last!

That’s better!

Reddit nights

Show me a meme

Something droll

Make me laugh

Cringe, groan

Feel something

Other than fear

And that faint sense of

Malaise born of

Too many days

Spent staring at a screen

Show me a meme

I don’t want to think

Of the horrors outside

Of queueing for food

Huddled in coats

Hats, gloves, scarves

Lonely and crowd-shy

Among faceless strangers

Who were once

On neighbourly

Nodding terms

Show me a meme

Bernie’s gloves

A party-favour

Orange forty-five

Something exotic

As new underwear

Pizza and beer

On a cold, wet

Soulless Tuesday

I really don’t care

Show me a meme

Or I will get up

And leave

My cold-coffee cup

On the windowsill

Ice-cream spoon stuck

To the carpet

By your easy chair

Climb the stairs

And head for bed…

Oh, kittens!

Frankenstein’s bicycle

We tried to sell it

Before lockdown really bit

And we found out

Why you’d kept it

All these years

Luckily the bloke

Who said he’d buy it

Never showed up

So when you

Suddenly needed

A way to get

From A to Z

Free of risking

Public transport

There it stood

That rusty heap

Of ancient, recycled

Bits and pieces

Trusty to the end

It only needed

New wheels

Brakes, pedals

A comfier seat

New chain

Central bolt

And eventually

The crossbar snapped

When you met that

Final pothole

Now it sits glumly

In the hallway

Leaning on the

Cranky radiator

Muddying the carpet

While we try to negotiate

The grey market

Of spare parts

Traded online

Fished out of canals

Pinched from passageways

And porches

Hoping for inspiration

To strike twice

And for your Phoenix

To ride once more

The poem I should have written

The poem I should have written basked in safety, made you spread your arms to enfold me.  An old friend.  That poem would be held to your warmth in comfort, secure in the knowledge we posed no threat, to you.  Your narrow world view.  Your careful ambition.  

The poet of the poem I should have written was your favourite.  Firmly in the black and white of your corner, unlike me with my shades of grey.  Part of the tribe, not going to challenge any part of your familiar routine, try to shake things up, change the world. 

The poem I should have written would have sold millions of books to sit in shelves, adorn greetings cards, be quoted at weddings, funerals and wherever you need something suitably generic – universal. 

The poem I should have written would have won me plaudits from a million accounts on social media – not all of them bots. 

That is the poem I should have written.  Did I write it?  No.  Will I try again tomorrow?  Probably.  Will I succeed?  Unlikely. 

I am not a fan of the poem I should have written.  That is unfortunate.  The words of the world are too harsh on my tongue.  My pen cannot speak them with conviction.

My rough edges cut through the soft wooliness of emotional panacea.  Claws and beak eroding the security blanket over my cage.  I struggle to stop myself from fighting the oblivion of sleep. 

The poem I should have written eludes me.  It would cost me something to knuckle down and write that poem.  Someone else can do it.  I don’t mind.  They can take the fame and fortune. 

I will stick to this corner of obscurity.  Keep scribbling my own perceived truths.  Find something that whispers to me in the dark.  Until I roll over and reach for my pen.  Sharp and subjective.

B*ll*cks to the bakesale!

I am not sure whether it was
The burnt banana bread
Or the under-spiced
Over-baked biscuits
That did it
But I am thoroughly
Sick-as-a-dog
Fed up to the back teeth
And beyond
With the schoolyard
B*llsh*t bakesale
Not just the politics
The cut and thrust
Of who gets to bake
And who gets to buy
At the thrice termly
Repeating misery
That is the fundraiser
Conspicuous, competitive,
Consumption
For a school committee
With more money
Than common sense
Soliciting donations:
Baked goods; sweets; 
Good-as-new toys;
Dictating requirements:
Own clothes; costumes;
Odd shoes; socks;
Random coloured shirts;
Hair ribbons; headgear;
We all pay for a day
Out of uniform
Or suffer culinary torture
Face it, ladies
I can actually cook
But my kitchen will never be
One hundred percent
Gluten or nut-free
I don’t want to poison
Anyone (by accident)
And I resent the waste
Of good ingredients
This charade entails
Let’s just forget it
The whole in-crowd
Phenomenon
What are we, twelve?
Phooey to the PTA!
Us working mums have
Bigger problems
Than dusting off a dirndl 
To play at housewife
On a weekday afternoon
Though what you choose
To do with your own time
Is none of my business.
And that was my 
Considered, rational,
Personal perspective
Before we ate the
Glitter-encrusted
Muffin of doom
That somehow gave
The entire family
Galloping gut rot
(Even the cat)
Don’t ask me how
I no longer care
We have run out of
Buckets, bog roll,
And fresh underwear
Seriously,
Screw the whole thing!
I am switching to
Online donations
At least they don’t
Require that I provide
Correct change
Nor that I invest my
Hard earned paycheck
In industrial quantities
Of bathroom bleach
And antacids
Only to be sneered at
By the clique of
Suzie home-maker
And sycophants
Holding court
At the school gate
Judging me and mine
For our contribution
To the latest cause

Schneider

We had nothing but rags
Bags of old costumes
Piled in the corner
Of a dusty room
Discarded scraps
Of forgotten dreams
So I taught myself to sew
Building a tapestry
Of my patchwork life
Knees folded on the
Chilly bathroom floor
Its cracked blue lino
Like ocean waves
The tattered curtain
Tucked up over the rail
Learning to navigate
By feel and intuition
As I frowned
Squinting at my needle
Trying to get the thread
Through a tiny hole
In the mushroom-coloured dusk
At the awkward age
Of thirteen years and one month
I wore them out
My colourful creations
And people stared
Admiring and mocking
In equal amounts
When I grew
Good enough
That you could see
Design in my skilful
Manipulation
Of throw-away stuffs
I sold some
For coin, or bartered favours
Tailors can be born
And they can be made
I took commissions
If you could describe it
The perfect dress
I could draw it in my head
Then threading your dream
Through my careful fingers
Seam by seam
I could make it
Come alive