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

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

The girl I wanted to be

I envied you your freedom

To wear short hair

Pierce things

I had only seen

On TV

Fall off your motorino

Breaking a wrist

With such impunity

Unafraid of the

Consequences

Approaching exams

Short skirts

Body paint

Cool for days

I didn’t see

The things that

Frightened you

Kept you acting

The social butterfly

To avoid authority

Running from those

Who demanded things

You could not bear to give

How could I?

With my own demons

To manage

In my long skirts

Flat shoes, subtle

Silent screams

Haunting adolescence

Like a will-o-the-wisp

We are similar now

Grown treading different

Yet parallel paths

Outlasting our pursuers

Ignoring our denigrators

Fiercely seeking our own truth

In a sea of snake oil salesmen

We were never friends

Yet hardly enemies

Mere acquaintances

Each wrapped up in

Our own, private concerns

On nodding terms

Barely aware the other

Existed, but rivals

For all the wrong reasons

I wish you well

Perhaps one day

Our minds may form

A greeting longer

Than the casual nod

We spare one another

From across the room

At some ghastly

Virtual reunion

Organised by those

Who peaked in high school

And want to compare

Their declining ambitions

In a club house

After dark

Like giggling teens

While the next generation

Smokes round the back

Of the toilets

Hoping a mint

Will disguise the smell

As parents pretend

Not to recognise

Their own poor choices

In their offspring

Still single?

Deserted?

Divorced?

Half dead?

Any rugrats?

Really?

Same. Or nearly.

Deep scars from wounds

Old and new

Here’s to us

And all those like us

How about it, Fay?

We happy few

Still standing here

Upon this day

The Worst Best Years: A Student Life Anthology

I have just had a poem about my student days published in a new anthology by Acid Bath Publishing. Copies of the anthology can be ordered online here:

https://www.acidbathpublishing.com/shop/worstbestyears

Shy at retirement

The happy ex-executive
Is finished with their woes –
May quaff another malt
When curling up with slippered toes
Can sit and read the papers
Take his breakfast pipe in bed
And when the press come calling, say
‘Ask someone else, instead!’

The happy ex-executive
Has set his suits aside
To walk the dog in comfort
With no other plans to hide
The boardroom doesn’t matter
As he mutters through his day
No longer forced to listen
To the nonsense some might say

The happy ex-executive
Has time to count his chicks
Now grown and flown and flapping hard
For mortar board and bricks
He sits and sips his coffee
That no secretary bears
And wonders why the future
Hangs so often round his ears

The happy ex-executive
Now pastured and put out
The boredom that keeps looming
Moulds his frown into a pout
At four a.m. deciding
That enough’s enough, ‘tis done
It’s time to join a panel;
Find some new oblivion

The happy ex-executive
No longer sees himself
As more than the reflection
Over mantle, mirrored wealth
And what was it he wanted
When he first took on the role
But to see himself rewarded
For team efforts, on the whole

The happy ex-executive
Is feeling somewhat lost
Unsure that it was worth it
Pensioned off as ‘managed cost’
The marks of market forces
Take a little time to fade
But happy ex-executive’s
Already got it made

Zarafa, my love

With your tiny fingers and toes
Nails so sharp to rake new lines
In your young cheeks
With the fresh sensation
Of shock and awe
We welcome you to this place
Unknowing how to tell you
But with soft touches
Gentle words and careful
Rubs to soothe your stomach
As it navigates for the first time
Those aspects of life
That are harder to swallow
If we are not perfect
Trust us when we swear
We will try ever harder
To understand and be present
For and in all things
That matter to you
Please know that
You are wanted, and needed
And best of all,
You are loved

Feathered Misfortune

What came first, the bird, or the egg?
Well, I spotted the dead pigeon on Monday night
As I was walking down the embankment
Trying not to breathe too many fumes
Still shivering from an over-chilled office
And shocked at the sight of mangled grey feathers,
A broken neck and damaged wings
I wondered if it had been hit by a vehicle
Or disorientated, had flown beak-first
Into a mirrored tower block
Before plummeting to the pavement below.
I had no answers. Nor did anyone seem
Too interested in the fate
Of an earthbound, flying sky-rat.
I walked home, pondering
The funeral rites of a feathered pest.
The next day, passing the other way
I saw it was still there.
Must have been missed by the road sweepers
Or deliberately ignored as someone else’s problem.
That evening, Tuesday after work
I felt sure someone would have mentioned it
And had the bird disposed of
But no.
Nudged off the pavement into the gutter
At the side of the road
Still a crumpled heap. Grey feathers dirty
From the road dust and oil residue.
I walked on.
By Wednesday evening, the bird was gone.
This morning, I took a different route to work
Staying on the bus to the museum
Then walking the few blocks North to the river.
As I passed under a bridge, I saw an egg
Shell cracked, yolk scattered on the ground
Dirty down feathers floating
While trains rattled above, shaking the shadows
A lone pigeon fluttered overhead
As if mourning their loss.

Winnipeg

Cry me a red, red river
A river of dust and bones
Of hearts that bleed and shiver
From broken and bruising homes

Blow me a kiss of willow
To echo a mourner’s moan
The ache of an empty pillow
Another child’s fate unknown

Cry me a red, red river
To fold me within its bed
And comfort the cares that slither
Through thoughts of unending dread

Bring me a message, finding
Too late what you had to face
My anger a knot, a binding
A coiling of thoughts that race

Cry me a red, red river
Reflecting a distant star
A chorus of souls, a quiver
That calls to me from afar

Paint me a cold moon rising
Surrounded by frozen waste
Still warmed by a hatred, blinding
For victims that leave no space

Cry me a red, red river
From words that no longer mean
An end to the dreams that linger
Its path a forgotten scream

Soothe me to sleep through Winter
To wake in the roar of Spring
With gifts that are carved to splinter
Where birds cannot bear to sing

Cry me a red, red river
And lay there upon this shore
The past where I long to wither
And hold you again, once more

This was written for the Red River Women.