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

Decaffeinated

With neither teeth nor flavour
This ersatz brown beverage
Seeps through no veins
Awakens no senses
But with a shadow
Of breakfasts past
I miss my coffee
The taste of the real thing
Mornings gritty with
Coarse-ground broken beans
That stick in your teeth
Mug brewed hot and strong
To stand the spoon
Propping up tired limbs
That still stretch bedward
On a cloud of fragrant steam
Drooping head arrested
Upheld as surely as a
Marionette – strings and rod
Tied to a demitasse
Backbone taut to face the day
Tangy aftertaste to chase
Faint cobwebs of dreams
Back to their dark corners
Warm breath, parted lips
Gently smile and
Blow them all away
Take a sip, savour the jolt
A reminder you have awoken
And things may now follow
Their usual groove

Everyone’s A Critic

The loud purring
Of a sensitive soul
Rumbles across my lap
A gentleman-mouser
Whose claws are rarely
Sheathed in my flesh
Save for those few
Accidental motions.
He pauses in his
Hypnotic kneading
Of careful paws
Twitches a whisker
Opens a lazy eye
We are content
Devoted Familiar and
Current Provider of ear-scratches
Precious moments spent together
Do not last as long
As they once did
Those rare islands
Of near-silence
I try to spend
Writing.
Such a distraction
Is sadly unacceptable
In company
My failure to stroke
Soft furry egos
While fingers
Play over lettered keys
And coffee cools
At a careless elbow
Lead to gentle taps
Polite, then more insistent
I frown and mutter
Trying to shake loose
Some old ideas
From new forehead creases
Transmit them to my dusty screen
Before the next
Set of demands is issued
By the charming pout
Of the other House Tyrant
Whose three-year-reign
Continues to sway
The working lives
Of all her subjects.
It is not enough.
I cannot please all
Of my many masters
Not this day.
As gentle snores fade to yawns
I sift through the tired
Dog-eared card catalogue
Housed temporarily for safekeeping
Within my rapidly emptying skull
Brain cycling faster
The vocalisation
Begins in earnest
Close behind my ear
“Miaouw!”
He is starting to insist
“Pssst! Shush!”
It is a futile gesture
To try to silence
An old friend
The search continues
There are paws on my shoulder
Tapping, prodding
A hint of sharpness
A gentle shove
Hot breath on my neck
Can I find a verbal noun,
Subclause, or synonym
To convey my sense
Of panic at the first stirrings
Of any sleeping creature
Under four feet
But still a giant?
Too late.
“Mummy!”
I hiss my discomfort
At the sudden perforation
Of my thigh.
Time’s up once again.

Telling Times

Wedged into the sofa cushions

Gazing at other people’s parroted opinions

Wasting precious moments on Twitter

My daughter asleep in my lap

Waiting to hear more news

From the hospital

Wondering if grandma

Will need brain surgery

As her Googled symptoms suggest

The paramedics were not optimistic

Though they thought it was just

Concussion at the last visit

Repeating the same tests

Hoping for a better outcome

Can we allow ourselves to believe in miracles?

Or will she, like grandad

Go downhill quickly

Seduced to eternal sleep

By a mundane global nightmare

Transmitted in a hospital corridor

After a fall.

Strange these parallel lives

It is barely a week

Since the last funeral

And already I fear

There may soon be another.

Will my employer be willing

To suspend their disbelief

In the cruelty of the Fates

And lend grudging credence to the notion

One family could be the seat

Of such frequent misfortune?

I cannot say

Only Time will tell

And I continue to offend

That elderly gentleman

Numbing my senses

Scrolling past the paltry nonsense

That passes for news

A political procurer of

Public opinion is protected

By his powerful protégé

After a very public breach of policy

Big whoop. Conservative tastes

Do not lend themselves to

Common causes. He’ll not swing

Unless someone else has something

Sleazier than he can sell

To buy themselves his job

Dead men’s shoes, don’t you know?

The anxiety mounts with each beep of the phone.

We are all waiting

Sick of this virus

And the dread

And the endless grind

Working from home

Trying to focus on the Big Picture

Alongside the minutiae

While kids run amuck in the background

Leap-frogging over the broken and unwanted objects

We can’t yet take to the tip

For a decent recycling

Attempts to home-school abandoned

In the face of reality

They are creating new patterns

In the junkyard of our

Once orderly home

While the pile of dirty clothes

Mounts ever higher

Overspilling the laundry basket.

We have an excuse

We have forgotten whose turn it is

To do chores

All days blurring together

In this strange world of lock-down

At first we were industrious

To a fault

Clearing the decks of any

Half-assed DIY projects

Every evening and weekend

Buying improbable shades

Of garden paint online

Two months in

It’s a matter of sheer chance

If we remember when to put

The bin out.

The phone vibrates with news

And as the hopeful message

Trickles down the airwaves

Past the sleep deprivation

Bypassing nostalgia tinged with fear

To sink slow, clawing relief

Into my foggy brain

I am alerted to a new sensation

The damp embrace of a child

Whose nap time has now

Exceeded their bladder control.

At once I am reminded

It must be a Tuesday.

Bugger.

The bin will have to wait another week.

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

Biting baby blues

We’re rocking teeth
More shocking news
Our shoes won’t fit
Our socks we lose

We climb as high
As we can reach
And make the most
Unholy screech

We don’t sit still
May throw our food
And roll around
When in a mood

With grabby hands
And strong-willed walk
The vulnerable
We now stalk

That thing you smell…
Our butt don’t lie
Some nose-to-mattress
Lullaby

If you want sleep
You’d best be dead
Small half-moons mark
The path ahead

And will we tire
Or do as told?
Hell no! We’re just
As good as gold!

A Little Number

Before I was born
Just a twinkle
In the universe
Of possibilities

Reflected in eyes
Both bluest grey
And olive green
Did you know me?

Or was the I of me
And mine all one to you?
My seedling promised,
But unplanned

Was a meeting of
Hearts and minds
Foretold in song
To bardic strains

Or merely Cast
Upon the plain and
Simple lines
That sprang and pranced

This two-fold dance
Of fire and ice
Your foreign couplings
Kept apart

By Mother Earth
Who did not dream
Of feelings torn
From the widening

Womb-like walls
And shallow shores
Of an underground
Kingdom

Nuts and Colonels
Carried away
With crowns of pine,
From slender hopes

To careful, caring
Tender traps in
Wadded cotton
Whose snoring sheets

Wedded Pluto’s
Darker dreams to
Persephone’s Oblivion
Before there was me

Insomniac

I stayed up hanging on the line last night
My eyeballs were putting up a terrible fight
With my lids defiant and the screen too bright
Skin so itchy in pyjamas, something wasn’t right

With the tablet scrolling, tapping black on grey
Skimming lousy fan fiction ‘til the break of day
Guilty pleasures to distract me from this state of play
Knowing all too well what he would have to say

I’ve been lounging round in bubble baths to help me snooze
With late night meditating, self-hypnosis, pills and booze
Relaxation seems an ever more elusive muse
Necking Nytol, chugging camomile but no good news

Been a long time now since I couldn’t sleep
Keeping busy, feeling dizzy ‘til the clock goes beep
Waking dreams so crammed with thoughts that slither dark and deep
Just keep walking through the daylight feeling ready to weep

When your brain won’t slow and your ears won’t close
And you’re feeling sort of coldy from your head to your toes
No hot toddy makes you noddy, as the restless grows
Squirming prone beneath the duvet in your sleeping clothes

But the minute you stretch to find your feet again
He starts complaining in his sleep and clutching at your hem
As his snoring fills your senses and you pray for REM
You’re still stuck playing teddy while you count to ten

Sick of sheep that wander wooly through your neural net
As you lie caught between ‘it’s bed-time’ and ‘not-breakfast-yet’
Swearing blue streaks in the curtains trying to forget
It’s been an hour since you last visited the cabinet

Essential oils to make you sleepy getting in your face
With the stink of lavender all over the place
Singing whales offend the cat but buy you no more grace
He steals the pillow, sprawling fur in every inch of space

When the sun comes sneaking through the soggy dawn
You’ve given up on any rest; just put your knickers on
Stumble downstairs grumbling looking pale and wan
Bag grabbed, you’re lurching to the bus stop with the zombie throng

Tempus fugit

Something is missing from my little world
Time passes so swiftly it’s almost absurd
As soon as my first daily job has been done
I’m already late starting on the next one.
Oh when will this treadmill let me catch my breath?
I’ve been working so hard, though young, I feel like death.
When finally homeward I wearily tread
It’s hardly worth sleeping, much less going to bed.
For changing to nightgown, brushing hair and teeth,
Wastes such precious time that I get no relief
And scrambling through supper and other routine
Makes senseless my efforts to rest or keep clean.
Even on the weekends, my work’s never done
As between friends and fam’ly, my time’s not my own.
Before I am ready it’s Monday alas,
And the whole wretched cycle starts over apace.