Poems

  • Medusa’s visit to the salon
  • Her
  • The drinker’s passion
  • Mexico and him
  • Kathleen Kewley
  • Overheard in a hotel one afternoon
  • Thomas Addison
  • Reply to Shakespeare’s sonnet xvii – O! never say that I was false of heart
  • The stalker
  • The sea and you
  • Beauty
  • Early in the plague of 2020
  • Her shoes
  • She was as ugly as a blue winter day
  • Beautiful Miranda
  • In Remembrance
  • Lucy
  • To a psychiatrist
  • DNA
  • Lithium
  • Retrospective yearning for middle age
  • Living on
  • Drug death sonnet
  • Call me Steph
  • Resilience and the Lady
  • Dead Toad
  • Frog
  • Sour
Medusa’s visit to the salon

My scaly hair writhes past my neck
Waving in hands that weigh its worth
And eyes that will not look at me
Or meet my image there.

Make me beautiful, I say;
Make me shine again as when
he loved me. Though he too
looked away when I was near.

He shrugs his shoulders,
Wary of my stare, and says
Your hair is beautiful enough,
I never saw such hair.

And then he held the glass up high
so I could see the back;
The ravenous, the killing,
and the hair that was not hair.

Cut it off, I said, and so he did.
Each head dropped down and eyes 
glazed white. I looked around
to thank him, and he died.
Her

You look past me with sprout green eyes,
pouring your dress from your neck
and smiling faintly, enigmatically.

I would like, very much, to hurt you.
Only this would quench the throb
of your existence and grind it down

like spice, gripping my throat, and
drawing my breath to keep it sweet
and moist within me.

Your shoes, even. What are they
but gaudy, glossy, glassy? You glint
and scintillate, an unmasked bulb

that cannot shoot through soil to
spring. I am autumn, I was first, and
I am waiting for you.
The drinker’s passion

The wrench of cork and twist of screw,
a rasping cry
that makes me long for you, 
then pulls away.
The beauty of your song calls through a
book of hopes all dashed upon
the clear bright rock 
of youth, grown sour with age.
I can’t forget you
never will the music of your coming
fade within me.
Each little death 
a vanishing of love.

Cold glass between my hands, that clasp
you close in hot embrace,
you draw my lips to kiss you, and I sigh.
And I am spent as you are. But
your sisters gleam as maidens, and
I leave you lying there.
They smile and whisper, sing another
verse to me. They are not beautiful
as you were, but
they will do.
In the dark their faces shine,
by dawn grown gnarled and black.
I hear their voices, louder now,
calling me back.
Mexico and him

All I do now is
wait for you
In this country of colour and dust
All I ever did was
wait
You loved her
You loved her mountains, 
her cities
You loved me
I thought.
 
Her voice 
I could not hear
like you
You thought that I would love her too
and you
that we three all would 
love
I hated me
with her
I could not see
her dust her colour
Not me.
Kathleen Kewley 
(1905-1987)

He asked me to arrange his flowers,
scrub his floors more like!
An irritating man, who called me Kay,
who gave me sherry, gin and it,
who took me dancing, and to golf.
I liked it all, I did, and him,
But once I had been Kathleen.
There were beaches and piers,
my sisters, and men, who never called me Kay.
Sometimes, when Kay is dancing,
or golfing, or just arranging flowers,
I see Kathleen in a mirror, or a glass,
and she laughs at me;
‘What were you thinking of, Kay?’
she mocks, ‘washing his socks, when you
could have breathed wildflowers with me.’
And I think then 
how I am contracted.
Overheard in a hotel one afternoon

I was seduced by what I do not know
But such seduction will beget rewards
A lump sum. What is this lump, so heavy
And desired? Where will you find it?
What’s more dot com has caused you grief,
I didn’t look carefully enough
How foolish could you be, my friend?
An older voice, a man’s voice, English,
Subsumes the lighter female voice,
How can someone talk like that?
Another sound cuts through the air,
Scottish, gentler, growing harsh,
You kept me awake till 4 last night,
Your bed squeaked as you tossed and turned.
Her voice squawked in return then stopped.
And wisely she said nothing.
I saw one financial advisor,
You’re not sleeping in that bed tonight
Who lies awake all night and thinks of sums?
Will sums spent on that bed help shut it up?
Why listen on if silence is a choice?
The voice will pierce the ear through all the noise.
Thomas Addison

My dog Jacob nearly died last month.
He waited and wasted
couldn’t speak to tell us why,
yellow white, his coat 
dropped, dust to dust.
We expected his death
and then they said, no, 
he shall not die.
For he has Addison’s disease,
which can’t be cured, but
with the help of steroids can
most definitely be endured.
Thomas Addison
a man of great intellect
with a knowledge of physic and glands.
Thomas Addison died by his hand
one hundred- and sixty-years past,
unable to tell his suffering.
Thomas Addison, you are remembered.
Reply to Shakespeare’s sonnet xvii – O! never say that I was false of heart

I think from this it’s very clear you strayed
While working on that job far overseas
It’s somewhat shocking, given I downplayed
My own pretence of virtue, worn to please
Our rather shabby bond. What makes you say
You kissed, but never loved? What lies come through
Your pale, misleading lips? Just know you’ll pay;
Your stain cannot be wiped while all you do
Is rant and plead. Your flame may well be lit 
But not by me; your number’s off my phone
So don’t go calling me again, I’ve met
Another love, without those frailties you own;
This universe has many more than you
And don’t tell me you didn’t know that too.
The stalker

I love you so, my darling!
Wonderfully, joyfully!
Your blue eyes
Heroic nose
These are all mine (and yours).

I love you so, most graciously,
With life and limb
My limbs are short
But may my life be yours
I love you with such passion.

I love you so, my love!
Devotedly, indubitably,
I love your smile
(It’s not for all)
I love you all I can.

I love you far too much, my love
Despite your gaze beyond me.
I love you – hopefully, sweetly,
Passionately, desperately, longingly,
Hopelessly.
The sea and you

The tide was out as we talked and picked up stones;
Sand squeezed through toes and wrinkled back
where shining sea stretched into sun and past.
What we said is lost, and echoes dim your voice,
though sun and water light up bright in mist
or sudden shower, traversed by blaze.
I have walked too far from you, and seek again
the earth, the sand, where soft and firm you trod. 

I live now where I never see the sea, 
or hear the gulls, l never smell the air 
that rasped my face, the salt that let me breathe,
and made you live again. I walked there last
where sea was curled, when tide was high and life
was hidden far beneath the stones, the seaweed, 
shells, and you. I listen, but your voice is still;
I see the light beyond, but you are gone.
Beauty

We are only beautiful
Because we fade and die
In decay
Lies our loveliness.

The botoxed face
Has all the grace
Of fruit sucked dry.
The juice of youth is gone.

In time we change
In time that drags and speeds
And soon we look at hands
That crack and fold.

We live a day that
Cannot last
And we must sit and stare
At those that follow.

With blue-rinsed hair
And sippy cup,
We watch new beauty
Thinking it will last.

And laugh.
Early in the Plague of 2020

No lock on the door but a cross
and God have mercy upon us.
There is nothing we need
we have water and beans
we have straw on the floor
and the telly for cheer.

The world was our oyster they said.
Well they got that one wrong.
We tripped on our planes 
and our ships where the rats were 
the cloths on our mouths
as we breathed in the plague.

A test or a bubo, not much of a choice
the one from within that eats up your soul
the other a cross in a box that you dread
but isn’t so likely to make you as dead.
I sit in my house with my mask and my wipes
I wait in my house for the news of the spread.

The seaports and airports are darkened
with fear. Who can we blame? Not our
nearest and dearest, we hope still alive,
but the selfish, the foreign, all those we are not.
And the fear feeds the guilt
and the guilt feels the rot.

I sit all alone with the groan of my buboes
God knows they are growing and blackening.
I hate all the people that brought me to this
that killed me by moving and being.
Why should I die with this cross on my door?
Alone with my mask and my fear.

So I get on my phone and I call 111
and I tell them I’m ill with the plague.
They give me advice, and say best stay at home
and just wrap up and keep yourself warm.
Keep away from the ones that this illness could kill
but you don’t sound so terribly ill.

The cross has been scraped from my door.
The post man delivers once more.
My diet includes avocado again
and I might go on holiday soon.
But I will remember the tales of a plague
I will remember a plague.
Her shoes

Cracked leather, stretched on feet
that once could dance. Old shoes, bright shoes,
the smell of years of seasons past.

Dusty shoes, faint polish lingers on those
stubborn shoes that will not wear
my feet, that know I am not her.

Her feet were narrow once
and slid through stockings, 
stroked by silk and warmed by wool.

The shoes she later wore were shoes that chafed,
and rubbed at flesh, were worn again,
then walked with pride, the heels rebuilt.

Much later cuts were made to spread the leather
round that ageing foot, which dropsy swelled
and each step spoke of age and heaviness and pain.

What happened to your shoes when they were laid to rest? 
Did you see the care and carelessness once worn?
Or did you turn away and think no more. 
She was as ugly as a blue winter day 
I’ll chum you up there, cackling, 
to see Sigmund Freud, no less.
My dog can fly, you know, 
the smell is rank. We breathe him in.
‘Put your seat belts on,’ he snarls
and taste your packaged lunch.
He laughs and slides his hand into his glove,
the softness trembles.
No deathly good will come of all this.
Bright sun through net curtains.
Beautiful Miranda

Beautiful Miranda
gave not a fuck
alas she had no truck
with being kinder.

She had red hair
but never washed it
she had a child
but never hushed it.

The child was dead
she never bore it
she could not love
she was a harlot.

Beautiful Miranda
was a drunk
her house was full of junk
spread out around her.

Sorrow was her bed mate
from the start
despair came far too late
to save Miranda.

Beautiful Miranda
died too soon
life devoured all hope
and Death consumed her.
In Remembrance

El-ec-tri-ci-ty
Say it!
Say it so you won’t forget
but I will.
 
White and gentle
care and cotton
hold my hand
all forgotten.
 
Which am I?
Giver or Receiver?
I never knew
or cared.
 
Counting back
I never got there
shrieking noise
was all I heard.
 
What matter was it?
Grey transcended
all my thoughts
too late.
 
Currents passed
blankness stared
I couldn’t see
or know
 
where I was then.
Was this the place
where I had been
before?
 
And where were you?
You went because 
you knew  
I would forget.
 
I am now
as I was then
better
but forgotten.
Lucy

Soundless you ceased to be,
Oh my daughter.
Unliving 
A shell of a life
A sigh with no start.

Is it better
To live, twenty years and more,
To long and yearn,
To lose the distance
That never comes?

Or does the pulling darkness,
The lack of time,
Beguile you more?
I never saw your face at all
My dear, dead child.

The echo of your birth
Lives down the years,
The you I never saw
That others saw, then looked away,
As though you were not fair.

My daughter,
You are gone.
You will not walk 
Through dark nights or bright days.
You are fair and gone.
To a psychiatrist
 
To you, I am a brief moment,
A problem, if not solved, then put aside.
My anguish is interesting to you,
But cannot touch you.
To me, you are hope,
You will say the forgotten words 
That will mend the frayed thread
Of my existence.
Trembling, I wait
For what never comes.
How can you say 
What you do not know?
I look into a mirror
And close the sides,
And see green reflections,
Endlessly. 
DNA

A poem warning of the dangers of ancestry testing & the consequent risk of ill-founded doubt 
(with thanks to Sylvia Plath) 

Daddy give me a break 
Won't you? 
Daddy what will it take 
For you 
To see 
That I am a part of you? 

What do you see when you see me 
Daddy? 
Is there any way you can free me 
Daddy? 
From you 
And all that has come from you? 

I never thought Mummy would stray 
Daddy 
The phenotype is a giveaway 
Daddy 
Your DNA 
Was to blame, don't you think? 

Daddy this gives you a thrill 
I see 
Daddy who will you kill? 
Not she. 
Is there  
Someone you think it could be? 

You told me it’s all a big hoax 
Daddy 
That my genes come from the Big Smoke 
Daddy 
So what 
Can be bothering you? 

Do you want me to be unique 
Daddy? 
Does doubt give you all that you seek 
Daddy? 
Just know 
I am perfectly me.
Lithium

Lithium!
Element and traitor
What do you want of me?
You soothe my tongue,
belie my mind.
 
I see you
stretching through the years
spread soft like butter
white chalk hard
What are you?
 
A two-faced mask
stealing feelings
You take all I have
and laugh at it
through tears.
 
Metal, we are one.
You have my joys, my sorrows
you make the night kind
and the day that follows
unremarkable.
Retrospective yearning for middle age

You slouch in your chair
You are old
You are forgotten
You dribble slightly
Your trousers gape
 
Keep away from my baby
who is young
who smiles at me a
wet wide smile
whose nappy binds
 
We leak and age
then age and leak
a peak of dignity
wells sometime in between
for most 
 
You never knew that middle
age could be so good
which meant that you 
forgot
old man.
Living on

A flame in the flesh
sears and holds that
which looks away.
The sea, the sky will never reach
the voice which cannot speak.
 
Douse that fire
leave what is left of
me to fate.
A hand grips fast, from far away
a voice speaks silently.
 
A pilot flame
burns on behind a
darkened mesh.
The fingers soften and leave
The voice is lost in a choir.
Drug death sonnet

The road was all awash with mud and slush
when past the grim-faced doors we pushed our feet
We knew why we had come, and through the mush
we saw the one we sought wound by a sheet.
We cared not for his fate, or how he died
or who his mother was, or if he loved,
all this was nothing to us, he had lied;
Black lies that meant we stood with him and shoved
him, when he drank that drink so still and green.
He smiled a little then. His fear was not
when he would die, or what his death would mean
but dread of senseless suffering, withdrawal and of rot.
The scent of death was on him, all the way
Through life, and dying a relief that final day.
Call me Steph
 
she said, gazing, lips apart,
she didn’t like him all that much
her mother loathed him though
and that would do
 
his house was weird and deep
and dark and clammy
but the drink was good
rows and rows of shiny bottles
 
she sat there on his knee 
suckling, fingers trailing in his 
black cold hair as she
reached for another
 
his voice was gentle
aren’t you hungry?
he touched her lips 
you must eat now
 
she tossed her head
hands sliding on the glass
his hand on hers
and hers on his
 
afterwards she lay
he left her fruit
six seeds she ate
to quench her thirst
 
and then she drank again
a dark warm wine, and slept
Seph, he said, Persephone,
stay with me
Resilience and the Lady

You said I was resilient, and you smiled;
I never understood quite what you meant, but
thought it was inside me, deeply furled,
then one day I looked inwards, and saw
nothing.
 
You had made me think I was a hero,
a modified St George without a sword
You told me I had courage in my guts,
and weary though I was you said - do more!
When I said no, you said that others could
and that the fault was mine, and I was
nothing.
 
You said we need resilience in this life,
that I must nurture mine to make it grow
so you could make me do much more than now.
And then I turned around and looked at you,
You want me to do more, I said, to work myself to
nothing.
 
This is your resilience. You do not care
for me, you only want to squeeze out what you can
and then replace me with another, saying sadly,
she had no resilience.
But I am not St George
I am St Georgina, and I’ll never slay a dragon;
You will not need me now, for you are
nothing.
Dead Toad

Dead toad on the road
Where were you going?
Who did you hope to meet
When everything stopped?
 
Toad you are forgotten
No-one mourns you
What spawn you have begotten
Think not of you.
Frog

Frog, your legs were long, symmetrical and brave
And also dead
Your arms were crossed across your breast
You looked at rest.
 
What creature killed you, Frog,
And left you there?
A sacrificed amphibian
On a cold, stone stair.
Sour

My mind is soured
Like pickles caught in teeth
Lingering past the taste
And spreading doubt.
I hate the cloak I wear
Of clinging knowledge
I hate the doubts I feel
And they are me and you
And you.
No longer do I taste of milk
Fresh and sweet and pure
My thoughts are long fermented.
I will never know quite where
But the road to death
Is paved with stones
Cracked by uncertainty.