Wednesday, 17 December 2008

Some Words

Silver threads
Holding on tight
White birds
Prickling hairs
Just too cold
Buried rivets
Foundation stones
Feeling cracks
Smashing floors

Friday, 12 December 2008

The Great and Unsettling Adventures of Little Lizzie Literature: Part One

Once upon a left handed argument, Little Lizzie Literature decided to take her bread and jam upon the southwards side of the Search-lit Sofa Sea. The Times had taken their toll on her paper pulp skin and the roaming light intermittently illuminated the dried up edges round her little written nose.
She munched her meal as the lighthouse span its head, accruing a most circumnavagatory view of the landscape. The jam was strained from the pulp of Pickwick Pears, which grew on the branches of the Dickens trees, found in Library Lagoon. Their flavour particularly full of character and cockney aromas.
The Sofa Sea undulated in a most somnambulant fashion – sending Little Lizzie Literature off to sleep in a beating of a bibliography eyelid, wedged precariously between a recliner and a beanbag. The Sofa Sea was now contributed to by the unfortunately named Stray Fluff Leakages – which had begun to descend from the Extra Stuffing Heights after the Great Rearrangement of the Second Sitting. The Ocean, once pure of all alternative seating plans and renowned for its two and three-seater clarity, was a hotch potch of cushioned intruders. Sofamen sometimes had to wait for days before a catch took hold of their lines and the effect on throw-cushion fish stocks was untenable.
So Little Lizzie Literature slept and ruffled her pages gently in her slumber, unaware of her predicament as she slipped down the back of inaccurately referred to Sofa Sea. Little Lizzie Literature bumped her paper-bodied way downwards until she rested gently on the bottom - atop a layer of biscuit crumb sand (and narrowly avoiding a stubbornly positioned depositation of forgotten-penny choral). She slept there until an uncompromisingly bristled hairbrush crab prickled it’s was across her chest, causing several of her pages to turn.
Little Lizzie Literature had been informed most vociferously by Old Grandma Gallstones that those who fall down the back of the Sofa Sea do not return unaltered by their experiences, if the do in fact return at all. The Maple Syrup Men travelling from the Great Rock Candy Mountain swore blind as a sugar rush that the Weave Witch of Worsted kept her lair company down there. And her lair was not to be reckoned with.
But Little Lizzie Literature was not a fluttery binding of pages. She had a belly full of bread and the hard-back spine of a dictionary. Little Lizzie Literature took a deep goose feather breath and set off into the darkness of the bottom of the Sofa Sea….

Wednesday, 10 December 2008

Tea Set

“Please do come round for tea” said She to He.
They sat in tiled and painted spaces and considered each other’s faces.
He was the carved frescoes lost heroes.
She, the painted and gilt goddess on the ceiling –
Tempting Fate to a snake-bite bed.
They sipped coloured liquids,
The lightshades of stained glasses above His head.
Their hands brushed over fumblings for silver spoons.
And the clink of bone china made etchings on their soundscape.
They had entire histories described for them upon the walls.
But He paid no heed to prior mishaps in relief.
They sipped until Her finest set was dry.
She swept it to the floor
Where it expanded in a flurry of footprint clouds.
She scooped the settling dust and softly blew it into His eyes.
The tea-set powder burned and stung.
He flung his bones against the marble scenes protruding at his spine.
Smothering moments of woe and war.
Of love and lies picked out in compacted debris.
She pressed in and kissed Him once and twice together.
Cold touches of brittle cartilage
That made his blood run dry -
Like the finished tea upon the floor.
They were swallowed by ceramic.
Light span through tinted glass to illuminate Their stone set faces -
Locked in a kiss of composite shells.
Trapped in calcium compounds.
Wrung out leaves remained upon the terracotta tiles.
Perhaps they spelt the shape of misfortune.
Or desire and loneliness combined.
A ribbon of text inscribed itself about Their heads
A Roman-fonted message to those taking tea unchecked:
"And the Thirsty crushed beneath their weight to stone.
And the china turned to china what was bone. "

Monday, 8 December 2008

Ramage and Bean

Ramage and Bean
Provided the scene
From which their story was told.
They gave us the setting –
A place suffocating
In a god, at the cost of it’s souls.

Ramage was the keeper
Of the Princely Sleeper –
Locked in the tower above.
Bean was his lover,
Kept tight undercover.
Hands tight through the skin of a glove.

When the boy fell to dream,
Ramage would shine a beam
Of light to the gate-lodge sill.
Bean would come to the ledge,
Drop down to the hedge
And progress, led on by his will.

Bean would then climb the stairs
To the tower, unaware
Of the danger he faced each night.
For in love one is blind
And he left behind
His reason in place of his light.

They would meet in the chamber,
As the fires turned to embers.
As wood turned to ash in the night.
There they’d embrace,
The other’s kisses they’d chase
And set their humours alight.

So entranced they would be,
That they failed to see
The boy, supposed sleeping next door.
He’d creep out of bed,
As hushed as he dead,
And sneak a look through the crack near the floor.

The boy had been preached,
To a god he’d beseeched
To forgive his sins great and small.
He knew what he saw,
Through the crack near the floor,
A sin – the worst if them all.

And so, Bean and Ramage,
Unaware, undisparaged,
Continued to meet by the stars.
They hushed their kisses,
Kept quiet hearts wishes,
Only stole day lit looks from afar.

One night while they met,
The Boy Prince crept
From his bed and down the back stair.
Along torch lit galleries,
Sweat drenched and heart hammering
With the weight of his God-given care.

The boy told the King,
Who sent bells to ring.
Sent the hounds to smell out the sin.
They were found in the tower,
And overwhelmed by the power
Of men scared of the passions within.

Ramage and Bean,
Closed down their scene -
They were hung at the first light of dawn.
Their ropes swung side-by-side.
Bodies flung to the tide.
Their love caused their curtain to fall.

No applause for this tale,
No “Lights up!” no hails
For performances beautifully played.
For this God fears the might
Of loves forced to the night.
He’d rather an empty, cold stage.

Wednesday, 5 November 2008


Bending backs over washboards. Emily watched as They were lined up in the courtyard to have their wings clipped. Some of the girls struggled against the grip of the Grounds-men. The boys seemed to have been broken long ago. Faces sallow like hollow skins on greengages. The man with the clippers had hands covered in scars, snips and remnants from more resistant works. Feathers were strewn over the cobbles, blood in an abattoir.
The Picker-boys would be let in to collect them later. The down feathers would be separated from the ones with strong spines and sold for the pillows of rich men’s beds. Perhaps to be reunited with their owners in moments of bought lust. There were dealers for the large feathers who would distribute the produce to quill makers, dressmakers, alchemists, other merchants and the occasional architect. The prices would be high, and not in gold.

Bells chime for passing hours like empty mouths at the table, little bird tongues poking to caterpillar suppers. Tower scratches the skin of old skies and lets it bleed to night. Emily watches until the clippers stop biting and They are lead back to their chambers. And the walls stop echoing the snip-snuck sound of deadened flight.

Emily woke from the silk-stocking reverie and into the sharp cold evening, a bat in a washhouse. Off the wall she dropped and down into the alley between the East and West Houses. Billowing cloak and the noise of velvet in air.

String songs run around the valley-crevices of her ears. Chasing others tails and singing folk prayers of the night before. She could follow them to the back of the library and through the pages of old geography books - swallow the scribbles from the margins of maps. And change full stops round so they make a constellation sky on her forearm. Ready for some clouded figure to trace with a beetle-shell finger. Over-long and wheezing a little eulogy of bending calcium before it cracks into a million oily surfaced fragments over her sky. All the while the other hand tightly round her wrist, whitening the skin.

Emily fell away into the darkness, moving quickly down the alley. There was a drop into the lower quarter ahead. A steep precipice over fifty feet that divided the city between the Winged district and the Soil Half, titles now redundant after everything had turned. Emily ran and leaped off the edge into the sky. For a moment the lower city swung beneath her in a gasp of cold night air, laced with the heavy scents of other peoples evening cook pots. Then a flash of white feathers and she was away and up, scooped by the air itself and welcomed to the vast canvas of stars above her.

The They stays in her head like a handful of lead and her eyes follow the lights of some unwashed hand that holds a handful of her grandmother’s feathers. The feathers that keep her up and that bring Them plummeting to the ground. They feed the bellies of the dead with their feathers of lead and take her by the neck to the place of beginning and first flight. The tower that steals time from her back hour by hour and turns milky-eyes sour, the curdling skin peels and falls to the ground from a height. And Emily breathes away the string songs and her white wings are swallowed by the night.

Thursday, 23 October 2008


This is me; stroking the back of a grasshopper to read your fortune,
This is me; cutting the veins from my arms and lacing them to make a net
To trap scores of butterflies hopeless in fog.
This is me; spreading my toes out and in so I don’t fall.
Into the abyssal mess they call forgotten.
This is me; lying and lying and linking in letters of salt.
I am sighing not singing when the boy plays the piano so well.
So so well. He runs his keys up my shoulders and rumbles my neck with his chords.
This is me; reaching out with tweezers into thick-as-dough shadows, attempting a hold.
Weightless and swallowing lead.
This is me; a wire figure on a table edge – stuck upright with tac.
This is me; breathing my secrets into the ear of a crow
But they catch on the feathers and stay.
Then they fly.
And my nets are too heavy with insects to trap them back.
And I read the grasshopper too hard and
Break its back on the heart-line.

Saturday, 18 October 2008


When I saw the meteor in the back garden - next to the broken deckchair and the knocked over bins and in-between bites of October apple harvest - I first thought it was a light bulb. Perhaps it had dropped out of the streetlamp on the other side of the fence. Then I remembered that light bulbs only work if they are plugged in and it couldn’t be. I put down the core of the apple.

It was warm like a baby and rough like a brick. It seemed homeless and lost cupped in my hands.

It did not belong to me.

So I made a sling out of elastic and blankets and strung it between the gate posts. I leaned with all my weight and aimed up to the darkened sky.

Off it flew, lost again, hurtling for the moon that was half in shadow.

It landed in dark lunar lands and for a few seconds the moon had a tiny glowing beauty spot on the unlit side of her face.

The rock had left a hole in the ground and a trace of silver remained lining the sides of it. Like luminescent butter in a cake tin.

I planted the apple core in the hole. It grew fast and strong. Within a year it was bearing fruit. Apples with the slightest trace of silver on their skin.

Perhaps they glow ever just a little on half moon nights.

Saturday, 11 October 2008

Love Letter

Beautiful girl;
Don’t let me see your fathers die under crumbling piles of stone.
Windpipes caved in beneath weight of legend they can tell no more.
Don’t let me see your garden turn to dust when you water it with too much grief.
Please turn you lips from the kiss of poison toads that catch you by the edge of stagnant ponds
As you lie in wait for swords that fail to surface.
Don’t let me see lovers prepared from thorns cut your thighs
Inside moonless nights.
Dark stains on white sheets.
Keep the washer women’s whispers from my ears as they wring your

Darkness into murky basins.
Beautiful girl.
I traced you to the back of my hand so that I might watch you fade in ink,
Over and over.
Don’t let me see the bottle run dry before I can remake your outline, I would Scratch you out in

Blood and bone
So that I could hold you in a bell-jar.
Vacuous prison to keep you from decay.
Don’t give me cause to jump into your grave and run my fingers over your

Eaten skin.
Once clean with days of rippled glass reflections. Libraries full of sunlight where you would watch the dust rise in luminous shafts off aching tomes.
Beautiful girl,
Blind my eyes before the altar of your descent.
Put them out with burning rods before I feel the shame of tragic leads.
Put them out,
Beautiful girl,
Before I see what I have done.

Monday, 16 June 2008

Seeing in the Dark

An Angel stood at the edge of the cave, Its walls curving out towards the night. Bulging with contained and over-fed darkness. Purple hues ballooned and blossomed in the depths before his eyes. White luminescent wings twitched, longing for rooms that sang with space and streamed with sunlight. Open windows to step out of into brilliant, beckoning skies.
But the cave and the darkness was calling the Angel and he was not at liberty to refuse. The claustrophobia slid clammy hands over his face once inside the cavern, though his feet echoed on the puddled floor; describing vast emptiness about him. But it was the darkness not the walls of the cave that caused the Angel to feel suffocated.
The Angel felt the blackness inside his lungs, insipid and poisonous to his breathing light. The clouds ahead embraced and wrestled with each other. The Angel flexed his wings, sending muscular ripples beneath their feathery coats that were no longer swan-white but raven. He strode deep into the heart of the cavern, ready to see the dark.


Let the same songs go astray.
Let unconscious birds sing,
And let their voices ring
With all the pain I'm yet to feel,
With all the wounds I'm yet to heal.

Day-by-day, allow their feathers
To fall and cut my wiry tethers.
Softest touch to sharpest cut,
The marks of bonds release with hurt.
Snap back and rest with blood-slicked sigh,
And leave me alone with birds and sky.

Let them cocoon my bones mid-flight,
And scatter them into the night.
Let each chunk of marrowy matter
Hit the stars and shatter.
Make a constellation of light-drawn birds,
that day-by-day will not be heard.

Paper Feet

She used to tell me I'd catch my death, leaving my hair wet.
She'd make fish cakes in cases of orange breadcrumbs.
Walk me home from PVA smelling art classes. Then one day she had to
Stop and
Rest before home.

She would play cribbage and beat us all, winning hundreds of Scottish pounds.

She'd take us brass rubbing in the alleys of Edinburgh.
And I'd embellish
Originals with unicorns.

Thick and hard shortbread,
No match for false teeth.

Crawl into her bed in the first light and feel her
Dry paper feet next to mine.
There, she'd tell me stories in her hairnet.

She was given a huge brass bell from the orphanage
Where she was Cook.
She gave so much and made no fuss,
'Ah, din ni bother!'

Now my hair hangs wet
All the time.

The brass rubbing shop has closed
For good.
And I've no one to lose at crib to.

Paper skin ashed away on Salisbury Craggs.

But I have her in my face and hands
Spitting Image - so they said
Again and
At the funeral.
Stiff Scottish lips and not much room for tears.

But that was just a day,
An Event.

Grief does not answer to calendars.
It can wait in tucked away memories, until
Ready to to be undone. Aired and worn.

A history I don't really know but may yet find in myself.
Death is not always loud and determined.
It can be
Slow and
Messy, like spreading paint on a clean floor.
Trodden in and about.

A withering end,
Dispersed to a stop.
Means not the end.

Bell on shelf, ready to
Ring out her strength,
The echoes resounding in me.

Monday, 19 May 2008

Cliff Begin

I can lie here and wait for the rain to begin.
I can lie here and hold my breath till

The first drop plummets down beside me.
Behold the sky that’s tipping

Over the edge of a cliff and into a storm.

Electricity in the sky.
That’s where I’ll begin.

Make life across the thunderous suffocation.
Or wait.
For a drop that fails to fail.
Or wait.
For the rest of the drops after one.

A lot can happen on a cliff edge.
A lot can begin.

I’ll scoop my hands ready for the fall.

Waiting to feed empty space with rain water.
Waiting to tip it up over my head.

Trickle down between my eyes.
Taste it.
And let it feed me the voltage.

Electricity in the water.
In my bones.

That’s where I‘ll begin.

Sunday, 16 March 2008

Gold and Milk

In the land of angels, the ground is made of marble. The sky is full of shifting clouds of white and gold, metallic paint spilled and swirled in a glass of milk. The clouds sing like wind sighing over bottle necks. Great and hushing accompaniment to the celestial. Sometimes rain falls from the dancing sky.

Drops trace their way to the ground. Filling curves in the stonework. Sculpture of the afterlife. Or the waiting life. Suspension?

Skyfall fills the basins. Places to cleanse. Sluice away the earth and the pain and the mortal.

Wings of swans can break a man’s leg. Wings of Angels can do so much more, terrible.

Lie supported and lie surrounded by the rain. Shallows are safe. No depths of unknown below, all that soars above. Out of reach. For now.

Mark your way across the eternal quarry. Or stay and listen to the heaving and leaping sound than awakens across sky.

Not a land of angels. This is no land. This is a world around the world. It is always a step or a sleep away. Or a moment of despair.

Reach me if you will. Take your hurt and wash it away in a basin of marble with the golden tears of above.

Reach me and listen to the sky sing the pain from your screaming bones.

Reach. Take. Make me feel again.

Friday, 14 March 2008


I used to live in a grey stone terrace. It was not remarkable. The girl next door was.

The neighbours had been completely mundane up until that point. They came and went and vanished into their houses, houses exactly the same as mine but maybe oppositely arranged. Then he, Number Twenty-Three, brought the girl back from the sea.

He had been visiting an aunt or a friend or on business, it doesn’t matter which. I heard the diesel chugging of a taxi pull up, like a milk cart pulling over cobbles. We didn’t get many taxi cabs in the street so I gave way to my curiosity and twitched the curtains. And there she was. All silver and reflection. Her hair shimmered in the dishwater morning light as though it were the inside of oyster shells, spun into gossamer. She slipped up the path and disappeared out of view.

The girl would go out every day and everyday I would watch her across the road and down the pavement. She wouldn’t falter or quaver in her route. Not straight, but her line was direct nonetheless. She would return in a matter of hours with no shopping and no evidence of where her feet had taken her. I shifted my desk so I could see more clearly. She moved like mercury spilt on a marble floor. I can’t remember what she wore only what she was. She was the sea, or part of it at least. Number Twenty-Three had not brought back a woman, he had returned with the ocean. Like when children gather too many pebbles and stones on seaside visits. His bucket was brimming over with too much of the sea to comfortably keep

She was brimming over with salty water and weighed heavily on the dry land. I could feel it every time she passed. The pull of her on this inland town and this bone dry terrace.

Then, one day, it rained and I saw her pause opposite my window. She wavered on the spot like a tendril of seaweed in current and moved on. But she had paused. In the rain she had looked at a puddle. The one that always forms there, between the sagging paving slabs. She had given it a look so direct it was almost a command. When she returned the sun had been shining long enough to dry out the street and she returned just as she did any of the other days.

The weather was infuriatingly dull for the next week. I would listen to the forecast as soon as I was up and curse at the clear blue skies for their monotony. When clouds eventually rolled in they were meagre in their offerings. A breath of shower. But she noticed and she stopped once more that morning. The next day was more fruitful. A downpour whilst she was in town, or wherever it was she went. I waited, fox like, at the window for her return and when she did I reaped my reward. A full ten minutes of intensely bearing down upon a silly puddle, like it held the answers to an ocean.

A door slammed and she moved on in a wave of silver hair.

Things seemed to be changing in the street as I monitored the activities of the girl from the sea. The air grew thick and the bricks began to bear resentment. The neighbours scowled more than was usual and the stray cats found other haunts. She was weighing on the bucket, like it was full of seaside stones.

The storm came on her sixteenth day in the terrace. Beating fists of water hammered the roof and the pavement. She left the house as always. No, not as always, for this time she was leaving. She crossed the street and stood before the growing pool in the sagging slabs. Then, she looked up and gazed directly at me, through the rain and the glass to me. I knew her then. I knew the ocean; the currents, the shores, the sound of the deepest Neptune mountains and the desires of the surf.

Then she left.

She stepped forward into that silly puddle, in the pouring rain. They say all water leads to the sea. She left to the sea. She left me for the sea.

Sometimes I cross the street on rainy days and gaze into that puddle. I think I can hear the sea over the pattering drops. But perhaps that’s all it is, thinking. Number Twenty Three moved out a few weeks after she left. Number Twenty-One said he went to live by the sea. I hope he did.