On the Bird’s Wings

On the Bird’s Wings

I find it impossible to write you poetry;
dense, leaden, eyes like mine that strain
beneath the ghosts of love,
and are quick to snarl
or freeze in embarrassment.

I find it impossible to trace
the faultlines of your body running
towards the galaxies;
to grace the tectonic plates
of olive flesh – so many jokes
I made, and you snarled,
and fell in love with me;
or the me I made for you,
more right-wing than I am;

No, my love; I don’t think
children deserve to eat either

of course; nurses are cruel
and overpaid, and stalk the night-wards
with scowls, and leave me tied to the bed for a week
and joke that I am too lazy,
too miserable, to get out of bed;

Ah, S – toiling away at books on law;
I hate them, there is no beauty
in such manifestos –

Yes, my love; I think Thatcher
had some good qualities too –
no, I don’t want to drink tonight.

I find it impossible to write you poetry,
as you find it impossible
to nail me in one place long enough
to capture a selfie,
extended at arm’s length,
of us smiling at the same time.

S; I could churn
a thousand words,
ten thousand words,
a hundred thousand words,
if I thought, for a moment,
you’d get further than the first line,
or understand the mad metaphors –
that you’d see your body as my world,
that you’d see your mind as my prison,
that you’d see your soul as a fertile village
on the seashore,
awaiting the dragon-head ships
and the pregnancy of murder,
carried in memories by the bird’s wings.


This is something I don’t think I’m ready to talk about yet. I don’t think I know what it means.

After the Parasites Came

After the Parasites Came

I draw my grandfather’s lungs
in charcoal spit the fluid in his throat; tremor
in art as is the shaking
hands when he goes to lift the tea to his lips.

Making leaves in old mugs transferred to sipping
cups and the brief illumination of
the body choking on life.

All the sounds of his life are the sounds of death;
pumps and footsteps, Scouse laughter whistling
heat lamps like a surgical table
(running through a temporary, heartattack wall)
– the wheeze of 87 years in grey plastic and taped up tubes
(we need to return it when he’s dead).

Does the light in your eyes show you your dead son,
or has the baby’s cry of Jesus followed me from one room to the next?

Would you have let me grow my hair, and shave
my wrists rather than my jaw and read
books on French existence and homosexuality?

– Arthur! if you’d had your strength!

Meat when living, now a king in his Camelot;
hospice nurses bring sunlight,
chatting to bone and open eyes;

Who said death was a private affair,
after the parasites came?

I never knew you were an atheist,
and I pretended to God on your bedroom floor,
where you’d left him after Michael died.

Afterwards, we heard Nan perform her Cleopatra,
and beg a gone you to hold the door wherever atheists go.

I think she wants to be buried in a church;
while we all dress up for your cremation and spend more
on your coffin than you ever had
in your pockets
after the parasites came.

When the undertakers came, blood of my blood stood
behind them to make sure meat was treated right.

What dignity, Arthur, in your death!

Empty gums and stained dentures on a flat tongue,
tasting shadow rabbit stew;
miner’s muscles flat on the bed;
mechanic’s mind gone senile – all the
parasites agree.

The Grand Western

The Grand Western

I don’t remember
much of the days we spent together,
roaming a water’s edge,
watching black summer storms
rolling in across the ocean;

I remember Guitar Hero was my
seduction,
like clutching buttons too tightly
was a sign of things to come;

Guitar Hero was my seduction,
and yours was living –

how we envied the beautiful,
the semi-naked art, all wrapped
in shrouds abandoning their ghosts,

who needn’t humour,
nor lies to make themselves

– the tall room, too, I recall,
more clearly than your body;
the squat television set and the table I carried
to the centre of the room for us to share,
the smell of acrylic paint and glue
and ink all together with our sweat,
the sagging black seats,
tarnished and glittering beneath failing lights;
the white bathroom blinding
even through the heavy wood,
the swimming pool’s curve
and laughter as limbs made the water shake;

I remember being lost, one
street over –
and your voice panicking as I made
hazardous guesses
to find the right building
– I can’t remember what it was for now –

do you remember the journey up the pier;
along that mile of wooden cage?
do you remember that?

no, you wouldn’t;
that wasn’t you? was it? that was me
all alone, smoking the sunlight straight over water,
and remembering it all in the back room
of the Castle Hotel;
another home than ours,
in a different city.

Mesnes Park

Mesnes Park

How coarse the street-piano’s language appears,
how brutish and dumb
when spavined hands perform ugly
permutations in the air;
conjuring that beastly Autumn,
right before the rain.

Our summers came wet, too;
blistering light which made
eyes – more accustomed

to wooden candles at 2.A.M –
contract and convulse; the impudent clouds’ crossing
of distant mountains and crashing in amongst the true
beauty of our evening walks in the park.

We went in search
of beauty, beauty
that might explode your chest like an
obese heart and send the pure attack
of creativity through the tenuous ventricles and the ugly aorta
to the constant motion of your lips,
and the sadistic conjuring of fingertip callouses;
that finger-picking made your body mad,
like all the punches I’ve thrown make me
crazy.

I promised, in Summer, that I’d stop aiming for the throat;
when I never asked for any promises;
and give you no chains, our goldfinch red-faced
embarrassed, framed by your own human purity
meeting the angelic blood I’ve left on brick walls
like puzzle pieces
around Mesnes Park.

Or like those Tetris pieces, perhaps;
all lined up and orderly awaiting
the last fierce rage or late-night weariness
to clear the board.


I used to go drinking a lot. I used to sit in the covered spaces of Mesnes Park and empty whiskey down my throat and didn’t tell anyone. It became a regular thing – every week or two, I’d sit in the shadows when it rained or when the sun wrapped the park and drink cheap shit that I wouldn’t recommend to anyone.

I’d like to look back and say it was horrible. That I could regret any of it and wish I’d spent the time practically. Learning to code or something like that. But I don’t regret it. Given the chance, and a little sunlight, I’d go back to the Park three years ago and drink until the park swam and the laughter of children echoed even over the roar of my headphones.

If you’re looking for poetry, try out the recent Night Terrors. For prose, check out She Wore Blue Velvet or The Air Spoke. As always, there’re plenty of free eBooks on the left.

Night Terrors

Night Terrors

When Nox and I go panting

beneath, we
have asked the same black questions;

Who Sleeps Now, In The Hydra House?
Who Wears The Ugliest Chains Of Art At All?
Who Rattles The Bells Of Tinnitus?
Who Else Has Broken Their Teeth In Passionate Delusions?

Arrrrrrrhhh, you?
Is it you,
hanging in your silken slip?
You, my barbiturate?

Arrrrrrrrrrhhh, who can follow
that great shearing of love
in a look out the window,
and a panting on the pillowcase?

That I have screamed for angels! and asked:

Why Are The Mad Treated With Small-Town Philosophies?
Why Does The Shower Persist In Its Bitterness?
Why Must My Laugh Be One Of Such Cruelty?
Why Does My Heart Keep Breaking, All On Its Own?

And in your passing,
as it were – the passing of angels –
gave life to both the lily and the nettle;
life to the Caique and the worm impartial!

And Nox’s visions,
pale, dark you’s all,
trembling beyond finesse!

Those fragments creaked
and groaned
Beauty!

What fantasies, what mad passions do I dare reclaim?
And of what insanity? of what, sheer madness?
of what mad obsessions? of what consequence memory
breaking teeth
in the sleeping man’s throat?


I’m going quite mad now, I think. It is a controllable, manageable madness. I am drinking less and smoking less and thinking barely at all. I am able to work all day without thinking about my liberties and freedoms. I am able to satisfy myself, if only temporary, with driving a little too fast and drinking too much coffee. I am able to sleep quickly most nights, and wake up wholly exhausted.

I think I am becoming too distant now. I think I’m losing something, but I’m not sure what. I’d show my work, such as it is, to people I know but I don’t want to. I don’t want my depression to be taken seriously; I want to remain fodder for endless jokes. I don’t want my hatreds to be revealed, but will content myself to rant and make bitter smiles blossom into joyous ones. I don’t want me to be seen everyday. It’s important, I think, to keep hiding who I am in some small, dark place where only I can see me, and talk to me, and let me out occassionally to masturbate my ego.

I’m glad I’ve never shown my work to the people around me. I’m afraid it’s all shit anyway. I don’t want to watch people I know pretend to care about every idle thought; every mad desire. I want to stay quiet, and secretive, and let my figure be a lonely one in the bars and pubs, in the cafes I frequent and slip whiskey into my coffee. I’m glad, I think, and ashamed, that my depression has turned into nothing more than a tag I can use, to drag foreign eyes to read the exhausted notes I play.

I’m sorry for being so unhappy all the time. I’m sorry that the noises I make are so ugly.

She Wore Blue Velvet

She Wore Blue Velvet

For Unrequited Love

The ceiling is covered in paintings, with no theme or substance or style but woman, and they flow down the walls like all of history from the caves of Africa was melting into this one little alcoholic furnace in the heart of dead industries. The staff are dressed as American rock stars, and Gene Simmons carries a couple of bottles across the floor and makes wide, soulless, voracious eyes at the women he passes.

Her eyes are glued to the television; Alexander Armstrong laughs at something a celebrity said, and his eyes flash and invite her to laugh with him but she can’t hear him. The TV is muted in favour of music and conversation, which rolls around her and about her and doesn’t touch her like she touches the bottle of wine, standing an inch from her hand and barely a foot from her other, which curls around the glass only heartbeats from her lips.

Her heart beats.

She doesn’t start, but twitches her eyes every time the door opens and the pale blue-grey light appears as a block within and behind and against the far wall; she twitches each time with the expectation of a grimaced smile; she had been rehearsing that smile in the mirror of a flat she shared with a fat laugh behind a clipped goatee.

The door opens and her heart beats and he walks in from the miasma of blue and grey and into the mess of art and drink and candlelight, red-faced at the pulsating wind which rose from the stone pavement outside. He moves towards the middle of the room, checking the smaller, solitary tables for one, or two, or three, and almost misses her on her large table beneath the television. She raises her glass and tries to repeat the practiced grimace but it comes out from behind her lips like a smile and he sees her and smiles back – she pretends to ignore the spasm of horror that cuts across his features.

She has a wolf tattoo on her left shoulder, and dye damaged hair and the scar of a lip ring and he sits down with old scars running up his wrists and raised white flesh from metal belt buckles leaving a web across his back and she knows they are there. They both know about both of them and she once decided to let her wounds breathe, where he had bound them up and let them fester and rot until the poison flushed out of his body one night, asleep and alone on a bus that roared and spat into the wet air alive with iron bacteria.

He is thin, haggard, with rings under his eyes, in a suit with the top button of his shirt undone and the tie loosened until the noose hangs halfway down his chest like he is being marched towards the gallows in relative comfort. The red electric light and the candles on the tables are invasive, and they creep through his shirt until it is nothing more than a filter and a blur and she can see the outline of a logo emblazoned across a white t-shirt – it looks like a heart, she thinks.

‘Hey you,’ he says, and she says ‘hey you.’

He stares down at his fingers as they work at the two buttons holding his jacket closed, and pulls it away from his shoulders and hangs it over the back of a chair – not next to her, but taking care to leave an empty space between them.

She looks at the empty chair and he smiles and says ‘for the ghosts’, and her heart skips a beat, even as her eyes wrinkle in mockery.

‘Did you know,’ he runs a hand through his hair that is so much shorter than she remembers, ‘that almost a third of people in this country sleep naked?’ As his lips close around the questions mark, he almost seems to wrinkle up, shrivel, like he had been waiting for years to say that and as it left his lungs it took parts of him with it. After a few moments as a broken thing, he inflates himself again and smiles at her, like he would smile if he had tears in his eyes.

‘You come straight from work?’

‘Yeah; everyone else has gone to that new place down the road, you know, that erm Marty’s, Morty’s place – between the scaffolding?’ She shakes her head. ‘I’ll show you it at some point, it’s quite nice in there – kind of this shabby Americana; I mean, it’s meant to be shabby, it’s still pretty posh for ‘round ‘ere.’

‘Sounds nice.’ She sips at her wine.

‘Yeah; I had an old fashioned there the other night – it was, I dunno, lime and pecan flavoured or something like that. Friend of mine had something called She Wore Blue Velvet.’

Tell me you love me, her heartbeat beats, tell me you love me like you did in your skin.

‘So, what’re you up to these days? You doing anything?’

‘Yeah; I’m still at that bar, not too far from yours, actually.’ She looks at him then, for the first time, and he sees her flashing ice blue eyes like a distance peak emerging from a broken plain of sheared ice and dead creatures with white fur and he feels a spike of anger in his gut that rocks him. He lets it roll up in him, he savours it, he swallows it like she swallows the last of her glass of wine; he realises he’d never been angry before – not really, not with her or with him or with anyone.

‘You still working on your art?’

‘Nope; I wasn’t very good anyway.’

He catches himself preparing to say ‘yes you were’ and managed to turn the reaction into a cough. She looks back at the television screen through narrowed eyes. The wine has blurred the air, and each breath is like a desert spreading along her lungs and across her throat – she can feel the sand between her teeth.

He stands up and goes to buy a drink, and she watches him as he moves, as he leans over the bar, easily, and talks to the girl dressed as Joan Jett; he has one foot resting on the metal bar, which runs alongside the counter, and his other taps the floor in time with the drumbeat of conversation and life – she realises that he’s grown up over the past few years; grown up without her, without the need for her; in the space between those flickering moments where she’d seen him on the train, or he’d seen her on a bus or in a taxi as it rolled passed, he’d grown up and her heart beats.

Halfway across the town, a baby that looks like her screams out its hunger and, when it’s been fed, it howls out is fear and its rage and its misery and is soothed by the touch of her sister who can’t see the thing as human at all, just some wailing tumour in a blue shirt; a weight on their lives. The bearded laugh hasn’t come home from work yet, and she thinks about calling her sister and letting her know how late he was, but she doesn’t; she just watches the pale thing in its cot, and listens to the cars that pass by outside.

He comes back with a drink and she fills her glass again and holds the bottle in front of the candle and squints at the liquid inside. It’s almost empty.

‘I don’t know where it’s all gone.’ She says, and she doesn’t mean the wine.

‘Me neither.’ He takes a sip of his drink.

‘What’s that?’

‘Just a jack and coke.’

‘Ah.’

‘I hate this show.’ They watch the television for a few seconds, and he lets his brow furrow and draws his upper lip back a little, like he is snarling in disgust. He holds it just long enough for her to see and it disappears. He likes to be seen to hate things, secretly – she once heard him say that hatred was a manifestation of love.

Tell me that you hate me, she thinks – tell me that your love was always that; tell me it was a cruel, cruel joke; tell me that you’re incapable of love.

‘How’s your brother doing?’

‘He’s good, yeah. He’s fine.’ She blinks. ‘I haven’t seen him in a while.’

The conversation beats more like his heart then hers – irregular, filtered through the noise only occasionally. But the way they occasionally looked at each other, the way their bodies angled so far apart and yet in the same lines might have convinced an onlooker that their conversation was in-depth and heartfelt and it was they who made the mistake, they whom stopped paying attention for long periods of time, while his drinks multiplied and her bottle found itself a partner.

The television played reruns and called it news. Outside, someone gives a homeless man a twenty pound note and asks him, begs him, not to judge the drunks too harshly; he promises not to, through broken teeth and rotten gums, and still scowls as they spend their money on beer and vodka and thick liquid which doesn’t taste of anything but the morning after.

‘Did you know I had a kid?’ She says, not so much to him, but to the air itself.

‘I’d heard something about it; yeah. Boy or a girl?’

‘It’s healthy, and well looked after,’ she smiles, ‘it’s going to be a chubby kid – it’s never going to want for anything. We’ll see to that.’

‘Who is the guy you’re with now then?’

‘You don’t know him. He’s funny, he’s kind – he’s got a beard and a beer belly.’ He laughs, and she glares at him.

‘Sorry, it’s just,’ he rubs his eyes with the palms of his hands, ‘he’s the polar opposite of me, then?’ She frowns at him for a little longer and, suddenly, like a damn breaking, she starts to smile as well, a smile that turns into a giggle which grows and matures into a laugh. He watches the television, watches two men in suits gravely talk about the last steel factory in the country closing down, and her laughter slowly breaks down and she starts to cry.

Once, he would have rushed to her side and tried to held her as she shuddered until she pushed him away and backed away and carried on crying, leaving him raw and ragged and helpless – he lets her cry and watches the television suspended from the wall and surrounded by the dripping dregs of art.

He says he’s going to the toilet; she doesn’t respond. In the bathroom, he digs his nails into his palms and stares at himself in the mirror – strange; he always feels tears well up when he looks at his own eyes. He steps into the cubicle and locks it behind himself. The walls are covered with graffiti, and he feels inspired by the curving lines that form broken scripture – he puts two fingers deep in his mouth and starts to gag; he feels his heart beating around his fingertips; down his throat, and he tries to reach for it; like he could pull it out and show it to her and say “you see?” and then he could fall to the floor and buck and twist the last moments of his life away with her name on his lips.


This is another short story I wrote years ago. I was younger then, bitterer, perhaps. I kept mistaking my bitterness for romanticism; that was the problem. I kept mistaking my unhappiness for sensitivity. If I could go back, I’d probably tell the younger me to stop searching for happiness – tell him that it isn’t on the cards. Tell him “you’re just a bitter bastard” and it’s probably save me a lot of grief.

I’d tell me to find pleasures where I could and to stop worrying about being happy, all the time. If I could take back all the time I spent trying to be happy, I would; it’d have left me with more time to write, more time to play video games and get angry and calm down by reading – more time to sleep, and enjoy sleeping.

Forgive me, I am maudlin tonight. If you want to read something with a little less of a negative slant, you can always check out some poetry, like Swearing in Italian or prose, like The Air Spoke. For a non-fiction slant, there’s always Swimming Against Themselves. As always, there’re plenty of free ebooks you can take a look at, if you fancy.

Sometimes

Sometimes

Sometimes, we kneel in the shower with the pressure
and the heat turned up as high as they can go. We let our music play from our mobile phones
and hear the tinny, hollow sound reverberate from the grey-white tiles. We let the heat
and the sound
and the fury of the moments steal our breath away
and make our skin steam
and we kneel there until the muscles
and tendons in our feet
and legs cry out for us to move. We let our hair run
and create bars, a prison cell, in front of our eyes. We blink until the water spills down like a shroud across our faces
and make us blink in agony.

Sometimes, we stand in front of the mirror
and close our eyes
and listen to the water slapping against the towel
and the tiles. We close our eyes
and concentrate on the cool air, dressing us naked
and making our skin rise.

Sometimes, we take disposable razor blades
and hold them against our arms
and there’s a way that we can cut it that doesn’t break the flesh but shears the skin. Invisible; agonising; everything we ever wanted.

Sometimes, we confess
and act on our confessions
and the mists clear
and we want to be exactly who we are. We try to explain
and see revulsion, blankness
and disinterest in the eyes of our audience
and shut off the valves of our personality. We retreat
and lock up the gates behind us
and glance through the iron bars which rust in days
and remade in moments.

Sometimes, we turn out the lights
and search for the memories of all the men
and women we’ve loved. We look for their memories on the backs of our eyelids, for the faces of people we’ve never had the chance or the inclination to love but we can feel their skin in our hands like their own. We picture legs
and eyes in the lights of gas-lamps
and the red strobes which gives even the drunks the chance to look sober
and spit vomit from their lips
and still have the chance to pull or be pulled.

Sometimes, we force ourselves out of bed before our alarms
and stand, naked, in front of the window
and look at the small streets in the small towns in the small countries in the small world, filled with small people or lost in miniature cities grown to an impossible scale. We punch out at the walls on either side
and dig our nails into the wallpaper
and lean forward until the moonlight dawn casts shadows behind us to make us look like we aren’t alone in our beds. We throw on clothes that don’t fit us
and walk down the stairs
and across the hall to the silent rooms lit by the red of a muted television. We step onto the cold tiles of the kitchen
and look across the terraced gardens of a terraced life belonging to our parents
and their children too; not to us.

Sometimes, we sit on our laptops
and phones when everyone else is asleep
and watch old adverts on reruns. We spend our time learning what we hate
and why we hate it. We watch conversations develop between people we don’t know
and long for them to realise that they love each other.

And,
sometimes, we sit there
and do nothing at all; just let our eyes make patterns that don’t exist.


I’m trying to slow down on my drinking now. It isn’t doing me any good. I don’t enjoy it so much anymore; I just end up ill all the time, still completely lucid, just clutching my stomach. Maybe it’s what I’m drinking – I need to get back into cheap wine, into sheer rotgut that makes me sleep. I’m not discerning enough for the whisky I’ve been knocking back the last few… some amount of time.

If you enjoyed the above, there’s something wrong with you, (everyone’s brain is allowed to misfire on occassion, right?) but you can always check out more poetry or prose, if that stakes your fancy.