My name is blue. You'll find me
in Van Gogh's starry night
or asleep in snowy shadows.
I wrapped you up once, after a bath,
me and stripes of white
- we dried your hair.
In the park you threw me bouncing
to a friend
but barking black and brown
leapt up and bit me in half!
Your father sails over me
to Far Away and back.
As he pulls ropes from my heart
he pictures you and your mam,
so small and waving little squares of white.
Silver and I are neatly folded
round a gift for your birthday.
I am the ink that spells your dad's name
and L O V E
I am your Dad's eyes
and the jumper sleeve he wipes them with
when I've swallowed
the harbour from sight.
I am the Kingfisher's pride,
the boat's wide sail.
I am a coat undone and flapping
as seeing you at the front gate
your dad drops his bag and comes running.... more »
Along the busy pavement
lots of busy feet.
Stand and look and listen
then cross the busy street.
Popping in the busy shop
to buy some food to eat.
Hopping on the busy bus
and wobbling to a seat.
Along the busy pavement,
along the busy street,
hopping, shopping never stopping,
busy, busy feet.... more »
Go To Bed With a Cheese and Pickle Sandwich
It is life enhancing.
It doesn't chat you up.
You have to make it.
A cheese and pickle sandwich
is never disappointing.
You don't lie there thinking:
Am I too fat?
Your thoughts are clear,
your choices simple:
to cut it in half
or not to cut it in half,
how thin to slice the cheese
and where you should place the pickle.
From a cheese and pickle sandwich
you do not expect flowers,
poems and acts of adoration.
You expect what you get:
cheese... and pickle.
You want, you eat,
and afterwards you have eaten.
No lying awake resentful,
listening to it snore.
It comes recommended.... more »
ON THE LINE
On the telegraph pole a seabird perches
white against black cloud.
Centring the maypole of conversations
it transforms our calls. Hello? Hello?
Words pass up its pink legs, behind
red-ringed eyes, through the yellow bill,
down every feather's quill and feather-edge,
until the fractal distances connect
and we shout over our shoulder:
It's a seabird on the phone! A seabird wants to speak to you.
And raindrops glide to join at each wire's dip
and growth rings
in the pinewood pole
dry and crack as we press plastic
to our ears, frowning:
Who is this? Speak up!... more »
PRACTICING EMPTINESS AT CALAIS
'. . . the world would rather we didn't exist' Karim Durrani
Through shanty-towns of canvas and plastic
lorries queue. Cargo of the world
behind taught straps and bolted doors.
In dreams that stink of diesel,
tailgates tumble open,
loved ones inside beckoning, come, come.
This grey channel of sea is so narrow
one scar-faced boy shrugged off his leather jacket
saying that he would rather walk.
On flattened cardboard boxes
the schematics of airbrakes and exhausts
are mapped. Spaces measured, air holes, marked.
Emptiness must be mastered
So detection-dogs will pass,
tails wagging - carbon monoxide detectors
will read, all clear.
Those who name villages and cousins,
or talk in their sleep of soldiers and bombs
make the pine-tree air-fresheners swing.
In the stillness of motorway car parks,
they make St. Christopher catch the light.... more »
Dad keeps mum's favourite dress
deep in the bottom of the ottoman.
Sometimes, when he is at work
I stand listening to the tick of the clock
then go upstairs.
And propping up
the squeaky wooden lid, I dig through
layers of rough, winter blankets
feeling for that touch of silk.
The blue whisper of it cool
against my cheek.
Other times � the school-test times,
to-say-goodnight times �
I wrap the arms of the dress around me,
breathing in a smell, faint as dried flowers.
I remember how she twirled around
� like a swirl of sky.
When I am old enough I will wear it.
Pulling up the white zip,
I'll laugh and spin,
calling out to my daughter:
How do I look?... more »
Sometimes It Occurs To Me That I Am Dead
No and stop and stay are meaningless.
Clothes are not quick enough,
It is ridiculous
how I long for the rough wool collar of a coat,
the tight brim of a hat, the cold grip of shoes.
I was clumsy when I started;
a woman shrieked and dropped a plate,
a man dropped to his knees.
I hate the gritty suck of concrete
but have grown to love the slow swim of glass.
If I am tempted by floors I will be done for.
I try to remember what falling meant:
the explosion of breath,
a splintering of bone, the hammer
of earth swinging up.
If I lean forward and close my eyes
the world spins, passing through me like indigestion.
A tree x-rays my lungs, a blackbird sings
as it slides through my ribs.... more »
Staring For Beginners
Drunks and dogs don't like it.
If you are caught staring, it is no good pretending
to check your watch or study the ceiling.
These are signs of a novice.
Simply shift your gaze
to a mid-distance point. Cultivating a light frown
will give the impression of deep thought.
For most sentient beings, a stare
carries voltage. The subject will sense
anything from a mild buzz to a jolt. Other symptoms
include increased heart-rate, chills
and hair becoming electro-statically charged.
Staring at a part of a person's body
leaves you open to a high wattage stare-back.
are to be avoided in confined spaces.
Babies under the age of three
experience stares as noise.
They can be woken from a deep sleep by a stare
and will look around the room to identify its source.
Train windows are useful for bending stares
round corners. But only heavily misted glass
prevents them from being sensed.
Keep stares short.
Set a maximum distance between you and the subject.
Tip: gazing and staring are two different things.
It is vital to remember this in relationships, especially
when your partner is naked.... more »
Danke, merci, gracias
for the heat of the sun,
the kindness of teaching,
the smell of fresh bread.
Diolch, nkosi, shur-nur-ah-gah-lem
for the sound of sand,
the book and the pen.
Dhannyabad, blagodaria, hvala
for the blue of small flowers,
the bobbing seal's head,
the taste of clean water.
Shukran, rahmat, shukriya
for the stripe of the zebra,
the song of the chaffinch,
the gentleness of snails.
Mh goi, abarka, xièxiè
for the length of time,
the loveliness of eyelashes,
the arc of the ball.
Dziekuje, abrigado, shakkran
for the excitement of falling,
the stillness of night,
for my heart beating, thank you.... more »
When I dance
my blood runs like a river can,
my feet fly like the birds can,
my heart beats like a drum can.
Because when I dance I can, can
when I dance.
Flying over rooftops
I see my town below me
where everybody knows me,
where all my problems throw me,
where heavy feet can slow me.
But nobody can, can
when I dance.
My blood runs a race.
My feet fly in space.
My heart beats the pace.
Because when I dance I can, can
when I dance.... more »
THE TREE THAT WALKS
The tree that walks sways along the dusty road,
bringing its shadow along the dusty road.
A giant: the tree that walks.
On the forest highway, lorry drivers
hauling neat-cut logs, blink and cross themselves
trying to unsee what they just saw.
It crosses the railway lines, the tree that walks,
the five-fifteen, all horn and brakes
makes commuters spill their drinks.
On the airport runway, captains
push up captains' hats to scratch their heads.
Jets roar, but the tree that walks does not pause,
its leaves sway and caterpillars swing
from invisible threads. Birds sit tight
on their nests so not one egg falls.
A film truck follows the tree that walks,
footage appears on the rolling news.
A general offers to blow it up. A politician
suggests talks. Headlines shout: TREE WALKS!
Up our dusty road it comes, to a dusty town
where dogs' tongues hang out by miles
and all the grass is dry as bone.
And when the fuss has died down,
we fetch pails of water for the tree that walks.
Last night we heard an owl for the first time
and this morning the tree that walks
let its seeds fall like rain.
Today we gather by the derelict barn to watch
the mayor hammer in a new sign:
‘Welcome to Walking Tree Town'.... more »
The Weight of Cows
Cows are impossibly heavy,
they are the dark matter
that astrophysicists talk of.
All the weight of the universe
can be accounted for, if
you include cows.
It is this weight that splays
hooves deep into the mud,
draws milk down to bursting
udders, makes cow pats slap
the earth with uncanny force.
they move heavily.
Arching knuckled backs
under the sting of the auctioneer's stick,
they buckle and stagger
as if their very bones
were recast from bedsteads,
rusted park railings
To see a cow hoisted
into the air by one hind leg
is to witness
the death of a planet.... more »
She wished she could fly.
She wished for friends
who were birds and flowers.
She wished she wore a silver frock.
She wished she could speak
with a magic tongue.
She wished so hard.
She wished so hard.
Now she works
in a baker's shop.
She wears a white coat
and a netted cap.
She speaks the language
of man and dad
and at the end of each day
her feet hurt.
But she carries her baby
up to the stars. She sings to him
in the language of flowers.
He reaches to touch her silver wings.... more »