• BLUE

    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 »

  • Busy Feet

    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?
    Too fertile?
    Too insecure?

    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.

    Safe snacks.
    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
    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 »

  • Sensing Mother

    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,
    and dad-gets-home-too-late
    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.
    Hostile stare-volleys
    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 »

  • Thank You

    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,
    children singing,
    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 »

  • The Can-Can

    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
    do anything
    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
    stop me
    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
    do anything
    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.

    Even milked-out
    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 »

  • Wish

    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 »