Saturday, 7 March 2015

More rejected submissions

These are some poems I recently submitted to a small publisher as a potential pamphlet. I hadn't heard anything for months, so I'd already assumed it wasn't going anywhere, but I got confirmation yesterday. I think I've published some or even all of them before, but here they are as a collection:


I’ve learned the
of you.
I’ve mastered it,
there’s nothing
to it. I know
all there is to know.
You thought me
so unfit, but
I’ve got you
beat, my friend,
Because I’ve found
the steps
ahead of steps
The way to make it
The lines between
The empty whiteness
of blank
chasms, opened
For the filling
with words
You imagine I might have
said. That
is the trick,
I know, to fool you
into faith. Oh,
what have I done,
You’ll say, but unshakeable
I’m in those spaces. That’s
the trick, and unshakeable
You’re full of me.


You are cigarette
smoke and ungodly
in the void
of memory
You are waking
to find
my virtue
Sweat on the sheets,
a hair
left on a pillow
You are spaces
of picture
You are a shred
of film,
a spectre
A shadow
in a photograph
A thumb
over the
You are the vaporous
of dawn in
a foreign bed
You are half-formed
vicious words
and tangled
threads of
on which you
never made
Not blameless but
You are burn
in tattered carpet
The blade of your
made dull
by the mire
of time
But still
the scars of you
to fade


You make light work of my skin,
Strip it from my body,
Like there's a zipper in my skull,
All my sinful blood and flesh and
Guts and everything on show.

Excoriate me. Rip me up.
Make me tiny wretched shreds.
Claw my awful sinews from my bones.
I'm base meat to be butchered,
Till there's no human left.

No weapons, you use your teeth
To tear me limb from limb.
Grind and grind and grind and grind,
You pulverise me, punish me,
And leave me nothing at all.


Spring, five years ago
A child still and reckoning
With the future
I committed the gravest sins
With you.
It is as real as real as real
A big, black mark
On my blotter.
Unresolved and unabsolved
Still a criminal now
As much as then
There is blight
On my leaves
And rot
At my roots.
I am defiled forever more.

The Taxidermist's Shop

Through a pane of elderly glass,
besmirched by years of inattention,
they gaze out -
a menagerie of vacant faces,
surveying the empty street,
ill-lit by adulterated London beams.

A bear.
A badger.
A bat.

Animals, exotic and otherwise,
hold silent court, breathless and
becalmed in perpetual stillness.
They have been
made eternal by the purveyor
of a dying art, and keep company
forever with the bettors and diners

who stare occasionally,
open-mouthed for a moment,
affording them a split second's
amazement before they walk away,
and leave them, flightless and sightless


Sickly sun on sickly trees,
whose spindly branches crave
a better life, lets me know

I am here. I have arrived.
No welcome will greet me
and no change will be registered.

It doesn’t matter. The sad,
pale yellow light will not
shift for me, and the weak

willed wind will continue
in the same unbroken breath.
I will not impinge upon

the consciousness of this
ailing town, and not on
yours, either. I will come

and go, unseen and unheard,
unmissed and unkissed, and you
will never know.

That would be that

“But why shouldn’t I?”
she would scream
in a voice much,
much too loud
for indoors.

They wanted to quiet
her, and still her
swinging fists.
They wanted to
hold her down.

She knew this. It
engendered such rage
in her that she
thought her very
skin would burst,

like heavy fruit, hurled
against a wall, smashed
with the awful
hammer of the
unfairness of it all.

Her juice, or blood,
sticky and oversugared,
would spray their
white quiet and
that would be that.

But they would win
then; they would be
right if she let herself
explode before she
proved herself worthy.

They could clean up
the nasty, red mess
and forget the
whole sorry business
if she did that.

No, then.

She must breathe
deep and spread her
arms wide, from where her
wicked, wonderful wings
would unfold, and that
would be that.


The earth is black, where
the fire has got to it,
scorched and bruised
where match and lighter fluid

A mess. Dead and barren,
smoking still, awful in the
English late summer sun. Sadness
hangs in the thick, pungent
air, for a livelihood laid waste.

A field once bright and rich with
life, rent asunder by careless youth,
lies lifeless now, outside the window,
behind his house. He sets a stony
face against his ruin, but he is
caught unawares by something

A heron. There’s no reason for this
bird in an inland island of dashed hope,
standing one leggedly, out of place and
lost. He laughs, before he can stop
himself, and stares for a full silent
five minutes, at the misplaced animal

until its wings swing wide, and white
and surprising in their big, open span,
unfazed by the death beneath its

Karaoke night

Wednesday night
Is karaoke night
And I am here
With you
Among the half drunk
Pint nursers
And the sad, tired
Minimum wagers
And I have determined
That I will sing
You are surrounded
As always
By people
Who have no idea
But your face
Shines out in the
Hazy crowd
I am drunk too
Too drunk perhaps
Full of false courage
Standing there
Before the aged mic
I open my mouth
And shut my eyes
To shut out the faces
And I can see
Only you, half smiling
Speaking without speaking
And the voice
That comes out
Is not my voice
It is a secret siren call
For you alone
That you may be
Wrecked upon my shore
And I may believe
You are in my thrall
Among the empty
Glasses, and half broken
Chairs. Wednesday night
Is karaoke night
And I have sung
A song to seal my ruin

This is how I imagined it might have gone, if there had been an ending

You suck on the end
of your cigarette
its red eye
winking at me
in the failing light

Look, darlin'

you say


With studied insouciance

A pause

Another deep drag
You take in a breastful
of white, whispering smoke
and blow it out
in precise curls
(A little cough
threatens to ruin
the effect,

It's not you
or more specifically
it is you
You're not the you for me
and that's the problem

There's nothing wrong with you
per se
It's just there's nothing right
not right for me
at any rate
You're too good
and that means
you're not good enough

You were a transgression
I'll give you that
But you
just weren't
transgressive enough

Don't get me wrong, love
Having you wasn't bad
Don't look like that
It's just
you just didn't
cut the mustard
That's all

Cigarette burning down
you look at me
really look at me for the first time
and for a tiny fraction of a fraction
of a second
I think you're sorry
and then it's gone
like the winking red eye
winking out

I want to hate you
I wish I were angry
or even surprised
here we are
ending it
over a cigarette butt
(you've sucked one dry
in silence, slouching
and shifting from foot
to foot, scratching
your three-day stubble)
outside the tube station
and I just

No hard feelings, darlin'
you mutter
with a squeeze of my shoulder
and you suck on your cigarette
one last time
in the failing light
before you go


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