A Funeral

Vaguely, I saw you
From across the coffins
Of cardboard boxes

Pre-empting distance
And dropping tears like flowers
While I stood, swaying.

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Revelations

A blue dawn, summering storm
Wakes you with a clatter
Of colliding clouds and sideways rain.
But then you look down
And see her,
In a dream sanctuary

Between the sighs and the sunrise.
And suddenly, sleepily
Your legs, arms, fingers,
Thoughts are intertwined
In the disappearing night;
Coiled around each other
Like loved-up snakes

While she continues to be
Safe and self-contained.
Oblivious. Twitching subconscious
Words on the cusp of her lips.
Tired eyes tightly shut
Like two imprinted, inky little stamps.

You are not affecting
And she recuperates
In the night like a deprivation chamber;
Inhabiting parallels.
You keep watch like a guard dog.

Her hair shields her face
From you
As a separation,
Like a wall of palms,
And she becomes more miscellaneous
The more you look.
It could be someone else

Again. Bury the feelings
Deep like a guilty bone.
You smell the morning breath
Brewing in her cauldron mouth,
Watch her limbs out-stretched
Like a content child;

She is often beautiful.
You decide to retry sleep
And redemption,
Covering your bodies
Under the ghost-thin sheet,
Laid dead like pharaohs,
Waiting for the inevitable alarm

To unveil you.
With your heavy
Hands, you hold her
Close like an undeserved gift,
Like something that hasn’t been broken.

Scars

We showed our scars for the first time
And shared the wounds like love letters,
Revealing some of the ways we were marked forever.
Our damaged bodies pulled through the years
Like scuffed toboggans, baring fading remnants
Of ageing hurt, the colour of fine red wine.

I went first. A cut through my cheek
That slits my face faintly with a sickle curve
Reaching in and around, playing hide and seek
In the allure of a sanctuary thorn bush.
My cheek flapping open like a new mouth.

You went next. A sunken bite mark arm:
The memory of mousetrap-dog jaw –
A small dog, you reassure me, no pit bull –
Just a colour-blind limb like a juicy bone.
A family pet, the size of your powerlessness.
The wound went deeper than mine

So I returned serve, my hand tentatively
Sliding further down my body
To pull up the bottom of my shirt
And expose a keyhole belly slit
And a young boy, curled under his bed
Like a foetal, dead caterpillar.
Wailing and dog-whimpering
With tremors and appendix aftershocks;
A body like a burst, useless organ.
But you reached out, touched it.
Read the raised, twitching belly scar like Braille.

You pushed your fingers into my hand
And guided me into your mouth.
You pulled your bottom lip down like a drawbridge.
I pressed my fingertips into the pink
Hiding behind your lip. It was bumpy.
Like grit clumps, rock lumps. A van velocity
Embedded with tarmac impact;
Your body skating over the concrete
Like a pebble skipping across water.

Your tongue didn’t flicker any words. I saw
Hospital beds, IV drips. You held my wrist
And aimed next for knee cartilage –
Gently, gently, careful. The glistening
Skin like a surgically cut crossword
Of incisions and hard answers.
A bystander telephone call mapped out.
Your mother’s phone hitting the floor
As cobweb echolocation,
Searching for her baby. You said nothing
And I had no worse scars.

You said more nothing and hid more hurt
In other places that I could never see.

Clear

We are stranded
On a mattress island.
The carpet lapping
Gently against the bed
While we sit in quiet unison
Like a waiting choir.
Our crossed legs, our touching arms
Coalescing in the pristine isolation.

I am in bubble vaccination,
A bed-bound vacation
And the earth can only rattle
The window with two hands
As the trees outside
Drop their autumnal clothes
And dance skeletal.

They don’t blush
Because I am too busy to look.
Waiting, daring you with silence
To glance up
And make me
And in that moment
Cause a breath with nothing but a look
Like a jolt of defibrillator.

A sudden, sharp inhale.
Unexpected, altering and pure
Oxygen that summons a gasp
Like a puncture from my xylophone bones
And pops the vacuum and breaks the sky.
Atomise me quickly.

Until, finally
You tilt your head
Upwards.
Your eyes lock on and you push back the room.

The second splinters, cracks
And I become white noise
Grasps for a clattering lungful
To fill me
With bits of your exhalation,
But instead I just remain.

My pupils stretch out
Into lazy, swallowing chasms
And I imitate the dead.

My blood slows. My blood shows.
My heart thumps, lightly.

Voices

I want dull, full-fat vowels
And words like blunt fucking hammers.
I want to hit you about the eyes
With a broad Yorkshire birth-twang
And let it resound like a flat vow
Around the inside of your head.

Nothing refined or polished.
I want real. I want earthy.
Not planned hendecasyllables
Or genome-mapped love sonnets –
Give me shaman-muttered rituals
And a world with a periphery.

But the acid-wash of BBC RP
Modernity clings to me like wet denim.
I hear myself slowly moulded
By the coca-colonisation
That restrains my conversation
And supresses a guttural tongue;
The inexorable magnet-pull
Of the next wet rung of the ladder.

So I grasp for my Northern drawl
And find my voice airlocked
Dolled-up, maimed and cut-glass
When I want simple and cut grass.
My identity drummed down, beaten back
Vague, beige, imprecise, unmoored;
A guiding, heavy hand on my shoulder
Like a touch of gentrifying plague.

However, the child-sounds are still there
Like hidden birthmarks.
A lurking bloodline moor-wolf
Waiting to be found, nurtured
And finally drag me back down
To the autochthonous, muddy roots;

To urban grey, cultural downplay
The howling wail of a sectioned city
Sanguine heather, tobacco grass
Crumpled-paper hills buckled at the knees,
Sighing ice-white vein streams.
But now, this is all at my feet in a mongrel heap
Of decaying Viking grunts and growls. Fuck,

Inject them back in, give me origins
In my throat, thudding like a jugular
And caustic verbs of errant sparks
To burn down poems like dry wooden shacks
With my pyromaniac pen and knuckle cracks.

Love, love, love
Come, let’s step back together –
Just to look, watch, bask
With our charcoaled hands like iconoclasts
As the house we built is engulfed
With licks of tongue-fire.
Let it all burn in a bonfire
Until there is nothing left but sulphur
And the stone heart on the pyre.

Smell the smoke. Hear the wet dirt vocals.
Feel the charred, ancestral gasps of locals
And the low groan of forgotten gods.
Here I am. Hear – I am
With you, too. I didn’t do it alone.
You are with me like an accomplice;
It falls only because you give it sound.

You see, we need to strip it down
Until we have flayed the flesh pink
And hit granite.
Each page a flint, rocky outcrop
And each poem rediscovered bones,
Architectural bones,
Ajar like a skull’s open-mouth jaw.

This is a reclamation.
And then, when the fire-fallowed lines
Have plunged down like mines
Reaching for something pure,
In the flickering of ash and cinders
We can at last gaze at the smouldering
Words, ripe with original sin and true-raw.

Moth Days

With you, with the night, I lie
Mesmerised: watching a lone moth
Float to the surface of the dark
And stick like a dusty lilypad
To the window-partition.
Slowly rising, like the sun
Breaching horizons;
Pressed against the glass,
Wings fluttering like eyelashes.

I thought we were hidden.
In a bed of escapism,
Pinning our reflections on the sky
With finger-painted smiles
And offering Judas kisses to the moon
While it scowled down like an ancient Mass.

That we had imagined new selves
Hiding in a building’s forgotten pocket
And toying with separatism,
Our slice of concrete hive
As distant as blue-remembered hills;
We had declared a new periphery.

But the world continues, endlessly
Slipping axis-revolutions
To try and flush us out.
The room swells, spot-lit.
Light thickens around us like amber.
The hanging bulb
Shining like an anglerfish lure;
A glass ball of night-sun
God, reflecting in our eyes.

The moth fizzes, hones, dilates,
Eclipsing our bodies
With a shadow like an omen.
And then, gleefully, he swings
Like a wrecking ball hitting the glass.
A clanging thorax alarm clock.
An exoskeleton belly flop.
An incessant, pounding pendulum.

The stars begin to expire.
A glittering dark, a mansion of lights
Slowly extinguished, room by room
As the morning rounds towards us;
The moon tarnishing until soon
It is little more than a dull, silver coin
Rusting into an awakening sky.

But I can close the shutters.
Push back the dawn.
So we lay in the black day
Sleepless like addicts,
Burying ourselves
Further into the sheets,
Our helium words sagging
Like tired, withering balloons.

Trash TV

That is not a television screen
You are watching but a mirror –
I think, unwillingly
Setting with the evening,
Searching for mindless passivity in the TV
After another day falling over new words
Like my tongue is a toddler learning to walk.

But flickering through the channels
Nightly, I see the mute brigade:
Tall, blonde, acolytes
Paraded out in single-file
Like jets in formation
And walking like they’re missing
Collars tight around their necks
In clothes barely stitched past idea.
An Italian TV trope so common
They have only their own noun.

Clearly, they’re not meant to be people
But to the audience this must be palatable,
Because I watch with my foreign eyes
In silence, waiting for an outcry.
These are not women, stripped –
But nameless, lifeless beauties;
Tottering blow-up dolls, rolled out like vellum
Flanking the liver spots of the Hefner presenter.

A blinking apostate, reflecting in the glass.
The room bathes in grey, grainy beams
Of an arriving fantasy, fifty years too late.
Is this Venus and Cleopatra reincarnate?
My English sensibilities, glaring
Like silver chewing gum foil

In the Mediterranean sun;
My dropped jaw, culturally dislocated.

Renaissance

You debut a smile.
The first time that the muscle-balls
Dormant at the tip of your cheekbones
Ever leapt out so proudly into the world

And I marvel as I take you
To the spasm of a diaphragm
And the wringing of gut;
The place of popping faces
And rosy protestations

Where your neck wrings with escaping laughter
And your hair writhes with joy
And your eyes burst with happy tears.
We mirror a smile like replicas.

Hours subside with the reddening,
Until finally we wander out
To our new-birth Earth,
Kicking with baptism.

Bare

I give you bones wrapped in blushes –
Trembling in maroon
And hypnotised by the plughole lines
Leading me into your fingertips.

The air is photograph still.
You hold my hips and watch me
Turn to a gaunt, shivering bruise
Beneath you. Slowly,
You lower yourself
Down from above.
Compressing plural into singular,
Our flesh arranging as tightly as muscle.

I trace blueprint shadows in the dark.
Your sighs roll away my eyes
And hide them in the back of my head.
I am little more than sweat
Layered with blindness.

But I can shape you like hot clay.

My thumb presses the hollow of your
Temple, summoning gasps
From deep until they push
Against the underside of your skin.
Here, I can hold you as mine.
My pale devotion held close.

And I don’t want to let go.
I feel how we are:
Pressed together,
Panting and breathless,
Entwined bodies
Choking on the recycled white of the other,
And the rhythm of us shakes the sky.