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.

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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.

Underwater

I caught you once, trying to dissolve.
The water cupping you with candlelight
And the flames flickering incantations –
You punctured a quiet ring of shadows
As a dwindling in the dark.

You had sunk yourself in the bathtub
Trying to escape, kicking below the surface
And shaping the sinless fluid around you
As your last compromise: an urban night-lake.
You bathed between the porcelain lips
And bubbled for rebirth.

The surface tightened above
Until your lid on the world was taut
And you were sealed away.
And then you pushed, towards breath’s edge.
Immersed in a warm vat of underworld,
Disappearing into pale ripples
With your eyes closed.
I watched your hair wave goodbyes

While the tiles echoed like sirens.
I stood there, almost alone
In that airlock of cascading waterdrops,
Scrutinised by splintering futures
As condensation dripped down the walls
Like freely abseiling wet spiders
With refracted hyena eyes.
Each enclosing droplet, a tear
Brimming with imperatives.

You needed me to embody saviours
With my trembling hands –
But you were womb-smothered,
Submerged, dulling heartbeats, lost
Weeping naked-open from your wrists
And my body was a still purgatory,
Hearing the muted thuds reverberating upwards

While you waited; underwater, urging
For me to become the same shade of void
So I could join you in the below
And we could dissolve and emerge together.