I have often looked for a voice
other than my own, and used words that leave
a bitter aftertaste, thinking mine would not be heard
each word would burn itself into my skin, the way
a farmer brands its cattle;
a list of names and numbers
for me to carry.
I would try to tear them out.
And I would dig, and think that maybe
when I hit bone, I would feel better.
But here, now, I am as you see me.
It has taken years, and miles,
for me to learn, and see, and try to love
this rough exterior,
and see beauty in imperfection.
I press my face to a window, my breath clouding the
glass, warm with confusion,
and watch the people inside.
Their marble faces morph before me, laughter grotesque
as they sip champagne from goblets rimmed with
And why not? We all crave beauty. I love the feel of
luxury against my skin.
Should I try, with all the might of a child learning to run,
to break this frame, this veneer?
And, if my skin should not tear,
take a sip, sharp and new, like the white wine in my
poured by my grandmother; a taste I didn’t understand?
I came here from a simpler place, clumsy and honest;
the affliction of youth.
Did I learn this vulgarity, hone it, till I became an insider
I still tremble;
but not as much.
Here, a face turns to me,
warm, welcoming. Cold, calculating.
Come in, it says, enjoy the party.
I clapped my hands to a mirror
and waited for understanding.
Skipping ropes swung
as I waited for last night’s lipstick
and a taste in my mouth.
Grown ups asked
Questions, and I waited to know
how to respond. Hair and sweat and spots.
I waited, passing time with
ladybirds, treasures in my
schoolbag, we fed the fairies
and painted snail shells, still
waiting for red nails and
Convolution. That glamour
I saw, when I was too
in love to be happy.
I felt once a strength
that people listened to.
I held, for a second,
a voice that carried
me through skies and into
Possibility. I was
a child tasting champagne;
I didn’t understand the
taste, or that which comes
Later, a bitterness, loss,
obsession, fingers gnarled in
Forgotten. I saw once
whole halls filled with
understanding, not of my life
but the purpose. Now, I speak only
to give others voice.
A little piece of history, to carry with me.
A coat someone’s grandmother wore, when she was
first kissed. A cinema ticket in the pocket;
it smells of popcorn. She wore it with lipstick and pearls.
Shoes that walked before me, down
cobbled streets, footsteps light
and inconsequential. Here they lie,
scuffed from experience, laced with stories.
A child in her mother’s wardrobe,
dabbing powder on her cheeks. A dress smells of
Ginger, its beading coming undone, and I feel
like a widower remembering
the beauty of his bride. Each threadbare stitching holds
a secret, and still each pocket could hold mine.
I had a feeling, once
When the Earth moved
That a kiss would lead to promise
Just as young girls do;
I had a feeling, but
I didn’t know how to be misled
I moved from city to city with
A lost limb, pleading as it bled.
Loss ran thick and hot
Down my bed, my room, my street
My bedroom an abattoir,
My blood beneath the sheets.
I sit in a small pub, sipping my cheap pint,
and smelling the smells of the people around me;
we do not resent each other for our bodies, our skin.
We are not pressed against each other in swarms,
sweating angrily, indignant that we are not where we should be,
and not fast enough.
Instead, we sit, the heat of bodies warming us from the Edinburgh chill,
the kind of cold that shortens your neck and tightens your jaw.
We are not in transit; the place we are
is the place we intend to be.
Two of us are playing music, their fingers and mouths
casting the stories of people that did for years
what we are doing now.
I feel that there have always been cheap pints,
and warm pubs, and bodies, and stories,
and beauty in the everyday of a farmer and his ox.
Voices are soft and relaxed, and none of us are special;
home is not a privilege, and does not need to be earned.
The Small Hours
I awake in the small hours from a sleep fitful and restless
into a time of muffled colours and softened sounds.
The peace doesn’t soothe me, but serves as a backdrop
on which to project memories of my unquiet dreams.
Many times I have felt trapped in my reflections
by the honesty and deepness of silence
where there are no distractions from nightmares
and the world sleeps on, oblivious.
The light is not uncaring, but unbiased
as it watches a merging of extremes,
radicalism fading to a sleepy ambivalence
in the grogginess of the space between asleep and awake.
And who exists in this time?
Those who are acquainted with it, by profession,
whose movements are routine, but with cushioned edges.
The stumblers, stunned by sudden silence,
music still pulsing through their bodies.
And, perhaps, two people so entranced
there was too much to talk about to fall asleep.
The sounds we chase
Give us life
And questioning this
A thought arpeggiates
And here, we play
A loss, a love, as our own.
We hold our
Calloused hands, our wooden
Lovers, and sing
Our vows. We didn’t
Choose this, but
I drown in
when we carelessly assign
every person a word, and take
each as your own,
my own, and lack
vivacity and excitement
must be here, must breathe,
even if we have
Nothing to say.
And to find
so seamless an existence
that my thoughts,
scattered and impetuous,
I need not voice
That which I have found, and lost,
and will find again,
so exquisite a taste
in each pause.
Sometimes I fall, deeply,
Into myself, and forget
There is life outside.
I navigate myself
with the same degree of skill
with which I navigate
This City. I turn corners and find
Places I have never been before.
Confusion. Lost in a maze.
The London Underground. I have
This one little body
to carry me through.
The passing of memories
Like heirlooms, sweetened
A name, frozen in youth
Footsteps that echo the sounds
The recklessness of belonging
to no one, unless we chose.
We did not owe.
We were not owed.
A candle burns
With quiet warmth
The Between People
Bus stops, airports
Where details merge
And intricacies lie,
There is always
An aim. Destination.
I came here for a
Purpose. What if we,
The Between People,
stay too long, become buildings
We are never the reason.
We are never sure.
I left a city,
Drove for hours
And found a new walk
With new music
Louder than before.
I loved a city,
Its familiar streets
Short cuts I found
Years ago, every step
Taking me home.
I shared my voice with
Neighbours, friends, people
I knew. Here my tongue
Is foreign, awkward
Trips up in my mouth.
What’s that word?
I laugh at a joke I once told
In bed, with you
Before I cheated on