does this work on my own face
I can remember other people
but I can't remember myself
and this means
looking in the mirror
is always a bit of a shock

I can't imagine that girl
unable to talk
ever being
unable to stand alone in the street
without her hands holding onto
something safe
inside her pockets


Monday, 7 November 2016

like listening
to other people
live their lives
through country-thick walls
and all I feel
is a silence


I can't remember
how the words go
and they keep
stacking up the bricks
between us.

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IN. Eeny meeny miny moe catch a tiger by the toe if she hollers let her go eeny meeny miny moe. Gasp. Ena mena mona mite bascalora bora bite hugga bucca bow wow eggs butter cheese bread stick stock stone dead. OUT. Think of swimming think of water think of bread. Brown bread. Think of the tiger.

The tiger is watching me. She always watches me. She watches me swim in the lake with no fish in, which is how I know that I am the target. I am always the target.

Eeenie meenie tipsy toe olla bolla domino.

I am the target because I can’t remember how to breathe underwater. The tiger remembers this every time, and she circles the lake in smooth anticipation.

Eeenie meenie moany mite butter lather boney strike.

When she pounces she pushes me down, further down into the water. My hands try and hold on to the bubbles they create but I know they'll burst before they do. I'm destined to sink and I sink every time.

Stick stock stone dead out.

Think of grass think of sunburn think of smiling. The water roars around me as I plunge further and further into it. My feet scramble when they find the sandy lake-base below but the tiger still pushes my head down. My knees buckle and then that’s it. I'm crouching at the lowest point with my toes dug into the sand and my palms pressing into the lake’s base like they’re trying to force it open. I never think I can get any lower. But I always know that the tiger is not finished.

Eeenie meenie moany mote butter lather boney strike hair bit frost nack harrico barrico we wo crack.

The paws about my neck confirm that I’m drowning. The tiger knows I forget to breathe here but she wants to hurry the process along a little.

We wo crack.

I lie against the lake-base with the weight of two dry or one sodden tiger on top of me.

We wo crack.

It doesn't matter anymore that I forget how to breathe. The sand beneath me keeps forgetting its shape.

We wo crack.

A tiger’s eye looks down at me with my head burying itself into the sand. I hate to look at it but I have to. I have to work out which are her arms and which are her legs.

Eeny meeny miny moe catch a tiger by the toe.

The sand rolls in around my eyes as I sink further into it. My eyelids droop. Perhaps I do just want to blend into the lake and forget about how different the water felt when I was simply lingering on its surface. How different it felt as it silently slipped through my fingers when I swam across it. How different compared to how loud it seemed when it churned past my body as I plunged through it. Thinking only of terror.

I lift a dead-waited arm and snatch up a paw. The tiger’s eyes spark with alarm; they reflect the dead panic of my own.

If she hollers let her go eeny meeny miny moe.

A weight lifts from me as the tiger releases me from her grip. I watch her back legs as she kicks her way up to the surface, becoming smaller and smaller until she fades into a series of stripes that could easily be mistaken for a chain of ripples.

It's over and all that the tiger has left is the shuddering water that surrounds me.  

The Tiger

Friday, 16 September 2016

the white spider sits
on my top lip
and spins black thread
to plait a web across
a mouth that’s
not mine anymore


a thud manic motion
from ear to ear
and shoots small comets
down a rabbit hole
of a mind that’s
not mine anymore


the walls slip sideways
to cave and break
and swallow me up
with the dust
and the bones
aren’t mine anymore.  

White Spiders

ninety-two by
seventy- three
and the blue steals in
at around

depending on how
you see it

yellow walls
to kindle the brain
(like in the classroom
where they teach you
how to copy yellow)
but the blue
stays there
with his name against it
and they don’t teach you
how to paint

even the heads
still in yellow
but a different yellow
look down at it
in a pure cracked line
as if struck
by its explanation
of their plucked-out
their breaking necks

it should have all been blue
but the one thing

is the yellow

Inspired by Vincent van Gogh's Sunflowers


Wednesday, 10 August 2016

My hands shook as you handed me the box.

“Don’t bother looking inside”


“Just keep it somewhere safe.”

Safe. In my shaking hands.

I put it in the cupboard under the stairs, on a little shelf next to the ironing board, and then made a cup of tea for the both of us. I forgot you only drink coffee.

“No, don’t pour it away. I’ll drink it.”


Perhaps it was the puckered creases around your eyes but suddenly all I could think about was how dry my mouth felt. You sensed my thirst and downed your tea until it burned a pit in your stomach. I saw your eyes fill with the pain of it.

“We’ll be back in a week or two. Don’t mention it to anyone.”

There was nothing to mention. It was just a box.

“Don’t fiddle with it, or put it anywhere-“

You stopped. Presumably your tongue was too sore to continue.

I reached out and held your hand. You nodded, suddenly resolute.

“We’ll be back in a week.”

You left without an umbrella and it was raining heavily. I watched you from the living room window. You got about halfway down the cul-de-sac before stopping. The rain was like sheets of nothing so you lifted your head, looked up to the sky and stuck your tongue out. It looked like it felt good.

Three days passed until I became curious.  

For three days, I carried on with the unvarying routine of my life and didn’t even think twice about what was in the box on the little shelf in the cupboard under my stairs. I even did some ironing, carefully extracting the board from beside the shelf without so much as a look in its direction.

But then, on the third day since you’d gone out into the rain, there was this smell.

It was like the smell of expired fruit, a sugared rotting stench that seemed to coat the back of my throat in a sweet glue each time I inhaled.

I don’t eat fruit so, at first, the source of the smell puzzled me. I went to the fridge and inspected its modest contents individually for anything similar in scent, but there was nothing there that could match it. I even sniffed myself to determine whether I was the source but soon realised that the smell could not be me, as I had only noticed it when I’d come downstairs.


I looked at the cupboard beneath the stairs. I thought of the little box and your tired eyes. You’d told me not to bother looking, but what about smelling?

The stench swelled as I drew closer to the cupboard door. I turned the handle and, sure enough, it hit me in full force like stepping out of a plane door into searing new heat. I realised too late that gasping was the wrong reaction; the stench had found its way onto my tongue and began stabbing away at my teeth.

With one look at the shelf, I found the source of the smell. The box was leaking.

I rang you up.

The box is leaking.

“It’s okay, just leave it.”

But it smells.

“What of?”

Like warm fruit eaten on a foreign night. Like the juice trapped in the folds of a bin bag. Like a shrunken, lint-covered apple left in the bottom a rucksack.

Like decay.

“Bury it.”

Bury it.

“Dig a hole in your garden and just-“

You stopped short like the time in my kitchen with the hot tea on your tongue.

“Just don’t open it.”

I don’t have a spade.

“Use your hands, I don’t care.”


The box was sealed to the shelf. I tried to ease it up from its position but my hands found themselves slowly sinking through a layer of sodden cardboard. The box was steeped in liquid and the sides had crumbled inwards at what had only been the slightest pressure from my fingers. The smell now seeped out everywhere, having broken past its cardboard barrier. Instinctively, I covered my hands and mouth but there was no point, in doing so my fingers had brushed against something and I didn’t dare breathe for fear of what I had touched.

The contents of the box were warm. I had felt something warm.

And soft.

Did you tell me not to open it because you were worried about the smell? Well then it was stupid of you to give it to me in a flimsy cardboard box. A flimsy cardboard box that could break open at any time and display its contents for all to see.

And why would you make me bury something that was still warm? I thought about the way you had lifted your head and looked to the sky with your mouth open.

I carefully lifted the lid. And then I knew what had felt so warm.

Cradled by the sodden cardboard folds of the disintegrating box, a tiny form wriggled at the event of its own discovery.

I pictured your tongue, stuck out and comforted by the cool rain.

Why had you given me a baby to put in my cupboard?

Why have you given me a baby?

You didn’t answer. I couldn’t hold your hand this time.

Why have you told me to bury this?

“Just do it, please.”

I can’t.

“Please, it’s not-“

Not what?

“It just has to go.”

You told me to keep it safe.

And I wanted to keep it safe because it was so warm where I was so cold.

I don’t really know how to hold a baby but I gave it my best shot. I know that there’s something about keeping the neck stable so I just put my arm under that and hoped the rest of its little body would come up with it. It did.

For a moment, standing there in the cupboard with my arms holding this thing, I felt perilously full. Not in a crying way, but like a thirsty child that has just been handed a full cup of lemonade and told not to spill a drop of it.

I looked down to see if the baby felt as strange as I did.

Its little features were considering mine with an expression that told me it was as puzzled as I was as to the situation we now found ourselves in. I looked at its eyes and tried to work out what they were saying but they kept creasing around the edges in a way that reminded me of the dry lines around yours.

Do our eyes grow?

This question was not directed at you but at the baby you had made me put in my cupboard. It came to me as I looked at its eyes, but not into them.

Surely these were the same size as mine. Mine as a fully-grown adult.

I took it to the mirror in the living room and held it up beside my face as best I could. It didn’t understand what we were looking at and looked to me instead, swivelling about in a way that made it hard for me to make a direct comparison. Eventually I grasped that its eyes were about the same in size as mine but I had more white space around my irises. Age clearly shrinks the colour from them.

Outside, it started to rain.

I took the baby over to the window and showed it the place where you had stood in the street, in this kind of rain, without an umbrella. It liked the window better that the mirror and so, when I explained what you had done, it seemed to understand why you had enjoyed the rain so much. I know this because it stuck its tongue out just beyond its tiny lower lip and looked up at me by way of response.

It seemed you both understood something that I didn’t.

I know you wanted me to, but I couldn’t go outside into the cold when I finally had something so warm to keep against me.

Six days after you’d left it rained again. Ever since you’d gone, it seemed to be raining once every three days. I found this odd but the baby didn’t. It only stuck out its tongue and looked up at me, its creased eyes widening in expectation.

I folded on the seventh day, the day you’d said you might come back.

I was standing with the baby at the window again, hoping that the sun would slip out from behind one of the grey clouds sealing off the sky above us. I was standing with the baby looking at the clouds and I was thinking about how the smell had gone. And how I couldn’t remember when it had gone or why it had been there in the first place. The baby had come to me completely clean, a perfect form discovered in a decaying box, and it had stayed clean in my arms ever since.    

It looked as if it might rain but I suddenly thought that I could risk it, seeing as it was the seventh day and seven is not a multiple of three.

Stepping outside the front door with the baby felt like I was carrying all my organs outside of my body. Perhaps this was the wrong thing to do.

I want to go back in, I told it.

It looked up at me with your eyes and I felt surer than ever.

I want to go back inside.

Four of the baby’s fingers wrapped around one of mine; its little hands were so very warm against the skin they touched. I stopped shaking.

Warm hands mean a cold heart, I thought. But no heart could be colder than yours on that day, when you’d stood out here in the street and drank from the sky.

A cold wind cut through the cul-de-sac and I felt as if I was spilling over again. The whipping air seemed to be stealing great chunks of me as I walked down the street and I suddenly found that a part of me hoped it would take more than what was spilling over. As I came to your spot, I wondered why the baby made me feel so dangerously full where you had felt so thirsty.

I pictured the box silently decomposing on the little shelf, next to the ironing board, in the cupboard under the stairs. I felt the sodden cardboard crumbling between my fingers, followed by the unexpected warmth of the tiny figure inside. I imagined myself, eyes so very wide, looking down at the little thing that had brought me such an intense feeling of irresistible wholeness that I had wanted to keep its little body against mine forever. Even if that meant I would eventually have to spill over into nothingness.

I should have buried it when you’d told me to.

You win. I didn’t look down at the thing in my arms as I said this. I couldn’t look into its eyes. Eyes that I knew were filled with so many colours and so much hope.

You win.

And so, when it started to rain as the clouds had promised, I stuck my tongue out and prayed that I would drown.  

Shelf Life

Step in
and it feels like water
is holding the skin
around your toes

up to
your legs
so you can
stride back into this
warm nothing
without air
and it won’t matter

Step in
like I told you to
and the corners
will become nothing
much like corners
any more
the only edge will be
the silhouette
you try to keep

about yourself

Step in

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