From Her Whereabouts:
All of us talking about how we couldn’t write about it, we were
all writing about how impossible it was
to write about. I touched a finger
to my phone and there was a brushtail possum
holding its burnt paw pad up to a camera
like it was showing its passport
or like, Look what you did!
Or just: Look! Its hand a pink
and blackened diamond
pinched between some human’s thumb and finger.
Outside the room, the wind sucked and threw
and people were saying
it’s too big to focus on: we can’t.
On Horse Guards Parade we sat down
on tomb-cold slabs, and by and by police
came and took the tents, which ended up in landfill
as if the land weren’t full already.
The sycamores, yellowing leaves outspread
like stars or hands, processed along the park
beside us. We rested there, leaning
on their trunks. I felt daughterly.
the pelicans beyond the railings
belonged to the queen. Eventually we went home.
My dad said
dead animals were piled up at the roadsides
this was on Saturday
this was happening, really happening
and also, something new and worse
was fizzing away in the sea. The headlines
rose off the papers like smoke
lifting out of themselves in disbelief.
I wanted anyone to be cold who wanted to be.
I wanted to be plenty, and un-seared.
It was generally agreed that we couldn’t write about it -
our little paws raised to the cameras in disarray
Look at us!
Look at us, saying: This is terrible. Terrible!
This poem first appeared in The Rialto no. 94, as part of the Nature and Place Competition winners issue, Summer 2020
Stand, evincing hope
and looking round for her.
The loss and the search shoot right down
to the feet, through some central shaft
like a flare descends a well, illuminating
mossy sides, or a harpoon freefalls through olive sea
to spear the silver shield of a fish.
This central shaft is empty, with space enough
for your little search party’s elevator to stop
at each level, cast its torchlight about
and holler for her voice, her person.
She as a bright thought echoes back
as if trapped inside your ribs -
or a spark, bouncing on the currents of your breath.
So she’s as in your lungs, as anywhere.
Is this what ghosts are, then?
Is this how they operate?
This poem first appeared in Poetry Salzburg Review no. 35, Summer 2020
From Water Person Kit:
And if a goose were flying near me
it could tell
the story of this woman in a yellow dress,
I am the woman,
who came to the muddy banks of a slight river
looked about, undressed
and slid in for one last fling, resting
like a kiss on the water, while the pale willow feathers
landed in the first gentle funeral rehearsals
towards their next job, soil -
everything sweet and slow and shifting.
I don’t know why I imagined that goose.
It ought to be enough that I am here, afloat.
The sun still up, still gold.
The leaves like longboats around my head.
This poem first appeared in Butcher’s Dog in Summer 2018
When the city stills, abandoned
you will be anchored by two feet
and drawing on reserves
as deep as mountains
which limbo by
unnoticed under fields
the ones that are a blackbird’s music
half river anyway five notes, far off
which yield the bat-shaped
to flooded shadows cast
rooms of quartz by blankets
and knotted worm-bores as they dry out
of tunnels in the sun
that stuff an old key
obscure and under you you’ll still keep
you’ll need around your neck
and some familiar things: for some reason
and your same feet
at which you will look down
from time to time
amazed at the journey
their new strength
the way that they’ve
adapted best of all
to this time
and herding kids
This poem first appeared in MAGMA 72: Climate Change issue, 2018
Fort Lauderdale Bus Station
Olive spent til 4a.m. telling me about The New Jerusalem
which is three hundred and forty-five miles square and twenty storeys deep
with a plot of land each, from which no-one will ever steal.
In any case, everyone will be recast in Jesus’ image
except for me: I will be trapped on Earth for a thousand years
while Satan rages round, because of how I live.
I plugged in my headphones and let Duke Ellington
erase me, but Olive woke me up
by prodding the soles of my feet from her end of the bench
to describe the pustules in which I will be covered as well
from head to toe, this being the wages of sin. I needed her on side:
the security guard thought I was looking after her so let us stay,
but eventually I told her, I wasn’t raised like that. She said, You mean
you stand in your own light? God might make allowances for that.
He’ll find you a space, she said. You don’t deserve to burn.
It turned out the security guard ran his SUV as a taxi
to help with the price of gas. He’d drop Olive at the hospital,
she was eighty-five and on her own, then take me to the Amtrak.
The city slid by through tinted windows, I stared at the backseat
full of crap he was storing for other passengers;
McDonald’s vouchers on the dash, him huge and fat,
watermelon bubble gum squeaking blue-pink between gold teeth
as he told us how he feeds the birds outside the station every morning.
He said they know him now, and sit on his arm.
When we were alone, he straightaway told me
I raise giant snakes. That’s what I do, on the side.
He said back home he had a twenty-eight foot python. I raised it from a baby.
What’s she like? Aw,she’s very sweet, y’know. Softly. Sweet-natured.
In downtown traffic, people not giving an inch to let us in,
he said See? That’s what I’m talkin’ about. Why they have to hold on like that?
When we finally found the train, he gave me his card:
Enforcement Officer, FL
Commercial/Residential Armed Services
Bodyguard – Plain Clothes
Escort, Landscaping, Patrolling Area
Reconstruction, Buildings, Tents,
Homes, Special Events and Parties.
It had a little picture of praying hands.
You should have mentioned the snakes, I said
and he laughed, showing all his gold.
The TV in the station waiting room was showing food riots:
somewhere abroad the price of rice had doubled in a year.
When the train lit out, it was a sudden cutting away -
the relief of wild thickets of palm, lily-pad pools
stubby soft pines, leaves with pink tips and white herons
amongst the cattle who grazed their way across the flat green pastures
where a sign said BEEF – IT’S WHAT’S FOR DINNER. This
was near to a citrus works, its open-back trucks lined up
brimming with oranges which shone colour to the sky, standing in their own light.
This poem first appeared in The Poetry Review in 2018
How everything is starker on the shore,
how families stand out bright-coloured, like rosettes;
how sheer the strand is here,
shaped wing of shingle pared down by wind
to meet the sea at one side
and green marsh along the other.
How much like a stage it is, yes
everywhere, but here most of all.
How poignant we are, how rueful it is
how very alive, how pleasant, how sad.
How much the littleness of us shows up
out here. How close I am to nudging
the sea at this second and saying: rise up,
get on with it, lose us altogether, now you’ve started.
This poem first appeared in The Rialto No 84, Winter 2015
After Wallace Stevens
In the middle of it all, while I was on the phone to the police
this blackbird appeared at the window of the project
suddenly thudding at the glass
as if the rain had thrown it towards shelter.
It was a flummox of wet feathers in the squall
outside, and as I described the ill
to the man on the switchboard
the only still thing was its eye
which led me into the core of itself
in an act of mesmerism:
the sharp yellow circle and the little black hole
caught the two of us for a slow second.
The bird was there, frantic, then gone.
This poem first appeared in Under the Radar Issue 22, Autumn 2018
Four legs and a head
Option one is not an option
neither are options two or three
so this leaves me with
looking hard across a flat field
for gaps in the hedge
where dark matter builds an apparition of a horse -
a horse which bridges earth and sky,
clay hooking its hooves, gravity startling its ears.
I love this. The not-knowing, the possibilities,
the lack of proof.
This poem first appeared in The Rialto No 84, Winter 2015
From Billack's Bones:
We rowed through star porridge.
How was it?
As you’d expect:
sweet to the touch
speckled, stirred with light
smooth and bottomless.
You dived for a shell,
blue-lidded. Surfaced with it,
your head webbed with silver spawn.
The blue shell held
my explanations, you said ,
but I woke, then -
to a prehistoric cave,
lying under red sheepskin.
Woke again -
staring into a goat’s yellow scored eyes.
And woke again -
here, with the traffic
and the pink sky.
Ten commandments for the rain
Rinse us again and again.
Temper your moods,
gather purity from hidden pools,
never desert us.
Cool the cities, the smoking pans.
give rise to grass richer than chocolate.
Let us near you.
Hide and replenish yourself at the mouth of the sky.
Laugh on us.
This poem appeared also in Earth Pathways Diary 2010
Then he enticed me into the fair –
and I said I would go on the parachutes
where we could drift diagonally like spores,
graze the ground with just a gentle mooning in the stomach,
but he told me to come with him on to the fastest
where it throws and hurtles
and circles at angles: I could trust him,
he said, it would be fine,
definitely – and we were locked in
and when it grew fast, he said, it will get faster
and the world pulsed past in uneven rushes,
the music trailing behind, my head
knocking on its stalk, I clenched
against the air, smelling red metal
and he said, let go –
In a cheap hotel in Portland
warped dank walls, blank jammed window,
scared to look inside the wardrobe,
I sleep in my clothes and ring you.
When I slip down the corridor
a slow creak groans the building
as if the weight could pull it down –
men unhappy, I suppose.