• Vol. 05
  • Chapter 01

The Dead and Their Stuff

It was once thought there were two types of stuff – properly called ‘substances’: physical and mental. It is fashionable now to think there is only one.

I tend towards two.

To believe in one substance – the physical (and such is the fashion) – you must believe all life is reducible to properties that don’t in themselves contain life, and that somehow a certain volume of impersonal properties can create a living thing – in this instance, a person.

Some very eminent people no longer believe in personhood. Which means you can’t logically have dead persons, or their stuff - you just have things that are more or less that thing.

Other eminent people say you cannot believe or disbelieve in personhood without first agreeing a framework of personhood.

It might be that the collecting of stuff, whether from the living or dead, is proof of personhood, or at least stuff that is decided upon because of meaning or value – mental stuff.


In church halls, youth clubs, community centres, foldaway tables are arranged in a rectangle and the stuff of dead people is sold alongside the out-grown and the unwanted.

In galleries and bookshops physical stuff is sold that contains, either within or on its surface, mental stuff. And much of this comes from the dead.

There is a lot of ‘dead peoples stuff for sale’.

Read more >


Towns cry without bells, in banks of
rattle shake the names of invisible bodies

Second hand retro vintage clothes
off your back

Drape their lives around you

let skin cells

Fall on your tongue

talking off-brand price tag

Hidden in peat bog fragments

of bone teeth bar code

Labels in a lab

of false understanding


Stuff You

You haven’t yet realised, in your ignorance of life, beauty (and grammar) that the owners of what you so dismissively call Stuff have begun to take yours. Your precious iPhone 8, your £445.00 Balenciaga black trainers and that bottle of Louis Roederer Cristal you were planning to open for your girlfriend. The Dead Peoples, as you call them, have taken them.

And they will continue to take everything you hold dear until you learn some respect (and, some of them say, until you learn better English). They laughed when they saw your sign because they know better than any living person that Stuff is exactly the right word. You can’t take anything with you when you die: in the end it is all Stuff. But they want you to understand that while they lived their Stuff mattered to them just as much as yours matters to you, now.

Remember the piece of creased paper you took from that faded floral dress and threw away? Well Rose, the owner of the dress, would like you to know that you tore up a finger painting she’d kept for sixty years. A finger painting of a rose made for her by her daughter, the daughter who didn’t live beyond her fourth birthday.

So you see? All kinds of Stuff has value. And Dead Peoples Stuff should be respected by the living. Because different people value different Stuff. Including Dead Peoples.

The Dead Peoples will continue to take what you hold dear, what you value; they will continue to, they tell me, Stuff You, until you understand the value of Stuff. (And, some say, until you can produce better signs.)


Peoples Stuff for Sale

capital is dead labour

on barren soils cloven

for shopping pavements

in to wattled stepping

to deter a wheel chair

as if a movie of death

were situationism lite

under the sidewalks of

a hipster charity lane

upcycling ethos as art

and pathos for mustard

by the artisan brewery

denims and trust funds

washed down after toil

but stuff is not stuff

that alteration frames

for the consuming eyes

even as slipped vowels

Read more >

Stuff and Sales

I wonder whether you’ve seen the sign already, whether I should cover your eyes. Or whether that would just alert you to the fact that there is something to see. Of course it would. Stupid me. So, I keep walking, keep you walking, your slim hand in mine. You seem peaceful, staring ahead. You tend to look ahead. Sometimes you are beaming at butterflies in the future and run into a rock in the present. I have to stop that, be your guide, which isn’t easy. I was not designed for looking any way but back.

It is not even the word “dead” that might trigger some kind of pain in your sweet soul. It is more “stuff” and possibly even “sale”. Years later, assuming that you are still here, you may hear this story and think, what on earth’s wrong with “stuff”? It’s the animals, you see. At the museum. The elephant, and the foxes and even the round little squirrels. I had envisaged a kind of dead zoo. It wouldn’t be that different to a living one, they just … wouldn’t be moving. Or making noises. Or able to see us or communicate with us or know we were there.

Well, they were still and they were silent. But their blank dark eyes – plastic, or glass? – stared into mine as I stood holding you and they did not like what they saw. The elephant’s anger chilled me to the bone. The foxes’ scorn made me turn away in shame. The squirrels looked confused. Why do you not love him? He is perfect, is he not? He is hers, is he not? I ran out, clutching a confused baby you. We must have looked ridiculous.

“Sale”. The word makes my mouth shrivel up. Depending on accents, it can be either salty or dirty in French. I remember the shortbread, how careful I was. How I measured out everything perfectly, took my time mixing instead of charging around being angry as I usually would. It was actually quite therapeutic to just stand still, do something mundane and repetitive.

Read more >

Dante dot com

I took it all with me, but apparently there’s no room.

The tenth circle of hell is exchange and return.

This is punishment for too much shopping, I presume.

I took it all with me, but apparently there’s no room.

There are no decorations allowed in my eternal tomb,

so I suppose it’ll be easier if I just let it all burn.

I took it all with me, but apparently there’s no room.

The tenth circle of hell is exchange and return.


Matter of an Unspecified Kind

Dear Shop Owners at No.28b Fore St,

Once again, I am writing to you concerning your advertisement printed in the Blemingfield Times. Last Saturday, as I was drinking my breakfast tea, my husband Gordon placed the aforementioned paper on our kitchen table saying, “Doreen, breathe deep, they have done it again.” When I saw your advert, Dead Peoples Stuff for Sale, I dropped my teacup and almost scalded my poodle Cherry who was asleep under the table. Next, I screamed, wept and consequently developed such a throbbing migraine that I was obliged to retreat to a darkened room for over 36 hours.

As I mentioned in my previous five letters (of which I have sent copies to Madam Mayor of Blemingfield, the editor of the Blemingfield Times and her majesty the Queen) I demand that you remove your advert. I repeat: dead people cannot be paired to the word stuff. To stuff is to gorge, to fill up, and to stick inside a meat pie. The word stuff describes matter of an unspecified kind. Our ancestors bequeath personal property, as my late mother left me her Persian lamb coat (though I would have preferred the china.)

In the sole answer I have received from you, Shop Owners, you write that Dead People’s Stuff For Sale is a “joke”. You claim, it is “funny” and requires “ a sense of humour.”

Shop Owners, must I remind you that I once brought an entire flower-arranging session of the Women’s Institute to their knees when I quipped that, “I had been put in an orchid situation.”

Read more >

People for Sale

Dragged over broken concrete
behind closed doors
just in, another bin bag.

Jacket, not waterproof, torn yes
but in my pockets half a can
and that smoke that fell from me.

Earring trapped in the lining
cosy in its own fur coat, more
rollies in the bashed baccy tin.

Sleeping bag, was blue.
White tin mug, few stains I admit
but well handled. Blanket nicked.
Socks none.

That wet grey jumper needs to weep
some more on someone’s radiator,
couple of tops, one logo might fancy you.

Take it, no name, no label, just leave
mind the broken step and straighten that
fallen black letter ‘cos I’m funny
that way.

No one will notice the passing.


The Stink

it's not that I mind crypt buggering like this—
the vermin rooting through all that will

only disintegrate in measurements of minutes
or geological eras, no, that I don't mind at all

let vultures plunge their bald heads beaks first
into these rotting flesh banks let them

attempt to coat all putrefaction and canker
with unctuous sprays cloying at each passing nostril

even that blight will eventually fade and the fats
from alkal alcanoates will break down like the bodies

these worn woolen jackets once housed
all traces of this stuff will vanish though

I cannot scrub the space where the missing
apostrophe should be—that eats away at me

in realtime the white space that reeks
of our current skullcaps' mephitis


they brought and bring, we all buy that stuff


from the

lay it
It is






Read more >

Unpleasant on Pleasant Street

Over a year and a half of going through almost a decade of accumulation and a lawsuit with "relatives"
Family has brought a new meaning to the word
Underhanded scheming
All synonyms to our new definition
You hear stories where greed tears families apart
Never thinking it would happen to your "family"
$700,000.00 for a Saks bill and expecting your spinster aunt to write a check due to entitlement issues
Expecting your son to have the classic car passed down to him from your dead uncle just because
Thinking all the schmoozing will get you "everything"
Guess what, notes have been taken all along
Very good notes
You aren't the smartest person in the room
It's a thing
You've ruined your chances, you got nothing
Lost family and fortune
Let me guess which was more important to you?
I guess it's all "relative"



Recycler or vulture?
My pulse quickens when I see this sign.
The bargain culture
has always been, first and foremost mine.
An honest statement,
not dressed up, feels almost sublime.
Vintage garments
remind me of another time
an escape route
from this time of Trump and crime.

Then at back home
I'm damned to see a pile of dirty rags.
Rose-tinted specs
won't let me magic dross into dream swag.


Can I be immortal?

Only if you could place your life in your possessions after you have gone.
And one day someone finds you so dear,
That they live their lives through you.
And long after that someone has gone,
someone else may find you and
this cycle will go on till the death of your possessions.


Emma Jane

Mothballs and dust take me back to a time
growing up in Missouri on a flea-market budget,
when Sundays were spent rummaging through antique shops
with my sister, my mother and her mother.

I meander through the jam-packed maze
of depression glass, lace doilies
and primitive potato mashers,
before landing in the vintage book aisle.

I can hardly resist the smell of aging pages
as I blow off a layer of dust, crack
the crumbling spine. Sometimes I close my eyes,
run my fingers along the typeface trenches,
titles embossed in the leathery covers of classic
collections of poetry.

Turning each page, with its coarse thickness,
reminds me of construction paper greeting cards
my kids made in kindergarten, the ones
with tempera paint handprints and
crayon squiggles.

Today, I found a hidden memento tucked snugly
into a book’s crevice, marking a love poem
by Emily Dickinson, this edition
once belonging to a true romantic soul.

Her personal bookmark, a photo of a man,
quite slender and somber, his drab brown suit
matching his melancholy smile.

Read more >

Threaded Wonders

There is a delicate ring with carved roses on the band
and scarves that float and descend
like dandelion puffs,
when thrown into the air.
There is even a black velvet
and blue satin cocktail dress,
which looks like it is ready to dance the night away.
Without their stories though,
these are just things
lacking the luster of life.

The carved roses belonged to a very old ring
from the 1920s.
The silver base had become soft
and the original stone fell out,
to be lost in some far-off corner
under a coach.
This she would not sell.
This will be saved from the STUFF pile.

The light as a feather scarves belonged
to a great aunt with an even greater sense of style.
There was a leopard print, a burgundy swirl, and a silky black scarf
with sequins that looked like stars.

In the end, she could not bear to part
with most of the things meant for the sale.
Perhaps it was the sign on the sidewalk that felt too final.
Rich with adventures,
she decided to keep the treasures of those cherished.
Read more >


Life Becomes Inventory

Before bones grow cold
the greedy garage sales a life
into bins marked, “Priced to Sell.”

Memories ghost photographs,
wrap Paris in broken pearls,
and scent love letters bleeding
from a heart shaped box.

History crumbles into a burden.
Verbal stories no longer have a home
only the mold of forgotten murmuring
among stitches of a tattered quilt.

A corpse has a price, her clothing a steal.
Life becomes inventory as soon as
an obituary advertises a sale.


Dead Peoples Stuff For Sale

I don’t think Albert really understood the concept of marketing. If he had he wouldn’t have put those words on the placard outside his shop. I passed it every day on the way to work. The place gave me the shivers, and as for Albert himself, well he couldn’t be far from the grave. Wiry white hair stuck out in all directions. His face was pale and had more track lines on it than Clapham Junction. With a frame thin and unsteady he ambled in and out of the shop, washing his windows and sweeping the step as if that would bring customers in.

Each time I passed my eyes strayed to the piles of clothes and knick-knacks in the window. He hadn’t a clue about window display, how to lure customers in with a tantalising colour co-ordinated hang and drape. And the baskets! There were baskets outside the shop stuffed with socks, ties, tights and underwear.

I wondered about the widows and widowers who gave Albert their dead relative’s clothing. I hoped they washed them beforehand because I couldn’t see Albert putting them through a wash cycle and extra rinse. Many items were so creased and faded the only place for them was in the bin.

The shop overflowed. Clothes spilled out of the door. Thermal vests, shirts, dresses, trousers and jackets. It was a complete mish-mash of fashion. Anything from the thirties to the present day. The paraphernalia of the others’ lives packed shelves and boxes, every corner and every space. Albert certainly didn’t have any competitors in the village, yet the shop suffered the same sadness as his goods. The paint was faded on the façade and the gutters leaked.

In the old days, when he was a young man, Albert had owned a horse and cart and would go from street to street taking away what remained of the dead. He’d just taken over his father’s rag and bone business but he’d changed the criteria. Read more >


Tell It How It Is

"Tell it how it is," the manager said,
when she asked me to write the sign
and design the promotional material,
"something eye-catching
and straightforward."
I generally knew the owners,
and the people who were once owners.
I've lived here long enough,
longer then she has.
So I should know.
I knew they were no longer with us.
I didn't know if their past possessions
were antiques,
or nearly new,
or even used,
or slightly soiled.
But I knew the one time owners,
knew they were no longer with us.
So I did as I was asked.
It was a snappy caption,
I thought.
Certain to grab the attention of
potential buyers.
I always follow instructions,
I explained at my next job interview,
and I know how to tell it how it is.


True Vintage

Granny was so particular about her things,
dresses hung with tissue and pomanders, housed
them in closeted cedar, sanded annually,
to discourage moths and to release
the story of a tree whose body was shaped
to fit the nook of her chimney-breasted room.

When she died, there was no body
to look after her things, so her space
was cleared.

Men came, overalled and gloved
with gaping black bags, mouths hungry
to swallow St Michael, Norman Harntell
and Selfridges, all pristine, as if they
had only just alighted, paper birds,
chosen, saved for, sent for, nearly
seventy-five years ago.

White vanned to another place,
turned and fingered, hung together
for the last time; true vintage,
on a charity shop rail, Granny’s garments
are now for sale.



It’s good to know
there’s a place you can go
when you’re dead.

Forget rounding with a sleep
guest appearances at Ouija boards
churchyards or Halloween.

Here you can buy the stuff
of your dreams, be whatever
you want, for a little piece of soul!

See that shining silver sheath dress
with fairies dancing all around?
Be Titania for a price, pixies are free!

Or maybe your taste is more
Darth Vader? The Dark Lord suit
comes with inbuilt heavy breathing!

No-one here cares about your spelling
and grammar or if you
drop the occasional vowel.

Make new friends at our café
meet up with old ones, or chat
to the quivering newly dead.

It’s good to know
there’s a place you can go
when you’re dead.


Caveat Emptor

Oh, misaligned, maligned, malignant
A throwaway comment
Compressing a life, lives, a whole nation
Into mere bric-a-brac
Bring out your dead, bring your dead
Only dead people here
Remaining remnants, remainders, remains
All that is left of stuff

Through the blue door—
Not the end of the tunnel—
Up the worn-out steps, cutting corners
Taking you into that other world
Of stuff, of yellowing cotton, sweat-stained, neck-grimed
Imprinted with dead people, by dead people
Dead for sale, death for sale
Come and buy
Everything’s going cheap, sold as seen
A bargain, but—as always—caveat emptor


Diamond in a Vitamin Jar

You hid a diamond in a jar of old
vitamin E, a glimmering secret that
you showed me only once a year.
You said it was valuable, payment
from a client who was suspiciously
low on cash and lacking in character.
As the years passed, it took on the
amber hue of the vitamin jar, the
distinct scent of fish oil slick across
edges that cut grooves into the moon
and sparkled against the tips of fingers.
It was supposed to be a legacy, passed
to me on the bitter tongue of death, but
I sold it to pay my rent and buy wine.
The diamond was polished and
displayed under glass, in a case with
stuff from other dead mothers.
I hope it still smells like the vitamin jar,
and that you forgive me for letting it go.



What I cannot sell off is how your crooked thumb held the knife to cut slices of apple for me when I was sick.

Or how your bent back looked as it plodded around the kitchen, trying to cook in an almost empty house.

I wonder if cruel-looking kindness is something we should sell. Maybe people will buy it if we trade it for 50% off.


Divided – by a common language

We are stuffing black bin bags, destined for a charity shop.
In goes her houndstooth jacket – small, revered, nipped-in,
the red paisley skirt, cable twinset, cobalt suit – pleated,
that emerald brocade – so unsuitable for a son's wedding,
white lace gloves, kitten heels caked with Meltonian.

From the back of the wardrobe, his suit – mothballed,
described as lovat but more akin to cowpat, mustard
cardigan with buttons like mini footballs – badly scuffed
that cousin Wilbur from Ohio insists are li’l soccer balls,
handfuls of ties, pairs of braces Wilbur says are suspenders.

In the top drawer, a round box of stiff collars, a small case
for studs. Lower down, his huge grey underpants,
her tiny lavender suspenders Paige claims is a garter belt.
And in the chest, a heart-shaped box that my US cousins
and I hesitate to look into. Our loss, the thrift store’s gain.


This house doesn’t sell

My winter garden is plush
with memories of summer cherries
and so is my house
with echoes of my children’s play-names
the kitchen smells of the curry
and love that blossomed
in its four corners
the mirrors are too outdated to look into!
the portrait of my beloved
dated 1857
half hung, half falling
speaks of the youth and its promise

after I died

everyone went to a nowhere
while I am still here
hanging about the windows
waiting for their return
sometimes I turn and overturn
the garden by my grave
with the same spade
in case they lay asleep by my side
When I ask news from occasional passersby
they run away frantically
like I did once from the murky mirrors
Read more >


Attic Sale

Come in, come in! We have sorted
what’s on sale and put it up front.
We’re not selling the letters
to my great-grandmother Annie Dunn
from her brothers and lover
as they fought for the Union
in the Civil War. Lots of mud
and bad food. Illegible, the ink
has faded to the color of blood,
we feel we must hold them.

The stack of what we are selling
is small. I’m wearing the fifty-year-old
Irish wool fisherman’s sweater
my mother knit for my father.
Excuse the missing buttons.

The furniture from their marriage
I can part with because our own stuff
has grown beyond our means
to keep. Our children’s artwork,
the Barbie Corvettes and rock
collections, and their Ph. D.
dissertations take up space.
The children are still alive.
Not a day goes by without gratitude
for our kids, but we can’t sell their stuff
yet. Not without quarrels.

Read more >

Yard Sale for the Dead Guy’s Things

I’m sitting on my lofty white cloud with my annoying halo glowing above my head.

I can’t believe I’ve been dead for only two months and my wife is having a yard sale. The last few months before my untimely heart attack, we weren’t getting along, but this! It’s all my things!

“How much is this blue-striped tie?”

“Oh, that’s a bargain, Miss. Ten-dollars and the color goes with everything,” says my wife.

She’s selling my favorite tie! Ooh, if I was still alive, I’d sell her favorite painting right now. That ugly purple flower that hangs in the entrance hallway for all to see. What was she thinking? I wish I could jump down from this cloud and give her a piece of my mind.

“This is a beautiful watch. I love the black leather band and it’s practically brand new. The man this belonged to kept really good care of his things. How much do you want for it?” asks the same woman who bought the tie.

“This is an even greater bargain. It’s from Japan and it’s a genuine leather band. Not those synthetic ones. This cost five-hundred-dollars, but I’m selling it for one-hundred-dollars.”

“I’ll take it,” says the woman.

My watch! That witch! That’s it, I’m taking my chances and going down.

I leap off my cloud into mid-air, spread my arms and fly.

I can’t wait until I get down there. She and everyone at the yard sale will be so spooked, that’ll be the end of it. Oh, no!

Read more >


I haggled like a regular
at a Turkish bazaar,
who pays top rate
for used things anyway,
see that verdigris
inching around the bottom?
He gave it to me in the end
in an oily brown paper bag,
the smell of the past
still trapped in it.
It wasn’t until later,
the wine still warm in my hand,
the moon in my throat,
that I let the tears fall.
After all, alone can be lonely
even in the company
of a battered
half-price soul.


Living Dead

I lived long ago –
On a land where Gods themselves walked,
I lived in all the rituals and
Each day was marvelously led to a fruition –
I thought.
Because I believed in karma –
The living people's stuff;
The philosophy that everyone believes in here;
And thought that I would survive for eternity;
But one day he came –
Riding his bull and
holding a whip in his hands.
We talked for some time as I lay on my bed – my death bed.
He saw me – all goods, better and bests of my karmas,
And then it was time to go along with him.
So we departed.
Behind me they cried – the near ones I held dearer.
But lo! They forgot me on the tenth day.
And now I breathe in the eternity of
dead people's stuff.
Actually, the breath is not the living people's stuff,
It is dead people's stuff that
They leave behind and then
return to the realm where
everyone is born, dead and reborn.


The Collector

He couldn’t believe what he’d just read.
The sign stood outside a garage: ‘Dead
peoples stuff for sale’.

Tut-tutting at the missing apostrophe,
he muttered darkly, ‘Items for me’,
and ducked inside

to delve into well-worn trousers and blouses
for souls of deceased parents and spouses
clinging to fluff

deep in pockets and stuffed up sleeves
like forgotten handkerchieves.
There were enough

to satisfy his need for angry ghosts
and sentimental spirits, a jumbled host
to usher to the other side.


super-presence of death

A future so determined, it breathes
presence more than
the noise of this immediate now,
cutting through the crystal
lattices of my neighborhood's bones.

On my stereo, Nick Cave
was singing a sad ballad:
"Death is not the end"
but I can't stop thinking
about "would-be orphan" moments

and all the laughs
which are yet to be laughed,

and all the drinks
that I am supposed to buy for
the whole universe
during the weekend's happy-hour.


The Sad Sign

It is you now who is dead and your stuff has legs, your
favorite coffee table lamp has hands but they are empty;
they grope for the fingers of a human to turn them on.
Your favorite suede jacket has almond eyes filled with grief-
tears because of your absence, and the photos of your family
have wings, they are birds slamming into the walls
of your departed home, they splatter to the floor, done for.
Your laptop is a mouth chomping at the air, its meals
of your information finished forever, it is famished.
Do you think your soul will be salvaged when your time comes?
Don't disparage things. They are the children of your body.
They cost you everything.
Don't even think your time will never come.


Trying it on

The late owner (Australian, it seems)
Wore it only once, out on the town.
One detects, from that occasion, receipts
In pockets, mashed down as if in rage:
A pint of Worthington; a G&T.
The suit was new. Today I pick it up
By cash-strapped chance, and so we meet,

Across a certain gap of years.
One of us an imitator, in the
Market for a bargain, for fresh ideas
Keyed to his lowly station – the other gone
But not all gone. I try his life on, here
I wonder how it complements my ghost of a beard.

Or does it show me up? Does it belong
Back on the rack of sad donations –
The pinstriped relics (two- or three-piece ones),
The leather jackets (fake) and denims (real)?
Or maybe I myself, with shopping done,
Am soon to glimpse myself in a Soho glass?
A penny-pinching poser thrust among

His fellow posers, waiting at a bar,
Our cheap smiles wearing terribly thin ...
I’m no Antipodean, no. But aren’t
These threads, abandoned, pretty much as new?
Reckoning thus, I make my choice. How smart
Of me to smarten up my act! I’ll pay;
And you’ll see. I can change. It’s not so very hard.


Another Life

It seems a meagre hoard
now that it is all boxed in uniform brown cardboard,
lids taped down and labelled
with square letters –

Your stuff –

And I wonder if there is any person
more lonely than me
who would care to rifle through your old books
and records, who would read your poems
late at night and find there your heart and mind,
marvel at the quickened pulse and sad smile –

Give in to love –

Know what it is to possess
the intangible objects that belonged to someone,
rendered meaningless in death,
or worse, as they resolve themselves
into a bitter totem of all that was abandoned
when you moved on, seeking another life –


The Mount Methodist Jumble Sale

legs like dowel rods scuffed at the joins with big wet blanket coats or small ones leaving wind gaps at the throat grab hands the hands like mucky crabs or spiders we would snatch at silk and rayon to feel other peoples’ lives of corduroy and crimplene carrying our popcorn smell of unwashed beds and tidemarks like the one around the bath we never used because the cellos in the pipes in arctic blow and concave stomachs pimpling against the cold oh cover us over with blankets and coats a skirt that needs a tuck a button gone a blouse like Lisa had last year our bitten nails and hands and gloves hid up our sleeves we’d dream our different lives while grabbing crepes and ironed jeans that would not fit there’s lots of wear left there they’d say layering us up like pillows stuffed just so our angles wouldn’t hurt their eyes 'til we were smaller rounded parcels that reminded them of how they looked back in their dishonest memories of childhood and out we rolled wrapped in a dozen other peoples’ smells.


Severing ties

It was the O that did it.
That simple O, pushed askew, symbolised me, after the surreal events of the past month. I had been content, in a complaining sort of way, with my existence. Husband who worked too hard but didn't realise that I did the same. Two kids — teenage, stroppy — with belief systems that put them centre of every stage they moved onto. A good enough house at a good enough address, with neighbours who understood precisely where we sat in the financial hierarchy. I'd been rushing home on Friday, briefcase in one hand, two supermarket bags in the other, checking my Friday night dinner list in my head. Roast chicken, prepare vegetables, set table, prepare for Mum's criticisms...she had never forgiven me for marrying out. I was surprised she deigned to come to us on Friday night — our observance didn't go much beyond Friday and the chicken.
She did arrive, over powdered and over dressed, glittering ostentatiously, a certain sort of wealthy Jewish widow. I definitely took after my father.
Halfway through the chicken she put down her cutlery.
'I have news.' Dramatic pause.
We dutifully stopped eating.
'I'm going to Israel next week. For good.'
Her timing was perfect. We all looked at her, chicken forgotten.
'But Grandma,' the children were first to speak, together.
I found my voice.
'Mum, how? Where? Have you got somewhere to live?'
She waved her hands at me.
'Just be quiet and I'll tell you. I didn't want to say anything until it was arranged, didn't need you interfering.'
Her look preempted any response.
'I've bought a nice apartment in Tel Aviv, and we're flying out together.'
Read more >


Brennan’s Burden

When my brother Brennan eloped out of nowhere he left me a note, Biro on binder paper folded into an airplane on my desk.

Dear Al,
I can't tell you the reason I left because it'll make you an accessory.

The hairs on my arms couldn't decide if they wanted to stand. It seemed like a completely Brennan prank. Still, it was a pretty bold way to up his stakes.

Under my bed you'll find a box.

Just to humour him, I went to his room—musty—and knelt on the floor—dusty—to peer under the mattress. There, as promised, was a box with a padlock.

In my Walking Dead box set, you'll find the key.

I found it buried in a drawer, sacrificed on the altar of PirateBay. It was missing a disc, but had a plain silver key wedged into the slot.

I fit the key to the lock and twisted. It popped open smoothly, and slid off the clasp. I sat there apprehensively.

There are things in the box you need to help me get rid of. Think of somewhere inconspicuous.

Wasn't that accessory to crime?

Don't worry, they're not body parts.

It could be drugs.

Or drugs.

I flung it open. Read more >



Sign on the sidewalk.
Ashes and concrete.
When the wind blows down the street
And the bones rattle in the storefront windows,
This is what you get:
Dead Peoples Stuff For Sale.

Everything I have is hand-me-down.
I'm not sure I'd know how to act
If you gave me something new.
It all looks so familiar on Christmas morning—
I've seen it all before,
I've had it all before,
I'm tired of the same old shit I get
Every time I shop for something more.

I'm afraid that's all there is:
Your grandfather's old pocket watch,
His farm in Connecticut,
His facial features—
Something about his sidelong glance—
Such as these are not only your inheritance,
They are you.

The sign on the sidewalk says it all:
Dead Peoples Stuff For Sale.
A little insensitive perhaps,
But it's the truth.
And we are the dead people.
Read more >


Titanic Deckchairs: Farty Towels

Rearrange world orders:-
Trump, Brexit, Farage, Le Pen...
Satirists as mothballed as malts
In dust-strewn disused distilleries,
Awaiting upturn in global economy.

Psychosomatic allergy,
Conscious uncoupling,
Collateral damage,
Age of anxiety;
Sobriety society.

Sandwich boards:-
"Tis nigh; end of the world".
Fluttering flags unfurled...
"For God, Queen and country";
Unique, unusual, ordinary...
Recycle bins: grey, blue, burgundy.


Between the Pages

She died last August. We found her wearing orange bed socks and a tiger-print flannel onesie. She looked happy, smiling, which made it easier for us — death is never a happy occasion, but she seemed happy about it. After the funeral, we cleared out her flat, gave her clothes to a charity shop along with that mink coat that shed all over the passenger seat of my car when I drove her to meet with the bank manager. It took me a full day with a lint roller and a DustBuster to depilate my car after that. But it was the bouquet of daffodils by her bed — those brought me to tears. It was probably the last thing she saw before she closed her eyes and fell asleep. Those faded flowers standing there in a green smear of water, stems cut at a thirsty angle. They were yellowed and transparent as the fragile skin stretched across her old hands — paper thin, like those hundreds of cigarette papers leftover after she quit rolling her own on her 85th birthday. She folded those squares of paper into origami pygmy swans. Hung them on the Christmas tree from red embroidery thread. I took one daffodil though, and pressed it between pages in one of her photo albums that I kept. Superstitious on my part probably, but I can’t bring myself to throw out any photographs.


It made the sky hurt
looking at those daffodils
cut down in their prime 


Who Will Buy My Stuff?

Who will buy my songs
When my breath has whispered its last sigh
And flee my empty bones into the long silent night?
Who will tinker with my pipe
And try a smoke of foggy tobacco from its stem?
Who will take Jimmy for his morning strolls
And let him pursue and sniff Coco with the pink bow?
Who will recite my verses in the candlelight,
Taking rapt ears along the torturous paths of my sordid heart?
Who will shelter my bookshelf from the winnowing claws
Of the old landlady that called poetry lazy
And made me work for lunch?
Who will buy my stories, when my urn is upside down,
Tickling the brave sea I never saw, with the ashes of my leaving?
Who will buy this dead man's stuff?
Put the signpost where they can see it;
We will make a sale, darling; you and I.


I Die in a Sense

It is pretty weird, how every time I sit down to write a piece for Visual Verse, I realise that I am feeling a strong un-happy emotion. Either the coincidence is uncanny, or writing for Visual Verse is one of those few times when I take cognizance of the intensity of my emotions.


The line made something inside me cringe – it could either be a physical organ, like, say, my liver (or, gut!) or it could be something non-existent living in one of the cells of my brain manifesting itself into a dense whirlpool of tar in my chest. Either way, it hurt.

There is no pain. There is denial. Maybe that is what hurts?

I feel, but do I?
I fell, but did I?

Can you name one person whom I can always believe in? Just one?


What is it, after all, that even dead people would not want?

Or, What is it that only dead people would not want?

I recently read someone say that you can drown in the air – the more you breathe in, the deeper you get, the heavier.
Maybe, it was not gravity all these years.
We are all dying. Drowning.

Night is my only solace. I cannot see the misery on people’s face. Misery on dying people’s face who have forgotten they are dying, along with me; we are living in each other’s funeral and eating and dancing in there, hoping, no, waiting for a revival.

Read more >

The Final Verdict

I am embraced by the warmth of your love
I feel like I am holding you
I can almost touch you
The layers of separation
The great divide between us
Seems almost ... conquered

What belonged to you
I hold dear now
What made you special
I preserve it still
In perpetuity
For all eternity

You, my dear have not passed
You still survive
And every day
I get to strangle a little bit more of you
Making you lifeless once wasn’t enough
Dead people are not dead
If those that live still whisper to them

All your stuff is mine
I made sure I have it all
No wonder, now I relive the act
And feel like God
What could be more extraordinary?
What could be more incredible?
I have given you lifetimes
After death
And I have pronounced you guilty
In all of them


Dead People’s Stuff For Sale

Now we have calls and angels.
With my whole heart I will
Meet the end of all men,
A meeting at the border
And a long night to confer.
Sell my possessions, I will not need them further.
Without you, I am left alone,
But at the same time in heaven—
Memories of a happy slave.
And when you have waited long enough
We shall walk into the hand of summer.
The tree-scent is sweet
And above on the wild mountain
There grow, blooming,
All the wild flowers of the mountain.
Then go through the wanton
Dreaming and deep valleys,
Because I will be with you.
And if you belong to the truth of me
Then we will decide to go together.



I don’t know where they went,
his thin polyester pants, the ones he wore
to work and home, at the table,
leaning over his crosswords, cigarette smoke
filling his mouth—

or his sweaters, even the ones
we bought him days before he died,
when he’d wasted into knobs and angles,
unable to sit up,
drooling even—

or his shoes, his shirts, his shorts—
where did they go?
a dresser full of fifty years—
the things we knew him by
his whole life,

which, in the end, was just
a uniform—
emptied out


Christmas Presence

After the cars, and flowers, and hours
spent in solicitors' offices, are over,
Or after the cards have been sent,
(out of sympathy, maybe, but obligation, more likely)
all that is left is possessions.

Reams and reams of books, thirty-two shelves, cumbersome like geological strata;
where unturned pages and unread lines and un-lived lives
contain little that would have
saved him now.

And try not to look at those calendars,
‘Appointment, 11:30,’ written, hesitantly, among the birthdays and anniversaries;
three or four weeks left
before they expire, too.

Or there's that gift book from a once-loved one,
the product of a rash decision and strained relations,
flicked through in their grinning presence on Christmas Day, 2002, now
just getting some rest.

All now finally resurrected from their clinical storage sleep, gifted with a
price tag, that obscures the title, and a
carrier bag. In green boxes, designed for transporting bananas,
they wait

and wait, and wait; good job they’re used to it.
The price tag is amended,
And, as if on command, Read more >


House Clearance

the cupboard dredge
the winnowed drawers
the rout of boxes
the ransacked attic
oh! the harvest of poverty
patina of skin and sausage-spit
grey dust-flock of neglect

the sift of cheap china
the prospect of pockets
the unearthed whatnots
the sad, marred leavings
oh! as surefire as metaphor
the one good piece holed up
trussed in yellowed sellotape


A breath of new life

Ether gave an angelic smile. His work was challenging and endless. Unlike the lawyers and families, who sorted out the effects of their dear departed as well as those they were delighted to part company with, Ether was responsible for shifting through their memories.

Even though his job was an eternal one he could still envisage the pain of those who had lived tragic lives, and who carried into the next realm the mental scars inflicted through war and famine. It was the hoarders of memories that he found the hardest to separate from their spirits, weighed down by insignificant and countless memories. Usually, these were the same people who had filled their houses with things that they had bought and saved to comfort themselves. The person who would not relinquish 30 years’ worth of bills, letters, birthday cards, was not easily separated from their overgrown and rambling memories. However, for him the most unpleasant to deal with were those minds crammed full of petty grievances and spite. These were the hoarders of viperous words and thoughts that were often gangrenous, and so none of their malignant memories could be preserved.

What he enjoyed the most was reading the sweet remembrances of true love, loyal friendship and kind intentions. Wisps of deep and intoxicating moments like lingering summer sunsets that inhabited the hidden corners of generous minds. They were ‘the stuff that dreams’ were ‘made of’. These were the recollections that Ether allowed to be remembered and carried forward with the earthly dead.


Going For A Song

If you think life is full of disappointments, you should try death for size. Less than 24 hours after my fatal heart attack on the Virgin Intergalactic flight back to Heathrow, my older sister Aggie had got that cowboy company ‘We Buy Any Dead Peoples Stuff’ round for a valuation. It was bad enough seeing them poking around my tiny maisonette before carting off all my prized possessions within the hour (leaving only half a loo roll behind), but even worse to see them place a paltry £155 in her greedy mitts for the lot.

By the way, I had no idea; I thought when you snuffed it, that was it. No, no, not a bit — I’m still here — but invisible. I can make myself pop up anywhere, which...err...hmmm...was fun at first (although I can’t say I was chuffed to learn what people really thought about me. Jeez, talk about two-faced).

So here I am inside the Village Hall in Bicester, the one with the crummy sign outside. I overheard someone just now say they deliberately leave the apostrophe out of ‘peoples’ and make it look rough and ready — it’s part of the image. And buying dead people’s stuff (DPS) is so on-trend, it’s seen as the ultimate authentic recycling. No wonder stars are queueing up to be in their ads, like the one, ‘Your outfit is gorgeous. Is it DPS?’ starring Lady Beckham. Of course, charity shops are going bust every day now that buying plain second-hand has become such a faux-pas.

Anyway, I noticed no sign of my posh telly and furniture. God knows where that lot went. I did see plenty of table tops piled with my old clothes and shoes, music and dvd collection, mugs, glasses and kitchen utensils, all decent quality mind — unlike some people’s stuff.
Read more >


Gaudy Florals

The flowers had faded
with autumnal sun.
Sharp plastic leaves
poked out from rusted holders,
the holes gaping orbs for stems
never needing water,
at odds with the smooth cold marble
and inscriptions, hundreds of them
chasing my eyes.
I walked briskly by, as daylight
crept off and my crisp breaths whispered
like momentary pockets of steam
as I looked for ancestors,
in the wrong place.
The rummaging through closets
and drawers, suits and shirts
neatly folded. Heirlooms and
magpie pickings sifted and sorted,
shared out and hidden in deep dark
corners, some underground
in their rightful owners' pockets.



the silk nightgown in silver
for their first night together in the captain's cabin
other clothes and accessories
that children could use for dressing up
or amateur theatricals for period drama
a feathered boa of particular interest
offered too is a set of ivory handled
hair brushes used without guilt or thought
for the original donor – how he died
how the herd in distress had to flee –
though the captain was brave and his guns
can be looked at by special request
as can his souvenir spears and zebra skin shield
bought in a native market at Mombasa –
too there are examples of cruise liner
table linen somehow acquired when he retired
along with his presentation carriage clock
that has stopped though only needs wind-up –
we must not forget the Dartington Crystal
decanter and glasses presented on his twenty
fifth year of service and from which he would
pour and drink his single malt Scotch
when off duty – she might join him with
a gin and tonic as they sailed to New York
or traversed the Indian Ocean –
now they are gone and have left behind
these few tokens that they once lived
and appeared to enjoy life with – no regrets
even when they watched ships on the sea
from a bungalow on a promontory above Eastbourne


After death

There will be no light
Silence will shroud me
No birds will come to sing
On my shop's window sill
Undertaker will be busy
Gathering my remains
To bargain me with soil
But my love
You'll be there along the clothesline
Displaying my attires
You'll be blessed with buyers
But my love
Don't tell them those were mine


Clothes For Sale

Lots of nightdresses and pyjamas.
Lots of best suits, casual clothes
or summer shorts, pretty dresses or scruffy work clothes.
When the Grim Reaper strikes there
is often no warning.
No time to change into suitable clothes.
You just have to travel in what ever you
are wearing at the time.
It could be at night in you pyjamas or
on holiday wearing a skimpy bikini, or
even overalls covered in paint.
No time to prepare.
You arrive at the Gates of Heaven
in the last thing you dressed yourself
in that day.
So what happens to all these clothes?
Heaven has a Jumble Sale!



every November 10th I remember
selling the bassinet, diaper pail, and car seat

because you didn't come home
except as bagged ash.

you now belong to twenty years of dust
layering a cantaloupe-sized urn

and to my stone heart
though I marvel at finding your silence

after all these years
still sets roost in my throat


For Sale: An Upright Piano, Off-Tune

An upright piano, off-tune,
Still working.
A song, out of key,
The smell of coffee. Schumann for beginners. Her hair golden in the morning sun. The holiday in Greece, her nose peeling from sunburn. The joyful, tearful wedding vow. The recital in the community center, her hands shaking with stage fright. Driving to the hospital, and the doctor’s fake smile. And Mozart in the morning. Buying a pink dress in Rue Garonne, and high-heeled shoes she never wore because they hurt. And the wedding vow. The over-salted omelette she served for breakfast in bed. The swollen legs, and the pale face. Singing “Singing In the Rain” under the shower. The sunshine outside and the sticky air inside, and the white coats drifting by the open door like sails, like ghosts. And the wedding vow. And Mozart in the morning. And the tears and the doctor’s fake smile. And her hands shaking. Schumann for beginners.

For sale: An upright piano, out of tune, still working.



Dead to me now let's call it clutter
Peoples need lessons in tidying up
Stuff stacks stuff racks flashback panic attacks
For what we are holding onto the senseless
Sale debris of oneday someday schmatte

How it gets squirreled away or drawn together
Fleeting flurries of desire in Add to Baskets with
Joys forecast on arrival & dopamine bends with
Sparks & benchmarks for the numb white sharks who
Flit through data inspired by your shopping trends

Still hungry see ghosts quarry for ever new currents
We cannot it seems but worry if Y gets X before we do
Say early adopters say disposable income say credit score
Thank the GAFA gods of capitalism & unlimited bandwidth
You will never know enough you will always want more


Estate Sale Fiesta

Doña Alegría Bonita de Milagros, a patron of the arts, died in her 18th century compound in New Mexico, with her family and cherished canine companions, Lolita and Chico, by her side. She was 98 years old. At her request, there would be no services. Her ashes would be spread in the foothills of the Sandia Mountains.

Tim and I received a formal invitation and tickets to a private sale of items from the estate that would be auctioned off to the public the following week.



The Estate of the Late Doña Alegría Bonita de Milagros requests the pleasure of your company at El Rancho de las Paloma – the Ranch of the Doves (see Map for directions) – for a private sale fiesta.

A treasure trove of collectibles and mementos from around the world: Spanish colonial furniture and art, Pueblo pottery, sculptures, paintings, prints, photography, indigenous weavings and rugs, Seville vintage feria dresses, castanets, traditional flamenco hair combs, lace mantillas, hand-embroidered silk shawls, and much more.

2-5pm Saturday, by invitation only

Attire: Southwest Chic
Libations: Special Grand Gold Margaritas, Sangria
Music: Las Mariachis de Frida Kahlo


Read more >


October is my favourite, and my least favourite month,
it is the month where my blood drips, into new time zones,
after my own sleeping mouth, speaks of stifling love.
(I still wear his clothes)
It’s the month of Halloween, after all. My nightly dreams
are pushing me into packing my bags and leaving,
this continent, this city.
(I have to keep moving)
Berlin: my days are too fickle, too neurotic.
(Way too little sun)
I can’t be precise, I apologise. I don’t have a reason, no motivation at all,
except that it is October, my favourite and my least
favourite month. My life one moon-shaped superstition.
I know they find me illogical.
But stasis is souring into me,
a lemony love. My dreams are flaking frivolous
like the paint on my apartment’s wall.
I need to throw away all my clothes,
I need to get away from it all. I don’t trust these
people who tell me they love me.
(It’s all fucking dead love)
I don’t trust Berlin: too fickle, too fun. Not another month
in this city. This city, my ghostly true love.
So I’ll run far away. 19 hours by plane.



What’s done with all the pieces
of a life left behind
after the gathering of buzzards over bone
pulling at the last shreds of flesh
after the crows dragging off
bits of glitter and flash
after the true hearts take
some worn beloved humble thing
there’s all the rest
a heap of used and useless stuff
the furniture old fashioned
the ornaments out-dated
dusty, cracked, broken, unrepaired
that we no longer bury with the dead
or pile with them on ships we set afire
and so this sad
unblushing brash reduction
a fire sale in the ashes of a life
strangers won’t remember


A Teacup Can Exist Without Your Gaze

You wouldn’t know, to look at me, but I understand more than you realise. All those things you’re thinking about now, for example, as you wander around the room – picking up items and putting them back in places they don’t belong – such as the last time you saw her. I was here then, too. Though I doubt you remember.

It was one of those dull autumn mornings, when the mist that fell at night lingered well into afternoon, and left everyone feeling as if the day had never really got started. The grey simply fell back into night.

But that day, you had found yourself in the neighbourhood and thought, ‘Why not pay Alice a visit, surprise her?’ And it was a surprise. When she opened the door and saw you there, her heart gave a little jump.

‘You’ll be the death of me,’ is what she thought. Though she never said it. She didn’t need to. You both knew.

She made you tea. Too weak, too sweet, but that was her way, and you had sipped it politely, and held me in your hands, letting the amber liquid warm your fingers, and smiling as she asked you how life was.

She didn’t listen as you told her. Instead she watched you caress me, and allowed her mind to wander back to a day, long ago, when she had opened a gift-wrapped box, peeled back tissue paper, to find a set of porcelain. Cups and saucers, embellished with roses and gold. A gift from Thomas. Another one of life’s little surprises.

She had pointed it out to him one day as they walked along the King’s Road, the display in the window drawing her close, and teasing out a gasp of longing. Then they’d walked on, and after a few days, Alice had forgotten all about it. Read more >


The Final Price

The blender was something straight out of a late 1950s TV commercial. I imagined Weight Watchers promos ticker-taping across the black and white screen. A woman in a belted A-frame dress, with a bouffant helmet of hair, holds the appliance up for the viewer. The bed and plastic lid of the blender are no longer faded and yellowed, but a brilliant clinical white that suggests the good life and diligent dental hygiene.

A ripe banana and skim milk with crushed ice. BZZZZZZZ. A low-calorie breakfast on our meal plan! Satisfaction and a trim body. Doctor approved.

But the harmonica was what snagged my eye and my desire, a vague memory of Christmas fever and unexpected treasures. Standing in the second-hand shop, I watched the other ghouls pick up and fondle the merchandise. Lost objects rescued from the trash heap, ownerless, reclaimed by market forces.

I recalled rummaging through my great aunt’s cedar chest, after her death at 92, reminded of atavistic compulsions. Weren’t we all scavengers and hoarders? Once upon a time. I had brushed my fingers over the lacy fringe of a handkerchief that someone had personally sewn. Well, maybe there had been a Singer Sewing Machine involved somewhere in the process, and the cloth had likely been bought at Woolworths or a fabric store in a downtown long sheared to the ground and reseeded by high rises and malls. Still, touching that smooth surface felt as though time travel might be possible on a snippet of vintage cloth.

Smelling salts and cologne, a film of sweat on one’s brow, a veil between a cough and a stranger, a corner to swipe that one stray tear.

Read more >

The Chair

It’s that one, the green chair in the corner. The salesman tried to offload a recliner on me, but I wanted this wing-backed fat-buttoned brass-studded squatter the moment I saw it. Plus, leather you can clean.

That auction house crouching next to the mortuary on the Largo Road. You always insisted there was no connection. But I saw the chipped porcelain cups and duck-headed canes of people who die alone in their flats on rainy Tuesday mornings, discovered a week later, scared stiff and upright in a rickety chair or collapsed across a trestle table, steeping next to a mossy cup of tea.

So I wonder what my chair has seen. Its black corgi legs are scuffed at the front where some half-blind biddy must have run her hoover. Or maybe a dog cut his teeth on it, beavering down to fresh bright pine. A nursing chair, my mother called it, tossing hope into its lap. I clutched my wine stem and sank in heavy, crushed out the air. A smoking chair. You stand corrected.

I wrote my whole thesis with its arms around me, my first novel with my legs thrown over one arm like a bride carried over her threshold. Highback curls in Princess Leia waves next to my ears, an intergalactic shield, so I can hear myself think. It squeaks when I sink into it, sighs when I lever out. Sometimes when the barometer changes it pops a cough, commenting on the weather.

A sensual thing, soft and shining, rubbed bright ripe and apple green. Its fat back bulges with secrets, heaving flesh buttoned up too tight, threatening to spill out white and greedy the second you pluck a stud from the infinite whorls on the wings.

Read more >


To Whom It May Concern,

Have you noticed the following on this sign:

1. The erratic letter spacing, as if some letters are trying to elope together (some letters love to ****) and others are trying in desperation to run off the page into blissful obscurity.

2. The forlorn "o" leaning on the "r" for mutual support.

3. The lack of apostrophe. Unforgivable.

4. The flagrant disregard for my day job washing and selling the items that people leave behind after dropping off their mortal coil.

If so, I think we could be friends. Please apply within. No purchases necessary.


Boning Breaths

My third tooth fell at thirty-three –
the epoch of brittling youth.

I can sit by my grave, right now, know
of what truly was buried: palm-sized

sack of whatever made up a broken world
up for sale. I whispered in his ear, the boy

correcting the order of clothes on the rack
in a corner that reminded me of burnt snow;

he seemed to understand why they smelt
the way they smelt, dead people's clothes;

I told him I lust bones of teeth that never
left their gums, and like an instinct still fresh

like a musk-musty block of incense coal,
he put his hand in my Fifth Element coat

and drew from it a creak of orphic lament.
Signs: strong cradling of adulthood. Offer them

the Persephone of my mortality –
the lips of a black mamba

surviving the juices of anxiety.
My breaths fissuring in

contemplative aging. Cold, on the collar of
his nape, I placed a tooth. I told him to set

Read more >


and their innumerable touches

no, we cannot print
nor store them in Ikea boxes

The ground cannot count
its beats and how

it accelerates at the sight
of a familiar smile

make up the smile and the lips
are like curtains

that open to unveil
genuine Joy

Arms open and fold
what is hollow until
there is another

can’t carry it all
can’t hold on to a hoard
but oh, they can touch

Read more >

Closing Down Sale: Everything Must Go

It was the selling of dead people's stuff that lead to the extinction of the human race. Humans loved a bargain and with costs and overheads low, there was a tidy profit to be made on sales 'from the other side'. The high street chains couldn't compete with these low prices, neither could the online retailers, as dead people's stuff was ordered by ouija board (a precursor to the internet).

Governments hated this 'Zombie Economy' because the deceased didn't pay tax. Only the dead prospered, so...traders began declaring themselves dead, for tax purposes. All legitimate and completely legal, joining the growing hordes of the 'paperwork deceased' was an upward trend. Whole companies died and sales flourished. Business had never been better. Until everyone died.

Suddenly there no longer was an advantage in being dead and the Zombie Economy crashed. There was a vague attempt to jump-start business by the resurrectionists, but death is basically a one-way street.

Sadly Earth was subject to a hostile take-over by an interstellar group of corporate aliens who bought the planet for a song (and a bad one at that). They ground our globe to dust and sold it as organic compost. Humans had no legal means to protest, on paper everyone was technically dead. They'd inadvertently sold their souls. So, the human race was in big trouble. With no further options left, extinction was the only way to go. Just hope the insurance pays out.


For Goodness Sake

What really annoys me about Twyla is that people think she’s funny. I mean, that time she sold all her stuff on Facebook, those merry little descriptions – not sure what this is but it’s so big, you could build a cabin with it – ridiculous. But someone bought it.

People will buy anything. Look at that painting, what do you call it? The Scream or something (I’d bloody scream if I had that on my wall) – a hundred and twenty-five million quid they paid for it.

This time, though, she’s gone too far. Dead peoples stuff for sale. No apostrophe, I see. I doubt whether she’d even know where to put one. And yet, people buy her stuff. They like her. Not sure about dead people, mind. But maybe they like her too – bloody woman.

And that O’s not straight.


Porcelain Remains

Let’s aim to make enough to pay for the clearance.
The man kept repeating
no one cares, no one pays
for second hand.
Even vintage proves to be a bind,
though Dad’s violin made a bit.

Well, at that family funeral,
Mum, bowed her head to The Lord’s Prayer,
as she whispered it was the last time
she’d be surrounded by familiar things,
the material of full beloved lives,
only good now for attics, skips and charities.


A short comment on Capitalism and Existence

We live brief lives, mostly just training really for the early part, ready to occupy some job and become another ball bearing in the conveyor belt of the machinery of capitalist society. That is, service industry (run by the few), service the economy, pay taxes, be consumers, meet a partner, raise a family and then the cycle begins again. Everything is industry, even time feels somehow privatised: work, earn money, spend money, work some more, seventy years gone, and the vacancy will be filled.

The home you have worked hard for and paid off will become someone else’s home, the children you raised will, in turn, work their fingers to the bone, albeit in some other type of job somehow seemingly better and cleaner than yours. The masses do not succeed or get rich or get famous. They bleed on battlefields, their feet hurt after walking the shop floor, their heads ache with demanding bank statements and cost of living, they get dirty cleaning streets, get stressed trying to heal the sick, tired after a hard days teaching the next workforce.

Rooms fill with possessions, on every wall and shelf, in every draw or cupboard there is some item acquired, it is of some significance to you, it captures the zeitgeist or defines your personality in some way. Books that you have no time to read, photographs unframed, notebooks left blank. You must know that existence is not guaranteed, and is short. You will not be entombed in your semi-detached house and go on to the afterlife with your DVD collection. And when the time comes, it’ll all go; what the relatives don’t want to keep for themselves will go to charity shops or the car boot market event…dead people’s stuff for sale.



You inherit death
not announce it
in bare spaces of
death is not shallow
empty, even coffins
are cluttered with
past thoughts, memories
death is not for sale
junk boxes of trinkets
or slippers, scissors, mirrors
wall clocks
all hung heavily on shoulders
alive, to remind that death does
not pause, the dead reinvent
cycle of living.


Dead Peoples Stuff or Ale

the sign was for the people       mourning exchanged
for hope and the prospect of a bargain
in the midst of a wannabe jumble       they clamber
pushed up against long flimsy wallpaper tables

rickety legs       bowing under the weight
of moth holed baggy trousers and jumpers
musty smelling tablecloths stained with fat
globules from Sunday lamb dinners

like flapping Vultures they finally leave
laden down with guilt       items once loved
previous owners remembered
only as dead people's stuff

someone stops at the welcome sign
hovers like a skilful bird       removes two letters
adds F and S to their pile of bounty
so more people will come       pay their respects


The Muse

The different faces
the spaces
of time
the many things
the endless price
we can't bring
our things along
when we are heaven bound
our items are like poetry left and found
for good people to enjoy
to feel each word
to see each item
once bought
once sought
by our muse.


Dusty Old Stuff

"First things first: the new donations need sorting." Doreen led Maddie into the office. "It's simple, really. Have a rifle through, see what's inside. If there's anything nice, pop it on the table and we'll tag it later, ready to put out on the shop floor. The rest can go out the back to be recycled."
"What counts as nice?"
"Oh, anything really. Whatever you think might sell. That you might buy for yourself – do let me know if you spot something you fancy. I may be able to arrange a discount. No freebies, mind. It is for charity, after all."
Maddie spent the morning gutting the innards of five world-weary bags for life, each one exhaling stale cigarette smoke laced with BO. Moth-eaten skirts, sweat-stained blouses that had to have been bought in the last century. Yellowing paperbacks with collapsing spines and loose pages. Dusty old tat. She coughed, inhaling God-knows-what. Pulling out her phone, she scrolled through Facebook until her data ran out.
Doreen returned after an hour. "All done?"
"There's nothing good here."
"Oh, but what about this?" Doreen lifted up a lilac cardigan with a frayed sleeve. "All it needs is a nice press and it'll be good as new." She ferreted out a few more bits and pieces she thought were worth selling.
Maddie spent the rest of the day with Doreen behind the till. Business was hardly booming. Two people entered the shop: a man handing out flyers for a missing dog, and a pensioner who chatted to Doreen for 45 minutes without buying anything. Doreen asked Maggie to fetch a chair from the office. "Yolanda's hip isn't so good," she explained.
As the two women talked, Maddie busied herself by tidying the shop, if such a thing were possible. Ancient artefacts crowded every shelf and clothing rail. More dust, lying in snowy drifts in every corner.
"She was a good one, was Teresa," said Yolanda.
"Absolutely. What was it got her again, heart or lungs?"
Read more >


The Acolyte

Me and Coby go back a long way. We’re the same age – not that you’d guess as he’s so much bigger – but I look up to him, you know? He lives with his dad and I live with my mum, so we’ve got that in common… His dad drinks a lot, I think.

Coby’s fun to be with; he has so many ideas, like when we tried all the car doors one evening and found one that was unlocked. We didn’t steal it or anything – though I think Coby wanted to – we just sat in it and pretended to drive. Coby took a pair of sunglasses from the dashboard.

‘They’re not worth anything,’ he said.

He does take things sometimes, but I don’t say much. I think, like us, his family is hard up. He sells stuff to get money.

Last Sunday, Coby said we were going to have the best time yet.

‘This old bird a few doors down died, right? So there’s no one in the house… Get it? Her stuff’ll just get dumped. It’s a waste.’

I got it.

We climbed over a broken wall into her garden. It was a mess. Coby picked up a brick, wrapped it in his hoodie and swung it at the kitchen window. It shattered with such a bang that we ducked and waited silently in the dark. I felt as though a bird had got trapped in my chest, but Coby just licked his finger and rubbed the dirt of his trainers. Nike. I really liked them. He gave me a bunk up and I crawled in, knocking my shin on the tap. Coby followed and lit the way.

‘You got a new phone?’ I whispered.

‘Yeah. An iPhone 8.’

Read more >

And so, I chose to write…

Dead people tell don’t tell no tales. They tell more tales. I sat aloof, lost in oblivion, looked at the sky, called the "god" for justification!

I fell ill suddenly, went to the hospital, found my physiology and anatomy functioning perfectly! But, I understood not every disease is due to the malfunctioning of anatomies and physiologies, organs and organ systems! The death of my loved ones has taught me a lot of things. These losses keep me developing into a completely new human being.

I had just moved to a new place and new family. I tried to recall how my early days were. They were a beautiful mess of people; a bunch of humans who happened to find themselves in the same corner of the world, all in all attempting to make sense of what this life thing was about. Filled to the brim with wild dreams and an energetic interest, I had a craving for everything conceivable. I kept hearing my dead loved ones’ spirits talking late into the night, thinking about a part of the world – a period in our own life – that brought us so much joy.

To me, it is a pain that spreads far and wide. This pain is the very reason that people leave their homes and loved ones, to go in search of something else that they have never tasted, the reason for people to wander into the obscure, for an opportunity to find life all around the globe, for the way they inhale and love and deal with each other. It appears to be implausible, this idea that there's a human out there, put on this planet particularly for me...

I wrapped myself away from these thoughts. I decided to sell the stuff that the now-dead-then-living people gave me. The memories. Death has taught me that there is nothing truly permanent. Nothing, including the land, water, you, me! Yes, the state of "surety" turns out to be am element of uncertainty.

Read more >

Odds and Ends

There are only odds and ends here:
once treasured vase,
now a yawning, flower-less mouth;
that seductive copy of Bovary,
now stood up among true crime pulp;
the lustrous tea set, garlanded like a smiling bride,
now, chipped enamel, faded china plate;
an unspoken encomium smuggled into Christmas wrap,
now, a ‘World’s Best Dad’ mug offering its fretted lip.

‘Dead Peoples Stuff for Sale’,
grave grim grammar
hawking this hoard,
full stop.



So many dead peoples,
and stuff keeps accumulating –
tribes and languages
extinct, well past the best-by date.

Graves are broken, ships raided.
Houses and hardware,
wrecks and relics:
the dead and earth

Apostrophes and trophies
lie languishing on the shelf –
buy two, get one free.

Land of the free and
bargain basement prices
keep ‘em coming,
westward expanding.



Carven into the annals of cinema, woven into the fabric that is Hollywood, is the dimpled chin, the sophisticated smile, of a poor boy made good.

The short poem had sat unnoticed in the breast pocket for God knows how long.

The jacket and pants were too small for me, which was a pity; they had that timeless style to them: that immortal panache which almost stepped down from the racks and sashayed – in a manly way, of course – from the musty back room, through the main store and out into the street to give autographs.

It shimmered of late 1930s Hollywood, almost glowing from the tired and scuffed box amongst a tribe of similar boxes. But they were full of boas and tacky sparkles. A few supposedly Persol sunglasses retained their knockoff labels: more than likely made decades after Steve’s death.

Careless for a novelty shop advertising 'Genuine Movie Props'. But the labels would probably be spotted and removed before being moved to the front display shelving. There would be no specific claim. No, that would be actual fraud.

I looked again at the suit in my right hand. I’d thought I’d repacked it. The crisply folded piece of paper remained stoically in my left, giving me the feeling I was being glared at.

I did that bit of one-handed folding I do to amuse myself at times and slid it back into the camphor-stained envelope waiting patiently on the little table provided for examination of goods. I reckoned the wattage on the bulb was low for a very good reason.

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Lost Things Now Found

Strangers came to take away
Memories that find it hard to leave.

Tattered photos, sports memorabilia,
Repurposed boxes, and aluminum cans–

They're selling them. Old stuff.
Stuff my Grandparents lost in the house fire.

Things. Lost Things. Now Found.
The highest bidder gets to keep a family's

Memories at their disposal.
Money answers prayers.

They want to take these things
Off of our hands and make a profit.

Capitalism has a baby sister and her
Name is "Greed".

My father puts his John Hancock
On some papers agreeing to waive all rights.

I stand next to the garage with a box
Of broken frames and black and white photos

Mentally matching them as they once were.
He looks in my direction and smiles.

He walks over to me, gives my shoulder a pat and says,
"It's just like recycling, honey".

I feel my Grandparents breathing down my back.
They never recycled.



Sorting knickknacks of a Christian,
who’d break bread for the birds – a hardworking and good man, fairly gifted with the words.

Remembered as a soldier
eager to play his part.
I note, when he was older,
he loved dabbling in art.

I'd heard he once fought in Spain –
was once spurned by the church.
His smile denied any pain
from grudge's searing birch.

Respected by many names;
staunch he wore the lily –
but beyond these diverse claims,
he was Wasper Willie.



Dead Peoples Stuff For Sale? He doesn’t even know how to use punctuation, ugh. What a horrible advertisement. He's never going to get anything. Who would take him seriously? Even the front steps look horrible. Couldn't he have at least repaired them when Auntie June asked? That was back at the beginning of summer, when Auntie June was still rifling through her purse for a piece of gum.

Now the leaves have all fallen and she's gone, gone like the summer breeze and the lightning bugs. Lightning bugs we would stay up late and watch together.

No time like the present, I guess. The room is dark and gloomy. I spot her costume jewelry all twisted and twirled into a jumbled mess in her open jewelry box, the one with the inlaid silver and jade. I always loved to run my finger along the pattern but she would swat it away. Gently of course. Auntie June was never rude or brusk like Uncle Lee. She told me my fingertips contained oil and would change the look of the piece of art. I'll never forget that week when I was seven and wouldn't dare touch anything for fear of my fingertip oils.

He called me to help and I can see why. Doesn't look like he has even tried to sort through her things.

Poor Auntie June, she always said she'd make it out of here. Who would've believed it would be on her death?

Her royal purple divan looks wretched. I'd never noticed the faded patches and the tears before. I can remember her lounging there with a cigarette dangling from the corner of her mouth. She'd never smoke around me but she said she couldn't help being prepared. The moment I would leave she'd head outside and light up. I know because one time I turned around and came back for my backpack, which I'd left under a chair. Read more >


Comic Book Collection

There is a whole shelf of novelty mugs in the back of the Salvation Army on Western Avenue: #1 Dad, World's Best Grandma, cups with sentimental mugshots of loved ones, smiling children sitting on laps or opening gifts. Above them are china, cheap but sturdy, and dozens of oddly shaped cookie jars, salt shakers, and other mealtime nicknacks. In other aisles: a dogeared Danielle Steele novel, a Crosby Stills and Nash cassette tape that used to endlessly play in that 1996 Chevrolet Monte Carlo on trips to the beach during the summer.

When my dad died, we threw out his entire comic book collection because no one would buy or even take it. We tried to get the books on those shelves but they were overstuffed and even hospitals would not accept them because they were out of date. So, 10,000 comic books meticulously purchased and catalogued by year in long white boxes, each one in perfect condition and carefully placed inside a plastic sleeve, were dumped in rental dumpsters on the front curb. They were supposed to be his retirement fund—but that would have been over twenty years down the road, and even in the plastic, the pages would have probably begun to yellow by then.


Yesterday I Risked To Die

"hey you down there
buy something from me
if you wanna live today
I've got a lot of good stuff to sell you
– said death to me yesterday
she pulled her skull under the hood
looking round suspiciously –
I've got dreams from a dead corpse
or some bones from a forgotten athlete
or the words that a dead poet lost
you can use them to do something funny
I have some drugs too
but you have such an angel face
that I suppose you would not buy them"

I stood like a tombstone in front of her
she was trying to sell me cheap things
old craps that no one wants
coming from dead people

the siren of a police car cried in the air
the death ran away

"hey death, is today my last day?"

"not today – she screamed –
I need to run from police now
crisis came also for me
so I need some new clients
if you know what I mean
and a good escape from cops"


November 17th–We are Living a Dead Life

Every moment, we die,
Patricio Guzman’s movie told me:
Nostalgia for the Light.

Years ago, I was left dying,
Life seeping out,
Years later, I understood its meaning.

The noise around us is just noise,
Melodious music or hip-hop,
Love or hate, gratefulness is scarce.

Dying is not mourning,
This is how our human race lives,
We mourn, we move on.

Every moment we live is past,
It is moving away into the past always,
That sadness Sophocles heard on the Aegean.

On my forty-sixth birthday, I knew,
Sophocles was wrong; there’s no sadness,
Death is peace and death is happiness.

Sell me, sell everything of me away,
Bones and muscle, all money, pelf,
When nothing remains, I shall fly away.



When you’re gone no one will truly remember your absences.
But everyone will notice your belongings' overwhelming presence.

Your loved ones will take them and hoard them all into a pile.
Until they are split apart and spread thinner than your ashes.

Without an owner an object is nothing, it’s just occupied negative space.
But hopefully, the things you owned will find a home and bring as much happiness to others as you.


One Thing at a Time

"You're not leaving it out there?"

Shirley's a worrier. She was against the idea of a work experience kid in the first place, and Julie's only confirmed her suspicions. The reality of Julie has tested my philanthropic principles.

"It's fine," I said. "It's bringing people in."

Two middle-aged women in honest-to-goodness hats had been in to complain by ten o'clock. I tried to keep my eyes from flicking to their headgear, tried not to be distracted from polite apologies, to keep my mind on customer service. Julie, on the other hand…

"Are you off to a wedding?" she'd asked the first woman. Which, in fairness to Julie, wasn't rude. Not like the silent glare she got in return. "Funeral? Horse race?"

"Julie, why don't you see if there's something you can do in the back room?" I'd said without looking at her, and smiled across the counter at a face I'd have happily slapped in former, less restrained, times.

Now Shirley stood by the window, fiddling with her reading glasses and watching the A-board on the pavement as though it might turn and launch itself through the glass any minute.

"She's missed an apostrophe," she said.

"One thing at a time, Shirley." We might get some pedants in later to pick us up on that, who knew what dip pens and Edwardian napkin rings I might be able to sell them.

"I've done it," Julie announced from the inner doorway, but didn't stay there long enough to tell us what.

"You go," said Shirley. "I daren't look."

Read more >


All the stuff in the world was theirs.
At least in their world.
Now a letter board invites you to participate
in their lives, exchange coins and bills
for what were once their prize possessions.
Climb up the broken cement steps, avoid the
spilled paint at the top, push hard on the heavenly
blue door. Feast on their souls.


Dead is not dead

Dead people are not dead
They keep on breathing in their stuff
They come alive in our thoughts
They live even better then real living
As we always memorize the good times we spent with them
When alive we would have never told them of our real feelings
However after their death we share our feelings of them with others
We don't spare time for them however
After death we have all the time.


What Remains?

Four hundred and fifty nine sarees, fifteen crisp new
Tants mostly, but also cottons, chiffons, silks,
Scarlet, ruby, crimson, vermillion, red-chilly red, tomato red, cherry red, berry red,
Brick red, electric red, wine red, setting-sun red, melting-sunrise red, blushing red,
Love red, menstrual-blood red, red,
Pink, maroon, black, white, blue, turquoise, indigo, navy, orange, brown, yellow, cream,
Ochre, lilac, purple, beige, coffee, chocolate, golden, silver,
Green-chilly green, bottle-gourd green, pointed-gourd green, bitter-gourd green,
Sky green, sea green, parrot green, peacock green, newborn-leaf green,
Mother-earth green, green

Forty five pairs of shoes: all high heels
Sixty pairs of gold earrings: cuffs, studs, danglers, chandbalis, jhumkis,
Jhumkas, tops, drops, hoops, loops, all

Five shelves of books
A lifetime full of learning
Four diaries full of conversations
Stray sheets of paper full of instructions

Three cell phones full of about to be made calls
A pair of socks about to be washed
A well-worn soft cotton bra about to be discarded
Albums with photographs from forty-six different trips safely guarded

Read more >

The Flower Man

It was a cold morning. I strolled aimlessly, unsure of what it was I wanted to do. Ahead of me was a man seated on the pavement, a display of bright colours in front of him. When I got close, I realised the colours were bundles of flowers. The man himself was dressed in black. If I had to guess, I’d say he was around 66.

“Hello,” I said, as I knelt to take a closer look at the flowers.

“Good morning,” he said. “Flowers for you?”

I looked at the different colours. Red, orange, yellow, purple and white.

“They’re beautiful,” I said.

“They sure are. What is your favourite flower?”

“I don’t have one. I wish I did, but I don’t. You?”



“I suppose because they remind me of my mam. She loved daisies. We went to the flower market every month when I was a boy. She’d buy two or three bouquets of daisies and we’d walk around town, giving them to people who looked like they needed something to smile about.”

“That’s beautiful.”

“Those were the happiest days of my childhood. I remember that one day, we came across an old lady sitting on a sleeping bag. She was crying. My mam went up to her, and they spoke for awhile. Then we went to a bakery across the street and bought cups of hot chocolate and a huge bag of doughnuts. Maybe ten? We took them back to the old lady and had a little picnic with her on the street. Read more >


At the Bottom of the Wardrobe

Her old handbags contain the documents
I need and many more besides. But I
Don't suppose the registrar and probate
Office will be interested in all
Those old bills for gas consumed in nineteen
Forty nine or telegrams announcing
The deaths of relatives back in the old
Country or the records of her babies'
Height and weight in the first few months of life.

The birth certificate now yellow, creased,
Printed in two languages, inscribed in
Perfect copperplate and worth much more than
The paper it is written on, is placed
Alongside its freshly minted partner.
Cradle to grave. Alpha and omega.
And spanning these two signatures, eighty
Years apart, is my mother's entire life.



wears piles of shoes and bags
new white shirts never opened

charity irons
creases out of the forgotten

sometimes a relative

gives a story
in feel of used cloth

weighs time in threads
how a story continues

nothing is possessed
if you never heard

a previous owner

only shoes have tongues
fail to speak of their wearer

except in wear


The Soul

Death is not death
it is the soul's breath
coming alive
to begin and thrive
to share our valuables
from heaven
a place to have prayers
chapters on clouds
looking down
singing and bringing
golden items
to people on earth
within the rotating
sounds of leaves in autumn
fall calls to people's stuff
a scarf's fluff
a cloud's muff.


Where Am I?

I'm not dead, I still want to exist
Why can't I find my way back?
How come it's all come to this?

All I did was think a silly wish
Now you've put all my gear into a sack
I'm not dead, I still want to exist

Don't sell my stuff, it will be missed
You know I've always kept to the right track
How come it's all come to this?

Why can't I get out of this mist?
I'm so afraid, it's all gone black
I'm not dead, I still want to exist

I have to give way, I can't resist
But death is there, I will attack
How come it's all come to this?

Time has lingered into the abyss
Trying to creep into the tiniest crack
How come it's all come to this?
I'm not dead, I still want to exist


Thank you

What is behind
the signs of the dead
letters that testify
Who are these peoples
above and below
what is behind
crosses and lines
the signs of the dead
From inside to outside
written on time
letters that testify
Who are these peoples
crosses and lines
written on time


The Stuff of Loss

The well-intentioned sign hid shabby brick.
No pretension, that’s what I valued most;
Merely the starkness of exchange. The French
Knew we were happiest there; I could be too.
No ceremony I’m afraid: just me, stuffing
Your unsuspecting stuff in gaping sacks
(Black bin bags I confess – only the best for you!).
Fingering fabrics, I take our measure:
Is it just such stuff as we are made on,
Such cotton, silk, and wool that’s just pretend?
Stumbling back down crumbling steps, one thought
Re-stocks my newly ordered mind. A base,
Cheap thought: ‘He’d miss that lost apostrophe.’
And that’s what kicks the stuffing out of me.



So what?
I bought it from the mart
That sells off the clothes
Once worn by the poor folks,
Now dead, them, in better place,
Yeah, yeah, with a loving
This oversized overcoat
Protects me and my little-ones
— Yeah, we all huddle inside its cavernous folds —
The large home for a famished family
Of five, each taking turns in the cold
Of New Delhi and somehow, lucky to survive
Each long-dark night on the footpath,
Yeah, the streets are mean and violent, madam-ji-sir-ji,
But we all carry bats to ward the wolves off
And, Saab-ji! One sec only,
Will our pictures come in tomorrow’s paper?
Will the Sarkar shoot us for that? Bit scared!
But it matters not
The overcoat, discounted, is the best
Buy before the Christmas-New Year for us all.


Sad dead building, Orpheus, laid bare

There is a gap
it is where Orpheus
used to be.
Yellow diggers carve into
rubble pits
the long pendulum
of a crane sways
slightly from
side to side.

I filmed a part of
before the final
The legs of a beautiful
brass staircase
open to the air
gulls let in to the
inside of the
stained glass heights.
The lost affair;
a hard drive broken,
where once I placed
the mutilated limbs.

Read more >


People are so morbid. I guess it’s their way of flirting with death without going all the way.

So when I had some random objects I wanted to get rid of – a spiked dog collar, a shower curtain, a silver Zippo lighter with an embossed eagle, a ladder and an inflatable rubber boat – I went to a flea market and put a sign next to my table that said Dead People’s Stuff For Sale.

It was all gone before noon.


Modern History

They said my amnesia was psychogenic, a switch off from some trauma too painful to recall. At first I was the darling of ward rounds – jittery groups of medical students crowded around my bed as if they could see the space in my brain where memories used to live. Perhaps the memories are still hiding there, knotted and trembling? Weeks turned to months. Brain scans and blood tests stopped. Slender women with clipboards sighed as their attempts to jolt my memories with photographs failed.

‘I’m sorry,’ I said a hundred times a day. This seemed hardwired. Some things are never forgotten.

When they discharged me, I decided to keep the name they gave me. I pretended not to know that they had held a competition on a long lunch break, giggling as first and last names were pulled out of a mug. I sat in the empty flat found by a social worker called Emmy, whose eyes always darted around as if she was constantly checking the shadows for a man with a knife.

The flat was above a chip shop. I breathed in globules of fishy fat. The stink settled into the only clothes I’d known other than a green gown. Emmy pointed me in the direction of three charity shops along the road. My favourite grouped clothing by shade. I was drawn to the huddle of blues. Faded denims, royal blue corduroy, blue that wanted to be green but couldn’t quite make it, in silky slips and hand-knitted horrors. I bought a restricted rainbow with one of my five notes.

At the back of the shop, shelves of knick-knacks sang of lives that were as unknowable as my own. Tiny teacups too small for mouths with handles of scratched gold – perhaps from an elderly lady whose only children were ghosts of the never-born.
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Dead Peoples Stuff for Sale

The apostrophe’s deader
than the people
who assail the detritus
of the once-living,
scrounging for something
to redeem, to give
meaning to their lives.

I come from a dead people.
We could not take
stuff with us,
just a scroll, some
books, what we
carry in our heads.


Dead People’s Stuff for sale

Don’t you worry. The dead don’t mind.
It’s all about utility. Hurry! Hurry!
               Sale! Step right up!
We got what you need right here!
Get yer very own WWII medal!
How ‘bout a Nazi helmet? How ‘bout
a bible? – remember religion? Old
black and whites of this very church,
where the dead were confirmed
               and wedded.
Don’t be shy? Come on in – See
silk napkins with old style skip stitching.
Fine work, I tell ya. They don’t make it
that way no more. Yea, I knew ‘em.
              Fine family!
I recall the funeral procession where
no one showed up, their home emptied
and all their belongings gifted to us
and now we bring it to you.
               That’s why we’re here.
Step right up! Sale of the century.
Every item must go! Jewelry, we got
fine stone jewelry worn by the matriarchs
               of yesteryear.
Don’t you worry about any contamination.
That kind of witchcraft hooey is old hat.
Forget all that superstitious nonsense!
               We got men’s hats!
Read more >


Aye, he got away a long time ago; sure it was awful

Ah, sure wasn't it just like him to do that kind of thing. He'd always put a wee joke in where he could so he would, and sure people loved it so they did. After this one, he got called "Father Slanty O," for a wee while, until the thing with the wee boys.

Now I'm not one for all that telling tales and making up stories and jumping on bandy wagons and that, but sure everybody knew there was something going on so they did. Ach Father Slanty O was never involved in any of that at all, but that never stopped them saying he was, in the papers; and they even showed him on the six o'clock news coming out of the peelers thon time they had him in for questioning. The man was all right so he was, he'd never have done anything like that. So there you are. That's it. Everybody knows it happened all right, but he was never involved so he wasn't and a dime to a dollar he never even knew it was going on so he never. God's truth or I'm a Dutchman.

Thon man was a saint and looked after everybody so he did. All we like sheep so it is, but he was a shepherd took care of all of us. And then look what they done to him. Them's the ones should have been locked up so they are, them ones that done that. Cowards that's all, whoever they were. They picked on that wee God-fearing man just 'cos he was easy meat, and let go the others they shoulda bin after, hiding behind their robes and fancy houses and their big cars. It was awful so it was.

Still though, I'm sure he's up there now, bless him, looking down, and glad to be out of it, and membering the good things, the wee jokes and banter with everybody. Some of them sermons he used to preach were gas so they were. I mind one time he was talking about the wee lad didn't want to eat his carrots. Read more >


Thanks for the kind words

For loss to come
when the rail-light is going.
For the loss sat at the dinner table
and settled into a moment which we lived in for years.
Walking the room, divining for smiles.
If emptiness is a hole then it’s a jagged one.
Or maybe smooth as a cunt at sucking you in.
Living with the fear of sink holes.
Stumbling about fragments of that greater love.
To bring up a child to a whole.
We thank each one for the kind words.



The dead have gathered
in the yard to sell stuff.
They lay themselves out
on my patio tables like tatty
old suitcases, threadbare
and losing their shape.
Mouths gape like old boots,
tongues hanging out.
Some are so rotten
I can't tell one from another.
Today there are shovels on offer.
A broken watch – hands missing.
Two sets of green fingers.
I know these clothes, this coat
that stinks of tobacco, mothballs.
Notes of lime and lemon zest.
I try it on for size
and to my surprise it fits,
but wasps have built nests
in the pockets. This close
I can smell sweat on the collar
and booze on the breath
of the cloth. Feel the rise
and fall of the creatures
that sleep inside the lining.


Those are not for sale

The toys belonged to his only son.
Who never came back to claim them
or him.

The old man loved the toys
and the fact
that they didn’t age.

He loved them
for they never grew up
to outsmart him.

They were never the reasons he cried.
So he chose to live by their side,
And in their arms he peacefully died.

Sorry, those toys are not for sale.


Our Loved Ones’ Belongings

An epidemic is spreading, one that's
upsetting, void of heartbeat and soul.
When opportunity knocks, emptiness
stalks, so slap up a sign―sell dead
people's stuff.

Ashen and hollow, the bottom line
follows the only rule that it knows:
whatever is found, turn it around,
so slap up a sign―sell dead people's

An epidemic is spreading, one that's
upsetting, void of heartbeat and soul.
Currency driven, commodity's given,
what happened to meaning―in dead
people's stuff?

My heirlooms are honored, a collection
of keepsakes, memories of family now
gone. The almighty dollar has forced
me to holler: they're our loved ones'
belongings―not dead people's stuff!


Fractioned Decision

Money earned for/from
silent     closed     mouths

sits asymmetrically atop my unsure shoulders.     The language
of absence
       dislocates patterns
across a tongue hiding into unbuilt halls. Perhaps I can hurry
toward these items
ruminate prior to decisions of reflectional approximation–

or sleep into a dreaming sequence of forgetful interpretations.



He died rich, discontented
had built an USP
for his products
far and wide, in every distant land.

Anything from his stable
got marked ‘Sold’ before
it was even
fine-tuned on the drawing table

Alas he died a violent death
in a car driven rash
and given all honours
till the cremation pyre hearth

Extravagant sandal wood bed
and rare perfumes
his last accompaniments
Pity, didn’t sell lest discounted


Everything Must Go

We took the leaf
out of the kitchen table,
made neat Jenga stacks
of books and possessions
and other odd entities,
like matches, stacked.
I can no longer speak
for the things you would
like for us to keep.
So I flipped a coin,
a cartoon character by a fence
no smoke coming from
my coffee-burned throat.
Meet me at the park bench
and wet paint sign;
everything must go.


Selling the ‘Stuff’ that Belongs to the Dead

I am telling you…

Some people pretend to be dead, because they really believe that they are better than you, and me, and the others.
They spread and grow like weeds in the beds of a winter’s garden.

They hold on to their ‘stuff’, as if they were golden coins found rolling in the grey sidewalk. Never knowing where they came from.
But, they would never dare asking either.

When they go missing or dead, without leaving any news or signs of life…
What is dead? It is not their body, like the ones of their beloved ones decomposing some six feet under red soil and marbled stones. Neither it is dead, the loud sentiment that they pretend to hold dear against their hearts.

When they go missing or dead, and shut their front doors and ears to the outside world…
What is really dead? It is not their name, neither their flesh and blood, but their failed attempt to become real humans…

And as they go on writing their beautiful poetic lines, and flourishing tales about their living – to share with the rest of us – some people (they) will keep selling the ‘stuff’ that belongs to the dead, not knowing that they are dead themselves, and they will never return to the world of the living.



There’s a box on the market stall,
which holds
(in a jumble of price tags, hiccups and unused apostrophes)
the selfies,
voice files,
and other assorted items,
which belonged
to people like you.

Some of them
belonged to you too.

You feign surprise
and remind me
that you're not like those people!
Because you're not dead yet.
And all the prices are wrong.
You ask me to inform the stall holder
that the rates on the tags
affixed to your assets
will probably have to be raised

We inspect the box together
and play a guessing game:
what is the face of the buyer?

Read more >

Retail Death

On a rainy day in September, Willie was going through his wife's clothes, before her funeral. Tears ran down his face as he remembered how she loved wearing her good dress, even though sometimes they were just grabbing lunch at a local cafe.

Drying his eyes, he flashed back to twenty-five years earlier, remembering how his grandmother would take him to thrift stores, where he could get all he could stuff in a paper-bag for a quarter. His grandmother would say, sometimes people bring clothes of dead relatives here to help out those who can't afford new stuff. Willie loved being able to get a bag of clothes for only a quarter.

A quick knock at his door. It was his neighbor, Lisa. She asked what he was going to do with his late wife's clothes. Willie shrugged his shoulders. Lisa said that her church was accepting donations of dead people's clothes to sell, to help inner-city kids. Even when we die, we can have an impact on those who are still living.


There Is Forever

Headache, A Curse, An Asshole
That was you.

A Nitpicker, My Madame, The Law
That was you.

You, both, gave me name
Yes, inked in papers.

You, both, thought I was your daughter
All my life, I wish I am someone else.

You, both, were unorthodox
My life, was, never mine.

No grain has satisfied my hunger
Not even a single drop of water has filled my thirst.

In my closet, a collection of gold medals
But Love, a word, I could not define.

Death, was, is, my only prayer
My last straw, I thought.

Your stuff, his and hers, these
Must go away.

Sadly, even if I made a fortune
Your name, was, is, not for sale.



I won’t look for the possum with its black ears of mincing, hiding in the rafters waiting to piss on my head
nor the wasp on the leaf, in the left side of my brain or on the daybed where we stayed covered in a veil
nauseous and pocked beyond the size of Uluru

I won’t clutch at that day you handed me the world doing the splits right up the junta
up the arse when the sound
the air
the cloud,
the seahorse curled inside its web of wet seaweed - a poem could be screen printed there
unravelled sequence

when the change came like your mother’s flushed cheeks and heat crazed kitchen table deliveries, dressed up, dressed down, balancing like a clown
I scanned the list, grease paper and picked pockets full of tulips

ideas happen like a turtle and so do heartbeats
like an August tree
like a finger pointing to one kiss, one second, one year of passion fruit vines, like presents under a forest of tightropes

you did tell me that your words meant something without meaning it

soon, our lips turned scarlet under the rim of a bottle of bourbon
on late afternoons that liquefied into an empty concrete swimming pool
and I became a lantern

Read more >

In Collaboration with

This image, along with several of the written pieces published here, first appeared in the October/November 2017 issue of Creative Review Magazine as part of their storytelling special. Read about it and how we came to collaborative with them, and grab yourself a copy from the Creative Review website.

The image by Alicia Bock has been selected by Creative Review reader, Stuart McFerrers, via Stocksy United.

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