• Vol. 06
  • Chapter 02
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My grandmother was protected by a small army.

The small army lived inside a glass display case in her living room, they watched over her, protecting the treasures that she had collected over the years. They were a tiny but formidable bunch whose life’s work was protecting priceless items such as the tea-towel my whole class decorated in 1996 and a collectable plate of Prince Andrew and Sarah Ferguson’s 1982 wedding.

The army was made up of a variety of glass, pewter and porcelain objects arranged in a triangle formation. At the head of this army was “the family heirloom”, sometimes called Dusty, sometimes called Brushy, a figurine that has puzzled the family for generations. No one could quite work out what the figurine was of, what it meant, or what it symbolised. My grandmother knew, but she would ask us to guess.

Holding court in her living room, always wearing her Sunday-best no matter what the day, she would smile and laugh from her high-backed comfy chair watching her children, then grandchildren, then great-grandchildren try to work out what it was. The porcelain figure had boots, and potentially a midriff, but no other discernible human features. It had a red porcelain wing, and a huge mane made from what I think, or hope, was horse hair. As a child I thought it was a troll, my mother thought it was a bird, my uncle guessed a flower and my cousins incorrectly identified it as a ladybird. We used to beg her to end the mystery, she would laugh, the light reflecting from her brooch as her chest moved up and down. Since charging Brushy with the job of protecting her valuables in 1961, she has only ever given out three clues. It’s old, it’s from China and her great-uncle gave it to her.

Read more >

Story of the Flying Head

It is a night of exceptional tranquility at the hospital. In the rhythmic silence of the ticking clock, two nameless visitors devote their loyal company to her by sitting with her in her room. They don’t appear to be interested in tending to her needs. The man sitting on a chair beside the window is wearing a black suit slightly too big for his figure. The other one sitting next to her bed is wearing a military uniform, one that reminds her of the military training they made her go through when she was a kid. Their faces are evasive, but she is certain that they are her acquaintances from some point in her life.

A tide of uproar breaks the silence. “A mob is taking over the hospital!” she hears someone scream from the top of his lungs. Sensing that the turmoil is soon to creep up to her door, she fixes her eyes on it, the only connection between her room and the outside world. Suddenly, the door breaks open. Through the fissure a grenade is tossed towards the center of the room, landing right on her bed, on her white linen. Out of instinct, she jumps up from her bed and runs towards the opened window. The grenade explodes like a monstrous platinum flower blooming violently from her bed. Before she knows it, it has ended and the room resumes its silence. She is overwhelmed by a sense of joy and gratefulness for having escaped the attack unscathed, and the incident that caused her to be admitted into the hospital seems only trivial. Only when she turns around, she sees what has truly happened: where the military uniform used to end, a flood springs forth and washes the sheets wine red. What it has shot out—the ejected head—is rolling merrily on the ceramic floor.

She picks up the head. The man in the black suit is watching her. Neither of them speaks a word. She cannot stray her eyes away from it, for he is watching. If she does, he will condemn her for rejecting an old friend for his physical deformity, in this case, a severed head.
Read more >


II i i II

into unpolished silver waves thrashing
leaf masked figures born in mid-spin
calligraphy’d forth from some paused ceremony
where saffron blacked-out into demure moods

two i’s, unconcerned with seeing or being seen,
assemble unashamed Otherness inside an exhausted presence

Space, drunk off Time, questions
Matter, through quiet-eyed silk creatures
rising in irrelevant scorched forests
improvising themselves into simple answers, again

not a single leader left grinning after
a single opulent lie settled in Fire’s torso
liberating bevies of denied ideas & unsuccessful insults
above those two i’s who hallucinated themselves into the blank page

Rose cloaked beings arrive revitalized from forgotten mirrors
chanting in abandoned languages
of invisible gardens crowded with succulent black nectarines
dripping ash soaked harmonies hummed while
blank eyes glow hungerless vermillion vines from blank bodies
reeking of turmeric & cinnamon, not a muscle near a bone
beneath all that translucent flesh marinated in phosphorescent prayers,
held by hematite silks clinging to damp shadows after amber storms


The Uighur Prince

I paint you mostly as I remember you my love,
Like an Uighur Prince,
Fearless and majestic.
I am hoping you will be quietly amused
For it is a caricature after all.
And I wish you would laugh a little,
Perhaps even tease me as I tease you.
Instead – and when no-one is looking –
You cover me with desperate kisses and
sometimes I feel your tears too.
Between your kisses and your tears,
Your warm whispers
Tickle my ears:
‘Don’t give up! Your talent is god-sent!’
Your tone is always grave.
In this race against time,
As our skin moves closer to our bones,
I paint you as I remember you;
With your proud velvet beard,
Your jet black hair I used to wrap my fingers in,
And that red coat you loved so much,
Stolen by one of the guards
On our first day in the camp.
I’ve seen him wear it once or twice –
He looked like a clown without a purpose.
We must laugh at him my love,
Though I know how it angers you to be here
All because our skin is darker
And they don’t like our god.
Read more >


wild visage

wild visage announces presence
satisfy all demands before looming stature

when i was younger, i worried of brushstrokes
when aesthetics destroyed countries

the problem, there is no silver in the museum
her house, sunk through the surface

never wrote underwater, or emerged to see
amputation, the birds and the books

on the beach where we once stood together
before this silliness, and structured play

a tyrannical direction of up, and the art
of standing around after the concert

instrument thrown to the sea


The Lobster Considers his Options

The Lobster considers his options
Sat next to the boiling hot pan
Straightway acquiesce?
Let his guts deliquesce?
Or nip off just as fast as he can?

Each particular case has demerits:
A death that is mercifully quick,
In salt water assured,
Or a lifetime immured
In a kitchen of lino and brick.

Our poor lobster glanced up at his captor
And tipped him the wink with one eye
"I'll be a great pet
I've got years to go yet!
Let's be mates!" And he sighed a great sigh.

The captor considered his options,
A new housemate living rent-free?
With an eye on a stalk
Who would watch like a hawk
At his boiled egg…or lobster for tea?

Each particular case has demerits:
There are pros, there are cons, come what may,
But our lives have to end,
Be we foe, food, or friend.
There were shells in the bin the next day.



Father Christmas, Sinterklaas,
Saint Nicholas, Santa Claus. Poor old Santa
has had one hell of a makeover.
Twinkling eyes, rosy cheeks, snowy beard
now subsumed into an inky blob.
Rorschach would be proud of it.
What can you make of it? A nothingness?
A travesty of a face, unkempt beard flaring
in broad strokes; eyes on stalks, a parody
of cartoon marine creatures?
Some say Jesus was a black man.
Look again, it’s a black silk chrysanthemum,
petals curling inwards like a mother’s fingers;
an eviscerated armoured tank, metal splinters
opening like an anemone. It's a wave at midnight.
A foot-and-mouth funeral pyre;
a crushed carcass of our final elephant;
the thumbprint of a nuclear explosion.
The human psyche.

Gold; the lodestone of commerce,
the excuse for dirty tricks.
Frankincense; an aromatic resin to sweeten
the stench of war, famine, and apathy.
Myrrh; the bitterness that remains.

Poor Santa, dressed in Remembrance-Poppy Red.
His broken face dwarfs his huge belly,
bulging thighs, his leather motorcycle boots.
All around, the Christmas message, written in tongues,
lies on the air like tattered paper chains. Read more >



a small movement
in red silk is an option
that would cross into sinuousness
or just old fashioned sin
even if this is a brush with death
the ultimate imaginary friend
who has seen it all
has performed in most dramas
usually marks the end
for there has to be one
even if gainsay or hearsay
have a place in folk tales
when you are nothing to begin with
give favours for money
a mask is an improvement
so runs the story
where one forward step shows so much
in its speed or coyness –
though now you are frozen
your tableau a statement of intention
where silk is no longer an option
a slipstream in stasis
an idea where the first step has been taken
to an adventure in progress
that cannot now end


* Attention *

Please stop throwing toothpicks in the urinal.
The crabs have learned to pole vault.
They are just as lonely as you this holiday season,
and are looking for a loving home.
They have feelings too, and they're getting desperate.
We've been finding these pamphlets all over the bar.
Apparently, this one's name is Phil.
Male, 2 1/2 weeks old.
Likes long hikes in the jungle.
Nondiscriminatory about blood type.
Likes to role play (as you can see he's dressed as Santa).
We've also been getting several complaints from our patrons,
and posted an attention letter in the women's room as well.
The crabs can also rope climb...
They're clever little buggers!
Be careful who you take home.
Be safe and Happy Holidays.

The Golden Horn
A Friendly Place


It Could Also Be Laughter

The bald man waves his arms, chanting
sacred curses he makes up himself,
while the chorus of his hair attempts Mahler
—thick and thin in surprising spots that fascinate,
here misdirecting the truth of what needs saying.
Red tie, red Christmas trees, red pockets laden,
but at a particularly vigorous gesture, the heavy gold belt
his girth requires falls away to reveal the old script,
once tucked out of sight, that gives cues and bells
to deputize ignorantly brutal devils. We’ve seen it before.
He isn’t embarrassed, so I am embarrassed for him.
One wing sprouts from his side, but aerodynamics
(he was too impatient to learn) state he cannot lift off.
His whirligig shouts and satellite dishes focus and
refract back his own words, his own spectacular
crucifixion about to drill down. Again the curses, but they
are smoke and mirrors, his art the broken embers that
burn the palace down around him.


red coat soot hair

they said say the ending
was coming coming came.
slowly sticking in dark sap
under splintered trees
or climbing waist deep
through mudslides and ash.
walk-wading through rubble
and shattered bones.

everyone saw seeing it
becoming when it came.

now the warm time wind
blows salty
sweeping away
the dull gray heavy air
that brings
coughing, weak limbs,

picking gathering
in dead woods ash pit
tasting with tip of tongue.
store sweet bitter and smoky
in rag bag for sharing time.

sit sitting near fire they toss
no-use clutter aside.
no purpose. they say saying
now and then again
into forward time trash
does not feed not warm not build. Read more >


The Coming

Hearts beat fast in those ferocious times,
feet feared to linger, faces to swap warm smiles.
Frantic mothers searched for clues, wondered how
to keep their children safe. Fathers sized up fallen wood
for hiding-huts and barricades. Former neighbours
closed and locked their doors, fast against intrusions.
No-one talked any more: isolation, silence, fear
paved the way to war. And yet, this was not all.

Today, a stranger's infant, born beyond the city wall,
wails for comfort, streams sounds none can ignore.
Her cries scythe the air, call out clear to empty hearts,
to every desperate citizen. 'Come, my dearest people,
gather round my cradle.' And so, barriers tumble.
Fascists slink away, faced with people holding hands.
Today, at last, hate is routed, love's respect holds sway


dark flower

the dark flower
of your character
above a red bole

brush-stroke petals
sweep the page
stamen black-tipped

other characters hug
the edges and speak
a language I cannot
like a crowd of visitors
arriving at Terminal B

characters crowd
the plane we inhabit
together but distinct

together but distinct
we create a text
crammed with life
like a fruit ripened
that splits and bursts
the limits of its skin


A Mute Tenor

Outside my window,
the children of the city
are discovering the night.
A cheer for the children!
A cheer for their discovery!
One big drunken chorus
belching out in unison
through mouthfuls of beer
and salted flesh.

While I, refined and resplendent
in red dressing-gown
write these words,
a mute tenor
practising in the wings.

The idols may laugh
from on top of Mount Olympus,
but I choose to spit in their faces
and bless my own morality.
Cheer with all your thunderous fools!
Cheers for the thunder clap that snaps the heart!
The gods empty
when faced with the dilemma
of a man posturing
for entertainment.


Entotsu sōji hito


The chimney sweep faces the pagoda
From the top eave he reaches for the sky
Wearing a red robe which blows in the wind
Fearing naught, not even an iota
A slip and he knows he will die
Honor in his work he will not rescind

With a great beard and a top knot he sets to task
Slowly covered with black dust as a mask

The work is dirty, dangerous and hard
As brave as a Samurai he attacks with stealth
The wind whips his blackened beard about his face
Humming Chim Chim Chimney as if he were a bard
He performs his duties without glory and wealth
As a grand chimney sweep he has found his place

Slowly covered with black dust as a mask
His bright red robe now a blackened basque

With the grace of an Angel he appears in the height
He wistfully holds the horizon in his hand
A button for luck he keeps on his waist
Working methodically from morning to night
When completed with a sigh he does stand
Smeared with charcoal you can no longer see a trace

Read more >

Stunning Names for Cats

When Hitoshi was born his parents argued over what to call him.

As chief of the palace mousers, Yoshito wanted something correct. Something to reflect well on his lineage. Like Yoshiro, ‘righteous son’ or Taichi, ‘large first son’. He was enormous. But Katsu favoured, Hitoshi. ‘After all,’ she said, ‘I pushed out the large first son. I feel my perineum should have the casting vote.'

Yoshito’s blushing protests fell on deaf ears, and Katsu was victorious.

Large first son, Hitoshi grew into a motivated person. He was motivated to eat well, catching the fattest mice. But not by stealth or speed. Oh no. His large frame was not built for such actions. Hitoshi was motivated to be a leader of cats. In pursuit of this, he grew handsome moustaches and held himself with the most marvellous carriage.

By these means Hitoshi commanded an army of devotees, who were happy to be deployed about the imperial palace, hiding behind plinths and drapes. They waited, still as still could be. Long into the night they waited, until the mice – silly mice – grew bold. The devotees, trained to their tasks, stilled their quivering whiskers and continued to wait. On a nod from Hitoshi, hidden behind the throne, they leapt from their positions to drive the squeaking creatures towards his jaws.

It was not long before it came to the emperor’s attention that his cats were behaving in uncatlike ways. He set his major domo to watch and report. When the report was delivered his imperial majesty declared, ‘This cat surpasses all cats. He must be immortalised.’

Which is how, Hitoshi – a motivated person indeed – came to have his portrait painted by the finest artist of the dynasty.


He Wears the Eyes of a Stranger

He wears the eyes of a stranger
Though once we were close
Anger and madness blazing bright
Across my blood brother’s face
Hate robed in the Devil’s red
Dervish, Assassin, Berserker
As the mood takes him
A warrior yes, and a murderer too

There was a look he wore
Before he delivered the killing blow
It is the one I see now
As I kneel before him, murmuring prayers
Of the belief he – we – abandoned
Words that no longer have any meaning
To either of us
He will not let me finish
It is of no matter
Better the reality of his sword’s ‘amen’
Than the misery of a faltering faith



she's gifted, you know?
that's what the administrators
at our school say of her.
she's "exceptional", "amazing"
"vibrant" and "eclectic".
she has her own style.
I've watched her work,
watched her splay the brush
back and forth, making art
quicker than anyone I have ever known.
with simple brushstrokes,
an inanimate object
comes to life.

I envy her,
green as I can be–
I want her gift. I want
to be able to slap my hand
on a canvas and leave my mark.
it's her legacy,
it's going to follow her down
the line of years ahead of us.
her children's children will be
stamped with her genius.

isn't that what artistry
is all about?


The future belongs to insects

Those are not ladybugs,
she said
as I brushed the insects
from my arm,
they are
tiny red men.

I looked and she was right.

They snarled and flew
angry circles
carrying tiny skewers
and taking
martial arts poses
before alighting
on me
once again.

What do you think they want,
I asked.

What do any of us want,
she said, sighing.
Just a place
to call our own.

But that's my arm,
I said.

Not anymore, she answered.
Look, they've planted a flag.


Warriors are Grown

They battle for a space beneath the sun,
faces pointed to the sky,
defiance blossoming on the tips of tongues.
Warriors are grown,
beaten into the earth and molded
with fingers skilled in the art of cruelty.
Terror is braided into the skin of girls
who aren’t allowed to feel afraid,
held like glass in the pits of their throats.
Rage is rubbed into the eyes of women
who will eat fear and loom fiercely
over those who touch without asking.
Their voices become a storm that conquers silence,
a clap of thunder that cracks the fist of subjugation.
They refuse to sit pretty,
be quiet,
stay down on the ground.
Rising from the bruises of captivity,
a single word of protest hums through the earth,
shakes the rubble from the mountain tops.


Ghazal, Alexander of Macedon

Alternate Universe Nutcracker: Fritz, instead, is the one who goes
To the Kingdom of the Sweets, marries the soldier, gets the final dance.

The Roman army camp is a perfect grid, Polybius tell us,
The lines, the soldiers, the eventual city—all an exacting dance.

Alternate Universe Iliad: everybody goes home early, saffron garlanded,
The javelins and cuirasses never do their bloody and enervating dance.

Ballerinas, horses, losing armies: these are the three things, I tell him,
Whispering close, afraid of their own shadows’ dance.

Alternate Universe Persia: the conqueror, having seen the known world,
Borrows the words of the Persian boy, the one he kissed at the dance.

For kohl-eyed he would lie in my arms, his eyes two cool mints, sugaring,
And I, his defender of men, final dancer of the cruel dance.


Nagasaki Turnip

The grinning turnip pulls itself
from the irradiated earth
in a field on the outskirts of Nagasaki.
Its crustacean limbs claw dirt—
search for purchase.

If it had eyes to see
the wasteland of ash
spread out as far as eyes might see
in 360 degrees,
its mischievous smirk might shrivel
into an uncomprehending pucker
of confusion: what queer reality is this?

Abandoned footwear litters the landscape
below stilled shadows it dumps debris
from a pair of stylish suede riding boots.
It drifts in bipedal forms
before continuing an oblivious journey
toward oblivion.

Turnip pots oddly-arranged toes into each shoe,
takes root amidst discarded nutrient dust—
clicks new heels, teaches itself
to whistle and walk toward water.



when you drink
you strut like a ronin
blurting out stupid things
no lord or master
could tame the hedgerows
tufts of broom and bristle
ungroomed, imperial

your rugged insistence upon
growth, your belly extends
in layers and years
of insulation, and yet—
your thicket is yet dark and black
the follicle spice and musk
alive, and pungent—

not the anodyne sterility
of the emasculate hairless,
the length of your organ
hidden under vermillion folds
grows long as
a winter solstice shadow and
still I want you


lobster man

thousands of hollow black shafts
of prickled bristled whiskers
slicing through the still air these
hollow whispers shape his name

fixed upon a rectangular orbiting
of forbidden language between
black and white and red
the exile was the making of him

The vacuous ocean of white moves
with collected gradual logic strong
ceaseless descent in pieces
and this one claw god takes form

as if his image could be the fullness
of being among mortals a half-brother
bump paddling in a fish tank
itching to announce itself



You are nothing except
The broken letters and
Lost words.
Human figures that made you up
Are aligned through generations;
But you stand still–
In your red burning coat
And erect moustaches.
People brush and stroke you
With meanings
And you laugh out loud
In the red burning coat–
Of your


Dreams of a Samurai in Red

The princess dreamed of a virile lord,
a swirling spectre of berry red
with a thick brush of ebony hair and beard
and lethally sharpened swords,
skilled on the battlefield and in bed,
with weapons and with words.

She was the model of compliancy,
with her tidy, modest femininity,
a submissive lover but passionate,
a future wife waiting at the gate
for the samurai of her wildest dreams
in a bed not as empty as it seemed.


Making an entrance

Artist versus subject. Now out I storm,
a sight the artist’s eyes can only term

bold; indeed, I can see that point of view.
Behold! Tonight, as is my cloud-clap custom,

I burst on stage, my war-cry at once
full-throated, shocking the grand proscenium.

The brush sees red. The beard becomes a blast
of furry fury. And with this nice turn

to the plot, the show goes on. Painter, call me
what you will. I’ll take the page by storm!


The General

The General is a blur of his former glory.
Fur flops round his face. Once, it was smooth
sable, now it frizzes, bedraggles in rain.
His scarlet cape is faded, sopping,
helmet plumes no longer wave – they’ve
become deely-boppers on his polished pate.
Swelling belly pops over silver-plated belt.
Bloated legs are wedged in turned-up boots,
tops drooping, spurs lost. The sword that lopped
off limbs, chopped noses, ears, is rusted as a mop
left long in the bucket. He’s washed out, washed up.
With pen and ink, his fate is being sealed.


Hidden Christmas

“Gonks have a hard life … especially bald ones,” Footyr opined to no-one in particular – since he was on his own at the top of a pile of manure. Even the cows had ambled down to the northeast corner of the pasture. It was close to feeding time and they crowded around the access point, prevented from pressing against the wire fence only by the trickling ditch-burn and the small voltage passing through the top wire.

“We get no royalties from those damn toys they made of us,” he continued, ignoring that his follically challenged pate disqualified him from the stereotype … and any copyright remuneration.

He reached into the potato sack which sat silently beside him and pulled forth a tiny plastic soldier … such as a certain aircraft-model company produced for children … and bit its head off. (Gonks have very sharp teeth and claws – bald or not.)

“That’s what I think of humans and their toys – but especially what I think of the Scottish wag who decided to take our name in vain. Ugh, the minds of the creatures!”

He stood up and pulled the paper costume pants he’d made for himself over his greenish-stained bottom and tied them in place with a snapped bootlace. Then he shrugged on the bright red card he’d fashioned into a coat. His shiny hooves looked just like boots.

He knew he stank from the pile, but that was all part of the plan.

He thumped home the jet-black upholstery nails into his chest to hold the coat in place. (Real gonks, being akin to golem, feel no pain.)

He smiled as the famous human children’s TV phrase came to mind: Don’t try this at home!

Read more >


It took years for the master to teach me,
his inside student, the delicate art

of balancing the brush: how to channel
darkness and light through felt, stone and ink wash

to render orchid, mountains and mantis,
as if divining a part of myself.

In time, I learnt to find the shadow line
engrained in paper, like trailing a path

through my childhood forest without
causing any sound to bleed through the trees.


Spinning Love

I have watched you
Over those years
When love has spun us around
As though we were riding
The red waltzer.
Like we used to.
When nothing made sense
Except everything.

We have tried to scramble back
Onto that red waltzer
But we are slow
We carry too many bags
Weighing us down
Black and cumbersome.
Yet precious and full of clues
About our love.

I can hardly remember us then
How we spelled out
Our love
In ways we couldn’t understand
Impossible to translate.
But now the ride has ended.
So I open the bag
And take out the first clue.


The Little Girl in my Kitchen

The little girl I see in my kitchen. She often visits when only my brother and myself are downstairs.
"You're back? Where have you been?"
"Please you have to help me," she pleads.
She runs across the tiled kitchen floors and I skid after her in my cotton socks.
"Wait, I'll call ma mère."
"No, no parents," her whisper divides pass her index finger on her lips.
She pulls the copper handle down of the back door and steps outside onto the concrete pavement of my garden.
"Don't leave I'll get my brother to help you, he's brave and strong and he can pick me up over his head." I imitate my brother, raising my arms into the air.
"No, there is no time he's coming," she trembles.
"Who? Who is coming?"
"The Wūshī." The name she mutters trembles on her lips as she stands forefront of the holly tree in my garden. The bark splits down the middle of the trunk and births this creature. Hair masked its face; dark and black like the abyss of the night sky. His attire draped claret almost as if it drenched in the blood of its preys. The beady eyes of this monster forced my body into shock. It grabbed the little girl and took her beyond the holly tree. Her hand reaches out for me screaming


Twenty-years later my brother and I are sat in the front room in my family home.
"Hey Ad, do you remember the little girl that used to come into the kitchen?"
Read more >


Four Red Years

Travelling, I met your man
being pumped full of drugs,
and paid. This, he told me,
as he ate an apple, exuding
health, or its red-faced cousin
at least. The punchline
sat by his side, licking
its lips.

Always a child in a room
full of adults, I blushed
when addressed through dialogue
or gesture. Red-faced
at the dining table, I studied
its white tablecloth
as a map displaying
my future, or their past.

Uncle Tom: So which
do you prefer – the country
or the city? Me: The city.
(…while a bevy of larks flew
by, circling, mocking. Red-faced
with youth, I stood in the garden
under a bluer sky, shaded,
free. Uncle Tom carried on

Read more >

The Tao of Headdress

Logograms line where plumage rises.
Feathers lift in blackened curve.

Deeply bled, deadly red, there’s a flush
to the face, where angular shapes

adorn the forehead. Bowing, the head
reveals its crown of luminescence.

Here, Sahasrāra, lotus of one thousand
petals, glows. Its pericarp golden,

the seventh chakra transforms the war
bonnet, enters an enlightened orbit,

where the Three Treasures soar beside
eagle, wing abreast crow,

and the bloodbath of genocide ceases
its flow.


The shop window effect:

His figure was a protrusion every December, suddenly there was the overwhelming sensation he was everywhere at once — on mantelpieces, in shopping centers, in minds and adverts simultaneously. Even for people who didn’t believe, they knew and they thought about him at least once or twice as the big month passed. It got more abrasive every year. Over time, his secret had degraded, a precious stone reduced to an uneven, coarse pebble. If you were to hold him in a handful of small marbles in your palm, let them roll them against one another in a rotating cupped hand, his surface would have hardened, acquiring an unpleasant jarring sound against the others, interrupting the quiet knocking of their silky chatter. He was devoid of subtleties and brutish. It was crude, really, that he didn’t have a voice to address this lack of mystique he’d somehow acquired. It was true that his existence depended on being thought about, but it was never meant to be the attention-grabbing interjection it was now. It was a sensory overload. He should exist in the thin cracks of ice on a window, hardly determinable to the human ear. Or as a lingering presence in fading embers on cold nights.

Though from the shop window displays or the bitten shards of chocolate forgings you’d never know it, he was disillusioned and drinking too much. All this repurposing of his image was giving him a headache.


Adorning the Night

She used to believe that if she hid her face, the Imperial gods would not find her. That was before the government’s facial recognition scanners became mandatory. She still keeps her head scrunched down beneath the black fur collar of her heavy red coat, popping it up only momentarily to let the security cameras in the building where we lived measure what’s left of her once-firm cheekbones and forehead. Squinting her droopy eyes, she glances away as the electronic trackers record the sagging lines around her mouth. Muttering under her breath, she tells me the machines are determining her age; something that people once honored. I squeeze her wrinkled hand as she talks to tell her I think she’s wonderful and wise.

Every few months, she gets a report issued from the state’s high-tech machinery. On it are numbers that relate to her years and to the value placed upon the estimated time remaining on her “living” chart. When that double-digit figure is equal to the calculation of her body’s life, she will be asked to step outside. Out there, weather conditions are not regulated.

Officials will remove her coat and, shivering, she will recoil from the sunlight. She whispers she will not be afraid. “When it happens, and it will,” she says, “I will be mad.” Lifting one foot and then the other she stomps around to show me her anger. The movement will keep her warm until nightfall.

When that day comes, I am to go to the window and look for the sparks flying up to the sky from her hands slapping together. “I will be there,” she speaks through the coat’s thick fabric, then sighs. “The gods will finally have me.”

After a few moments of silence, she adds, “My face will no longer be mine.” It will be placed alongside countless others that adorn the evening’s darkness.

Read more >

LOT 23

Ink on paper. 1 foot by 3 feet.

Pan Pianshou, son of an abusive German tax official and his Chinese wife, was born in the German protectorate of Shandong. Being what was labelled a “Mischling,” he was not accepted by either community. A drifting but talented 23 year old, he was caught up in violent protests from which developed the rabidly nationalist, anti-imperialist “PINYIN” movement.

PINYIN objected to the Chinese Government’s acceptance of the Versailles Treaty that – only 20 years after the Sino-Japanese war – ceded Shandong province to Japan.

Pianshou painted this poster in 1920. The wording at the top – Shao si diguo zhu de gou – translates as: “Burn imperialist capitalist running dogs.” On the left side, Shandong shi zhongguo means, “China owns Shandong.” The dominating troglodyte figure – almost eyeless on ill-formed red-trousered legs – with burning hair and whiskers, its hideous head engulfed in black smoke – is Pianshou’s vision of a Western imperialist.

Professor Lin Jennings, in her catalogue raisonné of Pianshou’s work, contends that this squat creature also personifies the artist’s hated father, whom Pianshou often referred to as chandu – “the toad.”

Only 2000 copies of the PINYIN poster were printed, each bearing – top-right – the red colophon of the short-lived Ho Zhing Press. Almost all copies were destroyed in the turmoil of the time. The poster was never reprinted.


Our Mr. Lee Ho

The Great Moustachioed Impresario
He travels by night
Like a truth-bearing saint
Stealthy street artist
Caught in the act
He cuts quite a figure
Our Mr. Lee Ho
From his tiny sharp boots
On his tightly bound feet
To kimono wrapped wildly askew
Barely tethered below his fat belly
His face is obscured
As a good secret should be
His crown slipped and sadly slung low
Now a soot-laden mask
But a reach and a spread
That still rivals the most virile stag
Our Mr. Lee Ho
How he flits and he twirls
Braving all of the fiercest of weathers
To tell stories to All
Of most massive import
And urge deeds of the greatest endeavour.


You need to get in more.

Thank you for the invitations,
but I haven't time to go out
and see pop-up restaurants
and exhibitions and shows
just at the moment.
I'm concentrating on inside.
After all, if old Marcel
could write all that from bed,
imagine what I might achieve
by staying here indoors.
Lonely? Don't be mad!
I make my own society.
There is enough life here in my room.
In fact, I have a stain on the wall,
Beaujolais spill and soot, I think,
and I've been staring intently at it
until I can see a little fellow there.
He has a touch of the Cossack about him,
stern, with a twinkle hint of humour,
like the Eggman in that old hedgehog game.
We have a fine old time together –
Persikov (that's his name) regales
and we drink wine with hearty toasts,
and listen to Dvořák records,
sharing the instruments between us.
Bristly Persikov even knows
a few rather bawdy jokes,
although he often loses
the punchline in the telling.
Read more >



Once Bogle ruled the world.
Leading a charge at the head of his horde,
Mounted on a dog fox.
Plunging into the ocean
Perched on a gannet
Gobbling grilled fish around a campfire.

Battling with badgers,
Warring with weasels,
Struggling against stoats,
Vanquishing, victorious.

Then the Men came.
Ten times taller
With spears long as trees.

Bogles began to lose.

Next came bows, horses, sailing ships, armour
Crossbows, muskets and cannons.

Bogles fled and hid
But men pursued them

With stone roads, canals, steam trains,
Cars, tanks, machine guns, bombs.

Bogle's horde became a clan,
A settlement, a village,

Read more >

Traveler Tell

Traveler tell–what crosses before after and after before?
What narrow byway passes between heaven and hell?
What returns as being?–how and are and were and where–?

    Traveler, tell.

What is necessary to create the spell–
words filled in by time, conjurings that strike the circled hour?–
the not of each and both that tangles what must be revealed?
These questions pile up thresholded beyond the door—
the opening retreats as it removes the veil–
your cloak reeks endless shadowed journeys, smoke and air–

    Traveler, tell.


Dundee Santa Disaster; “Lost His Heid”

Yon Santa Claus, ae capital disaster a'richt –
Doon thi Dundee chimney, Xmas Eve nicht;
Rudolph aun a' the ither reindeer cam' doon
The lum nae problem, sleigh slithered doon
Jist fine, but Santa hud gorged himsel' – ower
Mony turkey roasts, aun fou fae sherry; tower
Ladder wis erected tae rescue auld S. Claus
But, readers; jings, crivvens aun help ma boab;
Rescuer cam' across Santa deid, "lost his heid"...

* Nae thi real Santa ye ken, jist in case bairns aboot *


The First Four Sightings


Not until the ambulance had long since left
and the caution tape removed
did we learn what Pan Marek had seen

One final phone call to Pan Marek's wife
from the top step of the cellar
it's Tomek. He's here to see you
it's Robert. He's here to see me.
topped off by the clatter of jam jars on the cellar steps

She told us over coffee
She was leaving town for a while
She couldn't bear to talk
to her husband through a medical gauze


Justyna waited until her daughter fell asleep
before calling the taxi
She was outside her family home
Her zebra-print purse was found
in the neighbour's garden, safe and sound
Nobody believed her
until much, much later
Only when she was released.
We heard the doctor's comments
Read the doctor's report.
The taxi driver was exonerated, of course.

Read more >


Jun weighed his options. It would be a dishonourable, insincere thing to do, but he had little choice. His name meant ‘To be truthful’. However, inasmuch as he’d fought to remain loyal to that epithet throughout his life, he was now presented with a dilemma.

His little brother, Lok, had been tasked with practicing his writing skills. He’d been given a set of calligraphy brushes, some inks, and a clean piece of parchment. But Lok was still very young and he soon grew bored. Lok didn’t want to write. Lok wanted to be an artist, to illustrate the Manga characters he so loved. And so, just after lunchtime when Lok’s work was to be assessed by father, the boy was fraught and sought advice from his older sibling.

Jun had at first been impatient with his kid brother’s pleas. He’d had his own issues to worry about. His university art lesson was starting in a half hour and he’d forgotten all about the lecturer’s assignment until he’d picked up his keys to leave. And now this. Although...

Jun studied Lok’s spoiled parchment, which was dominated by a huge painting of an angry looking character. The composition, the colours, the scrawls across the top. It was perfect! He asked Lok what he’d been instructed to write, and the boy told him. Jun grabbed a fresh sheet of parchment, dipped a brush into the black ink, and proceeded to transcribe all of Lok’s assigned sentences.

Read more >


They sat on twigs in four different trees at the four corners of the park and glared in each other’s direction, occasionally breaking into song which, though pleasing to the human ear, was invariably a ribald musical calumny of one rival or the other.

The same naïve humans who smiled at this lyrical vituperation were rumoured among the avian community to have a myth of apocalypse which could have been a dark interpretation of reality. The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse they called it, or something like that – as if man or any manifestation of the creature could bring the world to an end on his own or with four mates. Nah, man was too gregarious – not like the robins.

And yet no-one expects The Four Robins of the Apocalypse.

Fluffy – so called for obvious reasons, even the crown feathers puffed out like a surreal explosion of black beard - piped a subtle insult in the general direction of the north-east corner where Bee-eater perched.

The latter had been busy over the decades laying out the foundation for the End of Days and wasn’t shy about it, twittering its cheery song of starvation as it hopped from tree to tree to bounce off the surface of the lake and resonate throughout the park until even the leaves shivered with dread.

For now Bee-eater ignored the slight. He was busy dragging an earthworm from its burrow before the colder weather drove them deep underground. He liked a varied diet. It kept him regular.

Read more >


I remember when my grandfather used to fill the room where he was and his laughter shook walls and window glass, and he had to bend his head so as not to touch the ceiling. He looked far off then and his eyes were like distant stars or the blue flashing flames of gas fire and his hair was all shocked and torn and he had a big fuck-off beard – that’s what my father called it and my mother said my father should please mind his p’s and q’s in front of the children.

There’s a poem by Edward Lear about an old man with a beard and it reminds me of my grandfather – not because there were things living in my grandfather’s beard. No owls or hens or larks or wrens had made their nests there, but he kept things tucked into his beard so he knew where they were. If ever he needed a pen he’d run his fingers through the black tangled hair and produce as if by magic a burgundy coloured marble Stewart Conway fountain pen. He could do the same if you wanted money or Callard and Bowser toffees in their wrappers or toothpicks or bus timetables.

He’s old now – though I thought he was old then. Old as hills my mother says. Old as tram tickets says my father. He’s old now and shrunk to less than half his size and his beard is grey and yellow and thin as smoke and not pens or toothpicks but bread and biscuit crumbs now live in his beard and spiders and silver spittle threads unspooling when he is asleep in his chair and the chair seems to hold him even when he is not there, holds the shape of him like a giant cupped hand.

And when he speaks my grandfather’s voice is all breath and whisper and he leans towards me so he can hear me talking and he says to speak up; and his eyes are grey as unpolished silver or wet streets and I look for the blue that was in them once and now is gone.

Read more >

A fine disguise

In an earlier energy fanned with unnumbered plumes, floating with song and spread their painted wings. The red, the scarlet, the whispered fans of inky marks. it is one form of the riddle -the transformation of the image from one medium to another. The out speaking red, your wound never was Heaven. Yet bemused by the star, the glimmers at you mouths edge, the right hand corner.
You unseen. You heard. You smiled.


red raw the recall of my inarticulate heart
red roar the recoil from this inexplicable darkness

this black blood red hot mess of stained memories
and stained bedsheets from petty painful liaisons

this bearded monster under the bed
doesn’t think much of my lust
he denounces my pronouncements
(he - because it is always a he)
my attempts to regain consciousness
confidence sanity and dignity
he reminds me of my failures
my feigned attempts at normality

there resides the gibbering goblin of mortality
his black beard quickening my fear

red raw the recall of my blackened heart
red roar the recoil from this shattered past


A Perfect Samurai

Samurai are supposed to flip.
But Toshi only flopped.

Samurai saunter.
Toshi stomped.

Samurai slither.
Toshi clomped.

Other people stared at him, but Toshi didn't mind. "That's not who I am," he said to anyone who would listen. "I won't conform. I am me. Accept me for me, or leave me be. It matters little in the end."

"But...," someone always countered, whispered timidly.

"There are no 'buts,'" Toshi roared. "Only what is true. I accept me for me. Will you accept you for you?"


Top of the food chain

Behold! I am the creature that will
replace you and you and you too,

because I am perfectly adapted to
the biosphere you’ve created, and oh

the irony that you couldn’t adjust
in time, install outboard gills, shields

to skin, harvest blood from seas. My
did you go on, as attested to in the

Anthropocene record that surfaces
from the heat-slime now and again,

and yet you did nothing: sound various
alarms, change damn all. I’m glad: as if

you had some divine lease to stay on
the planet forever. Species come, go,

get over yourselves. I bet the dinosaurs
didn’t want to disappear into kids TV either.



lying beneath you with your fingers around my throat like a fragile butterfly with wings of steel, back to front c's ready for the alphabet to proceed, your eyes came at me

and in one moment we both knew you would or could stop me breathing with one silly quick swipe – perhaps this was the night

we stayed there, linked by history and fear, a strange samba of full-stops you on top of me, looking through me, some piece of shattered glass ready for the splicing - i sniffed your body on the verge of the horizon, one foot on this flat earth ready to step off and you smelt like neon

we got it – that hate comes in layers of long unravelling misunderstandings, of the sun seeing its own burning, of a fish watching its own scales beneath the iridescent lights of exposure and do it i said, my spirit already a sad haiku, ink wild, red and smudging as our tiny son's eyes shone from outside that disco ball room looking in

just a room for a bed and wet cheeks that's all

i made no call to anyone that morning after, my throat a moat floating and even now as I cradle my boy's sadness in dusty moth hands, lightening sharp and almost serene as the years the years the years, these years move

you did release your grip that night, our son and I still flapping white beneath your wake breaking, then mending, then breaking and charging like warriors


Cinderella’s Story

I lost my head this morning,
choosing a ruffled black painted daisy instead,
my face as blank as its center core;
it seemed simple enough,
to emulate, simulate, - okay, admittedly,
I stole the moon's face;
Her's was so full, conceited in time,
smirking, and this is
camouflage, for a new skin.

The wolves howled yes,
their throating growls songs of encouragement,
the choral push to the edge,
telling me it was all okay.
As a matter of fact, She had turned her back to me,
for the sorrow of weeping red tears,
shoulders silently shaking with her quiet sobs;
this was Her plea bargain.

Read more >

Are We There Yet?

We came in troves.
All of us.
Down from the mountain top of our own despairs.
Some of us had parting gifts in hand:
We were called to come back to ourselves
We didn't say by who
All we would, could, possibly reveal were

I am 10 years old again, the minute I close my eyes
I dream in black and red
I revert back to a childhood disturbed

We walk for miles
Our destination(s) unknown

We pass family, friends, and foes
Unrecognizable to them, we pass silently

I tap what looks like the shoulder blade of the thing in front of me:
Are we there yet?
Thing shrugs without ever turning around

Read more >

[Conversation Stopped and We All Looked Up]

Hirsute and portly, as much bear
as man, a wine-bladder full to bursting
yet unsplit, ears pricked like a stallion’s,
(and, in fact, he later boasts, stallion-
pricked!) boot soles groaning like bridges,
the floor divoting like an earthen track
packed by the passing of massy materiel,
nose and chin hairs rattling like wind-
battered thatch, the warrior clatters
into the ryokan.

Spindly poets, we nearly tumble
from our chairs at his vital force then press
back upright on ink-stained fingers.
One wag among us whispers Bashō:

The summer grasses—
Of brave soldiers' dreams
The aftermath.

Another fills a shell-thin sake cup
and offers it up. It sits between thumb
and forefinger tiny as a lady’s thimble.
We toast and toast again. For a moment,
we feel close as brothers.


The Man Who Drew Nude Goddesses

They brought me ten-rupee posters of the greatest women on earth. Mona Lisa, Pietà, Shakuntala… I am an old man, I know things. I shook with laughter and winked at them. “So many clothes!”

They knew my name; they had seen me with the movie stars. They had signed the petition to banish me.

This room here is all right; red-red-red, so much Matisse. But it gets cold, really cold, especially the toilet bowl.

The chap who brings me lunch, he shapes his eyebrows. His face is so plain, I want to paint it.

I asked him yesterday, “Do you know who I am?”

He took my paints away.

Philistine. Wife-beater.

But I have my phone. I spend my evenings looking at it. Old places, old faces… Things I may never see again. Sometimes I look at them so long, they hang in front of my eyes like a Paul Klee mosaic.

My phone is also my alarm clock. It wakes me up and takes me to my village. I smell the soot in our tiny lamp shop, I pick the lint from Abbajan’s sleeve. I climb that tree inside the mosque and click Agfa pictures while he kneels. I crouch on the floor in the big madrassa and draw aliens in the dirt with a twig. I sell my books at the corner pawn shop and buy yellow paint to make it green.

Read more >

these days it’s not enough to be a face

used to be
you could get by
with being handsome
beauty was the primordial
the original shape
of the apple in the garden
symmetry is still fearful but
no longer so elusive

standards evolve
and you've gotta be covered
or be left behind and laughed at
and I mean you’ve gotta be covered
head to toe
in moustache
lustful thick and itchy
groomed rigorously for hours
like a show dog
the product
of hundreds of years
of selective breeding

Read more >

Spray of Anger

I am a spray of anger,
I am the extent of my beard,
I am two dark eyes,

I am the red of
dragon’s blood, a thick
belt of rage,

I am two boots
placed like a tenon joint,
creased up with power,

I am the thing
that lurks in Kurosawa’s
Hidden Fortress,

I draw you to
the Fireflies’ Grave that
twitches in the darkness,

I introduce you
to the Woman in the Dunes,
who lures you to her pit,

though almost a
Haiku, my brushstrokes
are not calm

and the kanji that
surround me
course with discontent,

Read more >

The Lost Operetta of Gilbert and Sullivan

Welcome to The Kibble Palace.
Are you here for the tree ferns or the carp?
Our next performance starts in ten minutes.
The fish will sing in their native dialects.
Should any of you require a translation,
the homeless gentleman sleeping on the bench,
Gerald, will be delighted to oblige, as master
of most aquatic tongues, from Malacca Clack,
to guttural Hudson and lisping Timorian.
For the historians of light opera among you,
Gilbert & Sullivan’s last operetta disappeared
into a teak cabinet in the War Office in 1899,
deemed ruinous to the future of the colonies.
Entitled 'Fishtopia', the only other manuscript
Gilbert entrusted to a Glasgow schoolmistress
who tutored the forebears of tonight’s cast.
Costumed in purple robes with orange masks,
they play an exotic secret police force
commanded tonight by the fire-bellied toad
on the stone – our crested newt is unwell.
We open with the frilly pink shubunkin chorus
telling of a world where Man outnumbers fish
which have become more precious than gold.
Suitors propose to their marriage partners
not with a ring but a herring or mackerel.
Billingsgate becomes the new Stock Exchange.
Only the Queen has permission to consume
the flesh, only when expecting royal offspring.
Read more >


Mongo Drongo vs Tokyo

Look out, here comes Mongo Drongo,
Banging drum like bing-a-bongo;
Hairy crown
And fiery gown,
Inviting you to sing along-o.

I am big and mighty strong-o,
Fear me
, bellows Mongo Drongo.
I’m off downtown
To stomp around,
You wanna come and tag along-o?

People flee in panicked throng-o,
Tanks defend, but not for long-o,
Towers tumble,
Buildings crumble,
Nothing stops great Mongo Drongo.

Mongo Drongo marches on-o,
Tokyo is good and gone-o,
Even Godzilla
And that giant gorilla
Are beat, bish-bash-bosh, run along-o.

But now he pauses, Mongo Drongo,
Understands he’s got it wrong-o.
He may be da King,
But he’s king of nothing,
And he knows that he doesn’t belong-o.

Read more >

The Cipher

This is the character that cannot be written
This is the mark, but the ink will not dry
This is the word that is lodged in the gullet
like a temperamental chorine wearing high glossed boots
This is the grapheme that scours lips with its bristles
a red-raw ligature, rising like a slur
This is the symbol that keeps its meaning hidden
ties tongues in knots, unties familial bonds
To read it is to know there is no native language
read it and learn how histories rely on subterfuge
This is the ideogram for ‘citizen of nowhere’
and like all good ideograms it does not reveal
the sounds that must be used to say it.
This is the character that cannot be written
This time there will be no translation.



I met an Indian
who lived days of solitude.
Nights crowned with stars.
Feet bathed in the pure water of streams.

There, in that isolated forest
sang next to his thatched hut
of clay and carnauba stands.
Human voice and bamboo flute
in chorus with the birds.

There was no such melancholy that had
the people's suffering
under concrete arches.
Men far from each other, away from the nature,
in stubborn pursuit of fame, goods and gold.

In the cold nights of that hinterland
he was the companion of himself
and of the flames of a bonfire.

For this forest man
with enough wealth that money does not buy.
He was lord of his universe,
wakeful guardian of the sacred legacy
of their ancestors.

Read more >


BA        KU
    CHI  KU

exhalation exhumation anti-interrogation

                        BA        KU
                            CHI  KU

bacchanal backchannel best bestride chantarelle

            BA        KU
                CHI  KU

force free radical consummation//foretell obliteration




Note: The Japanese word for “firecracker” (爆竹) is pronounced 'bakuchiku'. It is made out of characters which individually mean ‘crackle’ (or 'burst'), and ‘bamboo shoot’.



You know how it is when you don’t speak the language but you long to say something? When even the street signs are written in characters you can’t understand? When you’ve run out of money and you dread earning it the only way left to you? That’s when your heart, which is not in good shape anyway, fills with fear. That’s when you sit down on the pavement, put your head in your hands and feel your heart break.

You see the feet of all the people, hurrying by. Not one pair stops. Not one voice asks if you’re all right. But when you do look up, you see something, someone, a presence, sitting beside you. It’s wrapped in a hooded garment (to keep out the rain?) but you feel it, still and calming, beside you. And your fear disappears.

A hand stretches out towards you and you see its pale arm, its wrist, and the lines crisscrossing its palm and its fingers. You think it must be a very old hand. You summon your courage and take the hand in both of yours.

The hand guides your hands to your heart and rests them there. You hold onto the hand, press it to your heart and you cry the tears you’ve been holding back for so long. When you stop crying a voice says, ‘Kin’. And, ‘Sudgi’. ‘Kinsudgi’. And you repeat the word, even though you don’t know what it means, because it’s a comforting, soothing word. And you feel stronger as you say, ‘Kinsudgi… Kinsudgi’. And you wonder if, perhaps, your heart isn’t quite as broken as you thought? And you decide to find out what this, your first word in Japanese, means.


The Headless Emperor

I walk around like a headless chicken,
Flapping my wings, but going nowhere.
Red flesh exposed,
Feathers floating around my neck.

No hearing,
No voice,
No vision,
Losing all my senses.

Fazed up by the sharp blade of my executer,
Still refusing to fall down,
Flat on my cobwebbed feet.
I will never give up.

I am a headless Emperor,
Walking around my fictional kingdom,
Displaying my temporary wealth,
Wearing this ridiculous red silk embroidered coat.
Adorned with pearls, sapphires, rubies and emeralds.

My belly is filled with meat, grains,
Exotic spices, fruits and delicate sweets.

Read more >


The kids decided on the title.
A radish was feeling spicy. A ladybug with her hair in two black pigtail antennae cuddled a red pompom A six-year-old Viking from East Ham had his beard on upside down so that it grew up from the neck in a vulture-like ruff of black hair.

He yelled kind words in an angry way, 'There is room for everyone!'

They had decided to all wear red because it was a 'festive' colour which ten-year-old Naomi (the radish) said was a value she wanted to preserve, but their choice of character was personal. The children had been put in charge of the slot formerly reserved for the nativity play. The first story idea involved every character having no head.

Angie, a contract artist facilitator, suggested that may not go along with a festive theme. 'But it’s not violent, we just have no heads!' yelled Theo, pulling his shirt up over his head and banging into desks to demonstrate.

One seven-year-old decided that her character would be a period—menstruation personified—and circumvented the interdiction against headlessness by wearing a red sheet over her head with eye holes, which raised other questions.

It wasn’t Angie’s job to censor. As a young girl, she had played the donkey and though, if you asked, she would say she had rejected religion because of entrenched colonial and homophobic aspects, her donkey days played no small part. Read more >


Le rouge et le noir

We call the night black, but it is only a smudging of the light
A dulling of all that shines
And burns beyond.

The opposite of black is the song of the robin
The lifting and opening of the tiny beak
And the breeze that ruffles the feathers on his breast.

Dans le va et le vient
We watch the girls walk into the church on Santa Lucia's day
And the one who wears a crown of precarious candles.

Lucia's dark sister is merciless
She pulls at our sleeves, points through lit windows
At the trees shaking themselves down for the season.

Scents of cinnamon and orange greet us in the doorway
But the flames are already licking at the side of the house
And we dare not stay within.

Voice le rouge et le noir
The tail lights of the cars smearing on the wet street
And us, wondering.


Her Passion

It began with tentative brushstrokes, leaves that looked like crows’ feet, an ache in the arm as she swept brush across rice paper.

She’d spent fifteen minutes, maybe longer, grinding ink onto stone only to produce blobs of black liquid that spread like blood where it touched.

But she wanted this. Now on this weekend dedicated to the art of Chinese Brush Painting, she swabbed brush on paper with mechanical strokes and began to feel at home.

The tutor guided her strokes as she moved from leaves onto bamboo, orchids and cherry blossom, then, gathering confidence, she went large.

Across a trestle table she unrolled paper the length of a scroll and began painting lines and swirls. She added touches of colour, brash red to the blocks of black.

Uninhibited, she moved to working on the floor, taking over every available surface. Her classmates contracted into corners to give her space. By the end of the weekend she had a wall full.

She painted into the night when everyone else had gone to bed. She left with something to show for it. Her final masterpiece of black and red spoke of her passion.

I hear she is still going, has lined the bedroom wall and is designing drapes for the windows with Chinese calligraphy. Her arm no longer aches, brushes rest behind her ears, ink permanently stains her fingers.



My family has a history of hair
that has a mind of its own.

Frizzes at the sight of a brush –
coarse and flyaway; makes you
a target for playground bulliness.

In the days of my youth, my hair
allowed me the gift of names.

How thankful I was to be baptised
in the spit of bullies, as they gobbed
Poodle! Sheep! Afro!

Once, at seven I was dragged
round the playground by my hair:
mop pulled at root; water-logged eyes.

Look, my knees are still bloody with gravel
from the yard, clumps of hair in their hands.



Sat cross-legged playing Sega Genesis
Home from school many nights with Dr. Robotnik as my Nemesis
In Boo Boo’s room strictly no girls allowed but I’m still a feminist
I'm just reflecting on a golden childhood
I’m just here to reminisce

Storming the front room in my PJs
watching Fresh Prince and Saved By The Bell
Spilled my Cheerios down the side of the sofa but I won't tell
My brother and I would use our socks as boxing gloves, another black eye, oh well
Sunday nights watching Hocus Pocus, Salem the black cat talks. How do I cast this spell?

As I look back at my youthful days
I remember why I was so afraid
Growing up to be taken away
Withdrawing from creativity
I was betrayed


The Wildest Parties

We indulge in the wildest parties;
dress in clothes from Carnaby Street.

My artist friend is inspired
by all these night time scenes;
transforms them into dreams.

We frequent clubs in Soho,
stay with squatters by Marble Arch;
drab walls glammed up in splendour
with your pretty Chinese art.

We stumble into gutters;
greet sunrise by the Thames.

Partying hard soon takes its toll;
one more trip before our fall.

Fifty years, my dear friend,
since you sadly passed away;
your gifts of art, our memories,
hang proudly on my wall.


A Dangerous Road

One day, a little girl met a demon-man on the road
He had a great beard, and a crimson-red robe.
In fear she cried,
And tried to hide
But the roadside was barren.

The demon-man, seeing her face
Bent down and jested:
“Have no fear, little one.
I only eat man
Thrice-cooked in a pan
And served on a warm, tasty bun!”

But still the girl cried
The wind blew, and she shivered.
The demon-man swooped low,
And picked her up in his arms.
“We’ll soon get you home, girl
Just point me the way.
You must be so tired
From walking all day!”
As the girl pointed, she quivered.

So, off the two set - one of Hell, one of Heaven
And all eve they walked, ‘til the clocks struck eleven.
The parents, concerned for their child, stayed up late
And they cried out in joy when she came through the gate
Sound asleep in the demon-man’s arms.

Read more >

Chin Curtain

Dear Dollar Shave Club:

I do not normally write letters like this. I usually leave such letters to the nit-picky folks and the ones who only have the guts to say what they feel under the watchful and ever-sensitive eye of the internet. But, I feel compelled to write this letter and I feel that your group there are good-humored enough to take the facts as they lay without getting your panties in a wad. So here it is, plainly: Your razors suck.

To be clear, they didn’t used to suck, but they do now. You see, I ... well, I used it last night and the opposite of a shave happened. I thought it seemed a little tougher than usual, and I went to bed thinking I was just becoming one of the aforementioned nit-picky people. But, when I awoke, I discovered that my beard, instead of turning into a baby-bottom-smooth close shave, had in fact gotten longer.

“Well!” I said to myself in disgust, already beginning to point the finger at the good folks at DSC but hoping it was simply user error, and I went to shave again. But alas, my beard continues to grow! And quickly! That was an hour ago and the coarse hairs are tickling my fingers as I type. And I am not a short-torsoed man.

The beard is not only growing down, it is growing out and sort of up. In fact, I can hardly see my screen now, a problem I didn’t have when I sat down to write this letter. Right-o! Would you look at that? As if on cue, it’s gained another inch and I am not confident in this letter containing no typoos from here onn out. Oh my, the beard has wrapppped it self around my finger. Yes, my fingers. Wrapped. I... and now it’s... ow. Ow. Ow! It’s pukling. Polling. Pulbling. It’s Pulling!

Read more >

Awe Struck

Juro approached the young man who appeared awe struck by the painting.

“Are you an artist?” Juro asked.

“No, I am an art admirer and I have studied art culture, but I’ve never seen anything as extraordinary as this painting."

The painting stood out with its black symbols covering every facet of the background and its precise black flowing beard with its perfect strokes, made it difficult not to admire. The painter chose to use hair in place of a face, which made it unique.

“I noticed you were staring at this painting. May I ask what you see?” Juro asked.

“Oh, I see exquisite red color and a faceless man who wants to conceal his identity. See how the strokes of hair and beard completely consume where the face should be. Coincidentally, the artist has remained anonymous until this evening when the exhibit begins. I believe the painting was his way of hiding not only his identity, but also his sorrows.”

“You can see all that in this one painting?” Juro asked.

“Yes, I can. Well, it was nice talking with you, but I should go eat before the exhibit starts.”

Juro, hands behind his back, head straight, turned, and walked away.

The faceless man in the painting was Juro and the artist was Juro.


In a Bag as Big as the World

I once saw a man
with a bag of toys as big
as the world on his back.
He had an inky black beard
as unruly as the sun.

At first, I thought him
a stomping blur, the essence
of night, but he was alchemy
rooted in rhymes and all my
favourite childhood tales.

He was toy-laden. A magic
peppermint smudge. His face
was a cloud as he walked in
and out of my dreams. Larger
than a glorious blunder, he
chuckled the airiest laugh.

I was once a toy in that bag
as big as the world, and
every year I wrote to him -
Dear Santa, please find me
a child who needs my love.


The bloody bush

Beside my bed is a strange man,
He stands at three feet tall,
And though he’s very little
His hair is not so small

It’s big and thick and bushy
And it’s all that I can see
Above the bright red robes he wears
From chin down to his knee

The mighty beard stands fluffy wide
All fanning round his head
It looks soft and so inviting
From my uncomfortable bed

But oh, alas, and woe is me!
As I lean in to touch
His face all furry opened wide
And gobbled me straight up!


Rouge et Noir

A fuzzy sassy black doggie
Walking in the rain
Wearing a red rain coat
And tiny rain boots
To keep him warm
And dry through puddles
In town, so alas, he won't
Drown. Going for a lunch
Of sushi with raspberry tea
While doggie waits, patiently
Dreaming of his dashing lady
Pup, Ding Dong is her name
But, she never goes out
In the rain.


Our World, Our Responsibility

Dense, belching, ebony smoke.
Screeching, screaming, terrified lungs.
Pollution wreaking global havoc.
Progress, but for whom?

The oligarchs rub their hands with profit,
while the breathless struggle for life.
The choking cities clogged.
The withering earth scorched.

The millennials with their first world issues,
of which the third world would love to catch a glimpse.
Inequality and misguided justification set us unwittingly apart.
The always haves amidst the perennial have nots.

But does it always have to be this way?
If the plumes of smoke could clear
and the burning lungs set free,
the born and unborn will move on, united.



No way to stop it
a sudden eruption
hot as the first explosion
of everything from nothing
atom to infinity
in no time at all
swinging me into
my next tsunami
an exponential rush
of energy and light
brighter than any sun
generating storms
wild enough to carry
worlds away
and burn them all to ash-

in rivers of incandescent plasma
I dance in my red boots
over all objections
free as god
in his unreachable orbit
I ride joy
like an unbroken horse
a rocket launched
into the illuminated darkness
that surrounds us all