• Vol. 10
  • Chapter 09

Let’s Dance

“I’ve been dancing in the rain,” you said.

You didn’t need to tell me,
I’d seen you in the distance
doing your Gene Kelly thing
and more than looking the part.

Perhaps I should tell you to act your age
but I’ve given up on that.
And I won’t tell you to dress your age.
You’ll never dress in old women’s clothes.
And I’m glad about that.
Orange and pink are grand
and Gene Kelly would be lost in an envy
of black and white regrets.

So jump in and I’ll give you a lift
to get you out of the rain.
Or maybe I’ll park up
and join you in a dance
even though it’s raining
and I’m not dressed for it.

Yes, I think I will!



Despite arthritis tightened bones,
And heavy, achy muscles,
She crouched to peer in
Through the half closed window
To wish her beloved first born, 
Farewell - again,
In the hope that she too would now find
Her own burst of crimson red,
Petals of pink,
Thrive in the sun,
But find her own shade,
Keep her tight curls in,
Courage in her purse
And not bow to anyone
But her own.
She whispers gently into her ear,
‘Go forth my child,
Pave your path,
With pebbles of love,
And cemented with prayer.’
She sees then,
In the shadows that form beneath her
Once sparkling eyes,
That the wrinkles tell a newer story,
Not the laughter of the messy plays,
Masked balls in the lounge,
Castles in the golden sand,
Gran’s heels,
But a different kind of tale.

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The Undocumented Escapades of Lizzie

Lizzie would often escape the hemmed-in stuffiness of the big house. Nipping out the back door, swinging a left, she melded seamlessly into the bustling pedestrians of London. A smile would lift her cheeks, revelling in the adventure and ongoing deception of her minders.

She tried accents on, just as she did the numerous second-hand raincoats of charity shops. She was everyone: Orcadian, Corkonian, Yorkshire lass. She was East-End with the occasional Russian expletive. She adored uncoiling her lips and teasing her mouth around the wide and expansive continents of vowels. Sometimes she adopted a lisp which, she agreed (with herself), did much to enhance the sibilance of consonants.

It was always too formal at home with the constant stream of visitors to entertain. There was only so much a lady could take; the five course dinners, the obligatory lifting of the pinkie while sipping Earl Grey from gold-rimmed cups. The endless shaking of hands, the photographs, and nodding along to yet another boring monologue. She had had enough. She wanted to taste real life or at the very least to be able to sip a Guinness and munch crisps while playing dominoes with that nice Jamaican gent who frequented O’Dowds.

And so ensued her weekly abscondments.

She took the bus to Battersea Dog’s Home, donated rainbow collars and leads, swooned over the crossbreed-corgis.

In cafés, she devoured bacon butties while condensation spilled down the insides of windows.

‘Cuppa tea is it love?’

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The Car

Last night I stood by the car and I listened. I did my bit for the car, which we are all doing. This included stooping down to its level. I was listening for a heartbeat or a deep red colour.

There were so many drives. Do you remember. Where we stopped and when. We got soaked. Even with the rain it never lets in any water.

It nearly rolled that time the boys drove in convoy swerving like the A-road was their laughter.

I sometimes feel for the heat the tires make after a long journey and find nothing. Evidence of something.

The seats are organised as in a football game so the men don’t have to look at each other, he told me warmly over the phone.

During a personal crisis a road traffic accident happens. A grisly fact is shouted later above the hubbub of the busy station-front late at night, but only just. How to not let it become parenthesis.

The only time you could get the boy talking was behind the wheel.

I stood and saw how you take your listening with you. Like the primitive technology of an umbrella.

The red of a brake light is only a filter – a membrane – over the bulb.



I’ve never been one afraid to take time
to give directions to some passing stranger,
even if it means bumper to bumper traffic
from sea to shining sea.
                                   Let them lean on their horns
and give me the finger. shout cures and insults
from rolled down car windows.
Let the whole machinery come to a grinding standstill.
I’ll have that conversation or know the reason why.

Someone who’s lost deserves a break—
I’ve been given a break so many times,
I’d like to pay it forward to every being in the universe.

The wheels of the world go round and round.
No one wants to stop, no one wants to focus
on the matter at hand—
which some people call the Kingdom of Heaven.

You don’t have to call it anything,
just pause and take a deep breath
next time you feel so frantic you’d like to run over
the next pedestrian who makes you slow down.

The wheels of the world go round and round.
Why not stop them right here, right now, just between
the two of us at this busy intersection
where the one chance we have to be still can be gained—
or else lost forever in the pitiless glare
of unnatural fixation on the road that lies ahead?



Are you waiting for me?
I’ve been waiting here
all pink coat and orange umbrella.
Waiting for you to come along
To whisk me off to more colourful climes
Instead of the black, white cross marked with grey world
My feet hurt in these flats
I waited for a glass slipper
For some ruby slippers
For some kinky boots
Instead, I got brogues, wellingtons and rain
There’s no place like home except
the walls are crushing the colour out of me
I long for escape
Green fields and yellow roads
The blue horizons and the sea
In all its vastness
Are you waiting for me?
Quick! before the lights change
and we are stuck on red
You were waiting for me, weren’t you?



There was a pink lady in Cork:
Grey hair, her heart tough as a pork.
With an umbrella
She looked for a fella,
To shag an old shoe and then talk.

There was a pink lady in Cork
Who said around five at the fork:
“In one little hour
You have the power
To be THE man of sky city Stork.”

There was a pink lady in Cork
Who talked to herself at her work:
“Abuse and old age
I swap love for a wage
And kill all the men who are dorks.”


Memory Lane

Sometime past midnight,
the road wanted us
damp skin, hunger as crimson as lust,
windows down as we drank in the cool night air

We were lemon and coconut
buttered and tan
laughing at the boys who would come along some day
promising we would always be friends

How much happiness could we stand?
those days feel like forever ago
and yet like yesterday
pushing the limits of speed and running red lights

Now we meet as middle aged women
sandalwood and jasmine
golden and refined
no one is vibrating out of their skin anymore

Frizzante drinks and shared cigarettes,
we are compelled to travel down memory lane
pushing the limits of nostalgia
and shared soundtracks
reminding ourselves that we once were
impulsive and sparkly and silly

We are not drunk on life anymore
but that is okay
we have love
and that is a steady hunger
that will never fade



The film poster, encased in a glass frame attached to a wall, drew Malaize into the cinema. The poster didn’t give the film’s title, or the names of the actors and principal film crew. Instead, it showed a woman with a coral-coloured umbrella bent over, conversing with someone in a car. Malaize could see neither person’s face. Behind them, blurred, a man used what looked like a sprayer on a wall.

This isn’t an action film, Malaize thought, or a rom-com. Could be a quirky comedy.

She walked into the cinema’s empty foyer and up to a uniformed girl.

‘Has the film begun?’ Malaize asked.

‘It’ll start when you go in,’ the girl said. ‘We’re waiting for a customer. You’re the first in a long while.’

‘How much to see it?’

‘Just go in.’ The girl gestured at the foyer’s decaying décor. ‘The place is due for renovation. I wouldn’t have the nerve to ask anyone to pay.’

The girl’s remarks unsettled Malaize. She glanced back at the entrance.

‘If you leave, you’ll miss a good film,’ the girl said. ‘It’s not a cinematic masterpiece, but you’ll appreciate it.’

‘What’s it called?’

‘You’ll find out.’

With that, the girl disappeared behind a red curtain.

Malaize looked round. At the back of the foyer, she saw double doors and, beside them, the same poster as the one outside. She studied it up close.

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These daring redundancies
of the days
with the countryside in my eyes.

Amalgamations of rungs
on the way here,
of my place in the city now
and acceptance
made me curious to see
if you had turned out
like them.


This airless city
always spirals out of control
for me.
I always bring out
my worst shoes
for this
endless walk
through the boroughs.

But I swear
I'll always wear my best pink coat
for your sake.
It's yours to keep
after I leave.


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Catching the Moment

You’ll get your hair wet, she said,
Though it was her fault I was leaning over
Her voice so soft I had to use my eyes to hear.
I had to try to read her lips to understand.

She told me things I already knew:
I didn’t match.
I was too much
I’d never find her
I wasn’t loved

They only caught the moment of my stooping.
They never caught the moment of my rise.


On-the-Job Assessment

‘Now then, now then,
what's going on here then?’
has always been
a good opener.

There is nothing to say
they must be young,
or even a woman,
is there?

The handbook of modern mores doesn’t say
they will be dressed the way
some describe as ‘asking for it,’
does it?

Neither do prevailing societal norms
decree that punters
will be men,
now do they?

They might be,
or they might not yet
have made up their mind,
might they?

Now then, now then,
who is asking and who is offering?
What kind of proposition, deal or trade
is going on here, exactly?

Do you ever stop to ask yourself
whether they are simply

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The Park Bench

Older than a gran if I had a gran
she has pink hair.
She fumbles in a torn bag
pouring her life onto the cold park bench.

Big black purse, two packs of pills
one heart spray like Kevin, but her eyes
don't look scared. Big torch, no keys.

Ought to warn her to mend that bag
her overspill ankles aren't geared for sprinting.

Knock knock...Do an eye sweep for imaginary friend
scroll old texts, too close for mock phone call.
She gives me tea from a flask.

Talks, yes talks to me about Windrush and waiting lists
those things that stop me sleeping
and guess what, my leg didn't bounce, I didn't stutter
when yes...I answered her.

We didn't need to say goodbye, we shared the same air.
When I turned to go she heard my wheels whisper on the grass with the voice of a son.


Woman with a red umbrella

Or should that be woman in a pink coat?
Or even; woman with a rainbow shopping bag
And a brown handbag.
Or why not; woman with dark tights and grey shoes?
Or maybe; woman with grey hair.

If it were a man, would it be entitled ‘Man talks to a car driver’?

Let’s start again;
woman trying to find a way home in
Washington D.C during the bus strike in 1974.
Or better still; woman negotiating a taxi fare.
Or the best I can think of:

Woman talking to a friend about the rain and how annoying it is to get home during the strike but she supports the strikers as how else are they going to get a better wage and we should all stick together as we are all wage slaves at the end of the day.


And There She Goes Again

earlobe deep in the open window
of some paused car     offers her voice
like a pearl flung from disused oyster

metallic ridges of safety meets
sparkling soprano    50s sugar dust
sprinkled on the morning rush

witness brows rise f  all     recede
to the headrest as the window whirls
through nearby echo of Que Sera sera

the traffic lights change    sudden
effort of tyres    the exhaust path
directing her to some other audience



Where is

The road to the center? Am I going

the long way? Beneath this city

you know

there are tunnels, I’ve been through

most - but could never

find any end.

I’ve caught nearly

every bus and tram and

I've lost

so many

Please tell me, where is

The road to the center?


The Case of Mrs. Brown

She was last seen on Commonwealth Avenue, wearing a pink trench coat, her favorite bronze metallic loafers, and carrying an orange umbrella. There was a relentless drizzle that day, the kind we get in Boston in late April when the air tittered between humid cold and false warmth.
    I jot down what the daughter told me. Her mother had a purse with a gold metal twist lock with her, and a recycled shopping bag with an orange handle.
    "This is very helpful, Miss Brown, people remember unusual clothing, bright colors."
    It’d been three days since Mrs. Brown had disappeared and the police wasn’t doing enough. The photo she gave me showed a woman in her late 50s, handsome, thick gray hair neatly brushed with a side bang, curly waves wrapping around her neck, brown eyes, shiny lips drawn into an ironic smile as if taunting us to find her.
    Miss Brown assured me her mother was in perfect health, no signs of memory loss, or other abnormal behaviors.
    "Is everything—fine between Mr. and Mrs. Brown?"
    "Yes, my parents are fine, they’ve been married for decades."
    "All right. I'll knock on some doors and see what I can find."

    Commonwealth Avenue was a 1.5 mile stretch of sidewalk, residential apartments, and campus buildings. An idea came to me as I pulled out the photo and stared at it for a minute. Dellaria Salon near Kenmore Square offered haircuts, highlights, and balayage.
    "Yes, that's Eleonora," the young woman at the cash register said. "She was just here the other day. I gave her a hair trim and a blowout."
    "When was it?"

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A Liar

Leeched hopes to reality
Like long droughts to rain

The song like drizzle
To a threatening downpour

The thorough going pores
The bended twisted knees

The assurances of a new day
To the unkempt self image

And sometimes the piercing shiver
Of permanent hopelessness

But my brain is no Sage
It is by birth, a demoralising liar


Grey Day

Fine, grey drizzle blurs my vision, making distance hard to judge. I flick the wipers on, grimacing as they squeal across the windscreen. Traffic crawls ever slower until we reach an impasse. I’m boxed in by glum men, in grey suits, driving their characterless cars to their no doubt tedious jobs. No hope of moving any time soon. Will this incessant greyness never end?

Cursing loudly, I turn off the protesting wipers. Misty droplets join forces, gathering momentum. I’m mesmerised, trying to predict the paths they’ll take as they trickle down the glass. The radio newscaster drones on – yet more doom and gloom. Perhaps some fresh air will revive me. I open the window.

An elegantly shod, middle-aged woman is walking slowly towards me. At least her cerise coat adds some colour to the dreary scene, even if it does clash wildly with her enormous, red umbrella. She must like being the centre of attention – a bright flower in a monochrome land.

No! It can’t be. Not here… not now… not her. I look away, praying she hasn’t seen me. Dear God, please make this traffic move. I enter into desperate plea bargaining with the Almighty, which wouldn’t be quite so hypocritical if I actually believed in his existence. However, that small, technical detail doesn’t prevent me from promising him a whole host of things if he will only get me out of here.

Ears straining, I hardly dare to breathe. I can feel the pulse in my temple – a sure sign of an impending headache. I scrabble in the glove compartment. There must be some paracetamol in here somewhere. I’m still scrabbling frantically when I hear her call my name…

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Your mission, should you choose to accept it
[I might]
is to embark on a guerrilla exercise
[A what?]
Maybe it’s my accent:  not the ape kind
[What other sort is there? Oh, never mind.]
whereby you accost strangers in the street
[Best place to find them, all right.]
yes, and ambush with a poem.
[Oh, a guerrilla poet, like?]
Precisely that, but sweet.
[And what sort of ah, poetry do I . . . ]
It depends on the situation, the context
[Oh, like if it was snowing, then Frost?]
Realistically, not so much snow in July.
[Maybe the daffodil one?]
It’s summertime, come on!
[I remember cycling one hot summer]
That could do it, but pedestrians . . .
[I know, there’s ambivalence, I wonder.]
How about the Daisy one, for two?
[I’ll have to memorise it through.]
Or maybe, on a lead, a little dog
[How much is that doggie . . .]
In the window, yeah, but better
[Not doggerel, you mean?]
You’re getting there. Just fit the scene.
[Or, like, make one up, there on the spot?]

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and when I picture you leaving

and when I picture you leaving
it’s not some hollywood, showstopper moment
you’d let me drive you to the train station,
a silence floating between us, entirely our own
–it’s soft, as most things in your orbit are

as you recede into swells of elsewhere
       I’ll take our silence and fashion myself
a cocoon—calming corners fill up the cab
hands slipping down steering wheel, imagine
the swirl of your curls around these vacant

fingertips, raindrops mosaic this windshield
       deadstop in a downpour—I’ll open this shell
let remnant drops refract back the somber
of this city without you, no longer there to dance

alongside taillight rubies, your fleeting form
collects in prisms atop rumbling engines, drips
down wiper blades until nothing but a silhouette
streams across the back window, soaring to asphalt

and when I picture you leaving,
       you’re wearing bright pink, a bubbling beacon
       poised and perfectly prepared for the
       puddling ground, the adventure to be found
       brewing in the confusion of else-isles

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Leaning In

You will learn to wind your car window down one day and stick your head out like an uncastrated dog, your tongue tasting escape. I will be fourteen years old again, leaning into your shout for directions. I will point forward and explain the number of roundabouts and you will spray vodka into my eyes from a water pistol as your mates speed away and roar. I will be a boring stranger, my short trousers and stained fleece torn apart by your teeth, opinions thrown on country lanes like litter. I am seventy-two years old, helping you check your tyre pressure, teaching you how to top up your oil. Your footwell is stuffed with vegetarian sausage roll packets and a tote bag of animal biscuits for your son. You wind your window down, tell me not to wait in the rain to wave you off with lips I already miss on my cheeks.

Struldbrug in a Fuchsia Coat

Rush hour in Luggnagg,
a struldbrug with a crimson parasol asks for directions:
“Which way is heaven?”
She has been circling the island for days,
her lost face a smudge of mascara tears.

Above her left eyebrow
time’s long arc is stamped like a wax seal, inimical black.
Bent double with the burden
of fourscore years, she is officially deceased,
cursed to walk these streets for all eternity.

She wears a fuchsia coat
in the vain hope that she will be noticed, but her insides
are dust, a pill-box regimen,
the mind collapsing, cloud-wisped, bereft:
this is the spare theatre of fading ghosts.


Every. Minute. Of. The. Day.

From where you’re standing you can’t see, but you are certain – as certain as death in February – that she is wearing that lipstick that matches her coat. The lipstick you bought for her to wear at your father’s funeral. She hadn’t realised where she was, or what was happening. Hadn’t noticed the dark nods and empty smiles of his friends as they paid their last respects. Hadn’t noticed the splintering of your voice as you repeated and repeated and repeated the line, ‘Dad passed away.’

From where you’re standing you can’t hear, but you are certain – as certain of the stage four diagnosis she received last month – that she’s asking and asking and asking the lady the same question, ‘Where’s Stan?’ Nothing changes. When he was alive she wanted to know where he was. Her eyes were on him, her fingers in his pockets, fumbling for clues, checking up on his movements, Every. Minute. Of. The. Day.

From where you were standing, though you couldn't understand it then – no more than you can understand it now – she wore her pink lipstick while she scrabbled about the private spaces of your father’s life, asked her questions, made her accusations, pecked and pecked and pecked at his dignity for so long she eventually lost the meaning of it all.

From where you were standing, though you couldn’t understand it – no more than you can understand it now – he was the only one prepared to care for her. You couldn't do it. Not after all these years. You know you couldn’t cope with the same questions over and over and over again. Every. Minute. Of. The. Day.


Windows down

It’s Friday morning and Ma is driving us into the city. I should be in class. Instead, my thighs are sticky on the leatherette seat of Brian’s car. It smells of cigarette smoke. We have all the windows down even though it's raining.

Brian left at 2:23am. That’s what my Minnie Mouse alarm clock said. I was watching the green digits pulse in the dark. Her big mouse ears twitched on my bedside table when the door slammed. Brian came back and banged on the glass and swore at 2:43am. It was 3:23am when he left again, after the neighbour swore too and said he was calling the police.

At 5.33am Ma came into my room and just said, “Get up.” I put on my t-shirt and shorts and sandals and picked up my satchel and climbed in the back of the car. But at the end of our street, we didn’t turn left to go to school.

The journey seems to be taking a long time but without Minnie counting for me I’m not sure. I don’t ask questions as Ma doesn’t like to talk when she drives. She says she has to concentrate. This morning she seems to be concentrating super hard. She often puts on the radio, but today she hasn’t even done that.

I say my six times table in my head and look out, to see flashes of green lawns and the long straight grey motorway and the big factory chimneys giving off smoke and the warehouses behind mesh fences. We cross the river on a bridge I saw once on TV.

There’s a lot of traffic now. The fumes mix with the smell of Brian’s cigarettes and I bury my nose in my satchel. I dip my head down to try and

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The 143

The figures leant in to each other
as the bus groaned through the city
and suddenly I saw it
from one mouth to the next like sap.
It was pouring all around me, then.
The clouds emptied their life’s work
and rinsed the trees, cleaned out the gutters.
Love is patting the graves
and putting out flung cigarettes, I thought.
Love is going down into the drains.
The homeless are turning up their heads to taste it.
As a child, I saw some
rising from the tarmac one day
in a bare McDonald’s carpark.
It steamed off the ground
the way I imagine it steamed off the streets of Pompeii,
the lovers in their beds.
I ran through that steam like Snow White’s step-mother
in those red-hot shoes,
the magic coursing through my veins
and out of my mouth in crazy giggles.
(Mum and Dad just shook their heads.)
And it was dribbling down the window, too,
leaving trails I wanted so desperately to follow.
The windscreen wipers squeaked, for love was blinding them,
and umbrellas bobbed along the streets
like brilliant mushrooms.


New York

Ongoing roadworks on 5th Avenue—no surprise there. Whether it was March or September, winter or summer, the cityscape was always changing, and so was she. Just like the new cement being poured daily that, incidentally, looked exactly like the old cement, hers was also a gradual, barely perceptible, kind of change. Everyday she became more aware of how her hair was growing out for the first time after years of relentless cutting, and how her spring-freckles were already showing even though she couldn’t remember the last time she’d been in the sun. Or the last time it hadn’t rained, for that matter.
As she walked the street under a drizzle, she mentally patted herself on the shoulder for—somewhat too responsibly, she thought—grabbing her red umbrella in a spasm before walking out. It seemed only fair, this sporadical scolding herself for acting in ways she thought symbolized her having become a lady—the kind who keeps multiple cans of beans and pineapple in her cupboard just in case… and sometimes she really wondered at her storing of supplies in preparation for God-knows-what, at how she’d gone from being the girl who would occasionally shun wearing panties for a night out to the woman who would come home with dozens of identical groceries. And it would sometimes startle her, when she opened her cupboard, seeing the rows of cans peeking at her from the shelf, reflecting that one transparent fact, that she was old now. Oh, but what of it? Trees grew old too. It was only natural. But why did the natural feel so repulsive at times, so.. unnatural?
The cans seemed more ironic by the day. It was a glint, nothing more. A way in which the light of the kitchen would hit the metallic circumference at the top and make it gleam derisively, like a condescending wink.
But that afternoon, as she crossed the street with her ritual zig-zagging between taxicabs and motorcycles—moccasins pounding melodically on the

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To Lose Everything and Die with It

To Lose Everything and Die for it Punch me know how it feels how it goes away too soon like its memory holding the pull of time holding out for something punch me in the guts how is it feels like pool of blood pressure lowing it feels like pool of blood holding a pitch in decay decades of forlorn expulsion of punch list of items in the guts free to call pulling me out of time call the feels like pool of blood holding a punch me know how it goes away too soon golden hours on methadone climbing and scoring a high from the closest thing to blood pressure lowing the punch me know how it feels holding on to the feeling like blood spilt on a pool of soil golden brown hasish found in my pocket and two years after that hit me in the guts feel how it goes holding a pitch and putt goal in mind to star in my own golden hours brow beaten path to gold punch me know how it feels Holding up the rush of running to nothing a globe holding on to it like how is it feels golden blood pressure lowing the punch me in the guts how are we feeling blood holding up the acolyte it goes away too soon punch me know what you are missing golden hours on methadone climbing and closing gate to star in my own and operate a higher level than God holding on to nothing is happening fast as you running away from too soon punch me know when it comes to blood pressure lowering your thoughts down to memory card punch in the head all gone to her head now holding on my way to freedom of memory cells broken and missing like chemical reaction to antidepressants is so sad down in the morning and in my night time memory punch in the morning and night at golden hours blood pressure lowering your price list for closing gate to freedom blood golden brown hasish found in my pocket with the ticket to hell never gone through the whole day without your consent format time it moves around universe floating around your body slowing growth and you feel like punch me know how it feels like pool going too soon holding the pull out of your life holding the baby of love despite the gate to freedom of golden hours on

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The office drained her of colour

At 9am she became a prim black dress
wearing shoes that went to bed early
saying no thank you to seconds of spaghetti
There wasn’t room for personality here –  
not sandwiched between ringing phones
and sealed letters full of nagging

The greying men smoked in the boardroom
spouting impossible acronyms
yelling when they needed anything
The women ignored their abject arrogance
which dripped from the ceiling
with their nicotine

But when the clock stopped at 5pm
and she was spat back onto the street
with the other perms and tights
she flamingoed
Out came the candyfloss mackintosh
and an umbrella, nectarine orange,
spinning vibrant on her shoulder.

She stopped traffic of course
Bleak women in mud-brown cars
pulled up to ask for directions –
without needing them
The coat topped up their spirit
just as their kind words topped up hers
a buoyancy for long and stifled days



She laughs when I ask if she wouldn’t rather come in the car with me. But your bags, I say, indicating the straps clutched in her right hand, heavy-bellied fabric dangling dangerously close to the wet tarmac. She makes a dismissive motion, as though I really ought to have thought of something better. I’ve carried heavier, love, she tells me. You wait till you get to my age.

Up ahead, in the drizzle, the lights blink slowly through their cycle. Red, orange, green, orange, red. Nothing moves, the traffic backed up all the way to the bridge. It’s like this often in the mornings, but for this time of day such a snarl-up is unusual. Something must have happened, an accident or a burst water main, right on the very edge of the inner district. The other drivers around me seem to sense this also. They wait patiently, resignedly, no one blaring their horn or trying to edge forward into a minuscule gap, gain whatever small advantage they can.

You could at least sit in out of the rain, I try, but again she brushes off my suggestion as though swatting away an insect, lip curled slightly at the corner, brow furrowed in irritation. Droplets shower from her umbrella, bead in her tight-set hair.

You won’t be going anywhere like this, she says, indicating the traffic. I’m better off walking. And besides – she shifts as though to straighten – a little bit of exercise never hurt anyone. This last seems rather pointed, and I begin to regret having reached automatically for my car keys when I saw it was raining; having stopped to chat to Mrs Henderson in the hallway, exchanging thoughts on how often to water a potted hydrangea; having opted to take what’s usually a shortcut over the bridge because I was running late by then; having stuck to the outside lane to avoid cutting up

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Seeing Red

Maybe nobody told you
pink and red clash –
I wouldn’t be caught dead
in such a fashion crime – or maybe
you didn’t have a choice, what
with the rain and all. But,
it doesn’t explain
the matching bag strap.

I don’t know why, but
at the sight of that brolly,
this turned to a bullfight –
you: the matador with the muleta,
me: the raging bull. Something
about your sunny disposition,
your brightness, hurt me,
made me mad, when all you did

is ask for directions during a traffic jam.



Ethel Brannigan
Has cornered the market
For a very special clientele.
They draw up, lower the window
Eyes hungry,
Motors running,
Hard men soft in their shell.
She leans in
She knows.
Ethel is floral, calm and powder-sweet
Her eyes are grey and big behind the lenses
Looking them over
Checking for wounds.
They start with simple stuff, the basics
But a small, apologetic smile and then the whispered wants appear
As Ethel’s warmth kneads them soft like cookie dough.
Knitting while they watch will cost them $50.
An extra 10 and they’ll get cocoa.
For a little more she’ll bake them something nice and listen to their day
And if they pay enough they’ll get the good stuff
A fairy tale or story
About how things used to be
Then Ethel will leave them
Safe and sound
Tucked in and safely small
While she looks out for other hungry souls to save.



I roll down my window and she leans closer
The same proud pink coat still wraps her as comfortably
as the last time we laid eyes on each other
Two decades have idled past since then
I can’t help but notice she still carries her cherry umbrella
And how it twirls perpetually on her back
despite the obvious lack of rain
A jackhammer blares from behind the barrier
while horns scream their frustration
I barely hear her words
Does she say she’s proud of me?
I can’t be sure
She never said it when she was alive
The lights roll from red to green
For a moment I stall
But as she vanishes into the bloating smog
I shove my hesitant car into gear
and steer into another creeping decade alone



She’s been flitting all over the place,
collecting poems
with her little poem-bag.
She gathers them from every
dandelion and poppy
on every corner and sidewalk.
In summer showers
she shelters under blousy
canopies of flowers.
Just a few weeks old,
she has a beauty in old age
that is fragile yet strong as iron.
She’ll catch you off guard
in rush-hour traffic,
folding her wings and lovely head
though the open windows
she’ll sweep by
on carnival sails dusted
with a touch
of wild rose crimson.
In the rear-view mirror you watch
her go; a sketch of pink
against the wet city streets—
her poem for you.


An Urban Tale

Within the color of nightfall,
someone I do not know
steps from the doorway of a tavern,
and asks if my friends and I
can escort her from one block to the next.
We are walking that way—so—
why not? and we are suddenly companions
finding humor in everything around us,
the dancer who cannot dance,
the singer who cannot sing,
the man on the corner with a snare drum—
and then we are with them,
dancing badly with the dancer,
singing badly with the singer,
and one of us pulls out a pair of metal spoons
and joins the drummer.
My three buddies,
the young lady we do not know,
the dancer, the singer,
the man with the drum—
an eruption of color and light,
a melody of laughter and great joy,
and the street and the sidewalks overflow
with a hundred people singing,
smiling, forming a line dance
spreading across the block,
and everywhere we look,
night vibrates into a rainbow.



it is hard to know what goes
on neath
the lid of a bin
the roof of a car
the bonnet of a car
the canopy of a brolly
the clasp of a handbag
the folds of a trench coat
that second skin of hosiery
the first skin of the epidermis
the surface of a well-used road
the lower limit of audible sound



The Orange Umbrella
The Pink Coat
The Sensible Shoes

The Orange Umbrella--
NO she said NO--
What did she mean?

The Pink Coat--
the eccentric insistence
on nothing at all

The Sensible Shoes--
crossing a boundary
of impossible distances

Chance observation--
accidental convergence--
attention is paid

Chance observation
raining with questions
abstracted by light

Accidents converge--
redistribute endlessly--
What did she say?

Attention is paid—
The Pink Coat
The Orange Umbrella


My Gran’s Brolly

Walking through the front door
into a tiled veranda,
ornately beckoning you in.

The three-legged brolly stand
perched in the corner,
next to my Gran’s walking stick
which was ornately decorated with
miniature metal shields
from bus journeys
and train trips;
bygone holidays of yesteryear.

The umbrella always placed
end tip down,
canopy collapsed.

Even after the heaviest downpour
it could not be left open
to dry indoors.
Superstition precluded such an activity,
although I never discovered
if it was on par with spilling salt
or just a mild misdemeanour!

The 70’s floral designs,
oranges, yellows and browns,
I suppose today they would be
described as vintage.

Read more >


My grandmother’s gestures and expressions were precise and overly rehearsed like a classic symphony, all the muscles in her face playing their instruments to perfection. No chuckle, glance or grimace happened spontaneously, and any reaction was carefully measured for appropriateness before being displayed. It made her taut and theatrical and false even when she was genuine, and the rest of us wondered often how she could still breathe, girdled by the immense fear of being herself.

She looked and dressed like the Queen of England. Her shoes were discreet, her coats were bright fuchsia or turquoise like tropical seas and her curls were argent and well-behaved. We spotted her on the Upper West Side, the only marvellously colour-blocked outfit gliding down the wet asphalt, a hot peony trench coat with a red umbrella. She walked with straight shoulders and a stoic expression on her wrinkled face, maintaining her elegance in the face of the messy October rain, mixed with wind and mild flakes and indecision.

We stopped the car and rolled down the window and called my grandmother, who took a few seconds to recognize the source of the shouting and a few more seconds to look around her mortified, as if we’d just shown a photo of her in her nightgown to everyone. ‘How dare you call at me like that, what are you, a rooster?’


Roll Down The Window, Please

What do you say when the last minutes finally arrive after wearing the robe of goodbye all day in preparation? You were hoping for wisdom or a pause in time to freeze this day. Wishing for a Polaroid photo. A square to step back into that includes the feel of his hug with chin to your head top, the scent of his hair, his hum in your ear. All day long you have collected snapshot moments stacking them in your heart for safekeeping. Each one a glint in the sun before the next cloud passes. Together is precious and nothing else feels the same. Then you are standing by the car door and the time has come. An internal wanting to divide yourself in half. Half of you to go with him. Not to interfere, just to be a part of his life movie. A supportive character without a speaking role, that remains to the side in each scene, watching his unfolding contributions, adventures, learnings. But you know that is not how it works. And you are proudgrateful that the world needs him and that he is in it somewhere. You step back from the car accepting release until a right turn takes him from sight. Sunlight peaks through the continuing drizzle. The glow of your red umbrella shines on the empty street and you are glad for the noticing.



There are many ways to talk to strangers.
You can ask, for one thing. The downside to this approach
Is that it’s hard for them to hear you through the glass.
You might try offering something – an umbrella, an anecdote,
A glimpse of your character – but you might be the type
Who prefers to listen. In which case
You could ask them about themselves,
But avoid inane comments about the weather
Or questions about what brings them to New York.
You’ve only got a moment
And what you really want to know is their feelings
About their upstairs neighbor – the last time their heart was broken –
Whether they’re pet people – or
What kind of sorrow backsplashed them like a puddle at the curb?
At the intersection of the awkward and the genuine
People lose their strangeness. It doesn’t matter
What you do, really.
Just talk.


The Kindness of Strangers

The young never heed a warning. They wanted directions to the vacant apartment building; you know the one. I could see the girl glancing at my blouse, my pink coat, a sneak peek up at my umbrella, the little drops crawling down and plopping the side of their car. Maybe they thought me too earnest, too old. But they wanted something from me, and although I even had them repeat the steps to the haunted hill, I asked them to forget how to get there, to turn around, go back where they came from. I’ll admit that that’s what I said, but I knew they would go. And what they would find. What would happen to them. I can’t say I care. Those judgmental looks and youthful conceit bring out the worst in me. I forgot to tell them to bring a cross. Not that they would have done so. I watched them drive off toward Ash Street, a tiny smile winking off the sides of my mouth.


I wouldn’t start from here

Where did I get the Mac?  Brannigans of course.  Aye, they only have the best.  How to get there?  Well, I wouldn't start from here.  Once you're in The Diamond you can only head out of town to the west.  You'll need to follow the road over there towards Rostrevor and then swing right round the big roundabout.  Yes, all the way back round on yourself, and into the one-way system again.  Yes, it's a terrible pain in the neck, so it is.  And you'll need to change lane just as you come off the big roundabout to be able to head for New Street.  Watch out for the buses, they come flying along that stretch and they'll cut across the front of you, so they will, in a trice.  

I don't know what they were thinking of, the planners.  Chopping and changing all the time.  You can see there's some sort of shenanigans going on here too, and the cars were already having to double park just so a body can run into the shops and pick up a few messages.  Aye, that's what I'm doing.  I was just about to pick up a few bits and pieces for tea for himself.  He's doing much better now he's finally started using the walking stick.  Sure, pride is a terrible thing in a man.  I've already been to the bank and the post office and got a copy of the weekly Newsletter.  That wee man McMullen in the paper shop could talk the hind leg off a donkey, so he could.  

The shopping bag?  It was a Christmas present from my niece Imelda, the one up at Queen's University.  She's doing well, so she says, but my sister is powerful worried about her, up there on her own in the city.  Ach, not on her own, really, but you know when they leave home it's a quare wrench, especially for the mammy.  Even if Imelda's home every weekend.

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Miss P Catches a Taxi

There are times when catching a taxi
is the only answer.
Floating down through the clouds
to a soundtrack of A Spoonful of Sugar
is all very well,
but landing on city streets
can be a dangerous pastime.

Besides which,
the trope of brolly in one hand
and carpet bag in the other
is a bit of a cliché,
even for an icon like Mary.

Better by far
to use the finger-clicking trick
to transform traditional black
into Vivienne Westwood shades
of scarlet and shocking pink.

The ruse is to hide in plain sight,
where only the most observant
would clock the brolly, the bag,
the feet always placed at ten-to-two.


Cranberry Suitcase

The cranberry suitcase was a gift intended as a parting gesture. One of patently admirable intentions and safety measures – both curious and questionable. Each compartment was stocked – petroleum jelly and blueberry scones, talcum powders and breath freshener. Each zipper locked. Somewhere, somewhere inside the faux-leather lot, my garments, mostly gingham and knits, were pressed and folded. Packed and planted. My belongings were a peculiar assortment of threads both sewn and yet-to-be owned. Up until the moment the train departed, the suitcase and I were one. Then, our paths parted. I was sent to the train’s spine, a seat in its lower back. The suitcase would join a mess of others’ property. A sea of navy, mud, and ash with my case, a cranberry on top. Compartmentalized and stocked. I clearly remember the moment the suitcase and I parted –

ways. the train on a one-way
track. All seats occupied,
of men in suits and mustaches
(not mouths) freshly washed.

I found my seat, claimed my space,
flicked specks of mud off my pink
raincoat (not a trace), then
crossed my chest (first) and
my nylon-covered legs (second).

Just. Like. That.

I was nearly off and newly
planted. All plans executed.

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A Brief Politics of Joy

What’s that? You like my umbrella. Well before you go out and get one for yourself let me tell you a thing or two. For starters, it’s fucking useless. If it’s really coming down, an umbrella isn’t going to do shit to keep you dry. Okay, so maybe your head stays a little drier than the rest of your body, but if you’re soaked to the bone, who really gives a shit if your head is a little drier than it otherwise might have been, you know what I mean? And if it’s not coming down that hard, then what the fuck is even the point? Are you going to melt if you get a little damp? Not unless you’re the wicked witch of the whatever, and guess what? She’s a fictional character. As for the rest of us, there are these things called showers and the last I checked, we take them voluntarily at least once a day. Then on top of being useless, it’s a menace. You’re always a step away from wrapping it around a lamppost or tangling it up in some low-hanging awning. And if I haven’t poked anyone’s eye out with yet, that’s nothing but dumb luck and I probably will before I go home which, believe or not, is actually a much more effective way of avoiding the rain than walking around in it holding a piece of fabric over your head at the end of a metal stick like a dumbass. But you’re right, it is a lovely shade of orange. I picked it out it this morning for the same reason I picked out this stupid ass pink coat – because I’m always looking for ways to brighten up a dreary day.


The Colorful Passenger

It was raining when I hit the road, and the car was a little shaky. I myself was a little shaky after visiting home. A tried-and-tested recipe to end up in a meltdown, which exactly happened the night before. The next morning, I picked up what was left of my nerves and decided to cut my trip short. Driving in the rain calmed me. As if the windshields wiped away the pain as well. After a while, I saw a bright dot on the side of the road. As I drove closer, the blur started to shape. An elderly woman dressed in a long pink coat, a playful tote bag, and a red umbrella. Odd choices but I liked it! She was signaling for passing cars. No other car seemed to bother stopping, which bothered me.

I slowed down and lowered my window glass, "Can I help you?" She bent over and I saw her face for the first time, "So nice of you to stop! Yes, could you drive me just a little down the road?" She spoke in a sweet tired voice that sounded familiar. She brought her delightful color medley into my very classic-looking car. "I hope you have not been waiting in the rain for too long?", I asked. "Oh, it's fine, I'm quite used to it. I bet you are too" she responded. Indeed I was, growing up on the coast. "I am, what made you think that?", I asked curiously. "My dear, I don't think, I know! I also know how horrendous your visit home has been. Are you doing well?".

I kept my eyes on the road, trying to focus on driving rather than the knotting in my stomach. “Don’t you fret, I am not some psychopath haha,” she said in her still sweet but then terrifying voice. “I was just thinking what to tell you when we meet, and there’s a lot to say really” she went on. “What do you want from me?” I asked in the strongest tone I could manage. “Nothing dear, it is you who need something from me. You need me to tell you, that you will be alright. No matter what happens, you will

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Holland Taylor shows up

in my worst moments.
She is sixty always
nursing one drink,
fifth on the credits,
first to call a spade a spade.

She sits on the board
of the foundation for trustees,
smells of light oak.
I am negotiating another breakdown
when she visits,
brightly tight
perm. Offers fifteen solutions,
prescribes a medicine they banned
in the 80s, says to see


for a quick fix, chick.

She has three scenes
of my life, at the beginning
I don’t take her advice but
this is the middle.
So I drive.



She didn’t look like a spy, but that was sort of the point. Middle-aged woman with a handbag and umbrella, no threat there. She loved wearing her bright pink coat that clashed and complemented her orange brolly at the same time, they shouldn’t work together but they did.  George, her handler, had told her off for being too bright on assignments.
“You don’t want to stick out in the crowd,” he would admonish her.
“Ah, but they see the coat and not the face,” she would reply. It was true, she had what she thought of as a ‘nobody’ face. It wasn’t pretty and it wasn’t ugly, it was plain and forgettable, which was perfect for her job. So, yes, someone might remember a woman in a fuchsia coat walking down the street, but they’d not recognize her if she queued alongside them in a coffee shop.
Today she was a vivid yet frumpy stranger asking for directions. She had a photographic memory, just one of her many talents, so while she looked in the driver’s window at the files on their lap, drinking in all the data, it looked perfectly innocuous. To anyone watching, she appeared in every practical sense to be a ditsy and irritating individual who didn’t know where she was going. Her hands were busy holding her props, so no-one would suspect a transfer of detailed information. They (if there was a ‘they’) would be looking out for men in suits, surreptitiously exchanging newspapers or briefcases on a park bench. Which was so last century!
She turned away from the car, pointed back up the road, and gushed thanks enthusiastically and loudly as if a newly directed tourist. Dodging puddles and pedestrians she made her way back to the Tube station, ready to jump a few trains in a random pattern, just in case anyone had been watching. The coat was reversible too, so what shone as a blushing rose on the street, quickly became a characterless beige as she walked around a corner.


Have You Seen?

Excuse me, I don’t mean to bother you, but since you’re stuck in traffic. I’m looking for someone. He’s not much taller than I am, wears a cap, walks with a slight limp, wears a ratty old brown sweater, greenish corduroys, wears glasses. I got up this morning and made the coffee, as usual. We used to have a dog, found him on vacation one year. Can you imagine? First time in the islands, and this pup, just a wee thing, all paws, eyes, and ears. Knew he’d grow up large. Living under the bungalow, mostly skin and bones at the time. We couldn’t get rid of him. Not that we tried much. Something about large brown eyes staring at you, just tears into the soft jelly parts of your soul, don’t they? My Henry would take Pip out in the morning, let me sleep in a bit. That was our routine. I think he liked the walk. Though he would complain on days like this. But a bit of rain wouldn’t stop my Henry on his rounds through the neighborhood. Knew every terrier, poodle, chihuahua, and all the labs and goldens and whatever combinations they turn out nowadays. Makes me marvel, you know? What gets into someone’s head to cross one designer dog with another? I prefer mutts, myself. I think our Pip was a mutt, a bit of this and a bit of that. Sort of the way, I cook. I never have left overs that don’t get mashed in with other bits of things in the cabinet or the fridge. Tastes are like magnets—they draw in the savory and the tart, the sweet with the sour, and just add a pinch of salt and cayenne and it’s another thing altogether. I don’t cook much anymore. Appetite isn’t what it used to be and cooking for one person… What was I saying? I got a bit off track. I’ve been looking everywhere for… What’s the name of this street? Isn’t this Maple? No? Oh, I could swear this was Maple. We used to live right around the corner from Maple and Seventh Avenue. But that was when we had… Well, so… have you seen an older man, about my age, a slight limp, a kind face, eyes always smiling. Hazel, they were. Something about hazel eyes…


Bird of Passage

You stick your head inside my car like a giant flamingo at a safari park, pushing through a window accidentally left open. Your face stops mere centimetres from mine, eyes pleading. Boundaries have never been your thing.

Not that long ago, you had popped up out of nowhere. A spark of colour, impossible to miss in this concrete wasteland. We ended up spending long summer nights at the lake, smoking and drinking on the hood of my car. We knitted dreams from cotton candy twine and shaped air castles from birdsong, serenaded by Marvin Gaye and the Stones. I stuck to you like a Golden Goose, longing to grow a dazzling coat of feathers of my own. I guess I had a feeling that the autumn winds would carry you on.

What else is left to be said? You take a step back, letting me roll up the car window. I start the engine. I may never learn to fly, but I do blend in with this jungle of grey.


That most precious gift…Time

Like the traffic, I paused my journey, as a heartbreaking sound caught my ear. I looked and spied a women singing out loud her soul. Such despair and desperation, such heart rendering blues. I needed to help her, to see, to ask, to offer, what for her could I do.

I walked across, bent down, peered in, offered her time, a willing ear.

The woman’s voice it faltered, it quavered and it shook. No-one else, she said had noticed, no-one else had thought to look. As she sniffed and gulped and snuffled, blew her nose and wiped her eyes. I offered her a tissue, and patted her face dry.

As I touched her cheek, I offered her my help, a number, and a name.

The woman she cried harder, I’d unlocked her inner pain. Listening to her every word, I set my sights and ignored the growling of the traffic. The woman sung of an upturned world, of loneliness, of misery, of pain. Of how she had no confidence, felt thick, felt stupid, worthless, a clown.

I offered her my home, an ear, biscuits, a cup of tea, and a place to be.

First shocked to silence, she looked long at me, before taking my address. I made first the tea I’d promised, I listened to her woes. When she was all run out of words I said, if you want it, this is how it could go. I’ve a spare room, I’ve a shower, I’ve warm towels, thick pyjamas, clothes.

The woman looked at me once more saw kindness, said ‘Yes’

She stayed, and stays with me still, two years ago today. Ceasing to be an object the instant she shared her name. Shared her story, shared her life, became a friend, set straight her life. Importantly she began to sing, songs of love, of warmth, songs of joy, songs celebrating life.

As she sings, I whisper underneath my breath time well spent.


Party 7

a depiction of
San Francisco in the 70s
flickers on the box
unmarked cop cars
whizz past the palm trees
a metallic brown

the counter culture gave in to funk
golden gate's famous red paint
flaking, in need of re-colour
the morning after the party
bodies everywhere, curtains drawn closed
stale air, nobody's touched the advocaat
we've had it since '77

political chaos
economic decline
success shifted to far off places
leaving destitution behind
and a drug culture
a golden brown

a feather cut and empty Party 7 pack
a Starksky and Hutch toy car
a torch that changed colours
sand dunes and the caravan site
Disco, no more flowers in your hair
not now.


A brief rendezvous

On a fine sunny day
walking down the street you
see a familiar face
someone you used to know but not
You stop the car, you holler.
You exchange pleasantries, but you don’t
exchange numbers.
You marvel over the years that have flown.
You reminisce the old times
looking vaguely for a sign of who
they used to be.
You smile with eyes shaded by glasses
lest they look into your soul
and know your secrets,
lest they enter your life again which
has no place for them.
You ask about kids, about job,
about why they are in the city.
But you don’t ask what they carry in
their purse, what baggage.
You don’t ask what they are being shielded
from by the parasol,
if they are warm enough
beneath their jacket.
You don’t ask, and they don’t tell.
You know that a friend has turned
into a stranger then,

Read more >


I did a double take when I first saw her; she looked so much like Dame Edna – tall, with coiffed silver hair, and butterfly glasses. But the wavering smile, the hesitant gaze, and the timorous manner were at odds with the imposing stature. From my hot dog cart parked near the same intersection every day, it was easy enough to notice patterns, schedules, and human foibles in the lull between mealtimes, and she was a regular.

With a poppy-hued umbrella, startlingly noticeable Pepto-Bismol jacket, and low-heeled pumps, she held onto her shopping bag and her old-fashioned purse with a death grip, as if they anchored her to the street. In a busy downtown, where bustling, dodging, and striding were the standard forms of motion, she would always appear at the corner at the same time, falling back on habit, but convinced that she was not doing it right. Amid the cacophony of horns, the construction zone signs, and the smell of baking asphalt, she was an anachronism.

One day, I saw her step off the sidewalk and tentatively approach a car that was waiting to make a turn, bending down to talk to the driver. It was a model of automobile in perfect keeping with the lady’s dress, from a time of cheap gas, when Detroit ruled the world. After a brief conversation, she shook her head, stepped back, turned, and walked away. I could see unshed tears brimming in her eyes.

In many ways, even in the anonymity of an urban concrete jungle, there is a strange intimacy among regulars. From talking to other people in the neighborhood, I found out that she lived alone, her spouse had died some years ago, and she had recently been diagnosed with dementia. The doorman at her building told me that this lady went to the street corner daily, expecting to be picked up and taken to meet her husband. She returned devastated, convinced that he had forgotten her.

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Old Friends

They're always stalling
traffic, running into each
other in the oddest
and most inconvenient
places, catching up
just when you need
to get to the office
pronto, chatting away
through the open
window in the drizzle
while we wait and wait
for one of them to take
the hint delivered
by an impatient
horn five cars back.
Still they keep on
jawing. Perhaps we
are not angry but
rather envy them
their bond, whether
strong or tenuous—
the connection they
have that stops cars
while we stop here



Bow down
You know you’re weak.
A mind full of pain,
With memories damn bleak.

Bow down
You know you’ve lost.
A heart sobbing secretly,
Away and alone, almost.

Bow down
You know you feel low.
Trembling tired breaths,
Sighing out slow.

Bow down
You know you’ve wept.
Eyes swollen and blank,
Dead alert, barely slept.

Bow Down
Because You know…
You can stand again!
Simply shout for
Help !



There is a logic that turns logic on its head,
where gossip holds sway, where seraphim and cherubim
loathe to tread; whereas you try and massage
the ‘o’ in the middle of the word, to tease out its fury,
to restore the facts. Facts are paintings:
try impressionism, do a Chagall flying bride,
whence facts will become stories,
giving way to a painting in which childhood is not yet
truncated, and the ‘future’ is still radically open.
Yes, the promises!
The promises of summer: of laughter and songs,
of ice cream and barbecue, or dancing ‘lollipop’
on a sun-drenched beach; holidaying in a country
you’d find pleasantly strange,
(Salaam, ma‘a al-ssalāmah ― and yes ― shukran!)
even the bickering with your little brother and sister
is a lot of fun! Your mum and dad,
a glass of red wine in hand, sit watching
their three children’s heart-stopping stunts.
And then you’d hear somebody sneezing on the hill,
where bouquets of primroses and sunflowers
have been tearfully tucked in the mesh
of the wire fence round the reservoir,
in memoriam, perhaps, of a loved one who has drowned.
You’d like to challenge the water with a frown:
“How did that happen? What did YOU do?”
O, tumbling down... tumbling down...

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Huffing and puffing in shoes far too small, you get to your mark.
You’re annoyed that the first thing they say is,
‘Hey, I like your get up, how long did it take you?’
Take you? What with the prosthetic underwear, the tights,
The wig, dress and makeup, you’re exhausted and it's only 8:00 am.

After twenty years pounding the streets of New York City, you knew going undercover would be right up your street.
Visions of Al Pacino in Serpico, and Di Caprio in The Departed, had filled your mind’s eye,
But no, you’ve ended up as Mrs Doubtfire instead.

From the first, you know that your informer is not taking you seriously,
As they struggle to keep a straight face.
‘Just give me the intel,’ you demand, as you feel your blood pressure rise,
‘You keep me here any longer and you’ll blow my cover.’
In response they fumble for the package in the glove compartment.

Shifting from foot to painful foot, you think fondly of your number 12s
And how comfortable they would be right now.
The wig is beginning to make you scalp itch, the tights have given you prickly heat,
And the corset keeps pinching your chest hair.
The grass is always greener on the other side, they say, but all you see is, very, very brown grass.



It had left her with a heart murmur, that single room with no heating or hot water in a damp, crumbling tenement they’d forgotten to demolish, but she made herself look respectable before venturing out with her carrier bag of old Dean Martin LPs to the spot where she knew the traffic ground to a halt. The Dean Martin albums were the last she had left and the last she wanted to sell, as his was the music that had kept them both alive all those years ago when her and Robin had deliberately danced too fast to both sides of each entire album. It made them both warm, and it made them laugh until they were gasping for breath, and it made them forget their hunger, and it made them love each other more than two people ever had – she knew that for certain, even more now she was on her own. She watched the courtship ritual of the two windscreen wipers as they followed each other devotedly across the glass, from side to side, from side to side. She’d got one of the albums out of the bag and held it up but the driver wouldn’t even talk to her, just turned a fixed stare straight ahead at the road. She moved her bags into her other hand leaving her right hand free to reach around to grab one of the wipers and wrench it off. “Now you can see what it’s like,” she shouted at the driver, before walking proudly back to her building, and up all those stairs to her room, where once again, despite her broken heart, or perhaps because of it, she would dance too fast to Dean Martin, until she couldn’t dance any more.



You remember the bright blue kitten heels,
the painted-on stockings, the navy-blue
half-slip with lace that ran along the hem.
You remember the coat with real mink trim,
the pink parasol that matched the hidden
pink camisole, a gift from your great aunt.
You remember the pearl-studded evening
bag stuffed with lipstick-kissed tissues and half
a dozen crinkling peppermint wrappers.
But colors have changed, along with the times.
Heels have been replaced by more sensible
shoes, the color of clay. The peppermints
are so old now, they have turned to taffy.
You still feel like a girl on the inside.



She leaves home alone again,
ignoring warnings, post-it notes,
nagging thoughts of something

half-forgotten, kaleidoscopic streets
that reinvent themselves in
blinked eyes. Again he’s reminded

of his worst infant terror:
her absence. He tracks her
ploughed furrows, labyrinths

that surround them, finds his own
reflection in her old haunts:
the bank, the chemist,

the bus station queues.
Just before he calls the police,
he spots it: her orange umbrella,

ribbed like a clamshell, bobbing at
the roadside. It isn't even raining.
She's stopped a passing car
and is leaning-in, talking
through a wound-down
window. The driver is drowning

Read more >

One Wednesday

She's still got another shop to go to,
A quiche to bake and a bed to make,
The bus will be crowded today too,
Better hurry home.

She watches out for cars that may spray,
It's a little chilly already without that,
Her hands feels stiff and cold,
Bus in fifteen minutes.

She hears a horn, glancing over annoyed at the noise,
What are they beeping for? A hand beckons,
The window is lowering – she steps over the gutter,
What is it now?

She adjusts her umbrella as she leans forward,
A small shiver at the dribble on her leg,
A waft of warmth from the window,
Well lucky for some.

"Hey can you tell me how to get to the Omni Centre,
And is there parking near there?"
She frowns gestures and gives rights and lefts, repeats,
"There's a multi storey nearby."

"Thanks, great coat by the way, really cheers a dull day."
"Why thank you!" Her face twitching a brief smile as she turns,
Hiding the biting of her lip, stepping back,
Should she wave?

Read more >

Cherry blossom amongst the dead

Greyscale autumn day,
How long will it last? Cannot say,
Suits work just to survive,
Nine-to-Five, barely alive,
Boasting about their latest drives,
Complaining about imprisoned wives.

Then she turns the corner,
Puncturing the permabland,
With a flash of fuschia,
Scarlet shield for September showers,
Glacial eyes with oceanic depth,
Her aura exudes elegance.

She takes no bull,
Even on Wall Street,
Fiercely feminine,
In the face of foolish fellas,
Mansplaining maths to Mrs Lovelace,
But not for long.

You can feel her thrive,
Certainly alive for weekend jive,
Hip dips on Bloomingdale trips,
Nails neatly trimmed,
Prim, proper and pristine,
Permed to perfection.

Read more >

Take Care, Dear

Back then, she was a choice
to show the world pink overcoats
over layers of her dark regrets.

I was alone in my days and nights,
a nipper looking for work
and a roof over my head.

She was a friendly face over sewing machines,
sharing stories of industrial-strength grit,
our laughter filling the factory floor.

I was finding my feet and bunching my thread,
needing a steer and kind word
as my self-doubt was stitched into me.

She was a life lived simply,
bright and guiding,
teaching me to want something better.

I was decisions to make,
roads to take, ready to go.
I didn’t want to get life wrong.

She was seeing us off,
a north star map and a wave in the rearview mirror,
telling us to go as far as we can.

I was going to miss her, dearly.


Spinning Out

In morning drizzle umbrellas uncoil.
Bony geometrical shapes fused together
like tortoise scutes in awkwardly partnered
slow dances to indeterminate destinations.
In this shell cave her pink coat briefly flickers
but melds into the humid melee of bodies
as dense as the fog that fills her mind.
She grips the rudder of her umbrella,
wincing as her joints throb and crunch.
She frowns at the golden clasped clutch,
the rainbow striped tote, falling tangled
to her feet, grooves still indented
in the thin creped whites of her palm.
She reaches for her pretty bags, jarring
with the rhythm of the crawling creature
and she’s spinning, only the pads of her
fingertips looped in the jumbled objects,
squeezed out, half crouched, nails tearing
into the seams of her black nylon stockings.
But, she can see the sky. She knows the sky.
That is the same as she has always known.



She had a way of deflecting attention. ‘What about you,’ she’d say, if someone edged too close. Then she’d sit, chin in hand, as they spilled out their life story.  She was a good listener, I’ll give her that.  Trouble is, you pour your heart out to a person then you think you know them. That’s what caught me.  She never let on about Daniel, not even when Myra was talking about twins and the way they’d tune into each other.

'That’s the Disney version,' she said, gazing across the wheelie bins to the washing line. 'In real life, they might be polar opposites.'  

In real life, you brush off people.  That’s the way it was with us.  I’d meet her dashing out the door in the morning.  From time to time she’d head off with a suitcase. ‘I got to meet someone…’ she’d say, letting the words hang and we all thought there was a sugar daddy, waiting in some sleazy hotel.  She never brought anyone back to the gaff.  I’m guessing the damp walls and the nylon carpet would have reflected badly.

Then, the night of her leaving do, she breezed over to the karaoke machine like she couldn’t help herself.  This was the local boozer mind, a concrete bunker full of G.A.A. heads and hairdressers.  Myself and Myra were bricking it on the faux leather banquette, then she opened her mouth and the words poured out like honey.  All around us people were craning their necks and calling for hush as she flashed red and gold under the lights.  I swear the energy she was giving off sent shivers down through the spikes of my stilettos.  When she finished, the room erupted, cheering, clapping, whistling.  She held the glow for a few brief seconds then shrugged it off.  Next day, she said we killed her stone dead with all the shots.  She’d need the day in bed to recover.

Read more >

the unexpected attention of strangers

Even though
I was only stopped
at temporary traffic lights
she walked over and asked
if I was somebody famous.

She stared, her brow
Sandra, she said,
Sandra Bullock,

that’s who.
You remind me of her.
She’s good, she is.
      I like her.

What was she in ?

Can I have your autograph ?

But I’m not her, I said.

That’s OK, dear, I love you anyway.


Loving is saying goodbye

I can't see your face in the haze of the taxi smoke
something falls between us before you can even roll the windows up
"we never belonged" and you believe it.
You, colours against the drab
look on and forward, here's a memory where
the two parties remember nothing specific ten years down the line
but the distance, and the heat that evaporated
I'm sorry I couldn't see your face back then, but I knew
I didn't need to.


Brolly Lady

She stopped me at the entrance to the docks.
Is this the way? she asked.
Her hair was tousled,
her coat crook-buttoned,
her bags heavy and awkward.

To where?

You’d know a Kerry woman,
she responded,
always answering a question
with a question.
To the quays of course.
Where do you think I’m going?
Can’t you see my brolly?
It’s to keep me dry,
to fight off the fish,
to help me float.

She did a little jig,
waving her brolly in the air,
demonstrating how
she would fight the fish, and float away
wherever she wished to go.

She must have seen the shock in my face.
No dear, she said, I’m not joining the fish.
Don’t you worry,
I’m looking for the number 7 bus.
I’m going home with my bags full of goodies.
She danced another few steps.

Read more >

Right Bags Lady

“So can I help, though busy me?”
you seeing she, wee clashing spree
of orange, pink, grip scarlet too,
but brolly, mac, “this weather brew”,
brief craic through space, like wind-up clown,
“but I can bend”, the window down,
and through that space I face, agape,
accoutrements of ribs, creased drape.
“I bought a smock, though looking now
for something suits; your route, now how?
So when you see the orange screen –
it’s on the corner, by the green –
an advert for – though might have gone –
my grandson sorts it – he’s called John –
he’s a real culchie, we’re jackeen –
city, Dublin, where we’ve all been.
Jack’s like his Da, though not at all –
you get my meaning, different soul.
Nixers the lot – I’m coddling ya –
though not so sure if she talks blah.
But your light’s changed, you must be off –
follow signs – as says Father Gough.
And I must crack on; lots to do.
You’re suckin’ diesel – time you flew.”


To Be a Flower

Miriam Rose, known as Hyacinth, waved to the guards as she passed them on her way out of the temple after morning minyan. Though not particularly religious, she’d begun going to say Kaddish after her mother died, and then she just kept going. As always, she appeared as flowery as her name, dressed in bright colors of pink and red with an orange umbrella, though she always wore sensible grey shoes.

“To be ready for any emergency,” she said.

Hyacinth had been named for a grandmother she never knew, murdered like millions, in Poland during the war. But she so loved hyacinths, that it became the name she was called. Her friends and colleagues at the hospital sometimes noticed a faint floral scent in the air when she was around, but it was never overpowering or cloying, if anything it made them feel good. If Hyacinth perhaps internalized Emily Dickinson’s line “To be a flower, is profound Responsibility,” no one ever held that against her either. She simply was who she was, and somehow the world always seemed better for it.

As she walked home, she crossed a small street, where a woman called to her from a car.

“Please help,” she said. “My wife . . .” then struggling to find the English words, “baby is coming, phone is dead.” Hyacinth pulled out her own phone from the pocket of her large, multi-colored canvas bag and called emergency. She got into the car to see that the baby was indeed coming. Well, she had been a midwife for twenty years. She delivered the baby girl, and then her twin sister. When the ambulance arrived, mothers and children were well. She quietly slipped away before the women could properly thank her or even learn her name.

Read more >

Cutie’s Cab

The driver wouldn’t help her with her stuff.
Not my job, he said, but wouldn’t meet her eye.
I just take you where you need to go.
The fare’s a penny, so get in if you want to fly.

She hesitated. The door
half open and the inviting seat,
the plush carpet, waiting
ready to take the weight off her feet.

You’ve been going through the motions, luv, he said.
I can tell, when someone’s wearing too much red.
You don’t know where you’re going, it’s in your eyes,
but this old thing will take you there besides.

Her hand was on the handle, and the clunk
of metal seemed reassuring, somehow. Solid.
Full of purpose. Maybe she could borrow some.
I don’t have the coin, she said.

No matter. He stared at the dashboard
as if he read the answer in the dials.
If you don’t pay there, someone else will.
Get on in, but I can’t get by on smiles.

She fluttered, briefly, as the net
closed with the door. Another solid clunk
and the dark quelled her agitation.
It will be nice, she thought,
at last, to have a destination.


Time Goes By

"You haven't changed you know. I remember you wearing white T-shirts when we were courting, well that's got to be fifty odd years ago. It was around the time all those poor kiddies in the  South Wales Valleys – you know that slag heap – took em. I'm seventy-five you know. Our Becky says I don't look it though I feel it sometimes you know, when the wind's in the east and I haven't had me nails done. I haven't really been quite the same since, well, they took it all away. I were in hospital three weeks couldn't go to the lavvy for a week. Oh the good old days though, we had some laughs, didn't we. Do you remember that time, in the back row, at the Odeon when I thought you'd put your hand were you shouldn't and it turned out, it were a rat? Oh, Oh, I'm terribly sorry I thought you were somebody else."



Take me to your leader,
these yellow cars are everywhere.
I've parachuted in from up there
and I need to meet the boss.
My pink spacesuit keeps me dry,
my jetpack bag is sufficient
for everything I need. I do not
know what all these red and
yellow lights mean, how to speak
to the whistlers on this thruway.

What kind of place is this? What
does T.A.X.I. stand for? Why does
water fall from your sky? And
why does nobody clean up here?
I need to speak to your leader,
we have planned this journey
for years, and come in peace.
Please share your reasons
for building a city like this,
don't scream and drive away.



Remember that lady with the red umbrella?
Classiest thing I ever saw.
You know, the clashing pink raincoat.
That woman cursed and gave her the finger,
“Get out of the way grandma!”
And then she pulled over,
Said something about scratching her car and suing the ass off of her.
The way she leant into the window and said
“Is that your daughter, my she’s beautiful”.
Then she handed her a card and said contact her lawyers if she had a problem.
You remember.
Must have been ’81 or 2 walking back from college.
I expect she was really much younger, middle age seemed old then.
My she was class.
Oh, maybe it was a scene from that movie, you know the one…
Or a picture I saw in a magazine.


It’s never too late to pack up and go to meet your truest self

You stand in the middle of the road, rain washing over you, your hands are too loaded with heavy baggage to reach for an umbrella. Your life is steady. Comfortable. Carefully planned according to the standards pre-approved by the society. First – a career and jumping onto the property ladder, working yourself to the bone and partying with friends like there’s no tomorrow. Then – a family and losing yourself to motherhood. Perhaps a divorce and a depression, a new hobby, a fling with a yoga teacher or a horse-riding instructor, a retirement at sixty-five, a cruise around the world and death. And somewhere along the pre-programmed “to do” that’s expected of you, you’ve lost that precious connection with yourself. Lying in bed at night, you can't help but wonder “what if”. “What if I could?” “What if I would?” Hesitating to take the step into the unknown. Convinced it’s already too late. And then one morning you wake up. Wake up to the sound of the same rain still raging outside feeling somewhat different. New. Refreshed. But most importantly free. A new you jumps out of bed; she puts on a blue dress with a yellow belt, grabs a rainbow-striped bag and a pink coat and heads into the rain armed with a coral red umbrella. It shoots up, spreading its wings above your head. Your kaleidoscope of colours brightens up a grey day. People stare. Some smile. Some shake their heads, but you don’t care. No longer hesitant, you raise your hand and pull in a taxi.  
“Where to?” asks the driver. Your symphony of colours makes him squint.
“To the new me, please.”
He nods and starts the engine.

Read more >


“Where’s the closest grocery store?”

The kookily dressed lady leaned in towards the car window, hunching under the bright orange umbrella that kept her hidden and sheltered from the blistering sun.

The friendly woman in the passenger seat muttered a few directions as police sirens blared faintly in the background.

“Thank you,” the lady said with a smile.

It was her last day at the bank and there was a large amount of cash stashed in her battered roomy handbags.

Nobody would suspect the little old lady of it as she crossed the street, dancing to her own beat.


The Meeting

I've never heard of Taco Bell. I'm sorry. I don't believe I can direct you though I am quite good at directions.
Really? Are you serious? You never heard of Taco Bell? Wow, lady. That sucks. (This old bag looks like the Queen of England. Pink coat. Permed head. Never forgets an umbrella. Smells like sweet soap.)
I am serious. I have never heard of Taco Bell, but do you have an address? A general location? I'd like to be of assistance if I can be.
Not really. No. Just heard there was a Taco Bell around here.
Well that makes it very difficult then. Don't you have an umbrella? You two are soaking wet. That's not a good idea, you know. There's a bad cold germ circulating. Not good to get damp and chilled.
We're fine. We forgot our umbrellas.
It's tacos you want, then? You've come from somewhere to this neighborhood for a taco?
What about a sandwich? A nice beef sandwich. There's a shop at the end of the block right here that has a good lunch at a fair price. Harold's it is. See that green sign to your left. There it is. They have very good vanilla creme sodas too.
Goodbye then and good luck.
(Tires screech)
Later at Harold's.
What's wrong with your sandwich? Not rare enough for you, Gladys? Not enough horseradish?
It's fine, Harold. Fine. But it isn't a taco, is it? (I've been eating this sandwich for thirty odd years. It's serviceable. Dependable. But is it really enjoyable?)

Read more >

Mary Poppins in Manhattan

Mary Poppins flies
when the air is clear
on the whimsy of wishes
       a lark
          a laugh

into the atmosphere
   But, oh dear!
    When rain
  sharp and cold
   from the east
sends her carpet bag
and stalwart Mary
        even she
must ask for directions.


The Visit

Grandma’s peppermint purse
held everything:
wipes for glasses,
blue, green, and yellow thread,
five lipstick tubes,
an address book,
seven pencils, eleven pens,
pennies, nickels, dimes, and quarters
clinking—cha-ching, cha-ching, cha-ching.

We could barely lift it,
but it swung easily from her arm.
We rubbed the fuzzy fabric, made
dark lines one way, light lines the other.
Her bright orange umbrella
kept her dry or shaded
or tap-tapped on the sidewalk.
She was like the postman:
neither rain, nor snow, nor heat
could stop her.

Purse swinging,
umbrella swaying,
sensible shoes striding,
she nodded to strangers,
stopped to check on neighbors,
pet every dog she met.

Read more >


It’s drizzling. The pavement always turns slippery during the monsoon. Lucky, I do not have heavy baggage. Just the Gucci tote bag, the Tommy Hilfiger purse and this crimson umbrella. Two years ago, I could have easily walked down the cobbled pavement and around the two blocks to my home. But I do not trust my knees anymore. What if they gave away, like the time they did at the movie theatre two months ago. The fall, the hassle, the onlookers, the hospital, the diagnosis…the rigmarole was just too much to handle. My daughter Amelia came all the way from Canada to make sure I was safe and alright. Her instructions to me not to venture out alone still ring in my ears. She won’t be too happy if she learns about this escapade.

But then what can one do? I had to get out to get over my cabin fever. And that is why I chose my finest dress to wear even if it was only for a short trip to the supermarket. I remember I last wore this pink Burberry jacket, the stockings and these ballerinas to attend Amelia’s graduation ceremony at the university.

I really wish I could have gotten a lift now.     

Ah. The heavens have heard me. Here it comes. But it is such a short distance. I wonder if the driver would agree. No harm in trying.

‘Taxi. Taxi. Stop. My home is just around the corner. Two blocks away and look at the cumulonimbus filled sky. Could you please…I can? You will? Bless you. Such a kind lady you are.’

Read more >

All I want you to do is drive

She packed her bags and was ready to go
Don’t know where or how … so
She stepped into the street
With rain puddles at her feet
The cab stopped
And in her head popped
She leaned in
And said to the driver with the chiselled chin
‘I’m going over there
Not somewhere near
I have no address
Just seeking a safe space
I will know when I arrive
All I want you to do is drive’
He turned his head
Bit his lip and said,
‘Lady, I can see you’re packed and ready to go
But the destination to nowhere is a No
I have a family you see
And a home to be
I can’t help you
Not expecting that response
She took a firm stance
Tilting her head
She said,
‘I am packed and ready to go
Surely you won’t leave me

Read more >

On the Kerb

‘I’d want to know, if it was me...’

she bent over backwards
leaning forwards

to tell him
through the passenger window,

    ‘well, I’ve heard...’

The driver listened
to the wanted
yet unwanted

the sentence,  
the blotched full stop

in the life he knew,
thought he knew.

    ‘Thanks for letting me know’

he said
through the grind of his teeth
as he unclenched his hand

to turn the key
in the ignition

Read more >


Sally is good at her game,
This has brought her much fame,
Nothing escapes her,
It echoes in her lair.

She can be everywhere,
Probably she rides in the air,
She sees the hidden,
She's the grapevine maiden.

Sally's gaze,
It pierces through the haze,
A woman of bloom colours,
She meanders different contours.

She tells the good, the ugly and the gloom,
She traverses every room,
Sally can aid to take off melee peel,
Only that tale-bearing is her Achilles heel.


Pop Colors Save The Day

My show must go on

A gloomy evening
Rain washed pedestrian path
A brisk walk cannot be compromised
Necessary for a young heart

A hot pink dress is worn
Complemented with a lace stocking
A blood red umbrella is held

Stepped out
Clocked in seven thousand steps
In forty five minutes
A warm chitter chatter passes
Every couple of minutes

Heart is healthy and happy

My show must go on


Always happy to help

Before GPS, finding the way
Often meant stopping,
Asking another
To spend part of their day
Explaining, helping.
And so, they did,
Even in the rain,
Ready to share their
Opinion on the way you should go…
In fondo, diritto,
A sinistra, a destra,
Glad you have stopped
Because they do know best...after all,
See how elegantly she is dressed?
No need to repay with
More than a thank you,
A grazie, or grazie mille will do…
They are paid by
Peering into your life,
Sharing your adventure,
Satisfying their curiosity
About you...and
They will tell you…
Always happy to help..
Sempre un piacere.



You know, I've always considered myself to be a public-spirited kind of person. So, when I heard you NYPD guys were asking for information I got myself down to the precinct straight away. No, I didn't see her actual face but that pink coat I’d recognize again anywhere. In fact I’d say it’s literally seared into my memory. On account of how it clashed with her red umbrella. Pity you didn’t get a shot of that. That kind of combination is a real slug in the kisser. Has to be the same woman. Anything else? Well, there’s the grey perm. And the shoes. I remember those. Not quite the same grey. I’d say those were more like taupe. Shame she didn’t still have those two handbags when you guys snapped her. One of those was pretty distinctive and, to be fair, the other one did match the shoes. Why was she carrying two bags around, I asked myself. What’s that? The woman in the car? No, I didn't get a good look at her either. Quite a bit younger though I reckon. Brown hair, white shirt. That’s all I could see. And the car? Well, hard to pin down exactly, but kind of like the color of Dijon mustard. What make was it? Sorry officer, you got a New Yorker born and bred here, what I know about cars you could fit on a button. So, did I hear what they were talking about? No, you can't hear jack at that time of day downtown. I guess the woman in the car was asking how to get past all the goddam roadworks. No, that’s about it I guess. Well, you're welcome. Just trying to do my bit you know. If more people in this city paid a bit more attention to stuff when they’re out and about who knows, maybe you guys would be able to get to the bottom of a few more of these terrible things that keep happening. And there was definitely no red umbrella at the scene? I don’t know what she was thinking. Still can’t get it out of my mind.


Where to?

Where to luv?
Please can you take me somewhere lovely?
That’s a new one on me.  What sort of lovely?
I’ll know it when I see it.  Somewhere pretty.  And green if possible.
Not round here I can’t. And not in this weather neither.
I’m not bothered about the weather.  I’ve got my brolly and my shoes are stout enough.
Look, there’s really not much in the way of greenery around here.  Maybe you’d be better getting a train out of town somewhere.  
But I’ve just got off a train. It’s here I want to be. So what about, well, maybe a nice café?
We’ve got a Wimpy up the High Street if that’s any use?
Mmm, well, I was thinking more of afternoon tea. You know, proper tea, in a pot.  Tiny sandwiches, scones and jam.  That sort of thing.   Perhaps even with music.
Nah, you’d have to go to Harrogate for something like that.  Cost you a bomb.  I don’t go that far on me holidays.
Ah, yes, I understand.  So is there, er, a nice cemetery perhaps? You must have a cemetery.
Yeah, we got plenty of them if you like that sort of thing.  Anything in particular?
Oh dear.  Well, you see, I’ve brought my husband.  In my bag. He always talked about this place.  He came here once on holiday.  Just the once.  And never forgot it, I don't know why.  He always meant to bring me here, but somehow, you know, it didn’t happen. So I thought I’d bring him here now. Better late than never he’d’ve said.  And maybe, well, just leave him here. Silly really.
Doesn’t sound silly to me. And I reckon a cemetery’d be better than a tea room if you know what I mean.  The municipal cemetery’s a bit well,

Read more >


“It’s the truth, I saw it with my own two eyes.”
“You’re blind in one, Ma.”
“Don’t be churlish. You know what I mean. They landed just over there. Behind the blockade.”
I swallow a sigh. After all, I’ve been here before. “It’s a gas leak, Ma. It’s all over the morning news.”
“Cover up,” she says. Her jaw clenches and her nostrils flare. “I know what I saw.”
I bite back a retort. It sticks in my throat, and my grip tightens on the steering wheel.
“Well Suzi.” Her enthusiastic rant continues. “If you’re so smart, how do you explain the rainbow on the ground?”
“It’s the combination of oil and water that makes up gas, Ma. It separates them into layers and the oil layer reflects the light.”
 She shakes her head. “That’s what Google told you.”
She’s not wrong. “But that doesn’t mean it’s not true,” I tell her.
My mother leans in and opens her umbrella to ward off listeners.
“It’s lights from their spaceship.”
Her loud whisper is barely audible over the din. But I know what she said.
I can’t help it. The words slip out before I can stop them.
“Did they probe you again, Ma?”
“You watch your tone, Suzi.”
“Sorry.” And I am. I worry about her. “The home rang. They said you left after breakfast. Nobody knew where you were.”
She ignores me and her glance darts about.
“Why don’t you get into the car, Ma?”
“Will you bring me to report it?”
My shoulders slouch, but I agree, “Yes, Ma.”
By now, the police are used to her and will treat her kindly.

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Buggin’ Out

Coral and fuschia by the passenger window.
The shock of realizing somebody is you.
“I’ve come to give you a warning,” you say,
but the light overhead is about to turn green
and the jackhammer destroying government property
makes your next line completely inaudible.

You risk another glance.
Your face is a checkerboard of experience.
“I’m not ready to die.”
It was the sort of thing you blurt to yourself
when you see how close you are to the other side.

“No, I’ve come to warn you.”
Your persistence is laudable.
“Wait, don’t go yet!”
You yell at Jeb, but he’s only been stalling
to light another cigarette,
and once his cannon’s loaded,
he revs the engine and you’re ejected
from this strange conversation.
Looking back, you see your arms
folded above your head to form an X.

“Sorry, babe, we’ve gotta make  
the outlets in the next half hour
or we’ll miss the big speaker sale.
And I finally got the money back
from when you made my bail.”

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Cognitive Red Incongruence

I put on my pinkish fantasy piercing dress
And walked naked into a day of shady events
Out of the blues, she just descended
As if from the presidential suite
Marking another territory in her race to win all

With that staid maid status
A peacock feather lust in a brown cocoon
Somewhat ageing smattering of ideas
Beleaguered goals and abandoned plans
The tone was particularly harsh yet pliant
I nudged my cognitive slumber to register any sense
There we go. Am I back to business?
More heads to roll.
Each word emanating from her pursed parched lips
Scraping through my eardrums, scalding my veins leading to the heart
Yet, the job must be done.
My conscience is loaded with empathetic justifications of my deeds
All those who suffered at my hands, must've have uttered,
Even during their subconscious state of flight to the eternity…
What a kind assassin!
I befriend, beseech, believe, betray
I berate, bereave, behead
I am that ultimate discrete machine that Machiavelli
Would love to boast about
I am stubborn but I am fluid
My gender is fluid yet my heart is static

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T is for Tightrope and Trampoline

After his career in the circus, he would hang around on street corners, doubling the number of chance encounters that might alleviate the boredom and present the opportunity to thrill and entertain.

He had assembled quite a wardrobe of brightly coloured outfits: cast-offs, keepsakes and charity shop finds - the bolder the better these days. He confined himself to a gentleman's demure couture only when he had business to attend.

On inclement days he would solicit a lift from a lady friend or hail a passing cab - often to an indoor market where he would display his talent between cut flowers and fruit 'n' veg. He occasionally frequented the subway, teetering and tottering on the edge of something - usually posing a threat to himself or others - often shocking in stockings and stilettos.

Whatever the weather, he had learned to always carry a brightly-coloured umbrella.
It could provide shelter from the sun as well as the rain; attract much-needed attention on grey, lifeless days or provide some refuge or a degree of protection when the heat was turned up and queer-bashing was in vogue. If the spear of the brolly proved no deterrent, then he'd kick off his heels and show off his parkour moves, honed in the Parisian suburbs, in a daring barefoot escape.

To his neighbours in his apartment block he was endearingly known as Victor Tightrope or Vanessa Trampoline. They had never seen them both together of course, but they were perfectly fine with that - just as it should be. However, they simply called him Mr T to his face, for that was what he'd asked to be called - whatever colour he was wearing.


A Seed Of Friendship

What did you say you’re looking for?
Nowhere. Or somewhere.
Is that in town? Some new tourist attraction?
I doubt it’s in town. This traffic is impossible.
That’s one word for it. And the roadworks? Just be grateful it isn’t rush hour. So, tell me what happens at this place you’re trying to find. How do you spell it? My hearing isn’t the best these days.
It’s a relaxing but inspiring landscape where a person can reconnect with what matters.
Oh, like a park. Yes, there’s a little one four blocks that way. Or, there’s the Manor House, which is further but worth the trip. That’s a magnificent old building and they do lovely tea and cakes inside. The grounds are formal, like designed, you know. It’s all very pleasant and you can enjoy long vistas looking out. It’s on the edge of town. Just turn right ahead and keep going more-or-less straight through the city for several miles.
Hmm. I don’t think that’s quite what I’m seeking.
Yoga. You look like a person who might enjoy yoga. We happen to have this very intense Buddhist monk who’s set up a sort of retreat in the suburbs. He has piercing eyes – sort of a seeing-right-through-you look about him but that’s how monks are, aren’t they? Very committed and perceptive. I personally find him a bit unnerving but he’s calm and people do say that his classes are peaceful and relaxing. If you turn around and head out of town, it’s signposted that way. And, you know, with this rain today, that might be best. I think it’s indoors, in a nice hot room with tranquil music. That’s how my friend Rosa describes it. She’s a regular.
Is there somewhere I could be alone?
Oh. Uhmm. Well, that could be a challenge in this city. Do you want to drive out to the countryside?
I don’t have time. I’ve a meeting in two hours but I need somewhere quick to go now, somewhere to clear my head.

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Directions and Corrections

I stop the car to ask the way,
the sat-nav’s broke, I’m sad to say.
A kind old lady with good cheer
explains, ‘You can’t get there from here’.

‘You need to make a u-turn so,
back to the main road you must go.
You’ve quite a journey left, I fear.
For sure you can’t get there from here.’

But this advice, it doesn’t suit –
there isn’t any other route.
The signpost back a ways was clear,
this is the road to there from here.

She shakes her head, ‘Sure I would know,
I’ve lived here sixty years or so,
so let me make this crystal clear,
you cannot get to there from here.’

Defeated, with no passage found,
I find reverse and turn around,
then setting off in second gear
I head for there, but not from here.

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Waiting in the Rain

The last time we saw Gran, she was leaning into the window of Nate’s car. I can still see his girlfriend’s face—impatient, grumpy, mostly just because that’s who she was but also because she was eight months pregnant and constantly uncomfortable. They were leaving the baby shower Gran hosted at a cafe in the city. We waited for her on the sidewalk, full of finger sandwiches and scones and cup after cup of tea that we pretended to enjoy. Gran’s lined pink raincoat stood out against Nate’s brown car—gold, he always corrected us—and we were transfixed by how her red umbrella didn’t clash, something our mothers’ fashion magazines told us was a faux pas.

But that was Gran. She never followed the rules, which is why she threw a baby shower for two teenagers who would rather share a 40 of malt liquor instead of sip from filigree teacups. We stared at her massive leather purse that always held butterscotch for when we wanted a little something sweet. We looked at her bold shopping bag, deflated now, while an hour before, it was brimming with gifts and things the baby might need “just because.” Just because that’s how Gran was.

We stayed dry under the cafe’s awning, moving when a man pushed his way out into the rain. He stepped into an ankle-deep puddle and cursed loudly. We looked at him, then at each other with wide eyes. We thought of what would happen if we said that word aloud, how sharp the slap from Gran’s hand would feel against the back of our heads, brains rattling in our skulls. We looked up nervously—what if we had actually said it aloud?—but Gran was gone.


From Fiction to Memoir

The French told me twice that I smile and talk too much. "Did you take something this morning?"
"No, just coffee," I said.
Search engines were the next massive thing, so I asked beneath the colourful banner does caffeine cause cheerfulness and chatterboxes, but I was disappointed with the results.

I held up a red umbrella and blew into a red balloon. This should get them smiling and talking, I thought.

Inspired by Pascal in The Red Balloon, I walked down rue du Transvaal. Walked down the Belleville stairs. Walked up then quickly down Our Lady of the Holy Cross of Ménilmontant.

In Carlton, Fitzroy and Collingwood, someone would have stopped me and asked, Hey, what’s up? What the … but in Paris no one did.

Until …

A curious taxi driver hooted his horn and asked why.
"Why an umbrella when the sky's not crying?"
"Why a red balloon that's shrinking?"
"Surrounded by such a bright colour, why don’t you smile?"

He parked and we sat at a nearby cast iron bench. Flicked his pocket knife and put the balloon out of its misery. Snatched my umbrella and decorated a bin. “Don’t throw away your smile, though.”

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Mistaken Identity

I know you don't I, you're that woman,
the one with the handbag. I couldn't drive on,
without telling you: you've wrecked my life
and not just mine. Your damage will ricochet
down through generations to come. And you,
a mother, too. Helicopters won't find my son
when he's lost. Yet be sure, your royal 'we'
won't protect you from a nation's curses.
Long after you're gone, your name
will be synonymous with destruction.

I've never said this to a living sole, not even my ex,
but I hate you. Hate you for what you've done:
turning 'us' into 'me and mine', wrecking
communities. Well, I must get on,
people to see, places to go, indignities
to endure at the Job Centre.

Hang on, you're very quiet; not like Mrs T
on Newsnight.  Lordy, I'm sorry, I thought you were
her. It's happened before? And you're proud to say
you're her number one fan? Well, just wait 'til
her policies impact your life; then you'll need
some sympathy, a new narrative and a way out
of your pride, of your mistaken identity.



Please don't say goodbye
Don't bid me farewell
I know what it means
It means I will be left with nothing
Only the pain of solitude
And the blasting sunrays waking me up to your memory
To the tears that will flood my eyes every passing morning
I will seek cover under the red apple tree
And hope the scent from your pink dress will brighten some of the dark days.

So when you leave, I will live like you never left
Dance in the rain like we used to
Bathe in the sun when it’s time to
Because without that, I am left with nothing
Except for a longing to hold you back in my arms when you alight at the train station.



Well, it depends where you are going
      Where you have been,
And how many feet you have got.

I have several – so it's not far for me at all.
      You only have two?
           Then it may take awhile.
Awhile for you to gather your energy to make such a journey.

Feet? Did I say feet?
      I meant spoons.
But before you go – take a seat
      Rest your feet – yes I do mean feet this time
And tell me:
      Where do you want to go?