• Vol. 01
  • Chapter 10

The Blue Room

With this nailbrush, I scrub. He complains, of course, but he lets me do it, lets me push the coarse bristles under his nails. I love to rake the gunk. Every day after we get home from school, I call him into the bathroom with a little sing-song lilt and he stands there in the doorway of the blue room with his arms crossed at his chest. His eyes are asking me what do I want but they are just faking it. He knows what I want: the nailbrush is already in my hand, and the faucet is already turned on. I'll rake and soak, rake and soak, then scrub, scrub, scrub.

He sits down on the edge of the tub and we begin. I work quickly. I am capable. We have to hurry because my mom is on her way home, and she has already warned me about this. Hers is a zero tolerance policy and she's had enough of my fixation with cleanliness. Those are her words. She doesn't understand my need to clean everything.

In my assessment, she doesn't understand my needs, plural. My needs, period.

Did I tell you that this is my cousin I am cleaning? That I am in love with him? His mother – my mom’s sister – abandoned him for some loser in Ojai, and he has come to live with us. He is twelve years old and always dirty. I feel bad he has no mother. I want to be a sort of mother to him. A mama. A sexy mama. I am fourteen. This is not so unbelievable.

Think about it. Go there. Rake the dirt, the sludge, the grit. Draw it out. Make it disappear.

The fingernail is now pale and defenseless. It’s a clean so pure I could bite it.


Turn off boy

I canna wait mama
For the tap to turn off
Before I grab me tooth tube and squeeze
The paste from tha’hole like them
Words you yell –
Come on ol’dirty boy!
When you spend all tha’time scrubbing and them blue walls shine
Like a sky you never see in this London town
Reminds you of some other place, with waterfalls down
Green foliage is what’s missing – instead a tree o’tubes
And that pink cup you bought for the baby
That never came, even though promised,
Even though promised for being good, said the pastor, and be baptised with that
As if this was Jordan.
Wha’s this about? This word song, tap running, and straight down that plug
The thirsty throat, the slim neck, to the belly of the earth and out
to them drains and from them to the sea?
Do you even know, do you have a clue, did you leave the door open, you bad boy, you?
Turn off, boy. Grab that brush and turn out. Your devil needs grooming is all.



I like brink
daily visit
dark pond exhibition with Mr._
in England.
He is a dead mouse
            far right mirror reflection
            electric brush.
I see to this, as we all are
shrivels colours
lots of dripping.


The logic of leaving

You're asleep when I wake
and slip out of bed.
I put my clothes on in stillness,
hear the small birds cause
a cheerful stir in the morning.

You're asleep when I wake,
and the air has the scent
of fresh linen. I want to kiss you
but I can't, still bothered
by what's between us.

These rooms and these objects
we have seen and touched –
the soft toothbrushes,
an oval mirror facing a door,
towels to wrap our bodies with –

will be deliberately left behind
or marred for life, one by one.
I am glad it happens so quietly.
To make it easier I will leave
with a smile and the tap running.



it’s just the way you like it.
  no speck of dirt anywhere.
      even the water runs like it’s just broken away from a glacier.
      the mirror, shone every day with three different textured tissues
      until the pores and marks on my face stare back at me,
    volcano-like in their expression. threatening to spill the dirt.
  there’s not one thing amiss or out of place.

Now that they’re gone

The late summer sun beats against the window in luminescent waves. She has left the water running to fill the silence. Behind her the door to the bathroom is open, and for once she doesn’t care; closing a door presupposes that there’s someone to keep out. But there’s no one left.
    The routines that shape her days have assumed the mechanics of a rite: rise, stretch, wash face, brush teeth, scrub nails, massage sleep from eyes, breathe deep. This repetition is an incantation, an attempt to summon back at least one of the disappeared. Somewhere in the interstices of these motions she hopes to hear the laughter of children downstairs, the ring of the telephone, feet clomping up the stairs to the porch, the creak and slam of the screen door. But it’s been dead quiet for a week.
    The first morning she thought it was a practical joke, or that her husband had taken the kids to get donuts and would be right back. But the car was in the driveway, and there was no way they had walked. She stood on the porch, waiting in the sticky heat of the early morning, drinking her coffee. The neighbor’s cars did not leave their driveways. No lawnmowers, no children on bikes, no delivery trucks. She only heard the songs of birds, the chirring of insects, the rustle of leaves, the sonorous notes of a wind chime.
    Two hours passed and she began to worry. She could not get reception on her cell, and the landline emitted a fast busy as soon as it came off the cradle. She busied herself with household chores, taking advantage of the rare opportunity of an empty house. She kept turning off the vacuum cleaner to listen, thinking she had heard a voice somewhere under the machine’s roar, and as the motor wound down, she stood there taut, listening.
Read more >

Floss as if your life depended on it

I need to floss my life, search into
the corners, all snarled up with detritus
and meaningless scraps of stale

grudges, lingering too long after
the original slights or hurt.
Aeons after the perpetrator

has fled the country and set
up home with their next victim.
Ready to strike and high five victory.

I need to floss all the spaces.
The in-between areas where my
brain has gone walk about.

Taken the slow and painful trip
to the outback where the fangs
of wild creatures have made breakfast

with my skin and superannuated bones.
My jaw painfully open in surprise
at their assault – so unexpected.

I need to floss and wind
the loose skeins of thread
and knit myself a guernsey.

Ready to protect me from
the harsh winds and hurling
tides of the north sea.

Read more >


Fresh Start(s)

An unknown face in an unknown room.

There's ample space for reflection - the room has been polished to within an inch of its collective life; not a drip of entropy. I count the number of toothbrushes in the sink; my frame of reference - my grid of reality. I try counting the bristles of the nailbrush, but that's a futile attempt.

I revolve around clock-time; sun-goes-round-earth chronology. I don't have a watch nor a sundial, so that device doesn't bring me any comfort.

Four toothbrushes; a meticulous singular or I'm in the room of a multiple. Do they co-ordinate as they wash, a rota of self-preservation, or is it done on a purely ad-hoc basis?

As much as I love to play detective, there's the element of my safety I have to consider. Find out whose body I'm inhabiting today.

There's a guilt I have to consider, although that's purely self-inflicted. A parasite with a conscience. A hoarder with threads from the loom of multiple pasts, fraying on the ends, leading to nowhere.

It never gets easier, but I never give up hope.

Their consciousness will return soon, as per usual, but it's harder with families and loved ones. It's just one day, I know, but the inconsistencies can trigger an ontological earthquake.

What would fit their patterns of behaviour? Would it be perfectly natural if I were to leave for a day? Hide sick in a vacant room?

Take a deep breath. Gauge the collateral this time.

The mirror shimmers into life.


Fluid Dynamics

She puts a thumb to the sink’s curved edge.
Splashes capture ice and glass, trace
the pull of skin, pitch towards the waste.
She lays a palm against the window pane,
watches beads form patterns on the outer surface.
If she could reach the other side her fingertips
would course their rivulets, feel for a wave.
She’d flow like liquid, braided streams
held within her skin. Eased into its turbulence,
the anchor’s weight is lost in churning foam –
a white water rider slipping the web of belts
that tie her to the raft.

Carrying water

Last week our Sunday school teacher
told us about Mira who has to walk
three miles each day in search of water.
It most often comes from an open hole dug
in the sand of a dry river bed and is not clean.
She carries it home in a jar balanced on her head.
It can weigh up to forty pounds, sometimes more.
Mira is careful not to let a drop of the precious
cargo spill on to the arid ground.

I’m lucky that I don’t have to travel in search of water,
the sun burning the top of my head,
scorched sand searing the soles of my feet.
I just turn on a tap and out it comes;
fresh and clean and as much as I need.
In the past I’ve often left the tap
running while brushing my teeth.
Now I think of Mira and imagine
my own pot of water balancing on my head.



My best friend- lover-lady- has left me. It was not her
volition. She would have chosen to stay.
She would have wanted to wrap her arms around our boy-child and me and dangle her silky fine hair and blue ribbon, to tickle him.
  I will always remember her waking-lady ceremony, stirring under blue covers and drifting toward the blue bathroom. It was her blue haven. With a gentle rub of the blue negligee she used to wipe imaginary smears from the round circle of glass in her blue world.
  She would rinse her beautiful face, soap her hands, then reach for the soft towel. This was usually misplaced by the boy. She would smile weakly to herself, twisting it carefully through the gleaming ring. Teeth brushing was completed using a baby soft brush. She would frown ruefully as red intrusive drops dripped sadly from her mouth to shining bowl. Only occasionally would she use the glass circle for it's true purpose.
I knew that she missed the life force from before. In my eyes she was our Woman of Courage.
  Family and friends offered comfort. They borrowed our son to bring a sense of normality to him.
Before he returned I stood in the blue bathroom and imagined the faint scent of Blue Grass wafting around me and the tape playing Blue Moon...

What you leave behind

You trip and drip, like water I can never miss nor predict you
slippery, you like a drop I can no longer catch slide out, draining
and you occasionally rumble, so loud I hear a sea storm at your gargle-cup
A storm beyond my calm. Funny I always find you by what you leave behind -
A trail in the overflow of open taps,
an unmerciful squeeze in toothpaste, its teeth-dented cap
Few hairs near the drain, grime in the sink, a used towel where you forget your features
my morning sighs and everywhere else patches of blue.
There's always a gradation of blue when I lose you,
another shade darker for when you lose yourself
Azure pins itself in our secrets, on our walls,
but navy and red badges cover my wrist, these grips, blow your overweight tenderness.
My favorite royal blue I do not wear, too much darkness shows sleepless nights.
the morning light is clear, It is a good thing I scrub the bath you (by pure assertion
chose to obsessively paint blue) to sparkle each morning
I clear off what remains of you from the white brinks
I scrub you off me, off my wrists and face bleak
scrub off your ocean-blue eyes,
your blue voice mellow with last night's jazz and transparent Absolute
It's a good thing you left the door open for air today
As I scrub light white I leave you hanging at the door, a voice and I
question how darker - in shades of blue - do I need to turn before I regain my white skin.

Mirror In The Bathroom

MIRROR IN THE BATHROOM. No, not that track released by The Beat in 1980; the one I'm referring to exists in my parents' house. There's something about that looking glass. I can't quite describe how exactly it unnerves me - probably because I've seen things reflected in it, things my parents haven't seen; and if they have witnessed something untoward, they haven't mentioned anything.

So, what things am I talking about? A door moving unassisted; faces of people who don't reside with us. Nothing disturbing about the faces - they aren't disfigured or distorted - they are pale, ghostlike, evidently belonging to a different time and for some reason, I'm the only person who sees them.

But none of this would make sense to you - you haven't seen this bathroom. Well, it's a modern affair, just like the rest of the house. Yes, I did say modern; modern, new, up to date. Ghosts and restless spirits are not exclusive to Victorian mansions and graveyards, they are known to haunt new properties. Now, back to the bathroom. Nothing special; toilet, shower and hand basin; and the mirror. The mirror is located high up and I can just about use it if I stand on tip-toe. My first paranormal experience involved a moving door. Brushing my teeth one morning, I saw - in the mirror - the bathroom door moving behind me; but when I turned around I saw it was stationary. Assuming it was a trick of the light or an overactive imagination I put it to the back of my mind. A few weeks later, I had to concede that wasn't the case. Combing my hair one evening, I saw the face of a woman in the mirror; she seemed to be standing behind me; but when I turned around nobody was there; however, she was still visible in the mirror. And hers wasn't an isolated case. A few days went by and another face appeared, a man of about twenty. Read more >



I live in a blue plastic world,
breaths of nature and life
avoid my space.

Complete systems exist
to brush, cleanse,
sterilise my life.

You've slipped away into the bedroom.
I see your naked form disappear.
The cleansing cycle is about complete
uncontaminated by stress, fear.

One day I promise I'll be free
to fly out from these four walls.
Now I'll live, captivated
emaciated in ersatz harmony.


Bathroom Habits

Owen wants to paint the bathroom blue. He says it’s calming. I try to persuade him that he doesn’t need a different toothbrush for each day of the week but he thinks it’s more hygienic, and besides, he’s always done it. I don’t want another fight. We’re on a six month trial. Owen moved in to mine because the lease on his flat was coming to an end; it was the logical thing to do, he said.

I prefer sunshine yellow, and towels that have been tumble dried, not hung out until they become rigid and rough. I like bubble bath and wooden loo seats and flowers in a vase on the bath side. The pollen makes Owen sneeze, but he says he’ll cope with the upset to his allergies to keep me happy. And it does make me happy, this concern for my well-being, until the exaggerated nose-blowing disturbs my joy. He throws out the flowers and installs an air freshener that squirts out floral glade every time I get within two feet of the loo.

Owen brings flowers home on our six month deadline, and says it’ll be fine so long as they remain in the hall. He takes me to our favourite restaurant, and we celebrate.

I wake up in the early hours, my stomach churning. I recall how Thai food never did agree with me, and I cramp over the loo while floral glade bursts like gunfire from the wall. The disorientation of sickness makes the room spin, and as I stand and gaze into the mirror, I barely recognise the place or person, swathed in a background hue of blue.



You can tell a lot about people from their bathrooms. I should know – I’m spending a lot of time in bathrooms lately. They’re my bolt holes - the most private room in any house. No one to disturb you, unless you have kids - not applicable in my case - now or any time soon. If you could see me at the moment, you’d understand.
Anyway, Jocelyn’s bathroom is blue, blue and white. It’s so pristine it looks as though no one ever washes, or leaves a dirty towel lying around on the floor. Typical. That’s how she wants us to see her life, of course – perfect, no nasty secrets, or skeletons in the cupboard – everything sanitised. As open and honest as a cloudless sky. As if.
She doesn’t know that I know, of course. That she’s a sham. That she’s carrying on behind my brother’s back. I wonder what they’d say if I told them? I wonder if they’d be so willing to drink her cocktails, and eat her canapés? I wonder if they’d line up to ensure the Christmas invitations? ’Course they would; they wouldn’t believe me - Jocelyn and David are well known, and I’m nobody. In any case, people don’t care about hypocrisy any more. The main thing is that you have to be seen in the right places, and rub shoulders with the right people. You can get away with anything these days - like Jocelyn does.
Cynical? Maybe – but with good reason. That’s why I needed to escape up here: couldn’t stand seeing her drape herself casually over Peter Grant or hear her going on about how lucky she’s been: how glad she is that David took that job: how everything with this house just came together at the right time for her, how glad she is that Elliot has gone to that school. I nearly said something, but then I didn't. Read more >


Every trace of him will soon be gone
        I have mourned him far too long.
        I've cut the bristles of his shaving brush
        They were gone in one swift flush.
        Now I have been so very brave
        And started on his aftershave.
        I tipped it down my nice new sink
        It was gone in one quick blink.
        He is coming around later on
        By that time it will all be gone.
        There is only one thing that is left to do
        With his toothbrush, I'll clean the loo.


Tap drips
A metronome
Time leaks away
along with bits of me-
toenails, hair, skin,
memories drain
out to the grey sea

The Toothbrush That Knows the Rules of Engagement

I wonder the day
When it won’t cause me
To trip my feet or bang
My hip against the
Bathroom door,
Losing balance.

You said: “I use an electric toothbrush.”
I said: “Maybe, I should get one too.”

Not fleeting and romantic,
but practical and essential.

The first proper sentences
We exchanged that didn't involve
Stifled niceties over alcoholic
Double dutch etiquette or
Bodily directions over precision
Driving angles or
Quick fire decisions, mouthed
Around cut lipped
Kisses, over where
To spend the night.

“I use an electric toothbrush.”
Your words,
Share with my words.


how not to freak out if you wake up invisible

start by trying not to scream: I don't
have to clean my fingernails anymore,
because, you still need to, because nothing
has changed, your brain is still inside
your cranium, although your heart might have slipped
through the ribcage, you never liked it rattling there anyway;
then, start the morning like you always have,
with water, and toothpaste although it will be difficult
to tell if you rinsed all the foam out
I'd suggest skipping the push-ups, who knows where your
heart then might fall off, but carry on with the newspaper,
it is important that you avoid stepping on dogs or their tails
because they still can see you. make friends with the cats
learn how they live like the air, learn not to make noise when you leave, so please, no honey I'm off. When you're invisible you will be under the impression that is there is more space,
when actually it simply comes down to seeing through
the wings of dragonflies. When you're invisible, it will be easy
to prison-break, to attend musicals, or to face your loved ones.
You can come back home late, and still show no signs of being
outdoors, of being anywhere. To make sure that you're still
there, still breathing, drown your head in water basin:
suffocate, catch your breath, hear the heart pound, but then, oval mirrors don't always tell the truth maybe, in the first place, you were never here, or there, you never were

The Cerulean Song

Dearest Clementine,

Where to begin? At the end? In the middle? Somewhere else? Albert is dead. I can barely write those words, scrape into this white sheet of paper such letters, such shapes, terrible black rain falling from my fingers. How is it possible?
   We are, were (even grammar confuses me, death causes chaos to time and tenses) still in Paris. Albert had a heart attack four days ago, une crise cardiaque whilst playing chess with Boris at the café. Il n’a pas souffert, the French doctor said. What does this mean? Words seem senseless, absurd. We had only been away from London for three weeks; we should have been leaving for China today. Our journey of a lifetime…. Bing, bang, bong.
   I am planning to stay in this rented flat for another fortnight. (I found it through the site you recommended Air and B). There is a view of Parisian rooftops and a blue bathroom. The bathroom worries me. I clean it daily. The day Albert died, I started cleaning. I cannot stop, cannot. Scrub. Rinse. Polish. Wipe. Disinfect. Scrape the gung from the grouting between the tiles. Bleach. Spray. Water. Mousse. I wash, wash, wash until I can no longer, then I sleep, awake and wash more. My fingers are red raw. Peeling skin. The smell of the bleach burns my nose. I think, I am alive.
   The bathroom is immaculate, unsullied, ordered. I line up our toothbrushes like soldiers standing guard against the folly of this death; the nailbrush is by the tap, next to the green slither of soap. Albert’s electric toothbrush faces left, looks East to the rising sun. Next to the sink is a towel hanger, an empty loop in the blue. Sometimes, when I’ve finished, I let the water run, let it continue; and, it is soothing this gurgling stream in such a fractured, broken time.
Read more >



I’ve been lying here for three weeks,
being tapped and drained, but I dare not
look into the mirror. What will I see, the
horror of my silence? I’ve washed and
brushed and scrubbed but I cannot be
cleaned. Why do lies hold so tightly to
my skin? Why is fear lodged like shrapnel
so deeply into my flesh? The rush of
water mutes my thunderous heartbeat
that pounds like bombs blasting upon
boisterous boys running with a ball
on a beach. Tears fall like missiles into
grey classrooms and tiny cold homes.
But I must lie, lie on this cold floor, lie
to my god; and perhaps seek to escape
this blue hell with mirrors and conscience
and endless guilt, in search of salvation.
                        Hey, I see an open door.

Neptune’s Projects: Bathroom Design, quote no 37514

Dear Bethany

Many thanks for your email of last week, asking for a quote to design and fit out your new bathroom.

Less thanks, however, for the image you included as a suggestion of what you and your hubby might like.

Now, I’m not sure how you came across my firm – I’m not in the Yellow Pages for a reason – but a quick gander at our website would have no doubt made you aware that the aesthetic that you suggest – the cliché blues and tepid pinks – are, well, an ocean away from the high-falutin’ visions I am here to provide.

I mean, really – look at that mixer you suggest! I quail with despair that an educated woman such as yourself, with all the design resources of the early 21st century at your disposal – Kevin McCloud’s ego, Kirstie Allsop’s id – could really think that tap – that placid, humble, ugly noose of a tap – is the best that you could aspire too.

Bethany, look – where I am from, I am considered a god in these affairs, so you will take it as read that when I say I can do anything in a confined space in a 1987 two-up, two-down prefab, I really, really can.

Challenge me, dear Bethany, challenge me! A kraken rainfall showerhead – no problem! Tiles that ripple with the colours of the Great Barrier Reef, while scrubbing your breath of particularly nasty particulates? Take it as read! A wet room that converts into a Polaris submarine, with triple periscope skylights and slate grey underfloor heating? I’ll do it for you at cost.

Read more >



At Oulu, mysterious days of a solstitial camp
so full of awe and fuss with the midnight sun
that dyes a white sink in hues, brings a soon-gone night to run
through a window. At dawn the goblin Lempo hides in damp

himself for lost short darkness with auroral cool dew.
In bungalows, he betrays people and plays a trick
with a bath mirror in slant light as his eyes, his view
that reflects from capricious expressions, the quick

of the campers who are riveted by the reflection.
They squeeze toothpaste, brush their teeth as if staring at
unseen Lempo who watches their frenzied to-dos that
are traced like sleepwalkers in a daydream, recollection.

And dawn again. With his off-the-cuff wiles to
get amnesia, their retreat is over. Here lies a
collage of tap running, things left behind in ice blue.


The slow rise from sleep

I let the water soak my hair
I shampoo my body
rinse off my feet.

I stroke each pristine artefact
stare into an empty mirror
dress in a towel.

Brain washed, I wake my body.


For sale

All they could hear was the faint noise of running water. The open back door had been the way in.
The front door not responding to their incessant knocking.
The newly painted side latch gate unbarred from inside allowed them around the back of the house.
There the fresh-mown lawn was surrounded by neatly planted and trimmed bedding plants, set in ordered lines and careful patterns promising blooming loveliness when their buds burst.
The back door was open, not much but enough to encourage a tentative entry. Inside the kitchen was neat, spotless and new enough to set your teeth on edge. No water spots had yet stenciled themselves on the work surfaces. No faint finger grubbiness marred the cupboard doors around the handles.
Advancing through the kitchen into the hall no answer came to repeated 'hellooows' and 'is anyone at home'. It was at the foot of the stair we heard the water first. A faint rushing, and light.
Again we called. No answer. And so we carefully set up the stairs, imagining every horror and type of terror. Advancing carefully, backs against the wall, eyes never leaving the landing above, we climbed. But again - nothing as we reached the top of the stairs, calling out. The landing was empty, the carpet too clean.
To our right the nearest nearly closed door was that of the bathroom, which announced itself through the noise of running water. Around the edges of the landing other nearly open doors invited us into well set-out rooms, spare of any tossed clothes or mess.
Read more >

Five Years

“Look John, look…”

She grips the plastic stick in both hands,
her heart thrumming.

Five years of timing cycles,
monotonous groping,
checking for one line or two.

He squints at the stick, stares at her,
squints again.

Gulping back the welling lump, he blinks,
his eyes too full for words.


Black Tattoos

Tap's on. Can't be bothered to turn it off. My rebellion against you. A tiny one, but add them all up and they have clout. Kids screaming outside, running riot. My turn. No my turn on the bleeding bike. Make them stop. They make me want to screech as you do, you did. Want to be sick. This thing inside me's growing too quick. I want it out, out out and then I'll throw it away like you threw us away. I hate you, I hate you. I'm telling Mum. No don't come in. Don't you dare come in, Keely. And don't you dare come back. There's a peace in here. It's in the aqua blue you left on the walls. I could swim in it, like I could swim in you. Those were the days, and these are the days I have before me. I'll take a pen and mark them off, each strike in black, tattooing the skin of this room. Water rushes out with all the hate I have in me. It's scalding hot, like the sand on the beach you took me to in June 2011. Hottest day of the year. Running through the sand, crystals blistering our feet. Well it felt like that. Rain keeps falling. Not raindrops, not like the song turning rain into sun. That doesn't happen does it? Not in a million years. Door slams, walls shakes. Mum? Mum? Mum! Banging on the door. Sam called me an ugly cow. Handle turns. Twists. That god awful squeaking noise that you promised you'd fix. I want to twist around and shout. Get out, will you? Steam smudges the mirror, fills the room. Let it be smoke. I'll breathe it in, like all the fags I've stashed away. Bet the smoke would kill me before the fags. Mum, please. Why does she have to cry. She knows how to turn it on. You did too. See, there's proof she's yours. All your accusations come to nought. But you won't come back, will you now.

The Call

“It's been raining. . .dark, uncontrollable. I've been thinking about you—us.”


“It's been raining. Do you know what I mean? You must.”


“It's dark tonight, Erik. It's raining, too. Do you know what I've been thinking about?—Connections. Sorry, I mean grace.”

This isn't working.

“It's been raining, Erik. And you are on my mind. How are you? Is this a silly question?—Oh, I'm sorry.”

The tap is still running, only it is slower this time.

“Hi, Erik. How are you? I hope Stockholm is treating you well. It must be, it is home to your heart. It's been raining here, Erik. It's dark, too. I was looking at the stones in my garden... How–how are you? Erik, it's dark, and there is something lurking—Erik...?”

The tap stops running as a gust of wind blows into the bathroom and the toothbrush falls to the ground.

“Do you remember that day we walked from Archipelago to King's Cross, and you told me to tie my laces three times? Was it raining, Erik? It's raining now, Erik. And you–you are on my mind. I–I just wanted to say hello, and–and I wanted to tell you that the stones in the garden look well. They glisten in the rain, Erik. Do you remember my eyes that night? You said–you said I...”

Read more >



for Javier

Ministry of Tourism
henceforward, islanders, utilize
naturally strippable skies –
way to have
since our bluedock
coats are shredded;
pitchy patchy citizenry
rum ’uns, several-headed,
ordered to repair
indoors, permitted only
necessary sky-strips, un-
satisfying radical geo-
metría – ay, María,
celestial’s glued beneath
pinked nails, jiffed
away multiplicatory trapezium
leaving this oval
blank of face –
Read more >


What did you expect?

V, patient detective, counts toothbrushes in the cup, four she thinks, is it three, one electric, but I was hoping for a tiger with something in her mouth. Cub or prey? Albo może mały biały domek, floating, maybe a little white house. Instead this blue cell, shiny, scrubbed, contained inside itself. Not even a view. Opaque blind. Pastel pink and blue walls. Every enamel surface polished, white as teeth. Na spienionych falach mórz/on foaming waves of sea.

I expected an abstract, curves for waves, sculpted or smudged in orange patches of cloud, sunset above Maroccos, walking into it. Walking into it. I was expecting an unknowness. This is too familiar, domestic, a logical conclusion.

What gave me hope was the mirror. Oval, blue-framed in which I saw the outline of a door, open I think, leading out from the small enclosure into what you couldn’t see. A hint of light, barest play of shadow round the frame, still clean, still white – you could tell it had recently been painted – but leading somewhere, that was the main thing.

Now sheets of rain, the cat runs in, the bay tree outside rustles and the sky is steel grey, no, smoke grey, flint smoke grey with enough blue z mych dziecinnych snów a tygrys wraca/the tiger returns carrying something and pads through lasy/forests i piasek/and sand z mych dziecinnych snow/from my childhood dreams i razem z nią/and with her walking out. Raw.


Clean is Me…

It's incredible. How easy it is to wash off the day's grime; a gel here, a shampoo there, a scrub here, and filthy water flows down the drain, cleansing, soothing, transporting all the days sins, selfishness and shallowness. Ah! Clean is me!

Incredible! No, it's actually sad; I wish I could so easily rid my heart of pain, of anger, envy, rage and depression. That a toothbrush would cleanse my lips of vile words; that the thumping stream of water would go deep, like a hot knife in butter and wash my thoughts clean.

Indeed! Clean is me; and the mirror, no, no mirrors for me; not until my cleansing is due and done.



In the moments before Robin died the water
stopped, running dry comedy; the sun paused
like a clock run out of winding coil; it peeped
into the frosted window curiously. He stared
at his face in the blue mirror, hung on a blue
wall in a blue world on a blue stage with blue
curtains closing. He hadn’t danced through
his morning routine – brush, rinse, brush, rinse.
All he knew was beauty, the beauty of memory
that makes odd-shaped things like him,
beautiful. He saw his face fade in the mirror,
revealing the open white door to a new stage,
for the final act. He breathed a smile which
echoed across time and face. Then the water
started running again.


I have made my peace in this little blue room. To it and all its component parts, I apologise for the impoliteness of my past and present functions. May the porcelain forgive me my many insults. May the cistern enjoy more restful days.

Poor, dear little room. It has taken all my mortal panics, all my ghastly expulsions with such good grace and in such fine colour. What a time we have had! I have racked my wits on what will never be. I have been as heavy as stone and as filthy as a newborn. The cycles are tedious. I will go no more to painful places.

My old loves conspired against me. They polluted my humour. Breugel and Bosch are rolled and tubed and exiled to the airing cupboard. So too grotesque Grunewald, morbid Memling and the fearful old Fra - damn their engaging daubs! All that bug-eyed, bony-fingered Renaissance hysteria spoiling the mood. They can suffocate in the heat together with those wretched scribbled Doré's. Lying, gifted souls! Allegory has lost its allure. They pictured hell half-dreaming of supple girls and filthy ale. I have the monstrous clarity of the mirror. A desiccating landscape past restoring. "Principal work of the Ablutionist School". Hell enough for these cloudy old peepers.

"Exhibit removed."

I have scrubbed clean the bath. I shall recline like Marat in oils, unblemished and unpained. Nembutal will be my unseen Corday. My masked David will make his study with a busy lens and little blue bags on his shoes. Would it greatly move the old stuffed shirts at the Koninklijke Musea to neighbour me in pastiche...?

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When you rifled the electric toothbrushes
in the supermarket for that particular shade
of cerulean or whatever it was, and matched
the mirror plastic exactly to the wall, I knew
we were in trouble. I sat on the toilet with
the door open when you were out, just so
there was something less deliberate. But
it was the pink cup that irked me most, where
I was left to stuff my scragged toothbrush,
because the contrast was so blatant – and
that nail brush sitting there like a spirit-level.
I became oppressed by the gleams in porcelain.

So, when I had finished, I washed my hands
of all of that, and when the towel slipped
from its ring, I left it there. I turned the tap
on full, put the plug in and walked out naked
down the road. I heard sirens: them coming
to take me away, as your vanity overflowed.


I do not like this

I never liked blue, I once thought I did but no it is too harsh. Too bright for these mornings when I just want to move as easily and stealthily as possible from sleep to waking.
I never wanted this pristine, clinical look. I prefer the toothpaste cap left off, smears and watermarks dripping down the mirror, damp towel left thrown on the floor to form it's own shape and pattern.
I have grown comfortable with my family's idiosyncrasies and I do not like this blue room.


I see you with sleep leaden eyes
As you stagger from your pit.
I wish some mornings I could recoil
as your image comes into view.
"Go back to bed" I want to shout,
"Begone oh demon of hell!"
Expecting me to transform you to that person
we know so well.
Some mornings it's nigh on impossible.
So, wash your face, scrub up, and clean your teeth and devil breath
Then, only then I will do my best to be kind.
But for God's sake SMILE.

What I Whisper

What I whisper
is not single celled,
but a colony and trees
bent in light leaving from
their stems wash the depths
of me. I am stunned when
morning comes; dew beads
every blade, and we who
loved the night shadows
are painted green.

I smell lemons

assured by the azure
I find it comforting
as I consider the brush off

I reflect on what might have been
inflections affecting perceptions

opening wide
mint meets mouth
pristine enamel glints

staring into the glare
I bath in the light
the bright white light

wowed by Wedgewood wonderment
matt merges with gloss
stunned by the vitreous vitriol

I am blue, I ablute
meanwhile the wet

throwing in the towel
sodden and soiled
I no longer laugh at
the freeze frame folly

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Not Still Life

I excuse myself from the dinner table as the hostess serves dessert. I head for the bathroom and find the tap running.
Everything has a place here, the objects
are neatly arranged. Everything is visibly clean, the surfaces
reflect the tidiness in all rooms.
The running tap reminds me of all that eludes the hostess and it finds a kindred in me - I can see more of me in the open tap than in the mirror above it.
I feel thirsty. And I smile to the face in the mirror, displaced by the babble of the evening but redeemed by this unexpected gush.
The face in the mirror disappears as my mouth rushes to the running tap, gulping the flowing water.

The Mirror that Stared

Stumbling, James threw himself over the sink, he hung his head then drew it up to the mirror slowly. His reflection revealed a man whose face he could no longer recognise,. Exactly a year ago today he'd made this private promise to stop drinking, that too had slipped from his fingers, like wet soap. Sweating profusely, James began to feel that the bathroom was getting very crowded. In the mirror, he saw the door was open: he did not shut it. Instead, he turned to the tap, and pushed it upwards -- why couldn't taps operate as they always had done? and felt a near-freezing cascade of water hit his limp hands. It woke him. The time was 3:15. He covered his face and let the icy water fall in drops over his cheeks. One leg bent, James rested his left hand on the window sill. Tonight, or rather this early morning would be James' last. He tried to remember all the times he had looked in the mirror as a happy, contented man, to remember that he had three children, a gorgeous wife, real friends, two cars. But as he looked back on himself now, the notion that he only had his addictions, in this state anyway, was overbearing.
James turned the tap off.

Toilet Break

Hiding on a toilet;
Family dinners
Are difficult to digest.

Feel they're waiting
Loitering the other side of wooden panels,
Peeking through gaps
Watching my shadow
Unfold it's hands from my face.

Most comfortable room
In their home.
Exhaled air
Pulsates off my chest.
Running water
Masks my snivelling.

Flushing toilet marks
Time to re-emerge
As if a diver in an ocean
I push through
Family dinner resumed.


About a garden, but slightly divagating. And also (don’t include this when you publish) do the words in the title count? And one last thing, can you help me by sending an email to an estate agency? It’s about a garden and a locked door. They won’t give me the key and they insist there is no garden. I have no one left to turn to.

I've hidden a garden in this story (let's call it a story). It might be that's in the shape of a poem - a tiny poem covered by an overgrowth of words. Or in the shape of whatever is left when you take the words away from a poem. The story is meant to be about this garden, that's how it insinuated itself into my brain over the night. Over a lifetime of nights. But there is the image of a bathroom that keeps interfering.

It's of course, the fault of the estate agency. Among the pictures that I found on their website there was none showing the garden. The picture of the bathroom was showing a sink (water running from the tap), an oval mirror and the corner of a window on the right side. But the window is a lie.

Oh, before I forget, the oval mirror reflects an open door. I find this strange because I never see it like that. I like to close the door to the bathroom every time I go in, even if I live alone. All I see is a closed door.

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Christ, it's cold!
My late woman says,

“Cleanliness is next to Godliness,”
and, “It costs nothing to be clean.”

Strip-wash, man. Break the ice
before it breaks the ewer.

Ferns of frost elaborate
the inside of the pane -

privacy, courtesy
of Mother Nature.

The dirt floor is feverish to the feet,
and the hearth, as yet, is helpless.

Me? I'm on the up.
There's bread enough for breakfast.


That Blue

She said it looked calming
Like a Mediterranean Sea
She said it would grow on me
Given time and a certain light
She said it's fresh but
I really hate it now.

I painted it carefully
I prepared the walls diligently
I cleaned up afterwards
I made sure it was complete
She thanked me tenderly
Yet still I hate it totally.

When she's gone I will
Go for white I think
Not off-white, ivory or magnolia
But white just white
Because that is the shade
Of my love for her.


Long Gone

You licked the corners of your mouth and spat into the sink.
White-water froth tumbled down into the neck of the plughole and disappeared with a gargle from the drain. I imagined it tumbling down the pipes, and entering the deep abyss of putrid sewage, bubbling until it was long gone.
You grabbed your towel, streaked fibres across the mirror, and started at the sight of an extra toothbrush in our cup.

Look Again

Somewhere between the death of my youngest son and living like I do now – that’s when it started I think. I remember walking into the waiting room at the doctors. I took a seat and picked up a magazine. Home Living. Around me people were coughing, sickly, scratching, sneezing, slumped over in their seats. I wanted to block it all out. I opened the the magazine and the first page I flicked to captured my attention. It was a beautiful photograph, a photograph of a bathroom. That sky blue wall with light pouring in through the blinds looked so perfect. There were two children’s toothbrushes alongside their parents in a pink cup. The tap is running as though there were someone just out of sight, perhaps brushing their teeth right at that moment.
“Turn that tap off!” I would have scolded. Wasting water like that was unnecessary.
I went over to the airing cupboard to grab another towel as there was no towel in the towel ring. It was still warm. I checked the children were still getting ready for school and not playing games or still in bed. I then headed to the kitchen to make breakfast.
My husband stood at the counter, he was making lunch for everybody. There were slices of cucumber, tomatoes, cheese, salad leaves scattered across the counter.
“Aren’t you sweet” I purred as I went to give him a squeeze. He turned and smiled, kissing my head. I pulled away and reached into the dishwasher, picking two pink bowls out. I placed them carefully on to the table, side by side. I wouldn’t do everything for them. I left a choice of cereals, some milk and a selection of juices and fruit. They could help themselves.
I heard doors slamming upstairs and knew they would storm down stairs like a heard of elephants charging in fright.
“Slow down!” I called. “You’ll have an accident one of these days!” Read more >


I am not looking. I do the job so well now. I could peek, lift the voile away from the window, turn my head to the right and see the docklands. What would be the point though? My handiwork will not be discovered yet. I wonder if this one will be it. Will the similarities start to nag at them?
I’m going to change the bathroom cleaner and shower gel I use tomorrow. The scent of lemon is beginning to get on my nerves. Will they have identified the perfume yet? Chanel No. 5 so classic I could hug myself. Only one more in this series the tooth mug is almost full of brushes. Fresh breath is important for a body even when it no longer inhales or exhales.
It annoys me when they take so long at identifying me. Well, me the killer, not me name and address. I am not an amateur even though I work without pay. I’ve done course after course on landscape gardening, window dressing, lifting and moving, butchery and all the creative writing workshops at the library. I might do photography next.
She is the eighteenth blond under 25 and engaged to a man called Bob. I did thirty-one Steve’s with brown hair. I fancy swimmers next. Dress them up in Victorian bathing suits. In my dreams, that would be far too easy for the police and tabloids. I want something less laborious than tattooing roses the next batch. Better re-grout the tiles this weekend. Blood and gore, iron and fat are so messy.

Green slug ritual

Following my daily ritual
I pulp the fat green slug
Twixt thumb and middle finger
Until here
Within this secret chamber
It yields its oozing slime
I press and pap its jellied guts
With ritual precision
Then daub its milky mucous
Across my throat
Across my cheeks
Around my gaping mouth
Careful not to fall foul of its mordant, oily unction

Surveying my best efforts at masking up my face
I recollect how ancestors would reach now for the blade

I rinse my hands
Replace the cap on Gillette gel
Grasp my Bic … and start to shave.


What Your Sister Saw

I didn’t say anything as you sliced your hands through the water, cutting through the stream from the tap, soft white bubbles foaming on blood. I remember the water running red, then pink and eventually white as you breathed deeply, unflinching, resolute.

You said it happened on the pavement just around the corner from our house. That you tripped on the laces mum was always telling you to tie. That you came from the bus stop and ran home in time for your curfew, your feet fumbling over each other, knees cracking on concrete, knuckles breaking your fall. A splinter of glass on the ground.

I never believed you.

You weren’t yourself that summer. Mum and dad thought it was hormones. Biology claiming you, taking their little boy away. In the mornings you spent so much time in the shower that it would be thick with steam and chokingly warm, the mirror fogged, puddles slopped on the floor and the smell of iron and bleach stinging the air.

One morning I asked if you had started shaving. That’s none of your business, you told me. And yet razor blades kept disappearing from the draw while your boyish face stayed the same, childlike, smooth, perfect.

There was a week where you didn’t talk to us at all. You didn’t let us in when we knocked on your bedroom door, our father raising his voice with concern. Through the keyhole, you sat hooded on your bed, eyes searching the screen of your phone, your child face in shadow, your forearms exposed, laddered with red and silver rungs.

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