• Vol. 05
  • Chapter 05


I was reminded – or perhaps I should say – a picture – it arrived and stole every part of my head. A can of beans sits on a shelf in a supermarket. It is 6 cans away from the front edge. It is silent. Unsuspecting. Happy? Bored, definitely. It is stationary as I was. It is lifted this can of beans by a hand – my hand maybe? – His hand. It is shaken – vigorously. In my running – in my stumbling from that fucking house – my brain it shakes. Why wouldn’t it? He. Images beyond the interior now – too many – thousands. Leaf and bark and wooded epidermis underfoot – under the running. Is this the very wood? He – “Bite the fuck down!” Bark crushed to inner tree-bone. Run. Turn head back. Already distant and lost almost. The house’s outer wall visible. Never seen ’til now. The interior littered in bitten twigs. Run on. He – “Bite the fuck down!” Foot on foot down into the wooded floor. Skin later bruised later sore later cut. Somewhere I will soak them – somewhere I will wash and dress and undo – unwind what He did. And heal. He. Another behind it runs and calls after. Faster my legs then. Through bramble and torn – and branches grabbing at my feet my legs these arms. He – “BACK”. It hammers down on me that word. It cracks my skull and tries to hook my brain. “BACK”. Run forever. Stronger the stride. Clearer the wood. Distant the He. “BACK”. No say the legs. No say the arms. No says my breath. Run on.


The Drunk

Michael McGrath was waiting outside the pub when John arrived to open up. He was unwelcome in most places around town because of his habit of slapping the bar and shouting. John poured him a pint.
“I went to Old Head this morning Michael,” John said.
“It’s a lovely spot John,” the old man said.
“There was no one on the beach,” John said searching for the TV remote.
“It reminds me of somewhere foreign on a summer day,” Michael said.
Michael looked at the window and followed a shaft of sunlight catching the dust, which fell on the soft wooden boards in the middle of the bar.
“The sun-comprehending glass, and beyond it, the deep blue air, that shows nothing, and is nowhere and is endless,” he said.
John raised his eyebrows.
“High Windows,” Michael said. “Larkin.”
John nodded and turned the volume up.
“He has a poem about the beach as well,” Michael said looking at his pint.
“What?” John was trying to listen to the TV.
“Larkin. That was High Windows, but he has one about the beach. To the Sea, I think it’s called. To the Sea. ‘The small hushed waves repeated fresh collapse up the warm yellow sand, and – ’”
He stopped, drank the last sip of his pint, and slapped his hand on the bar suddenly.
“And John!” he shouted. “A white steamer stuck in the afternoon! Another pint you half-baked bluebottle!”
“Do you know what it is, really with this guy, Micky?” John nodded at the singer on the screen and took the ten Euro note that had appeared on the bar. “It is the key that man sings in, I mean, the key of his life. The tone of it rings true.”
“Love and death,” Michael said.
“He could sing about going for a shit and I’d probably like it,” John said.
Read more >


We are the winning team, xx

Ok! Dentures are ok. Denture-shaped staplers though. What's worse, twigs. Or what’s it called the device in a horse’s mouth kept on the horse's head by means of a headstall? A bit? It's not straight from the horse's head, mouth, not one bit. No one is straight least of all me and everything is highly derivative. No headstalls. No horsemen no horsepersons. Hang on are these bits gags though ok. Not ok no. Imagine or image search ‘gagged’ the word alone you'll see a million women and none of them into BDSM probably. Lose the gags bits or twigs and the colour scheme turns a bit Saint George's Cross it isn't a winning situation who knew.



No-one tells you what it will be like, after.
After the funeral.
After the body is burned.
You imagine all that will be left to be merely a small pile of pure, smooth grey ash.
What they don’t tell you is that the human body incinerated is far more substantial.
That there are colours, so many colours.
Flecks of blue, purple, even green.
If you look closely it will shimmer.
And there will be parts of the body that won’t disintegrate. Heavy bones, like stones. So that when you put your hand in the urn, you will pull out what you imagine to be a radius or an ulna. It will have a certain heft to it.
You grip it hard and your eight-year-old self will imagine these to be the most stubborn parts of your father. And the fact that these still remain fill you with a kind of relief. And you will laugh and laugh and laugh.

Cremation in those days is still taboo. Seen as a savage ritual for heathens. One puckered-lipped girl will tell you she has heard that your father is being ‘burned to a crisp’.
Burned to a crisp, as if your family were cannibals, cooking him, doing a bad job of it. An oily shame rises, and you repay her by vomiting on her shoes.

Your gran arrives grim-faced, sleeves rolled up. You remember your mother saying that your grandmother is like a dog with a bone. It is true there is a basset hound quality to the wrinkles on her face. Now your gran colonises all the parts of the house that your mother has retreated from in favour of her bed. Read more >


Biting Down

Biting down on the nearest stick
to assuage the pain of your words,
to avoid the bitter taste of my the
verbal incendiaries, I halt my words
then shove a stick in your moth as well.
      I would like
to spew your way in response.
So it is that sticks (not stones)
mediate our fiery chatterings,
protecting us both from wounds from
further mutterings, wounds that would
reach far beyond teeth and tongue,
into the heart.

The Con-Trap-Shut

Oh if there were such a thing to keep one from speaking such utter atrocities
Sticks and Stones may break bones, but
words hurt exponentially more
Opportunites lost for you and yours
Slander is what they call it
What if there were a law that a contraption to keep one's mouth shut for a set period of time would be used instead of jailtime?
We'll call it the Con-trap-shut.
Come and get yours today...

Mouth Trap

Words splinter my tongue
broken off from deep roots,
skeletal remains dried out
when rains failed, heat parched.

Once, our soft lips, stained red,
berry-juiced and moist
beguiled our innocence,
bent tongues to lie honey
drops, wasp-sweet, awaiting
stung fulfillment's sad union.

Sleep dead endings drifted, flitting
dreams fallen. Mulched rot souped
and fungi grew in cracks, congealed
around ribs. Regorgings stank
all breathings out, to dire death-hood.

My red smeared rigid mouth
prised apart by palate screws, cruel
mortician's replication, choked up
with tinder, split from heart of wood.



I have to admit, I’ve never been exposed to a live Commons debate, though I’ve watched bits on television. School debates were oh so much more civilised, despite all the heckling, ribbing, and unrelated gossiping which resonated through the audience. Even the time I caught the tail end of a salacious account of a first date during the debate on sexual equality; where “she” – whoever it was – reportedly “brayed like a donkey”, seems tame in comparison.
    Some people can’t pick up the more lurid of comments, probably because of directional microphones and selective editing, but I can … sometimes, especially when the MP speaking was dating one of those Cheeky Girl creatures.
    I watch them go through the empty motions of intelligent debate; then imagine them sipping their cognacs and pulling on King Edward cigars, thick as small branches. The evolution of notion from that to the wind-up false teeth clattering across the little table beside my hospital bed is no longer funny. They’re supposed to be creating a future.     Most of the fouler language is covered by the Speaker calling “Order … order.’ The urge for some political wag to shout burger and chips must be almost unbearable. Or do they even have that amount of humour?
    Well, with my current incapacity, I didn’t see me being exposed to a live debate of any sort … anytime soon. I can’t handle crowds, loud noises, or bright lights. I feel like a mogwai from Gremlins (Warner Bros., 1984) sometimes. Funny how a kidnapped loved one can put all that to the back… Well no, not the back of the mind, but somewhere behind the threat and the inevitability of the item I’m delivering. I suppose this mental meandering is me temporarily dealing. I’m still shaking, though.
Read more >

Twigs and Bits of Metal Nonsense

When your teeth have been pulled and reissued in plastic; when your gums have had the same treatment AND been painted technicolour orange (or did the operative think it was cadmium red, which may contain mercury?) you know the world’s gone mad.

There was no need to take the teeth out of your mouth and turn them into these (incredibly bad) plastic copies, was there? And as for sticking a twig between them and a bit of metal nonsense to hold said twig, what sort of hallucinatory state was the operative in? Oh yes, and why would said operative make a spare pair? Who on earth would want two of these?

A person could choke on that twig. A person could lacerate the corners of their mouth on that twig. A person could put a hole right through their tongue with that streel prong (if they could get it to move down beyond the twig). A person could be outraged in the extreme that this has happened. A person could sue for misappropriation of personal property. A person could die of mercury poisoning. A person could bleed to death from an inept operative’s operation to remove said person’s real teeth in the first place.

Or, when the fury has fizzled, a person could say, because willing, in the final analysis, to acknowledge a fair number of years (mostly well-spent but governed by a sweet tooth): ‘This strange eventful history ends ... sans teeth.’ Said person might even thank said operative for relieving the pain. As long as said operative agreed to remove said twigs and bits of metal nonsense.



I was thrown for a loop.
I was speechless.
My mouth was totally stopped.
All I could do was gape and stare
At my disembodied dentures;
I must have said “ah” too long.
I must have been stuck on one false note
From the same old same old song.
I couldn’t see,
Because I didn’t have eyes.
I couldn’t hear,
Because I didn’t have ears.
(However, I did smell a rat,
Who was nowhere to be seen—
Not even the tip of his tail.)
I couldn’t taste the twig
That was lodged between my teeth—
I didn’t have a tongue, anyway.
I guess I was just a machine—
That was all that remained of me.
How tragic.
I showed such promise in youth,
Especially in my imagination.
But it’s all gone now,
Except for what you see in this picture.
There’s nothing left to say.

Your Sticky Wicked Home to Roost

Bite it. Stick it up, clacky jaws.
You said the worst you could say
in public. We heard it. You added
but as if you didn't mean it so
mean. Too late. My lips wrinkled. My hair
stuck to my spit. My hands went all
claws. You never stop spreading hate
and telling lies. I know when all
is said and done that it will
come back and bite you.


Fingers in a trap, pinched in an act
paralysed in the attempt to reach

a dream. Could it have landed
that flying saucer, the fairy fantasy?

Unbelief can’t take the place
of dopamine or adrenalin or wild

imagining – pain will penetrate
any minute now...how could I be

so gullible so desperate so dumb?
I never heard the chattering of teeth

the words slipping between friends
lips syncing, lying smoothly in bed

together. Do these words belong
in our world – in love we trust?

Aren’t they just a dream, a flick
in time sewn into a beating heart?


enough misdeeds to make one believe he’s actually been alive

how many warnings does one person need?… if it's you we're taking about, an unlimited amount still isn't enough: you've seen the pictures, you've lived through all the unpleasantness your mistakes have gotten you, and if you add up all the nights you've lain awake boring holes through the walls and ceiling, they'd total years by now, don't you think?… right, use tonight's rain to distract yourself from the bottom line here, keep doing that and see where it gets you: you'll just have to loathe yourself even more when it becomes unendurable, when you reach your breaking point and realized you can't even look yourself in the eye anymore… then where will you be?… already you wake every morning asking how much longer the punishment continues when you know being with her was never going to be given to you, that really and truly, there was never any guarantee things were going to work out with her… where was that going to leave you then?… pull the stick out already and listen to the words formed by the tongueless, the lipless, the phantom voice telling you it's been decades and you're still lost, still hopeless… whose fault is it, though?: you needed something to keep you going, something to work toward… go back to '91: if you hadn't had this, which you'll admit now was just a make-believe hope you knew there was no possibility of ever coming to pass, you would've given up entirely… it's been this ridiculous unlikelihood that saved you: back then, you were almost dead, remember?… you'd even told yourself you were dead--yes, you did, you just won't allow yourself to fully recall those days back and for good reason: you're still protecting yourself from the horror that wasn't of your making… and you'll say it many more times before your truly dead and can't say it anymore, so what's one more time, right?: he was doctor frankenstein and you were the monster, but it was the good doctor who made the monster what he was… were you really a monster, though, really?… Read more >

Letter from Leinster

Dear sir – I write with news from fair Kilkenny,
where, I am pleased to say, there have been many
decent reforms in these indecent times.
Alas, the peasantry sustain those games
I latterly reported: games with corpses
of pagan derivation. These are orgies
of foolishness revolting to all notions
of delicacy – and these “recreations”
thrive among the superstitious despite
the Church’s bold campaign to stamp them out.
Resisting all sense, men don their cracked clothes
and flaunt their rosaries of spare potatoes.
They “Make the Ship” and blindly “Hold the Light”.
They “Hunt the Slipper”, drink and dance about.
The worst of it, in my considered view,
is something anti-Christian they do
to speechless, breathless, only just released
remains of folk whom they all knew. No rest
for such poor things! Their tongues must wag, their teeth –
though they have wagged and chattered long enough –
must grace these jolly scenes. And so the hearths
of deathly chambers resound with such mirth
as may be had from sticks for silly sports –
with tricks and bouts of madness in mock-courts,
bearing witness to which are these bared grins . . . .
But now I must break off. I go at once
to civilize proceedings. Sir, I am
your humble servant still – John G. A. Prim.

Mr. Funny

Joseph drifted as his six-year-old granddaughter brushed and pinned his hair, a ritual every time she stayed over, but he didn’t mind because it relaxed him.

“Okay, Grandpa, look at how nice it looks,” Lucy said and handed him the Barbie Doll mirror.

He looked like a punk rocker with his silver and white hair sticking high up with hair pins. He chortled and handed Lucy the mirror.

“I have a surprise for you, now.”

“What is it, Grandpa?” Lucy asked.

“You’ll just have to wait.”

Joseph came out with something covered in a towel and Lucy looked dumbfounded.

“Go ahead, Lucy, take off the towel.”

Lucy removed the towel and screamed. “Grandpa, that’s disgusting! Why would you show me that?” She stepped back and covered her eyes.

The teeth clattered, and Joseph bent over laughing. “Lucy, Honey, they’re fake. They’re not real teeth. Here I’ll show you.” He grabbed a twig from his wife’s fake plant and put it between the teeth and they stopped clattering. He removed the twig and they began clattering again. “See, it’s a toy. I thought you’d find it funny.”

Read more >


In Between

Like the twig between the teeth
The tongue between the cheeks,
Like the staple between the pages
The words between the lines,
Like the truth between the lies
The death between the lives;
Us -
Running through this indentured cell of
Dentures -
The twigging of the soul passes
it takes a twigging moment
To twig between the minds
the meaning of
- Us:
Here and Ever After
- in between the realms
of Hades and Paradise.


You may never smile
Or speak again
Jaws locked open
Stuffed with a stick.
No more teeth
Chattering gossip
Or quick put-downs.
Your voice is stuck
In that limbo
Halfway to hell
Mind jittery with
What you ache to say
No way to giggle
No way to spit
Or yell or even
Move your mouth
In sincere apology
Should you weep
Your way there.
This transmandibular
Penance may take
Decades for all you know
Time enough to think
Before you have
A chance to speak again.


When they fitted her new dentures,
she never in her wildest dreams imagined
that spring would bloom again.

Flashing a smile became
a regular occurrence on her daily walk -
no more pursed lips and cast-down eyes.

Nobody could be more surprised
as the puckered person they’d once seen
bounded with budding twigs between

dazzling teeth, clicking like castanets
with a cha-cha-cha rhythm and a sway of her hips,
possessed by the demons between her lips.


the slow turn of water

the man reaches the ground, lowered in
waves. a hollow grave holds no
desire for the dead. every seed tinged in pomegranate crimson.
from between his legs, the
organ of slow demise. she felt its waft from
over the ground. bowing down, the hands only
reach the chest of grass. the
desire for hair in earth, soft, sometimes
fluid. I know the shape of hard.
skeletal. their boat drowns in
gentle gyration.
the wind has sung this dirge already. you
can write loss in this- the plump, the firm kind.
another centre merges perfectly into the margins, a slow


At 4 am,
silence is a single leaf
twirling and twirling and touching the ground.
The earth and the full moon
contented in this hushed-up sound
also know the reverberations
of smashed monuments,
crashed aeroplanes,
splintered nations,
the clash of cultures
and starving children preyed by vultures.

Stones scattered from statues of peace
still appeal for peace,
broken jawbones also tell a tale,
laugh in the moonlight and regale,
and debate if ink would outlive blood.



It is the measure of incongruence, the horizon askew,
the wind running amok, the sullen moon a flushed

pink, the world at war with its children, dead in school
yards, drowned in thirsty seas, broken under the rubble

of endless hate. I see you flinch as you read the headline,
another five year old raped and dumped on the side of

the road; a curious fly slips in through the screen door and
surveys the remains of a chocolate muffin as the silence

seeps into the bones of another day that will not begin.
A nameless bird looks out, the words to its song forgotten

in the morning sun; it would make sense, it would all make
sense if the earth had succumbed and spun astray, a flaccid

ball untethered from its orbit, or if all of creation, swathed
in mournful black was biting down on the last trees to stop

itself from screaming. I hear you start the car, I hear it
cough, again, again, as if our air is too toxic to breathe in.


Branches of Absurdity

By fetter-flicker binds...

Purposively spasmodic absurdity
Censorship of nonsense
Disease in novelty
Biting down into tensioned expression

Could these gags amuse? Playing with hysteria -
Most funny things unsaid
..."They'll never toy with free speech"

A chorus of plastic laughter
Political collars twigged
This choir of fakery
Trained like an artificial light source

Bonded with loss of power... "Out with from in."



Consider the red of the lip:
Ruby Woo, Grand Illusion, Bitchette.
You can’t come to anything neutral.
This is about women.

Teeth have become whiter in the last century.
Blanx Stain Removal, best for sensitive teeth,
contains lichens and bamboo micropowder.

Watch Andie MacDowell in Groundhog Day (1993):
marvel, drop your own hinged jaw,
at her teeth the colour of a western sky
overcast, gathering rain.
How did she get screen work?
Get bleaching, honey.

Baby teeth are lady teeth: see A Doll’s House (1879).
Macaroons will rot your songbird beak.
Nibble and munch in secret.
Taste buds are not made to open.

Read more >



He had teeth false, like the ones
we used to buy as kids.
They tasted of a powdered
pink sweetness.
The gums, a bloody red.
The dentist, six feet tall.

Mr Grenen, or as we used
to call him, Mr. Grinnin'
with his myriad of mirrors,
his tubes, twisting like curls,
the chair, straight out
of Frankenstein.
And the smell of the surgery
coming from the centre
of the earth; a gas,
not for laughing.

He catches hold of the mouth
sprays it with 'Eucryl'.
Before I leave he gives
me a sweetmeat,
root liquorice,
to twig my words.


The collector of sounds

fondles the exhibit, notes the two tongues snagged
under, clipped. Her mouth had been smaller, true,

a pinch-clip of palate, visible in vowels and glottal
stops. Those other lips, full back then, often a seal-fat

fricative of quiet reproach. Both are peeled now to nothing
more than bony gum, smooth as shellac, blood and pearl.

He's catalogued that day somewhere in shadowy drawers,
heard such artistry before, and reaches gently out to touch.

Hazel-nuts, each toothed twiggy hook, twins of those
green-snapped in Felbrigg Wood to wicker-fix the gate

that Jane and George passed through, are held clenched tight. How little branches split these half remembered grins

with clean-cut wood. He pictures cherry trees, how walking once in succulent summer sun, they bit and bit each little

globe of stony flesh, disclosing click-clack dentistry. Their
spoken words like chickering magpies squabbling overhead,

a phonologist's sweetest dream. Jane and George long dead,
resounding still, a tympani of love. They're his now, tissued,

softly boxed, gift-wrapped, he takes them quietly home. Each intimate dentured smile a souvenir, a sibillant talking point.



She didn’t think that it would be possible to be so repulsed by someone so rapidly. It was like having dinner with a walrus, his whiskers and complete absence of a jawline only exacerbating her struggle to maintain composure. She tried to blame her giggles – a schoolgirl again, simpering and batting clumpy eyelashes – on the wine, but then he was at it again, rubbing his hands together, and suddenly it was the slap slap slapping of walrus fins, the force rippling through his blubbery body and fuelling her poorly suppressed sniggers.

Not so funny was the speed with which she fell out of love with him. Was it really just this evening, the irony of candlelight in highlighting her lover’s faults? Or was it a myriad of tiny things (not mentioning his penis) that built up to this, three years fracturing over a meal and a bottle of wine? Was it the way he left towels on the bathroom floor, didn’t call his mother, didn’t call her, didn’t clear up after the dog, didn’t clear up after himself? She knew that these were only minor incidents, that he didn’t impregnate another woman or smash a bottle of her head during those three years, but snowflakes lead to blizzards that shut down countries. His label as ‘man-child’ should have been the first warning. It was humorous when it first appeared on novelty mugs, but when it manifested itself in his inability to remember birthdays and clear dishwashers, something had to go.

Someone had to go.

Read more >



You wear your nihlism like false teeth, your eyes ringed in raven black.
Taped to the wall, a stolen letterhead is scratched out by your hand, the markings now thick lettered in cerulean sky blue - (the colour matches your eyes)
scrawled: The Institute for Acclaimed Madness.

"I told that bastard he didn't know feast from famine. He couldn't wrap his mind beyond the fractals.
But it's a fact -
Kafka ate cockroaches for breakfast.
I know - I know
I am him.
And it's like sour milk -
milk from the breast of the mother that can't nourish the child
but the child was never anyhow -
dead before conception"

You sit with a bowl of cornflakes cradled in a canary yellow bowl.
Absentmindedly grinding your teeth, you stare it down.
For a moment, you are light -
like a seagull riding the air
filled with the fresh breath of a salty sea blue expanse
poised to swoop in and snatch -
your pinched mouth is greedy for the hunger

"This shit tastes like wallpaper paste. I don't want it."

You push the bowl away. Milk slops over the rim along with some cereal.
Inked across your hands, you study the words "Bite me" -
look up at the wall and smile a thin wire.


Chomp Champ

Her smile was sincere and beguiling,
but most noteworthy lay underneath.
(In dentists’ historical filing
are reports of my grandmother’s teeth.)

Her dentures weren’t just acrobatic
and musical’s shy of the mark;
their adventures were often dramatic,
like ‘that time’ with the pug in the park.

Artists and players adored her,
devouring the raucous applause…
Of course, when they then turned towards her,
the clamorous source was her jaws.

Invaluable, Gran was, each Yuletide –
shunning scissors, she tore off the tape.
While we carolled and wrapped at the fireside,
she’d sit with her portal agape.

It was not just the porcelain prowess –
her tongue was a muscular beast
which attained an award while at Powys
for a challenging gobstopper feast.

Read more >


Dental Excursions

She was tall but not willowy,
straight backed, legs like sticks,
ankles that fought against the wind.
She was obsessed with her teeth.
Twice a month, she boarded a train
to New York, a two-hour sojourn,
bound for a world of dental hygiene,
handsome men wielding melodious drills
and preaching the benefits of fluoride.
Her best dresses stayed pressed and
crisp in her closet, worn only
for dental excursions and funerals.
She kept a tooth brush in her purse,
cleaned her teeth after every meal,
flossed with vigor and avoided sweets,
determined to defy the imminent death of her incisors.
Most days she was mean, coated in bitterness
that she couldn't scrub from her skin,
but every month, on those two days,
you were guaranteed to see her smile.
Her mouth was pristine.

Biting the Hand

Twinned, these mouths with wooden words
Punch holes in fragile egos
Bite down on stray thoughts
The social faux pas
Refuse to yield ground
With crimsoned lips pursed
In moral superiority
As conversations branch
Into a quagmire
And the little man
Hasn’t twigged
Until he hears their laughter
Turns to see the sneers
But gets his revenge
When he spits in their food
And bites the hand that feeds

She said her mouth was like the sea

I said of course, that I understood, though I didn't.

She said the grains of rice were like little fishes, slipping and sliding through the soup in her mouth, in and out of the rocks of her teeth.

"That's as may be," I said. "But we don't have all day." By which I meant that I didn't have all day. Though of course I did, for what else was I there for?

I watched as she blew her cheeks out, making me wait. It was the waves she said, and I said I could see that that was so. Which I couldn't. I was merely humouring her. And I was tapping my foot now, tap tap, impatient.

She knew, of course, that I was doing these things. She swallowed her mouthful and looked at me in that way of hers.

"You always were a wilful child," she said. And I said nothing, because I wasn't there for argument. I was there for her supping of the soup.

She swallowed and I went to lift another spoonful to her mouth, but the expression in her eyes stopped me and I waited until it changed to permission.

She opened her mouth, wide as a westward-facing bay with an incoming evening tide, a tide lapping the white rocks on the shore. And for a moment she was beautiful. I was stopped by that, stopped with a spoonful of soup held halfway to her mouth.

"I see it now," I said. "I see how your mouth is like the sea."

And then we went on with her supping of the soup, until it was done. And then I wiped her mouth, gently, as she had once wiped mine.


Strange Medicine

I can only describe it as a feeling
of time ticking toward an end,

when a man sat opposite me,
a scarred face that read like
a philosophy of violence.

"Is this seat taken?" he asked.
I shook my head. He continued,
"It’s cold outside." I nodded.

When I eat lunch, I prefer
silence. Hopeful invisibility.
Nevertheless, he continued,

"I have 20-minutes to tell you
about the wonders of the world
and the folly of man.”

I bit into my tuna sandwich
as he unravelled ignorance,
and the devil within science.

I contemplated the facts:
I’m a grim magnet for oddity.

Read more >


Beneath the shell

Death is the firmament hidden beneath the cadaverous art
with swollen cheeks, purple gigs.
People swim in the turpid blues of conscious
and exhale broken legs and scrawny memories.
The art uncoils and the body shimmers
with untold pain, unseen miseries,
It is divine. Church bells bless and smile.
Carmine smiles broken, gonging the thin crisp air,
Like a truth is told, cleaved hearts wander.
I see you are broken,
I see you are exposed.
Death is dark and choking each day
with memories left,
with a hint of twig and ashes left.
Death is a cryptic lie.

Yakety Yak: Lipstick On Your Collar

Intelligentsia of Hampstead, Mayfair, leafy Surrey,
Cogitating/ruminating over Brexit, a balti curry;
Dinner parties, salons and soirées;
Chat becoming ever more risqué..
Who wore best dress/make-up, value of des res homes?
Ferraris, Bentleys, Bugattis, Rolls, no need for loans;
Fortified by Sauvignon Blanc, Merlot, Cotes du Rhone,
Swingers' car keys in fruit bowl, gathering overblown...
Clackety clack, "yakety yak, don't talk back" .

It’s a Cruel World

All is silent
Where is the gnashing of teeth?
They amused us, but now
No more.
No more chattering.
Is this a joke?
The children don't laugh
any more.
Mouths forever open.
Teeth forever still.
Frozen in time.
Until the tree sticks
free their bite.
It's a Cruel World.


is expected to be strong
without anaesthetic
push the teeth into
your skull -
with plenty of rum
it will be half dreamtime
        half bad trip
where you see infinite false teeth
that grip only a twig
as you float -
never let go
as a leg is amputated to the knee
with the surgeon's saw

conditions are mostly better now
mostly - electric saws are quicker -
never let go - never


False talk

The problem is one of verbal cages,
the relentless chatter we all utter,
supposedly from the mouths of sages
but more likely up from the gutter.
Better happy mechanical jaw jaw flap –
we know that language is a trap –
than being fooled by slick imprecations,
the pretence of meaningful communications.
A stick means what it means:
dependable, natural, steadfast, true –
if only that would be said of you
and your conversation, that careens
dangerously away from wisdom, right;
your word as dangerous as a bite.

False Teeth

My grandfather had spent his life cleaning his teeth with tree bark, so who could really blame him? In a fit of generosity and sudden love, my parents got the old man brand new dentures. They had watched a Hindi movie about parents abandoned and ill-treated by their children, featuring two aging superstars who danced and cried through the movie in equal measure; my father felt an acute need to prove he wasn’t a careless son. The dentures were my mother’s idea (of course, they forgot to ask him what he would like).
Grandpa spent a great deal of time on his new teeth. He wore and removed them repeatedly, checking his reflection in the mirror. His own teeth, long gone, had always been stained by the betel nuts he habitually chewed all day. The dazzle of his new canines was unnerving. I sometimes hung around with a book, watching as he stretched his mouth and contorted his face. I wish I had pictures to show off his daily facial calisthenics routine but this was some time before cam-phones made their way to my home.
Ever since most of his teeth fell out, Grandpa made peace with the lack of ability to enjoy a hearty crunchy. That had now changed, you might imagine for the better. But Grandpa chewed slowly, deliberately and rather loudly. Besides, no matter how much anyone tried to convince him, he’d developed a fear that biting anything hard would damage his new teeth. It didn’t help that his dentures loosened on many occasions, most heartbreakingly during a cousin’s birthday party. Grandpa never quite got over the embarrassment of his unsettled pearlies in a room filled with people.
Read more >


I can't remember who said what. It's all a little crazy-dancy in my mind; blurred inside too many colors and memories that want to impose. He said/she said is too basic. The clock couldn't stop laughing at our impasse. But right in the middle of a moment that leapt out of silence born from exhaustion; a seed was planted. A seed of love. The real thing. Not lust or want or need or manipulation or tit for tat. The absolute REAL thing.

And over time it grew in the moments of laughter, kisses, silliness and gratitude in wonderful pockets when we were truly plugged in. Thank God. Oh, THANK GOD. Now we roam free within the forests of one another. Our indulgences, when ridiculous, merit an eye roll at best and a space in which to stew. But that incessant, "I'm right and You are an idiot and You this and You that and blah Blah BLAHHHHHH!!!!!!!" has chocked on a twig of truth.


Mum’s the Word

Grammy died when I was sixteen
a surrogate mother as my biological one
worked 'round the clock

Irish, Catholic
she instilled both values and fear
a petite woman, fiercely passionate
about life, faith

I followed her coffin down the
church's aisle
numbed, speechless

Where's the peace in knowing
life after death?
I felt none

For this Matriarch,
mum's the word I learned
to adore

now in the Reaper's embrace



Humming, very softly, “Habanera,”
Exotic gypsy woman’s first aria in Bizet’s Carmen
With tambourines and clicking castanets,
a tantalizing gypsy dance in another place and time
— the Andalusian countryside,
a gypsy caravan fiesta in southern Spain

Flamenco guitars strumming, palmas, hand clapping,
With tambourines and clicking castanets,
Dos-à-dos, the young gypsies passionately lose themselves
to the magic of flamenco dancing,
Flirting shamelessly with Spain’s romantic painter
— Francisco Goya.
Seduced by the gypsies exotic beauty and mesmerizing dance,
Goya joins the fiesta, rattling a pair of well-clicked castanets.

Humming, very softly, “Habanera,”
Exotic gypsy woman’s first aria in Bizet’s Carmen
With clicking castanets and gypsy-like masterful flirting,
a brilliant evening of gypsy song and dance in another place and time
— Santa Fe Opera production in the Land of Enchantment,
Carmen’s sexy seduction of Don José in the first act.


Put the Needle on the Record

We hold our tongues,
swallow words,
bite down on the stick with unsure teeth—
hold back the authentic response,
for fear of disturbing the delicate balance of expectation, etiquette— how the well-mannered woman should behave. There is a fear of rebuttal, the anticipation of being belittled— even worse, not believed, when we speak up— when we speak out. The bark is now bitter from generations
of holding back the tide of truth
and the unseemly—
the unspoken.
Put the needle on the record,
without fear of skipping.
Sing your song to the sky,
despite the cracks in the ceiling you are counting—
the things you dare to tell about.

Biting off more than you can chew!

When you bite off more than you can chew,
You leave no resources for others to devour.
And the next time it's their turn to do the same.
And in this competition,
we have depleted more resources than we know,
And are doing it continually.
This will lead us to a time when you have nothing but your own teeth to bite,
until all your teeth are shattered in due course


I grew it from an acorn
that I smuggled home from the forest
pushed into a corner of my pocket

You caught me planting
said a tree could never thrive
with my scant care

But I watched it emerge
grow straight and fast
you said you may have to eat your words

Words blossomed from the branches
tumbled to the ground
and drifted down our street

They stuck to people's shoes
went everywhere
you said it was dangerous

felled the tree for my own good
chopped it into bitesize portions
and ate my words



We chattered like magpies
over the crushed remains
of reckless squirrels on city pavement

Chittering and chattering
our gleaming white teeth
clenched on witless politicians
ground the bones of small-
minded demigods on town
councils and corporate boards

We denounced, renounced, pronounced,
pontificated, remonstrated, and insinuated

We polished and whitened
our enamel grin into
a gleaming canvas to flaunt
the spatter of blood and sinew

Our feet were the first to go
toes curling, shriveling
bones bent and softened
organs melted into a dew
hands knotted and calcified
eyes clouded and nose sunken

Gone all but the hardened chomp
we masticated and gorged on
ghosts of injury and insult
teeth bared so ravenous they gnaw
the air no one around us can breathe


Damn! Those words

Shut your mouth, she said
You're dumb, he said
You're useless, they said

I believed the words
That came out their mouth
Their lipstick clad lips
Their overly white teeth

One day I heard
Some more words
"You're gonna do great sweetie"
"You're nice and sweet, dear"

I turned around
To see where it was coming from
This time there wasn't any lipstick
There wasn't overly pearly teeth

There were dentures
As artificial as they could get
But those words
Damn! Those words

They were like a defibrillator
Like a jolt to my heart
A jolt that brought me back
Back to life

Read more >


Battle Ground

Pain pierced his body. No identifiable location. No place to blame. Just pain. Gripping pain. Screeching pain.
He opened his mouth to scream, but it flew into the woods, heard only by the tress, branches, twigs. It disappeared into the dirt on the ground, sinking into the soil, watering the roots with the saliva dripping from his mouth.
Pain pinched the roots of his nerves reaching his brain telling him to run from the agony, let it fester in the woods, leach from his limbs onto the limbs of the trees. But it wouldn't listen.
Pain persisted, pounding at his skull, pummeling his teeth until he succumbed. He lay exhausted in the grimy mulch of the forest, begging for relief which never came.
Pain roared with victory, lauding it over him, weighing him down, consuming him then spitting him out onto the cold floor of the woods. Then pain, having been crowned king, turned and left, leaving a lifeless body limp with relief. He spit out the sticks stuck to his lips, then rose and walked to the end of the path, roaring once again into the ether, having lost the battle.

Don’t They Make Us Look So Young?

We smile and achieve perfect white teeth, even though they were human-made and put inside our mouths.

We like clean and pristine things, and wave our hands dismissively at the twigs in the forest as they dwindle in number from forest fires and deforestation.

Look at all this advancing technology, we say, as the flames alight all over the world.

We are destroying the forests so we are destroying ourselves.
But look at these dentures, which are perfect and white and pristine! Don't they make us look so young? Yes, they certainly make us feel that way.


The Ventriloquist

He had teeth false, like the ones
we used to buy as kids.
They tasted of a powdered
pink sweetness.
The gums, a bloody red,
the dentist, six feet tall.

Mr Grenen or as we used
to call him, Mr. Grinnin'
with his myriad of mirrors,
his tubes, twisting like curls,
the chair, straight out
of Frankenstein.
And the smell of the surgery
coming from the centre
of the earth; a gas,
not for laughing.

He catches hold of the mouth
sprays it with 'Eucryl'.
Before I leave he gives
me a sweetmeat,
root liquorice,
to twig my words.



Little Mrs Worry Brown, timid-thin shins stretched on the gurney, tucks her hair tight back from the jelly-glue pads perched like horn buds on her furrow-faded brow, folds her eyes into herself & lays her quick-bird hands neatly by her sides. The brave bright slash of her cherry lipstick tricks her fear as she slides into oblivion. At the last moment she feels them force her lips apart, push the belted clamp behind her morning-scrubbed teeth & as the metal zing of singeing voltage sizzles into her frazzled brain, she bites down hard on the old familiar rotting bark of the scolds bridle. Mad-eyed she lunges forward, sinews snapping, arched back bucking, shackled ankles lurching loose, until the whizz-whirr chitter-chatter of her own mouth’s working clicks her into herself again & she looks up & laughs.

The Mouth Trap

You've got to stop winding me up-
great teeth, but connected to nothing.
No brain to engage.

You disembodied escapees from the night glass
I spied with my little eye
from the comfort of my own childhood
that night my grandmother
stayed over,

look at the twig in your own mouth
before trying to find the toothpick
under your brother's tongue.

His bark though is far worse
than his bite,
but every blaze begins with kindling.
With these splintered words
a mouth could set the world on fire.


Life Line

Within time
we try to endure stress
it's like hard on our body
our smile
our touch
our pilgrimage to swamps
branches inside stuck
hurting us
so we unwind by looking at good things
the smell of coffee
a donut filled with sweet surrender
the sun shining warm on our skin
then we feel better.



Sleeping in the Hush
Open up and say nothing
The snap in the silence handclapping
On the air black, the violent crow hacking
Sometimes, less people means you.
Clacking and clecking leaf dampened
Make the effort to be able to hear
The biting remark, worse than the bark
Within the background noise



The woods, once idyllic, had been shattered by a shrieking scream. It had replaced the singing birds and whispering trees.
Blood was flowing between my fingers. It wouldn’t stop. The bone stuck out of her thigh, red for the blood that covered it. I had always imagined a bone would be white. This wasn’t white at all. It was the same colour as my hands now. A long splinter of wood paralleled the bone in her other thigh. That would be the biggest issue.
Sarah grit her teeth. Her breathing was sharp and quick.
‘Oh god oh god oh god oh god oh god,’ she repeated. It was constant.
It took then I expected for my training to kick in. I threw my bag off my back and pulled out my surgery bag. I opened it and laid my tools out.
I needed to get the wood out. Prevent infection. I didn’t have any painkiller. I looked around. Another piece of wood should do the job.
I cut a small amount of bandage and I wrapped a sturdy piece of wood with it.
‘Come on, babe. You’ll be OK. Bite on this. This is going to hurt again,’ I said.
‘Have you called emergency services?’ Sarah asked, pushing through the pain. Ever practical.
‘First, we need to get the wood out,’ I said. Ever impulsive.
‘Marie. Call an ambulance now.’
‘Babe, it’ll be fine. You’re OK.’
‘You’re not the only surgeon here, Marie. Call an ambulance. Now,’ she said.
I called. They answered. I put the phone on loudspeaker. I explained. They hung up.
‘Happy?’ I asked.
‘Yes,’ she replied. Read more >


On the threshold of eternity

caught between
of  v    o    i    d
a life devoid
of blossoms or buds
broken, brown, bare
a walking shadow
a poor player
the hurly burly
the sound and the fury
await a pause
‘is’ will mutate into ‘was’
beyond the jaws and claws
beyond the cavity of night—
the deadly dentures and lethal lips—
that seem to soon eclipse
all that is sunlit and bright
beyond the gloom of never
gleams the land of forever


Family Matters

Gran kept her mouth shut for weeks. Didn’t talk, didn’t eat. The most she’d do was part her lips to sip tea or soup, straining the lukewarm liquid through yellowed dentures. Uncle Max wondered if it was a delayed reaction after all that had happened with Grandad, but Dad wasn’t so sure. He called a mechanic to diagnose the problem, a man with rough, oil-smeared fingers that probed and roamed Gran’s clenched false teeth.
“Aye, she’s faulty all right.”
“My mother?”
“Her dentures. Something has jammed them right up. Can you see that cog there? That should turn freely, but it’s stuck.”
“Can you fix it?”
“Aye, but it’ll take a while, and cost a fair bit.”
Dad laid a hand on Gran’s shoulder. Her lips formed a fine, puckered line.
“Of course,” the mechanic went on, “it’s probably cheaper for you to buy a whole new set. I can order them today and they’ll be here by next week.” He turned to Gran, raised his voice. “How’s that sound, love?” They were the first words he’d spoken to her.
She turned away, inhaled through her defective dentures.

They took over a week to arrive. The night before they were due to meet the solicitor Dad was restless, all ready to call up the mechanic and demand his money back when a rattling knock signalled the courier’s arrival.
Neat white teeth encased in plush gums. The mechanisms were discreet, barely noticeable, but with a little pressure they began to chatter amiably across our dining table. Uncle Max held Gran’s hand while Dad prised open her jaw, glancing down regularly at the installation booklet. Neither of them noticed her eyes watering.

Read more >


Walter Fishman had a warped sense of humour. His wife Enid hee-hawed absurdly over his jokes. Their store, aptly named 'THE LAUGHING STOCK' was a confusing emporium of colour, curiosities, clowns and similar oddities.
Their only son, my buddy, was named Newton, thus ensuring a nickname: Newt. As a toddler he had been reined in his buggy with a blown-up whoopee cushion, which he thumped furiously, ensuring parental hysteria. I overheard this one day from my parents (but kept quiet as he was teased enough at school). When he became a teenager he was the butt of his parents' jokes. 'Cold up there Newton?' Walt would say, alluding to his height – and Enid's 'Stop scratching boy', after sneaking itching powder in his pants.
He didn't particularly aspire to an academic career, just definitely knew that his calling wasn't with exploding cigarettes or rubber thumbs with screws. Poor sucker was fated to help out Walt and Enid, especially since she had taken to her bed. Resentment on both sides – Newt the dogsbody and his father's non-stop moaning, he would moan even more if I popped in to see my pal, who was becoming thin and stressed.
Everything came to a head one dark night at closing time.
'Sort the electrics, Boy. I'm off to the pub', barked old Fishman. Newt stumbled over to the fuse box and nearly tripped over the latest delivery. He kicked it aside in his misery and eventually restored the lighting. Opened the box and peered inside. 'Hideous!' he muttered. Gleaming false teeth grinned at him, with red, glossy gums. A metal contraption, when released, made the teeth move and clack manically. Only devices Newt appreciated – the natural twigs which were keeping the metal from working.

Read more >

Mouths Talk with Forked Twigs

Mouths are discredited - twig-like truths
line up and fall off their supporting branches
with alacrity – so lacking in strength.

Mouths are fallacious – uttering untruths
as quickly as they trip off the tongue
with insouciance – so plausible are their words.

Mouths are deceptive – saying one thing
and meaning the opposite harming
with speech – so cruel are their consonants.

Mouths are pitched open – their bark is
just as bad as their bite rough and coarse
with callousness – so vicious are their vowels.

Mouths are dominant – gasping for the air
of dialogue but unwilling to listen
with care – so disdainful of dissension.

Right-wing mouths - speak the platitudes
of isolation corrupting the truth mendaciously
with a red bus – so disingenuous its message.


For Lack of a Better Word

We capture gossip
in our mouth
This is what we get—
A false sense of
smiles and held to

Shut up this something—
a twig,
A memory,
Held by mechanically

We said too much
Loved too much
It’s all too much
but we want
Secrets out

It’s perfect.
Just punctuated
with our



No Screams

Allowed. Silence enforced
by a rough choke stick
like a bit between your teeth
forcing your tongue flat
keeping your mouth open
empty and dry
unable to speak
to bite, to voice your pain.
After a while
you will be docile,
obedient or mad
and useless.
How you struggle
or accept defeat
is up to you.
No one cares.
You are all the same to us-
throw-away lives.



My father liked to collect things. Strange things. Weird objects and forgotten about artifacts that only another sucker would be interested in. He loved taxidermy and took it up in his early retirement. Stoats, squirrels and the odd hare stared back at me, dead-eyed, from every corner of the living-room. My mother would kick up a fuss and tell him to store them somewhere else, preferably in the attic, where we couldn’t see them. But my father wasn’t one to listen, and soon his stuffed collection grew, incorporating voles, foxes and even a heron. I asked my mother if we could store them in the spare room instead but I could see the lines of defeat etched heavily into her face and knew the battle had already been won.
She died a couple of weeks later and I noticed my father’s stuffed collection remained unchanged. There were no other additions to the plethora of animals currently occupying our living-room which left me pleasantly surprised. Perhaps he had finally given up on his unhealthy collection.
The house seemed oddly empty with my mother gone. She wasn’t a loud person but she had an opinion on practically everything and loved to air her thoughts on the Prime Minister’s decisions, the rising cost of supermarket produce and Ms Forde’s new fancy man. On this latter subject, she was particularly vocal, and once subjected my father to a weeks’ worth of evenings of idle tittle-tattle.
Now, my father preferred to be by himself and often holed himself up in the spare bedroom which doubled as his private study. I wasn’t sure what he did in there nor what could take up twelve hours of his time every day but I needed to find out.
I finished my Shakespeare assignment in record speed and re-heated yesterday’s leftovers which was half of a pepperoni pizza, and waited for my father to re-emerge. I didn’t have to wait too long before he stumbled into the kitchen clutching his mouth, rivulets of blood seeping through his fingers.

Read more >

Strange things come out of your mouth

Strange things come out of your mouth
you hear blame between the breaths
for the thoughts as they line waiting to exit
like preschoolers with heavy backpacks, your head

it is said in space, to no one in particular
that there's a sense of absurdity
in choices you make, perhaps,
you need to learn to be more affirmative

with baby steps and small-talk
refrained in your presence like a memorized song:
start with the little things, paint red your lips
resize your hips, with practice and with time

attain clarity in diction
for bizarre things jump out of your mouth,
to be held but not ingested; twine, twigs, tufts of truths
that are like dreams, foundations to nothing

that are not conducive to where your feet are grounded,
that pertain to the hysterics of an overworked brain-
that lend time to an under-worked body that memorizes
emotion as a road-map to navigate the hours of the day

opening and closing the lips
atone to a tone that is not forceful
that does not lend itself to power
that is only granted gender once it steps outside of your mouth

Read more >

Oh, what the fate!

A feisty heroine and a fresh hero,
Trying to make love to each other,
Caught in between the love,
Tore them apart!
They tried to spit words,
But it was in vain.
“It is because of you,” he said,
“you opened up to me.”
“I did but not to you or for you,” she declined,
“I gasped for a breath.”
“Oh, I thought you loved me.”
“Because, I thought you would be gentle.”
“I was not meant to be, dear teeth.”
“I should have bitten you, dear twig.”
“Shut up, both of you. You are meant for
Display. Now, shut up,” said the irate tool,
“And my fate, I ended up between you both!”



We were inside an average-sized museum, concave ceiling, white walls, flashy floor. I was one of the few people who were scarcely scattered. I saw a woman in her 20's, dressed in all black with medium length beach waves hair. She's got vampire lips as if she drank blood, and that makes it easy for her to be noticed –– probably even when in a crowd, I thought. Her lips were like a magnet that drew me closer to where she stood. She was lost in a painting of two women with angel wings, holding each other's hand, faces skyward –– just like us, when I stood next to her, same level with her shoulder blades. She suddenly spoke and told me how striking the painting was for her, without detaching her look on the masterpiece like trying to memorize every inch of it. She's a working-class artist, who sells pieces of herself. She said something that I've never heard of and made me stare quickly at her the entire time. She told me that each of us has a unique pair of lips—the curves, the lines, texture, moisture, and taste. The way she spoke was magical, as if she's performing a spoken poetry. She paused, looked at me, and said that hers were full of sordid and cruel fingerprints, so she wore a deep dark shade. Hers were bitter and wounded, covered in scabs, bite-shaped scars—for all the time she had to stop her moist voice and words from leaking. And then she gave me a stale smile as the sun rays melted on her face. She said her name was 'Ichi' before she turned her back and started to walk away. For a moment it was all I could ever see. The rest went into a blur, and I was dazed when I saw her eyes. They were full of forbidden stories, full of sorrow and pain, but it felt home. I felt at home. I was left stunned with the painting by my side. As I turned back to the painting, I tried to recover as if I were punched in the chest. And I saw that one woman in the masterpiece she's been staring at looks like her but has washed-out lips, and the other woman looks so pale and is wearing a rope choker necklace. The painting's label was: "A rainbow's freedom is expensive, it could cost even a life." I guess we could never be as free as the women in the painting...

Chewing Gum

I have this dream, almost every night, about something sticky in the back of my throat. It starts off as barely noticeable, like chewing gum, but soon it’s filled my mouth and I’m struggling to speak, to breathe, and I’m reaching fingers back there, gagging, pulling. The distinction between the gum and my own throat becomes blurred, and piled up in pink ribbons in my hand is my own stretched out uvula. But it's still attached. I am choking. I am faced with a choice, to remain suffocating and mute, or to cut and bleed and breathe.
“Darling, don’t you want to come inside?”
One side effect of the dream is that it creeps into my waking life. I can’t even look at movie posters with cute girls blowing pink bubbles any more. You know the ones. If someone’s chewing gum in a tv show, I turn it over. If someone offers me a chewing gum, I turn away. How can people bear to have that gunk in their mouths for so long?
“Darling, aren’t you cold out there?”
It’s kind of like the way it’s much harder to go pick up a rotisserie chicken after raising chickens of your own.
Or to say yes to a plastic straw after you’ve seen one in a turtles nose.
Or to carry on smoking after you’ve seen a loved one on a ventilator.
You can still do it, sure. You can carry on as if everything is normal, but the pleasure is lost.
“Darling, stop messing around.”
When I first started having the dreams, I had a private consultation with Dr. Google. A website called Dream Meanings postulated I might be finding it difficult to express my frustration with my waking life. To break the spell, they advised that within the dream I ask others for help when I find myself pulling and pulling. But you haven’t met the people in my dreams, I’d rather tear out my own tongue than ask them for help. Sometimes I do.
Read more >


No More Gossip

The jaws are open, set apart
with glowing teeth in a widening little gap,
too much space for an idle tongue,
like a snake biting and grinding,
Injecting venom, be alert.

Cheers fall upon nice looks,
jeers kill an amateur,
not a cheat but lacks it,
the art of cunning talks.

Backbiting, undeserved flatter,
Roll that tongue!
It wages war, and
emits no words but rocks.

Bung it up! Be sane!
No more gossip but truth
no more deceit, dude!
Smooth talk is entrapped,
No more heart pain.


Call Him Whatever

Call him whatever, thou called him a liar!
Yet, someday he'll grasp what thou mean,
Thy face is masked, thy smile is even slier
Thy heart can tell-though could be a dean.
Come on, stop bargaining-be a good buyer,
Fathomless is this life-truth thou never glean.

Call him whatever, pour thy stinking satire,
Can't quit, or like a child-wean?,
What gain then? Thou are still in a mire!
Do tell me, why are thou so keen?
Backbiting, slander, killing without fire,
Too dirty are thy hands-haven't you seen?


fine white teeth

it was a simple dare
i never asked where they got them from
possibly plucked fresh from cadavers
soft gums left wanting
with the impressions of what was stolen
more likely retrieved from under pillowcases
trading heavy half dollars
for the sight of them slipping down my throat
blending in with the slosh of skim milk
i need to take my pills
even when they are hard and small and white.

they thought i’d choke
their guess collecting, puddling, reflected in their eyes
and i could watch it glistening
as i took them whole into my body
one gulp and gone.

wonder exchanged for horror
as that slick half dollar disappeared with the teeth
they threatened to retrieve them
stick broken off branches into my mouth
until i either puked
and they could get them from my mottled pink sick
or they would flip them out one by one
caught in the fork of the branch
and arced back up and out
but i would just click my tongue
           swallow again.

Read more >


If I told you how I really feel,
Seeing her growing out of me…
My ‘rebento’, my soul,
The best part of what I can be,
Growing, growing out… Away from me.

Would you mother,
hold my hand against your heart,
With love and compassion for this broken pain?
Would you say “I feel for you my darling,
As I also know the loss of a daughter that has gone away”?
Would you hug me tight and deep,
Until all my fears of loneliness and despair disappear?

Or would you just laugh at me,
And say how weak and pathetic I can be?
Would you say instead that I am indeed like you,
And now I will finally know…
How much pain I have caused when I left you,
Or how much still it feels like a broken heart
When my sister never calls you back?

No, Mother!
I don’t want to hear that you feel the same as I feel,
For my daughter has left me,
With a smile and a kiss on my forehead…
But, I still will miss her so bad,
Being my baby, being my child,
This small creature that needed me more than anything in the world,
And that only found comfort when I held her in my arms.

Read more >

The Offering

Armed to the teeth, wielding guns,
stockpiling weapons, like pirates,

we clench knives. Injurious blades,
stab at our essence, sharp edges,

harden our core. Steely indifference
kills our children, attacks humankind.

But do you recall Genesis, Noah,
after the Flood, a dove, an olive

branch, an offering? Let us clench
branches―not blades, be agents

of harmony, couriers of kindness,
messengers of peace.


Twigs cannot realign themselves

A woman's natural body should be stick thin.

This engrained belief prevented the movement of my jaw, the necessary movement to allow the food to nourish my body. While reaching for the perfect human body i was preventing a basic human function.

My lips will never be invaded by food although the hunger lures me from my belly and my mind. It teases me like a man should. But a man desires only those stick thin.

The fear sat heavy on my chest, a burning loyalty to my diseased mind. A fear of ruin. If my teeth penetrated the food i would obliterate the temple i had laboured over. The worst sin a woman could commit.

A woman is to be delicate like a flower.

The parasite made me so fragile i was feeble as a twig. Just a broken piece of what i had been. My body reduced to bones and my mind to cyclical torment. The parasite had isolated me from my roots and all that remained was the increasingly godly image of the woman i was to be, with perfect red gums and dazzling white teeth. A synthetic internal voice manipulating the calling of nature.

A woman’s shell is her attribute. A woman simply sways in the breeze that brushes off the gusts from our superiors.

The mouth became a site of conflict between concealing the bubbling angst within and preventing the jaw from chomping. It should have been performing basic life functions. To learn and teach, to interact and to feed.

Ha! Women do not need knowledge or food wasted within.

Read more >

Green Words

Through the rain, the hollow
clatter of the woodpecker’s
beak tests the mettle of the forest.
The wood runs down and mud
sucks at my boots.

In the owl’s pallets
the fine bones of field mice
swallowed whole
crack underfoot.

(Sticks are to teeth what bones are to tired fingers
picking: I’ve enlisted sets of them
jobsworths to get the whittling done
down to where the sap is).

Leafless, the winter was all sound
without signification.

Spring is an invocation
exhuming a green
etymology from the stark
and apparent form of things.



He looked at the camera, tired. Even though he realised it’s completely unusual for a mug shot, he flashed a big smile. It showed wood chips between his teeth from chewing on branches, because he hadn’t found anything else to eat.

Well, at least I’ll have a full belly from now on, he thought, maybe even for the rest of my life.

He hadn’t taken into consideration he lived in the state of Kentucky.



A twig; the tree’s final extension. Fingers of youth, intent on occupying new space, stretching, reaching, bursting in spring’s promise.

Amber warnings forecast.

My jaw, a vice too tight you say. My breath, small in fear of your fragility. You snap from the branch from which you have grown and I’m gagged.


History lesson

Armies grow from sown teeth. If that is a myth
it is true that my granddad shed a few at El Alamein,
spat a few more as he waded the waters at the Landings.
He came through it all intact, more or less. He was one
of the lucky ones, or so he said.

My nan at home, making ends meet, keeping any good stuff
for the babies. Going without steals enamel, dentine, calcium.
No wonder she taught her children to brush morning and night,
to drink full fat milk for healthy bones.

My grandparents weren’t much given to chatter or loose words.
They carried on, never talked about those years, kept their peace.
Thanked God for small mercies, thanked Labour and Bevan
for a fresh set of teeth - a pound a pair on the new NHS.

I remember how those dentures kept company
on the dressing table in matching glasses,
I remember the bubble-gum pink of the plate,
the yellowed incisors, canines, molars, crowns.
I remember the fizz of Steradent.


Crimson red madness

Sometimes, if not always, it seems my mouth contains the mechanism of a music box
Contains is the wrong word
My entire head is kept prisoner to that evil thing
And, no, no music poured down of him
No, words, rivers of words
Like a flood, like an ocean...
I screech from the teeth night and day
One more sound to my ordeal
No corks around to put a stop to the insanity
Suddenly it seemed alright
To pretend I am a bird to pick in my perfect white teeth a twig
To start building a nest for my madness acceptance
The silence spreads itself like a crimson red lipstick all over the mirrors



And as I took my last breath,
I gazed up to the sky and understood the clouds.
I saw the Birds flying to a beat and the Bees tapping to the sound,
Dust particles appeared like a Kaleidoscope of infinite colour,
And the wind danced on my lips, then through my hair.
The trees bowed down to their fallen daughter,
And then stood proudly in my name.
The taste of soil and bark fizzed on my tongue,
Then dripped down my throat onto the timber shell containing my heart.
And as everything began to fade into the light,
I knew that in time I would be reborn,
As from my body flowers would grow,
And the bees would lie with those flowers,
And the birds would follow the bees,
And the clouds would follow the birds,
And as life left my body, it was painted with a smile
As I knew she’d be back again soon.


Cloves and bad breath

'Chew on cloves', ma granma always said.
'Gum is toxic and carcinogenic.
Keep cloves handy in your purse.
Place it in your mouth for bad breath, sore and itchy throat and coughs.
Chew them slowly.
Roll the female part, which is the scaly ball on top of the stem.
Then let the stick rest under your tongue and release a strong juice which will disinfect and deodorise.
Trust me
Little brown clove buds always keep germs away!'



What hurt, most, was the clamping down of teeth.
The bringing of silence.

She would be prescribed painkillers
and a mouth splint that would make her feel like a horse.
She would grow inward on herself
until roots and branches twisted into one.
She would lie on her bed as
it became stone beneath her spine.
She would forget words, phrases,
how to move her lips and tongue at will.
She would yearn to talk
about her feelings with friends drawn away to the noise.

She would hope to never speak again.

That would all come later.
At first, the closing of the mouth
as horror solidified within her throat.



Yes there are times I want to shut you up.
But I won’t tell you this until we’re betrothed.
And then. And then one day I will walk out
Into the garden, the garden where once
We drank wine laughing all summer long
The garden where we kissed and felt
As one together under an impossibly
Perfect and flawless full moon. I will walk
Out into the garden with you still talking
Me saying “No I am listening go on”.
Even though I am not listening
the red octagon in my head flashing
STOP        STOP        STOP
I will go to the apple tree which has always
Held this knowledge secure in its roots
Who knew the first minute of our first date
You would be forever speaking speaking
Speaking and with me only occasionally
listening listening listening until I snapped
Off a twig or two from the few granted
To me and returned to the house where
Soon there would be silence. The deep
Sweet silence of reading and writing.
The silence that comes as conclusively
As winter or the end of another poem.

[The title of this poem is also the that of an astounding lecture by Anne Enright which can and should be consumed here: Link]


twiggy wiggy was aware, twiggy wiggy had such a scare

He looked at her, she looked casually
at the ground because his gaze appeared naturally
even with a twinkle, seeming bashfully

did not want for him to discover her truest insecurity
That all it took was light
Shown from his eyes that night
Insects chirped all nearby
And even when one began to cry
Silence broken by a sigh
fragments flew, a shadow materialized

Some may say that nothing's much changed,
the dissenters crow higher a-doodle-doos
then a rogue rabbit skips from carrot patch
just past the dirt soil basin's hatch

Sitting here, chewing on a root
makes real a longing for paddy bear’s boot
Cloaking a bare bottom foot
Keeping an eye for even the softest nook

Jack Johnson wrote a child’s lullaby,
Bowie stepped up for the teenage queen,
Dylan comforted a listless boy’s recovery,
Read more >



I am the mother of you
So, I can't let you chew
the wooden sticks like this.

I am the mother of you
And I can't let you go
in this world of artificial reality like this.

Then too if you want to enter,
first grow, and learn the hard reality of world like wooden sticks
B'coz I am the mother of you
And can't see you disappointed.


The abuse of rejection

I open my mouth and give myself away
the self that lodges deep in my gut
forming vocal visceral scars.

The words that have sunk as sediment to coat
my tarnished soul I gift to you
bed-whispered and finger drawn on your naked skin.

Mute I mourn for the gift not wanted
soft words tremble in a pillow's feather.



It all started because I’d stopped at the corner shop on the way to school. Well, that wasn’t quite true. I’d called in at Grandad's place first I wanted to check if he needed any shopping. He was stuck indoors as he’d just had all his remaining teeth taken out.
He was usually cheerful, but no teeth plus the fact that only politician that he considered as honest had resigned was just too much. So, I’d showed him the model of a bullet train that I had made from cardboard toilet rolls and white address labels, but it didn’t make him smile.
I was totally proud of my model but knew that my Art teacher would give me a rough time. I liked it because it had a smooth of smooth shape and was kind of mysterious. It was a technological masterpiece. My teacher would say it was too realistic and I’d be in for an ‘E’ grade yet again!
Anyway, I was more worried about Grandad and wanted to cheer him up. Then I remembered the red clockwork teeth. They were two sets for a pound, which was good value and so I bought them on the way to school.
That was when the nightmare began, as I opened the Art room door I realised that I’d left my model at Grandad’s. Worse was to come, because the Art room as packed with neatly labelled models. Panic was replaced by terror as I’d completely forgotten that some arty person was coming to judge the models as part of some national competition thing. I was always being told to ‘use my imagination’ and it was a case of using it or a term’s worth of dentitions.
It was come up with something or all hell would break out. So, I took the wind-up teeth out of their packet and stuck them in my space. Somehow, they didn’t look ‘creative’ enough and so I broken off a couple of twigs from a dead still life that had been put in the rubbish bin and stuffed them between the teeth.
Read more >


Burning Wood

He entered stage left with a rose between his teeth, rows of soldiers between his teeth, row upon row of foes between his teeth. He entered stage left just as we were striking the set, just as we were dismantling everything in sight. His face was bloody, his jaw set. A rose beneath his feet. He threw us his leftovers, the grey remains of a shrieking feast. When shall we three eat again? We stirred the pot. A little water, a lot of blood. He entered stage left, singing, swinging his sword, slinging his words. He entered stage left. He entered stage, less sage than he’d been an age ago, an act ago, once upon a, in the beginning, as you were taking your seats in the red auditorium, before the first speeches, before the first breath, before his last breath, before his death, a wordless song on the red stage, before the red auditorium, before us. He entered. She lay wracked behind him, backstage, offstage, off-centre, offbeat. A little water. We were striking the set, dismantling it plank by plank, dismantling the wood, carrying it before us into the wings. His face was wet, his teeth bloody. When shall we three? When shall we ever? What shall we ever? He entered just as we were exiting. He probably expected or at least hoped for applause. We were down on all fours, but we rose, we rose as one to greet him, to meet him, bleat him and cheat him. We chewed his name, tore his name, bit his crown. We swallowed him. Hell is murky. When our limbs cracked and split, we fell awake, we saw the lake, the burning lake, the petalled snake, the woods, the set, the words, the woods, the burning woods, the burning, burning wood. He entered stage left. When you yawned, we saw your teeth.


Eat Fast, Die Young

I’m stuck with this guilt that no matter what I say, do, eat or drink, it’s never quite conforming to what is right and that for the majority of the time, is usually quite wrong. That for as long as I remember, from Saturday mornings with a bacon sandwich, to the end of cold Sundays with a roast lamb, that was the way forward and part of my culture and my childhood. However, with the obsession with the right way of doing things nowadays, it has now got to the stage whereby I cannot enjoy a simple meal without someone, somewhere judging.

I’ve had many wooden sticks jammed between my canines and told to chew; ‘it’s good for you’. And that no matter how much I bite and cough, the struggle is very real to eat like an insect and still enjoy what a chubbier human has brought immense joy in. It all reminds me too much of watching a dog lie on the grass on an August evening, gorging itself on grass before being desperately sick as its body refuses to digest something it quite clearly isn’t meant to. Now of course, the 21st century perfectionist would highlight this is all overdramatic and that I ought to ‘do some research’. The issue is that my guilt for not doing what is meant to be right is not quite strong enough to overcome not doing what is, to some, wrong.

But hey, what do I know?

Maybe there is a method and an absolute truth to the fact we all ought to be animal free. Maybe.

However, for the time being, I will continue to feast on what is most likely to kill me before I reach 40. All the while, I will stare back at the eyes glaring at me, laughing as they bite down on the wood to hide the pain that they aren’t truly happy. Maybe some are. Certainly not all.

East fast, die young.


Dentist advice

The dentist said to me
be a good boy
brush your teeth
don't eat candy or drink soda
floss and rinse your mouth
before you go to bed
be a good boy
and fetch that stick for me
then I bet his hand
made him look like a fool


In Collaboration with

This issue is curated by Fiona Kearney, Director of the Lewis Glucksman Gallery in Cork, Ireland. The image features a work that was exhibited at the Glucksman in a show called Grin and Bear It: Cruel Humour in Art and Life and presented as a re-creation of elements of Wake Games that used to be played with the corpse in Ireland.

Visit Lewis Glucksman Gallery.

Follow Fiona Kearney on Twitter

lewis glucksman gallery cork logo