• Vol. 07
  • Chapter 01
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When an island is not an island

When my uncle said he lived on ‘this tiny island,’ I imagined him floating in the middle of a mass of water surrounded by land. I grew up in Enugu where all you could see were hills rolling into hills rolling into hills.

Last year, two days after my sixth birthday, my uncle came and swooped me off to Lagos, to his home on the island. I imagined the two of us floating in the middle of water, and I didn’t want to go.

But I was six and the world had fallen apart. Day, my uncle said, had turned to night and Enugu was no place to leave a little girl who had just witnessed what I had and where would I live without my mother and father, whose bloated bodies had been dragged out in front of me. We had gone picnicking at Nike Lake – my mother, my father and me. My father had gone swimming, ‘A quick swim and I’ll be out.’ But we heard him shouting and my mother said to stay where I was, that she’d be back with him soon.

I was afraid of water, of being surrounded by it, and how would I play, uncle? Do we eat underwater? 'I’ll look after you,' my uncle said. ‘You have no reason to fear.’

I am seven now and I know better. My uncle’s ‘tiny island’ is a massive house on Victoria Island with a backyard and trees for me to hide in. Now I know that words do not always mean what they say and there’re worse things to fear than water.


Rivers on every Side

I grew up on this tiny little island – less than 14 miles long and two and a half miles wide. And it seemed enormous to me when I was a child, riding the subway to someplace so different than where I lived. But later, I realised I could walk that island in a day, walk down Broadway until I reached Harlem, the Upper West Side, the glass and steel of Midtown, the Village, the abandoned factories turned into art studios in SoHo, the old Financial District, and down to Battery Park at the very end.

I grew up on a tiny little island with 1.6 million people living on it, daytime population bringing in 2.3 million more. Daytime population? People coming in from all the places around it and beyond. I hate it when people say bridge and tunnel now, when they say it to make fun of people who live beyond. But I didn’t then. When I was growing up there, I felt like I had to claim it, say it was mine. And I still think, I know this tiny little island better than I know any place in the world. It’s my territory. But I still don’t know everything that’s there.

I grew up on a tiny little island in a city where almost 800 different languages are spoken. Sometimes I used to wander in places that were unfamiliar and familiar at the same time – like places that appear in a dream: the flower district where potted palms lined the streets, the shops on the south of the island where you could buy cheap tropical fish, the streets that the girl from school showed me where they only sold ribbons and buttons and lace.

I grew up on a tiny little island with a halo of bus exhaust above its sidewalks, above its elevated trainlines, above its fire escapes, above its trespassed rooftops, above its claustrophobically small parks.

Read more >


Poppy fell first. A crash, then come dawn—seventy foot of land had collapsed into the sea, taking her remains and grave-marker (Ah carve them myself) with it. Beyond that, nowt save the water’s hoary chop.

      My Poppy were arithmetical. Ah’d say, Two plus two? And she’d go woof woof, woof woof. Eerie acumen, that, for a Jack Russell—and if you think Ah’m yarning, sod you. She passed last spring. Fourteen years, eight months. Ah miss her. She were last to die, so her plot were furthest from the house, meaning first to be swallowed. 

      Though not last.

Rufus fell soon after. A good boy, Rufus. The rare times Ah ventured out, he'd tremble at the window of the salt-flayed house, high up on the eroding crag. So Ah stopped venturing. Ah despised the island’s blether and snark anyhow, and they scorned me likewise. So it were for the best—Rufus knew afore Ah did. 

      Next, Cecil. For reasons better left unstated, the 1980s were a difficult time, though Ah found great solace in Cecil during my dark spells. 

      Tasha Ah only had three months. Poisoned by cowards. 

      Then Shep. Shep bit the Flett woman that once Ah took leave of my senses and invited her up. The Flett woman put it about Ah’d sicced Shep on her, but animals can sense the canker inside certain folk. And he were vindicated in the end, weren’t he? After what they found in the Flett woman’s root cellar. 

Read more >

Even the City

an island the size of a country
with water edges

I grew up on this tiny island,
mostly in the city. I worshipped
the light of the air pollution
and the great victoria line.
Why did the romans/vikings/celts/
pagans/french/other historical peoples
settle where it was too cold to live
I ask my island dad, in winter;
I grew up on this tiny island.
My dad does a dna test
to see if he is from this tiny
little island too (it is only the size of a country
built from bones
even the city
even the celestial sky)

an island the size of a forest
with water edges


Pseudonyms for a Disillusioned Kingdom

Call us the Bastard Wing of Europe,
a Kneecapped Ulysses,
Little Island Floating in its own Ennui.

Call us Goat Sacrificed By Greed,
Undrinkable Water Found In A Stream Running Past a Deconsecrated Church.
A See-Saw of Drunken Economists.

Call us Fanfare for the Common Tory,
Pomp and Ridiculous Circumstance,
Violin Elegy on Down-tuned Strings Play by a Three-fingered Fool.

Call us anything but "Great,"
anything but "United,"
a Negative Contribution Towards the Work of a Nation,
a Traditional Apprentice Towards Subsidisation,
an Unemployed Pollster,
a Jester of the Parliament.

But Europe, don’t call us;
we’ll call you
once we’re dried out our futurologies
and blown out our home-grown wings.


Tiny Island of I

The noise of rain slants the roof, and in
tiny island of I played in loops
tingles all of the dark I've ever sinned.

I hid underneath Pa's table with
sheet shifting focus from the outside —
and thus I have been growing up, scared, beat.

The island of one. I lead the pack.
A howl of none, and all unladen,
a bit shattered. I build walls surrounding

and I see bugs crawling up; my island
and yet I coup against my fences
frightening myself who abhors changes.

Rain noise slants the timber and table.
The treble and trouble gambles with
my nerves. My island sinks, rises. Now and then.


Profound Misconceptions

I grew up on this tiny little island
believed its decency was faultless
like our teachers said
believed we were right to aspire
to educate other peoples     other lands
about courts democracy and parliaments

lies don’t last     I lost my innocence
one by one I saw plain truths
and our rulers dank veils of deception rotted
before my wet eyes     hydroponic breeding
grounds for sights from hell

each month each year
from eighteen on     my fabric decayed
I learnt of Empire
people exploited and betrayed
I learnt of wealth well stored
in manicured hands     not of the many
just the few     and saw blood stained
rodent paws of rich predators
safe and well to do

today     final curses abound
misspoken by Eton snobs rooted
in hedge fund soil     entitlement waste.
I beg you     give me flight to Europe
my heart breaks     I must disown
my xenophobic home


This woman is not an island

As a child, I liked to draw islands. I would draw the ragged outline, eaten away by the buffeting sea. I would populate it with trees and flowers and lakes and mountains and people and sometimes monsters and sometimes hidden treasure. I would carefully colour it in. My map of a new world.

I never felt myself to be wholly of this tiny island where I grew up. My DNA test shows that I am 30% of this place but that ancestry dates back over 150 years. My forefathers and mothers with that DNA left this island to forge their way on a new continent, Turtle Island, in pursuit of the dream of freedom and fortune. I am 49% of a land with many tiny islands in the midst of lakes, covered with trees. I just happened to be born on this island.

Now I wonder what world we are creating on this tiny island. “No man is an island,” wrote John Donne. In June 2016, I wore a T-shirt with the words “No man is an island. No country by itself.”

In all of the discussion of the last three years, this seems to me to be the discussion that we have been missing. One of identity. Are we islanders in the literal sense? Do we want as individuals and a country to be an island? Or do we have a bigger sense of self? Do we want to have connections with people in our communities, local and global?

“Every man is a piece of the continent, a part of the main.”

I grew up on this tiny island. I feel it shrinking around me. Shrink-wrapping me.

We need to get out our colouring pens and redraw the map. And not mistake the map for the territory.


Leaving Traces

Goats clinging to cliffs,
children in white embroidered shirts—
running as one in the village.
Lattice-like lace
created with nimble, loving hands—
they sat around the kitchen table—
a cottage with no plumbing.
Headstones tilting and sinking in the field—
Cora grew up on this tiny island of Saba.
We hear the hum of memories,
raise our arms to the wind
and the rustling of all things past.
The labored breath of ancestors
lives in the things we carry—
heavy baskets of unknown burdens
and expectations, the color of dusty feet.
Woven into the threaded initials
of her blue handkerchief
is the place we knew of
only through small footsteps
and gulps of thick Malta—
Uncle Lyle’s sweet tobacco smoke
leaving traces of volcanic ash.


You Cannot Blame Me

In there, all that I was and all that I knew were surrounded by the sea;
I've had toys fashioned from polished coconut shells for heads, palm leaves twisted around for flesh,
scratched out smiles and pouts,
I've had castles made of sand, our drinking water has always had a touch of saline;
Our looking mirrors have always been puddles of clear water;
Yes I grew up in that tiny little island.
It was never a routine to spot a tug or tanker, or a ship,
To just let them come and go, like occasional meteors shooting across the sky;
And you cannot blame a child for her curiosity,
And you cannot blame me now, when decades later, I stand on this alien land,
run out to what they call 'the beaches' every noon and spot my crying dolls floating amidst the tides, waving their torn-out, palm-leaf skins at me...
And you cannot blame a grown up woman out at the shore, on her knees, wailing out to the sea, as though she just lost her baby...


Once Grown

Even though I could swim,
I stayed. Tiptoed all over
my tiny little island home
I could dance across it
one side to the other.
I rolled in the green grasses,
flew kites over, jogged around
the jagged shore and slept
outdoors below the birds in trees
and a star splattered sky.
Life on a lily pad was enough
while I was young. I cherished
knowing home and nothing
beyond. But once grown,
I began to wonder if more
was going on without me
somewhere else. I sailed away
to explore the peace and pain
others harbored.


Fire Exit

I grew up here.
The old couple next door
had a grandson in Spain. Every summer
he'd visit and we'd play
video games on dusty consoles,
run laps around the garden,
read books a bit too old for us
in different languages.

I went to school here.
The French boy in my class
taught me a song:
"Alouette, gentille alouette,
Alouette, je te plumerai."
We chanted it in the playground,
a dozen Scots-lilted larks,
and we counted oon doo twa.

I studied here.
Eraserhead, RockSoc, what's it like
in Bratislava? Introducing friends
over a Bergman movie,
a Slovak and a Romanian
discussing Irvine Welsh novels.

They got married last month.
We all wore kilts. The Bride
saved someone's life the next day.

Read more >

‘I’ Land

There is a vital difference, I’d suggest
A key distinction we’d do well to cogitate
Between ‘grow upon’ and ‘grow up on’

A close perusal here, for All —
I think
I need
I know
I want
Therefore I am...?

But view this island Earth
From vantage point of distance and —
Where am I?

Are we the favoured few?
Fated children living out charmed lives of plenty
Provided for by an endlessly bountiful and tolerant mother?

Or multi-coloured microbial cultures?
Inexorably crowding out the agar-agar of our little Petri dish
Until the only food source is used up and all die out?

There is a vital difference, I’d suggest
That we would all do well to cogitate —
To ‘grow up on’ or ‘grow upon’ this tiny little island.


América Latina Vol. 1

Dejamos la cornisa
y nos aventamos a las llamas
nos quemaban el cuerpo
pero ahí nos quedamos.

I grew up in this tiny little island
dejamos las aulas de clase
y levantamos la voz.

las aulas de clase son otra tiny little island
nos acorralan.

Dejamos nuestros trabajos
y las estaciones del metro
(nos quemaban las entrañas)
para salir a las calles.

I grew up in this tiny little island
los estudiantes como yo
vuelven en féretros          o no vuelven.

Al final las calles son otra tiny little island
nos asesinan.

Debes de saber que la traducción de tiny little island es: América Latina.


tiny little island thing

tiny little island thing
gay at fifteen
coming out
to our Rhodesian ridgeback
curled between the bookcase &
the shoe rack
because she was
scared of lightning

dad taught me drystone walling
dad taught me peg the elms back make some fencing
dad taught me isolation is splendid
the countryside
taught me homing
I taught myself the facts
I looked us up in the dictionary
I curled my tongue around my teeth on the school bus
Pretending to be ordinary

mum taught me you so pretty
mum taught me don’t tell anybody
mum taught me to quiet that chat, taught me the phrase that is famous for everything

home taught me plant the alder deep
strip the bark from the birch in spring
don’t be too hard on yourself
watch the seasons change
dig in your feet you’re a chick you’re a fledgling thing

Read more >


Nobody’s an island surrounded by
a salt sea of despair where mobility’s
measured by access; experiential growth
flourishes despite obstacles like
Herakles’s twelve labors, providing
fodder for the poet, exposure to the painter.

The Bay Area Rapid Transit tunnel’s
shoulders square off majestically
like inner city subway walls on the
breathing peninsula where I was raised;
standing tall, towering over tiny, little indifferences,
petty preferences, perfect reasoning
street artists assert individuality through layered
strokes of 3D graffiti, multicolored hands scrawl
inventive doodles, lewd epithets, pornographic
renderings, across pallid, grey cement
canvasses that breathe life into nothingness.

Interlocking and connecting points wildstyle,
murals of rebellion, personal expression and
high art push boundaries, venerate avant-garde
conceptions, apply three colored tags like pissing,
bombing and rolling—blockbuster creations that
too often sacrifice aesthetics for spray painter speed—
bring life to deathly concrete through artistic inspiration,
thrive in defiance amid a maelstrom of surprises,
political gambits, and social barriers.



Your smooth ampersand curves
glowed when wire-walking,
taut like the ‘v’ in love.
Living on a tiny island, we lit
our backgrounds luminous
with words. All the colours; lime
green, purple, yellow
were slicked in doorway lights.
Letters tethered like grounded kites
on a brick-lined rainy city night.
The sound of your falling
Was muffled and brittle —
sweet, transient, you slipped
through the wires and spiraled,
descending past perspective,
dissolved like rice paper
or rainbow drops. I still hold
our letters; fly them each dry night.
Chinese lanterns in the dark.


“…To Their Fainting Country Cling” (Shelly’s ‘England in 1819’)

“Kick him in the groin. Kick him in the groin!”

Madge, fifteen year old daughter of a Madonna fan, lowered her Smartphone to give Nigel a look.


“The balls … the–”

Julian shifted so that he was sitting on the targets chest [pinning his arms and glared back over his shoulder.

“Are you recording this or what? We only let you in because you got the fancy kit. So get on– Oi, that was me!”

“Sorry, man, got overenthusiastic. “ Jeff was older than all the others, but slower.

“Oooh, listen to him and his big word,” Richard crowed.

“I can learn things too.”

“Well friggin learn not to be kicking me instead of the invader here.”

“Ha ha ha – big dumb loser,” Richard taunted as Madge trained her phone on Julian again.

“And you can get back to your vapid cheerleading. Dick – I wouldn’t want you to tax yer brain,” Julian said with a touch of acid.

“He’s stopped moving,” Madge informed them with no little concern.

“I’m sitting on him. Of course–”

Read more >

Insular Spectives, Birth to Death

I suppose I shan't die in Paris on a rainy Thursday afternoon,
leaves left behind and shelved into a drink-soaked trunk or gutter
to have the sanitized cover removed before use, royalties or release;
perhaps to imagine neatly drafting the notes of the music of the words
that will keep the armful soldiers of alphabehomophobic civil guards from violating
an island retreat and heartattacking me in the wake of living confessions
that flee me to the African aridity of junking success;
the protective custody of declared incompetence to unmisplace minds
in a home for the mentally traitorous and crown trust of impersonae;
beyond eighty-year-rust or plus content with running blades of turf
or malcontent flowers of approchement in Venice or Khubla Khan
without apparatchik to say well to quell fevers fervors and sweats;
standing running white fingers through my certainly troubled hair
heated in the crowded aisles of the non-express back from the centre,
I and hire respect will be penniless to take the air-conditioned bus.


Memories of Malta

I shift uneasily
in my window seat
aboard a passenger plane
bound for Malta International Airport.

Stormy weather
has caused constant turbulence
and a silent fear

to descend.
Our descent

through dark, electrically charged clouds
towards that tiny little island
is rapid, rocky,
and risky.

I cannot remember
the message in the captain’s words,
only the infectious trepidation
evident in them.

we drop more rapidly.
I turn my head to see
that my plane window
has become a porthole
with a cloudy view of the sea
mere meters below.

A nearby scream of terror
pierces the fearful silence. Read more >


Island of Pines

Living on an island of pines and dirt roads, only the trucks break the silence of things. A roar that disappears. How alone we are. We grew up here, in cabins astride hillsides, clinging to hills, about to tumble, but never tumbling into the valleys. Astride the hills, we take to our ATVs and Keystone Lights, seeking euphoria in islands of booze, even as it flees us, even as the mountains beckon us to be better people, their dusk shadows gently chiding our worn souls. We promise to relinquish them, to spend time with nature in full communion, but we keep going back to the little markets for more, seeking adventure while we linger in the beer aisles. We complain of things we cannot have in cities, streetlamps and bars and fun at our choosing. We talk of escape, but we stay and complain. Pave the roads, we howl. But we feel the beauty of dirt on our bodies. We claim to hate the pines, but at night, we whisper our appreciation after the beer and illusions have left us. We watch the moon, even as we complain about the brightness of country night. We live in an island of pines and we want out. Not just today. Tomorrow, perhaps. Perhaps. A shaky perhaps, as shaky as the things beneath us.



Experiencing the hardships beyond all imagination;
enduring pain and suffering unique in the universe;
embracing the potential and nature’s gifts which none appreciate
with wisdom unknown by the mundane norm –
and loving beyond saints and lovers combined –
we are each imprisoned in crowded and chaotic solitude
on the island of I.


Island Shadows

I grew up on this bright and tiny island
where hands were axes in shadows
chopping people
down to size
under large green palms.

It was sport, and life, and love.

Joyful exchanges that helped to pass the time
after work—a glowing sun slowly dropping
before we ate fish stew,
swapped words,
hummed familiar melodies,
and communed throughout the night.


Where Did You Grow Up?

The question of where one hails from
has special meaning for me because
where I grew up no longer exists as a place
one can go to or visit. I can go to the exact
coordinates and there will be nothing there.
Oh it exists in memory and the experience is
embedded in all that I am, but once I’m gone
even that marker will be gone.

As I grew to become a man, the island I call home
grew rapidly smaller and I don’t mean in the sense
of outgrowing a place, the way young adults
must leave home—I mean geographically, the island
where I grew up shrank to become tiny. How tiny?
So tiny one could walk from one end to the other in
Thirty minutes and as the distance shortened so did the time.
It was necessary to stay dry for everyone to move
closer and closer to each other until we joined
into one big family, living in one tent in the highest
part of the island. When we realized we could not
build horizontally we built vertically; one shack
on top of another, or up in the trees.

Those who struggled with claustrophobia couldn’t
cope and so swam out to join the horizon and were
never heard from again. Others consciously
meditated on being small, stopped eating which
only led to anorexia and more death. True enough
we welcomed it for the space newly made available.
Read more >


Sunsets Always Fade to Black

The sky is my best memory of it,
a reddish violet, sometimes lavender,
a far, far colour before the brightness
of streetlamps poured down sheets
of luminesque. In the fog that light
seemed like stardust from a galaxy
far, far, far away, some place on
the edge of my daydreams that
played out in the Odeon Theatre.

Our village had a brass band that
infected the air with bleating noise.
Drove the dogs crazy. It drove old
widow Cragg’s macaw crazy, too.
Or might’ve been that widow Cragg
went crazy. Facts as truth – that
bird hung itself on its birdie swing.
Somebody did wrong to that bird,
but nobody’s raising a hand for it.

My mum always told me that ours
was a tiny island, surrounded by
nothing but greedy water licking
at the shores. She said there was
nought out there beyond the bare
horizon, everything was metabolised –
I think that’s the word she used.
So I never bothered, never thought
to look beyond the line of seaweed

Read more >

Three islands

I grew up on this tiny little island
set in the green and wide, loquacious sea.
I grew up in sight of a modest mountain
and plucked the apples from the apple tree.

I grew up knowing that the world could be
this paradise of insular delights;
this scene of greens and purples, blues and yellows,
where life pursued a free and easy pattern.

But then the waves rose in their ruthless heights
to make a houseless hulk out of my homeland.
I have since mended my philosophy
to match a life of long-remembered sorrows.

I grew up on this tiny little island,
not quite the quiet place it claims to be,
thanks to trade, tourism and the great powers –
the legacy of greed we all inherit.

My mother, flown in from a former colony.
My father, out of Anglo-Scottish stock.
Their lives heard times of music, times of war,
the better things in balance with the worse –

or so some surely said. Now, squinting back,
we cannot say the same. Just: lucky us,
to have made it here and now unscathed, safe
in the cruel privilege of what we are –

Read more >

I grew up on this tiny little island

“What do you make of this, Carstairs?"
“It’s obviously some sort of code, sir.”
“Well, can you decipher the damn thing? I’m being leaned on by the 5th floor.”
“I”ll get my team on it straight away, sir.”
“Well, be quick about it. I’ll give you three days.”
“Do my best, sir.”

“Carstairs here, sir. I think we’ve cracked the code.”
“Yes, go on.”
“Well, when we assigned each letter in the text with its inverse position in the alphabet, i.e. A = 26, then doubled it, added 7, divided by 3.78, then ran the result through the Groshneedle Stramier Random Sequencing Programme. We found it matched a language used by a remote Inuit community.”
“So what does it say, Carstairs?”
“It says ‘Any chance of publishing the attached on this month’s Visual Verse website?'”



it is no longer possible to live
on an iceberg
your own cool island
where it was always possible to try
and find a snug hollow

beautiful and empty
with a slightly misty horizon
better than
panoramas of open sea –
too overwhelming

the issues of plumbing
changes of clothing
a balanced diet
blacken a brief paradise
as the ice diminishes

your autonomy
lessens by the day
in a journey south
where chance of polar bear
is idle fear
though expanse of ocean so much greater



I dream about a nursery, my special destiny
in ages long ago, when I was still me.

It was a microcosm, but unaware of itself.
I couldn’t grow up; there was only room for a child.

They were outraged when I tried to grow.
There was a veiled threat in their demeanor.

Everyone drew circles about each other.
As long as no one stepped over the line, it was fine.

I drew one circle around them all,
as I stood outside, alone and unrecognized.

Sometimes I think of going back there to see
just what it was that made me so unsatisfied.

But I’d have to draw a circle outside the one I drew,
and step backward into that tiny little room.


Home and Horizon

I remember that place where the white flowers
grew, sparse and fragile between the rocks,
up past the trees where we would sit
on cold stone and gaze out to sea, away from
this empty life and the empty people with
tiny dreams we vowed we would never become –
little white petals, like wishes, and an
island that would never set us free.


This Island of Illusion

I look out at the ocean,
I grew up beside these waves,
The blue-white foam, the crashing water,
It surrounds this island of illusion.

I turn around and see the forest,
I grew up on this tiny little island,
Just dark trees, winding their way from shore to shore, darkness, loneliness.
There is naught but forest on this island.

I feel the wind on my face and close my eyes,
I grew up walking against the wind,
It whips my hair behind my head, flyaway curls, careless locks,
I want not to open my eyes, but I must see my island.

I look back out at my tiny little island, covered in sand, and sand alone,
I grew up on this tiny little island,
Just red hot sand, blowing not, for there is no wind, never wind here,
There is only sand from one water's edge to the other.

My tiny little island can be whatever I wish,
Covered in the dust of imagination,
As I sit in my city apartment, I close my eyes
and travel to the tiny little island of illusion on which I grew up,
which can be whatever I wish it to be.


Elizabeth wrote to me about Orkney light

Twenty-two hours of it, she says.
I picture her, shedding the smother of winter,
slipping the stifle of woolen skins, unbuttoning
what has kept out the chill, emerging,
yarn-born. She feels the heat penetrate
her layers. She is glad to be rid of the itch
Elizabeth says you can follow the glow
as it moves around the horizon.
That through the warmer months,
it never really fades. I want her to tell me
about staying awake through simmer dim.
So much light then so much night to follow.
Elizabeth’s letter mentions the winter gales,
how they howl to pieces everything you own.
How it seems there is only half a day
before dark. You do wonder, Elizabeth says.


a place I call home

I grew up on this tiny little island
not landlocked:
in touch with the water
on its filigree ends
we have our own God;
our soulful sustenance

I grew up on this tiny island
where the nights are dazzled
streets painted in psychedelic color
where dreams are not monochrome
or painted in the limestone shade
but they shine and sparkle

I grew up on this tiny island
where the laughter still rolls in the
swaying heads of palm trees
silhouetting the edges of land;
and the wind whispers
the sweetest of the symphony
when your toes are half dipped
in the warm wet sand

I grew up on this tiny island
where the eyes are dazzling with hopes
shimmering with dreams
which is carved in every bone
hidden in every sacred hymn

Read more >

Cross Stitch

I was left alone, at the edge
of a
a flattened
just me
a measuring tape
a needlework
the one my mother gifted
me when I was 13, she always
desired for me to make the prettiest

afterwards, I stitched
a cloak, sitting at the
edge of the island that was no more

I stitched
and stitched and stitched
a penance
of whatever I found

I looked
around and found
my little island
so I gathered
and stitched it together
in the cloak

Read more >

Never Land

I grew up on this tiny little island
Plastic buckets
Uneven iron poles, heaving in and out of the ground
Matching the screeching domesticated sound
Two small humans hunched behind torn fabric
Watching through fingered slots
Listening for the sirens song of peace
An outlandish perception
For I grew up on this tiny island
A purveyor of lost dreams.


Self Care

My nails are not manicured and I’ve been
dipping my fingers inside my tub of ice cream,
licking the mirth of the mango and milk.
The acoustic version of your favourite song is playing
on the radio in this city that never sleeps. A radio jockey
tries to resolve someone’s heartache over the airwaves
in between old Bollywood music that writes home
about the खोया हुआ चाँद, तुम्हें लिखें हुए ख़त,
और वो पेहला पेहला प्यार. My cat purrs in between my feet,
she feels so soft against my skin and uncharacteristically comforting, the little bitch that she is. I wash my face
with a watermelon face wash and when I look at myself
in the mirror, I allow myself my transgressions,
my lust, my pettiness. After all, I may not have a perfect life,
but I do have perfect skin. I want to call you, put the phone
close to the radio, so we can listen to this song about
मेरा चुराया हुआ दिल, feel your distance on the line, and
pretend like we’re far away lovers sitting on either side of
the country joined by a telephone wire. But I don’t call you.
This is my moment to lie askew on my bed, play with the
night lights, watch the smoke rise from my cigarette
while my cat licks the rest of the ice-cream tub.
I’m wearing only my oldest t-shirt that I sneaked away
from its fate of becoming a duster. It smells of myself
and all the women I used to be.
Forgive me, I’m feeling fabulous.




Ξύπνησα στου πελάγου το
χρυσάφι με του αλατιού την μυρωδιά

Η Πατρίδα μου στο νερό
χαραγμένη ,και εκείνα τα άστρα
προσευχές μοιάζουν για τις αδύναμες ψυχές
μεγαλώνουν στους κύκλους
της αμοιβής
ενωμένες με το νερό και τον
αγέρα γαλήνιες

Γεμίζω τα χέρια με ουρανό
ο γυρισμός και η λευτεριά
στην ψυχή μου ζωσμένα

Εδώ είναι το νησί της αγάπης ...
Eδώ είναι το νησί της αρετής .....
Eδω είναι το δικό μου νησί
της αγάπης !!!!!!

Read more >

Growing up at Nanga Kumpang

Jenny grew up on this tiny island. That is, it seemed like an island because everyone travelled by boat. There were no roads and cars; just rivers and boats. In fact, Jenny was born on a longboat on the Batang Lupar River. Her mother had been on her way from Nanga Kumpang longhouse to the clinic at Engkilili but Jenny had arrived earlier than expected. It was lucky that her mother had been accompanied by her parents and her sister who was a nurse. It must have been quite a shock for the boatman, though. For the record, Jenny’s birth certificate states that she was born at the Engkilili Healthcare Clinic, but her family knows this is not true.

And it’s not entirely untrue that Jenny grew up on a tiny island. She grew up at Nanga Kumpang longhouse and went to boarding schools at Lubok Antu and later, in Miri and Labuan. Lubok Antu and Miri are located in Sarawak, Malaysian Borneo while Labuan is a Malaysian federal territory on a tiny island off the west coast of Borneo. Although Borneo is the third largest island in the world, it is relatively underdeveloped. It is the fabled island of white rajahs, oil-rich Sultans, pygmy elephants, hornbills, orangutans, and sea turtles that return annually to lay their eggs on outlying islands. When Jenny left to further her studies at University Malaysia Terengganu, fellow citizens in Peninsular Malaysia asked if she had paddled a boat across the South China Sea to reach “Malaysian” shores or if she lived in trees like the orangutans. So, maybe we could say that Jenny grew up on a tiny island; tiny in terms of how her own fellow Malaysians viewed her birthplace.

Jenny’s best story about growing up on a tiny island is starting a hiking club in both her primary and secondary schools. Children in remote parts of Malaysia attend boarding schools as their homes are too far in the interior for them to travel to school daily. So, if she couldn’t go home, Jenny decided she would start her favourite pastime at school. Read more >


Rough Seas

I grew up on this tiny island attached to the mainland
by a wedge along a border with New York named
after the island of Jersey but we even more removed

from the civilization of cities the farther south you went
before you were pummeled with what made islands
islands—seas of Atlantic Ocean and Delaware Bay.

I grew up in a fishing village and I only call it that
because it’s what we did in summer, why anyone came
here and what you did in winter if you were hearty

and we weren’t so we scraped by on Social Security
checks and a cache of relatives who either came
to this village because we were here or vice versa.

Aunt Elsie lived on Pennsylvania Avenue
we on New Jersey and Blanche on New York
a relative by non-marriage, Nana’s brother’s

girlfriend who he was supposed to marry and never
did even after his wife died early after a fourth child
so she settled away from the city as we had.

This was a place you ran to if you needed to get away
but once on this island it was hard to leave.
It kept you in its arms of sand and salt and wind

and sun and the smell of fish filleted in back yards
and the brack line along the beach never swept clean
like resorts were so there was treasure everywhere

Read more >

On the Shore

piece of sub-continental land
emergent crust, jutting rock
isles, islets, skerries, or cays

how large the mass, how great
the diameter or coastline shore

oasis in sea-salt waters
or wrinkle that splits a river
or crowns a lake’s complacence

island bejeweled by pastel coral
reefs feasted upon by anime fish
washed in Andy-Warhol pigments

island chains like paving stones
tip-toe over briny seas
showcased on slick covers
of travel brochures

otherworldly, dreamscapes
for urban-locked tourists avid
for pineapples, tropical limes
crab over succulent smoking fires

island of imagination, lands
of wet, shifting borders

island, bite-sized continent
land contiguous with sea floor
coast, beach, mountain, plain

Read more >

Northeast Monsoon

toes scrunch sand, sand pelts skin
salty caress lift, play with tresses in the wind

spirits rise with cracking sun
welcome intrusion through the wind

-ing down of sleepy darkness shrouding
shadow kissed by winds

northeastly with promises of crisp coolness
tamper the heat of soles. blow, wind

blow through my heated mind
sweating humid island winds

remember easier days when the sand was for playing
when I was unshakable, riding the wind


I miss my little island

Don't you think we grown up now? And we are living life of hustle and bustle. We actually not living real life. You know what, why I'm telling you everything about life? We missed so many things in it. We are running after thousands of happiness that is a type of mirage to us.

Yes, a child who actually not affected by any hustles of life. A child who is living in each of us. It was the memories of mine as well as yours too.

From a mother's womb, a kid was taking his first step of his life. He was immature, innocent and gift of god. He even don't know that what would be his future. He was living his life away from all the obstacles. He was learning something as well as he was teaching us the true life living lessons.

I'm happy that I'm grown up,
But I'm sad as well because I'm missing so many things.
I miss the warmth of childhood.
I miss my innocence.
I miss that crawling physique and jargonised language.
I miss that atmosphere from where I brought up.
I miss my father's scolding.
I miss my those friends who always stay stood by my side because I had plenty of toys.
I miss that Street where I named it as my territory.
I miss the that stumps which I had drawn on my back side wall.
I miss my six players team who always had the eyes on my bat.
I miss that time where I had to have plenty of time.
I miss that pocket in which i used to carry beautiful stones rather than money.
I miss my school days where grades didn't affect me.

Read more >

ancient mothership will be reborn

I grew up, on this tiny little island,
This minute speck of dust in space,
Twirling and running around the sun,
Not tired, not hungry, just being itself,

I grew up, on this tiny little island,
This mothership, ancient and old,
Tenacious after every death,
And now time bids again for her death
At the hands of us who make her bleed

I grew up, on this tiny little island,
This speck of dust that now bowls
From the pit of its gut and roars
Like a mother who’s lost all her children,
Watch as she shudders with every tear
As it floods our shores and rip open our lands,

I grew up, on this tiny little island,
And soon she’ll claim herself to heal,
And the surface of her skin will erupt,
Shake and shutter, her tears pouring all over
As rebirth consumes her and rebuilds her


The Island

Island life brought shadows
Along with some light trails
The synonyms of living
Beneath the great earth’s sails

Growing up with whispers
That elsewhere was more alive
Despite this dispirit knowledge
Island life helped us to thrive

We surfed around our feelings
As we sailed around the coast
And wondered as we did so
What we would miss the most

Knowing that one day we’d leave
A better chance for our lives
But also we’d come back again
To show The Island we’d survived



Over time I’ve learnt that the beeps I hear are the road crossings where the coloured metal boxes stop for a time. The wheels of those coloured metal boxes are so small and they go round outside the walls more in the daylight than the night-time. I don’t know how they work, I can’t see anything pulling them.

Most days one or two of the boxes on wheels come in and people get out. They wear all sorts of clothes in all sorts of colours, the ladies aren’t veiled and not always wearing skirts and sometimes their eyes are hidden behind big dark eyeglasses. Sometimes they sit on the bench, sometimes they bring flowers.

I wish I could pass them something to wipe their eyes with but they never come to my bit. I don’t think anyone knows I’m here. I don’t know what my name is and I never have, but I’m not alone in this, there’s a few of us here who don’t know our names. There are others who used to know what theirs were but because no-one has used it in a long time they’ve forgotten it too.

I tried to go beyond the walls once, well I went as far as I could down the drive towards the big iron gates. But I felt faint and heavier the closer I got to them. By the time I could reach them I felt like lead and I could barely move. The noise from the coloured metal boxes was very loud there and they went past so fast and I didn’t know which way to go or what to do so I came back inside.

At least all I have to do here is wait and hope. Hope and wait, wait and hope.


I, the island

I have always lived here. Sometimes this embarrasses me; I have no knowledge of elsewhere, no experience of foreign ways. Sometimes it fills me with pride to say: I am an islander. People gather to listen to my words and the way I speak them, my foreignness their entertainment like a Twitcher would gather the discovered foreign stray into his rare bird directory. Did they own me once they’d heard me? Would they capture me and put me on file? I stayed silent. I would not perform in company. But now they invaded my beloved headland.

The headland was formed of a stone that even the greatest drills couldn't penetrate; they say the headland was that shape because no erosion ever took place. I’ve known it to be a close friend since my words took form.

It fascinated me.
I knew every inch of it.
It was me.

I imagined taking fallen pieces and preserving them by carving them into brooches and trinkets over several lifetimes. Smoothing them into sensuous rounds and globes, so silky, people would pay to touch them, museums would want to house them, own them, steal them.

Eventually the Engineers found a drill harder than the stone. I grimaced at the news. There was much excitement and newsreels. We saw footage of grinning men in suits, the gleaming drill bit shooting lens flares all over the TV screen. The drill was so close to the stone that the island inhabitants held their breath.

Then the drill entered the blessed surface with a howl. It was only a test they said, smiling. That evening, when they’d retreated to their lodgings, I walked on the headland, the dust shavings from the hole collected in the tread of my boots; I couldn’t save it.


Hymn For The Capital

I grew up prime suburban,
On this tiny little island,
Of chain-store parking fee
Strip mall asphalt aspirations.

Some would have found bland
The world I made Ovidian,
Because I grew up in Tomis,
Like where the Danube met the sea.

Because west of Prime Meridian
The world goes blank,
The maps all find bitter end.
Because I know where Rome is,

But Rome can’t pin down dank
Canals and wetlands and storks,
Herons with their beaks outstretched,
Can’t locate my dividends

In the bank imperial, can’t know
Where I am and therefore fears,
This place, this nasal, flattened
Latin of the provinces, our dithyrambs.

Rome should know here,
The creature they unmade,
Who knows their cadences
Like oil, like butter, like tarsands

Read more >

Terra Incognita

The tiny little island is a wedge of sod in the middle of a pond. Turtles paddle around it, bobbing their heads. The mold and moss would squish between your toes were you to set foot there. 

He grew up on this tiny little island in his heart. The island was only big enough for him, but he swam out as far as he could, or set sail on his yellow catamaran, calling to anyone who might hear his voice.

You cannot get to the island yourself. The person harboring the island in their heart can’t exactly get to it either, although they grow up on it. The tiny little island is surrounded by the fog of years. Yachts pass by it, choking the air with their fumes. 

The tiny little island he grew up on is now sinking below the water. The island is his original home, an Atlantis of the heart, and it sinks below the wake of the cigarette boat, the tumult of the ages of his own meager life.

As it sinks, he looks in the mirror and sees a glitch in the flesh of his neck, a flatness in the eyes like his soul has abandoned him, soaring out into the sky and latching onto birds, who also have flat eyes but who inspire us with their undying spirits and songs that pierce us to our hearts, that plunge into the sod of the tiny little islands in our hearts.


Geography Unbound

This little island of mine
is barely visible to the naked eye
because it resembles
a tiny dot atop an “i”
on a rushed shopping list.

It’s more minuscule particle
floating aimlessly in the atmosphere
than massive chunk of rock
stood steadfast in the ocean

Don’t get me wrong
conventional islands are great
but aren’t easy to come by
these days, I think you’ll agree
so near-invisible ones
in my opinion
are the perfect alternative.


Islands I, II and V


The universe is filled
With islands —
Little lonelinesses
On the look out
For a connection.

Galaxies, planets —
How many mothers
And children lost
To the Milky Way ? —
Stars that point
Towards many directions
All that unnamed
Dark matter.

There are the chosen few
Suited seekers
That toddle along craters
With their polycarbonate shell on
Oxygen given via an umbilical chord —
No wonder they call it mothership.


I blame it on the moon, mother
Of all fossilised salt
Perched on the flesh
Of a silent shell mouth
A barely there mantle —
No wonder the lonely worship her. Read more >


Tight little island

The best parties always feel like death on
this island, this tight little island, with all
its inlets and nooks, bays and shores, holding
and holding its lungs shut until whoosh!
national pride expands, flags blare, trumpets
billow and nostalgia goes on the march again,
and now we’re on the best foot forward coast
riding unicorns and pointing at the sea saying
it made us made us, that and a bit of wool, coal,
theological externalities and mainsails, and
we could win again if only you stopped
tying us down in agreeable reasonableness,
plenary sessions in strategy conferences,
but no really, we wouldn’t need to go to
all this bother if only we could kiss Joan
Greenwood as Peggy in 'Whisky Galore!'
once, just once, shipwreck our ambition
in exchange for the breath of life.



I was raised in small-town isolation, a town that never
GREW to more than 120 people, surrounded by corn that went
UP above my 5 foot 8 inches of bone and mostly fat, weaned
ON processed food because it was cheap for a family of seven,
THIS being rare in a place of stick-figure senior citizens with a
TINY post office my mother ran, a co-op of salt blocks for cows, a
LITTLE bar named Smiley's in a frowned-up village that became an
ISLAND every spring when the Elkhorn and Logan rivers flooded
ON the streets up to the 3-foot porch where we crouched, watching
THIS ferocious inundation bring some variety at least into our
TINY crotch of dry existence in the Nebraska Flood Plain, this
LITTLE nothing I could not wait to escape from, but I realize I am an
ISLAND no matter where I go, living in a big city that also soaks
UP the wet of everything that invades – exhaust, neon, loneliness
I dread, missing the fresh floods, my siblings, the lulling boredom I
GREW to miss in this urban mess more drowning than a river.


The Compass

Was it ever enough, this small space
Plagued with breakers, sand eating at the soil?

As a child I cut myself on the coarse grass
The sea wind cracked open my skin

The world was salt, every scent and taste.
We thirsted for life without it

I dreamt of cities dense with shadows and street names
Loud with people, their possibilities

But those were other tomorrows—
We disappointed our parents with our hopes

The horizon contained us
Its perimeter, its perfect compass

The loving and hurt embrace of its O


If I had grown up on Magnetic Island

I might’ve been friends with Julian Assange
Tom Sawyered with him from bay to bay—
Picnic, Radical and Horseshoe—for play
in bikini bottoms and feet bare in the sand
we’d eat fish and crawl through caves
at the forts we’d climb rocks and trees
where possums and koalas hide and sleep.

Puberty would rise like a placid moon
we’d paddle the waves, ride the storms
laugh with cockatoos, hide from magpies.
I’d go to school on the mainland
he’d play computer geek at home
drifting apart, and like Walt Whitman
we’d ebb with the ocean of life.


The Halfway Bar

You watch the girl wind a fist tight in the last moment and hit her friend so hard she rockets across the ring to bounce on the ropes, and they both laugh as the screen showers with pixelated scores and the characters flicker away back into ethernet cables or drives or whatever and the girls – women maybe, it’s hard to tell these days – move on past empty tables to the next game.

You take your beer across the bar to examine the game machine. It’s all lights – orange, pink, blue, red, purple, green – and screaming incentives on the screen which isn’t really a screen, but hovering light which looks, you think, how an old film projected onto a cloud might. It’s another thing you don’t understand and never have. A fighter rears up in your face for selection. You step back and, nervous, pass the bottle through a bear of a man who roars with anger and somewhere nearby in the bar. There’s giggling and you think it might be at you, but it’s the kind of sound you hear all the time, so you’re not sure.

You shuffle yourself and over to the wall of windows. It’s night-time out there. You’re fifty-seven floors up in Halfway Bar (once upon a time, it would’ve taken bribery to get you that far, what with that lift incident back in the day) and outside it’s raining. For a moment you think the scrapers and advertising and coloured lights – orange, pink, blue, red, purple, green – are a film on the cloud, held aloft by drizzle, trapped and smeared by rivulets on the glass which itself shows a stainless-steel bar tops and naked bulbs and a bartender watching you closely. But it’s real that city, you know it. That city is always there. Even when you close your eyes or drink yourself blind, there it is.

Read more >

Growing up on a Tiny Island

I grew up on this tiny island. The only way to travel off the island is by ferry, bus or bridge. Years ago, with not even a bridge to cross, the only way to leave was by ferry. The train still doesn’t leave the island. The last stop is the ferry.

I remember the beaches, the ocean immense to my small eyes. I fear water, so as a child I chose to stay on the tiny island’s beach, collecting seashells.

The island is changed now. More and more people live on it, and so many cars. If I chose to stay on this tiny island, I probably wouldn’t drive. Did I mention, stores, buses and doctors are within walking distance from my old home? This came in handy; however, I left the tiny island to live on another much larger island. But my childhood island will always stay with me.

Staten Island.


adrift, a-dreaming

I dream of being one of those protagonists
who retreats into the wilderness
run-down cottage on an island
barely more than wind whistling through stones
inheritance from a distant relative
a chance to float at peace

To find solace after frustration
appreciate the steam rising from a mug of tea
feel the hard earth beneath the rusty spade
without the responsibility of life pressing down

Growing wiser and slightly older
away from the inbox and notifications
smash the smartphone by accident
but let it sit there unbidden
until it becomes plot-relevant
that my isolation must be interrupted

Instead I grow here in this city
on a larger island though still floating
through the seas of crowds and purpose
paying rent and teasing the last hints of pleasure
from the privilege of being part of society



When I was in primary school
I used to play out
with the kids down the road.
We ran through the back gardens,
crawled through hedges, climbed trees
and talked conspiratorially about
which Power Ranger we would be
what sex was
whether Man U were the best
and we decided that we weren’t English, actually
maybe we were French
maybe we were changelings
maybe we were aliens
so we ran away
without even leaving the street.

I grew up on this tiny little island
that wasn’t France
or another planet
but I see it now
as exotic as my immigrant mother
used to tell me while we drove through
the rolling hills and endless green,
“Look how beautiful this island is."



I grew up on this tiny little island. Mama pushed me into the world at high tide while Hurricane Odette was barreling toward us. Water was tickling the stilts of the house and she and Papa prayed that I’d come quickly. We wrapped you up and rowed away and that hurricane just lulled you to sleep, she told me. They named me after the storm. Odette means wealthy but when the clouds cleared, the house was gone and every other house along the water was gone. We slept on cots in the school, Mama says, and I was passed from auntie to auntie while she and Papa scouted out the sand-strewn streets.

Grandmere told me when I grew up I would either be wild like a hurricane or rich like Odette means, but not both. When I’d let out my braids and chase laughing gulls down the beach, she’d shake her head and tut-tut-tut and I’d know she was thinking about all those riches she’d be losing out on if I ended up wild.

The house I grew up in was perched up on higher ground so when the next hurricane hit, we could see the waves but we didn’t have to row anywhere, and no more babies were being born anyway. And Papa said that to Mama—the no more babies part—and she cried while we crouched in the bathroom, listening to the wind whip. I thought about the power of a storm and decided maybe I could be both wild and rich, but I didn’t tell Grandmere.

The first time I left the island was when the whole left side of my mouth hurt and Doc Pitard said I had to go get a tooth pulled. Mama held my hand nearly the whole boat ride across and I wasn’t sure which hurt more—my tooth or this feeling of how big the world was. But every time after that, it got easier and after a while it hurt more to stay home when there was such a big world to explore.

Read more >

far from my island

I grew up on this tiny island
Of sand and rusted wings
I dived over and over
Through all of the surrounding sea.
I encountered many species
Most of which I only watched breathe.

I grew up on this tiny island
And traveled, so far and so deep
That the island seemed tinier
With every stroke towards east.
At first, I’d come back in the evenings
But then I learned to be
Comfortable just by swimming
Comfortable just with me

It’s been a while now
since I have last heard or seen
anything from my tiny island.
I stay some days very still
Just remembering the sand
And all the species that there lived.
I haven’t returned to my tiny island,
I wonder sometimes
Does it still exist?



I come from a place where the sun dances
with intense heat
I come from a land of diverse tongue and tribe
and green filled earth
I come from the streets and corners that reek of desperation and sting like salt water on the eyes
This is the place I come from

beyond the shores of my home I know of no other
my children's children shall sit and listen to folklore passed down to me from my mother's mother
and I shall sit to tell the tales of how I overcame

someday our sun will rise again
in its resplendent glory
someday we shall thrive again
as giants in the land



He was fed up of doing nothing,
so Michael flicked his laptop open
and fired up Microsoft Word.

He typed:


‘Hmm,’ he thought. ‘A tad jingoistic.’

[delete] [delete] [delete]

He typed:


‘Nope,’ he thought. ‘Too fake.’

[delete] [delete] [delete]

He typed:


‘Nah,’ he thought. ‘Too literal.’

[delete] [delete] [delete]

He typed:

Read more >


Jack’s eyes slowly opened as cool, clean water washed away the brine. Peering at him were two dark eyes in a brown face topped by startling, mud-plastered hair. Strong arms helped him to sit and held a cup to his lips. Jack drank deeply, then immediately vomited a vile mixture of seawater, weed and sand. His saviour laughed, displaying sharpened white teeth, and Jack prayed he hadn’t landed among cannibals. After another drink of water he tried to stand but he was pitifully weak and, to his intense embarrassment, the savage lifted him like a child and carried him into a dense forest of palm trees to meet his tribe.

Years passed. Jack learnt to fish with net and spear, ate monkeys and strange fruit and roots – though he drew the line at insects – and explored the tiny island from coast to coast. Once he caught a tantalising glimpse of a sail on the horizon but Kom refused to investigate. “They are foreigners – we have no need of them.” Eventually Jack married Kom’s sister, and when their son was born he said to her, “This place is paradise – I could wish for nothing more.”

Then the longboat came. Jack capered on the sand like a lunatic and wrung the Captain’s hand. “I feared rescue would never come!” He turned to his wife. “You will love England.” She stood with her baby on her hip and stared at him. “You cannot expect me to go.” “But I cannot live my entire life on this desert island among savages.” Her eyes were full of scorn. “Until now it was paradise,” she said, and spun on her heel in the golden sand to stride away carrying their child. Jack pleaded with Kom. “You understand – persuade her.” “How could I understand?” Kom replied, “I am only a savage.”

As the tiny little island shrank in the distance, Jack realised he had sacrificed everything for the dream of a country that was no longer home.



When you asked me to design your book cover, you said you didn’t want any landscape scenes, just something bold and colourful. Something calligraphic to reflect the seismic sea wave that had washed away your home on the little island. Something strong to convey the strength that you found, to stand as tall as the mountains and breathe, whilst all around you the mango forests and rice terraces were awash with colour. I hope your story and recipes will help to raise the funds that you desperately need for those who have lost so much. The cover would make a great 3D poster. I hope you like it.


Ocean Body

If I tell you that I am an island,
a small desert place of quiet abruption,
the tips of my fingers dipped in cold ocean waves and
my toes curled over sandy edges,
I mean to say that i am cut-off,
far-off, cut-apart,
a life of water between me and the world.

If i were to say to you that I grew up here,
among the sea-bird sea-nests tangled in salty hair,
engulfed by deep dark ocean weeds and scattered fishbones,
I mean to say that once i might have been a peninsula,
tied to my mother by string and flesh and blood,
but the little earth-bridge flooded by some mind-image,
and I grew older surrounded by mirror water,
the world within the reach of my fingertips
but washed-over, unreachable, unimaginable, unbridgeable.

And so my limbs became mountains,
familiar and lonely
rising above that clear horizon of still glass.
And my hair turned into sea foam,
a quiet tugging and pulling and
clinging to the edges.
And my fragmented being I paint
on a white canvass made of island sand,
with a brush made of seaweed
and a copper cup filled with the water that swallows my lungs.


Between the waves and trees

And here is my home,
with a sun-kissed glow sliding beneath my chin,
and the roar of sodium marking the design of my palm,
A thousand years, I slept hear,
On this tiny island of melancholy and hope

Ivory breath slipping from the cheeks
and I produce a wave of chestnuts from the ocean.
A song so quiet,
hunter's dream.
I now call this place a season of spring.

A dandelion rests on my checked skirt,
and I sit and pray, watching the sky.
What is this place so surreal?

A place of god's own language,
A pivot. A poet's muse.
There are things broken over here,
Peels of fruits and leftovers of waves.
Just like your kitchen leftover's bread.
I smile at this place,
my home of autumn skies,
wrapped like lemongrass tickling my skin, on evenings.

I grew up on this tiny little island.
On the sand of broken twigs,
tall trees,
like women of my age. Lithe.
Read more >


The Gospel of a Gun

outside leaning against our mate's car
my back was pressed against your front
your hands were locked deep in my front pockets
a cigarette butt had been flung to the ground
and I could have sworn I saw shooting stars that night
does God know when horror is on its way?

the car breaks hard
and the driver rushes out
it was like seeing all your nightmares come to life
lifting up his garments he pulls out a gun
how life can ricochet some kind of fear into your lungs
you took your hands out and moved me to the side

he was shouting obscenities
all three of you moved to him
he barged his way through
into the ark of the club
no one likes alcohol stained steps
a bullet is going to tear apart their gospel soon

you spun me round and told me to get in the car
all four of us sat nodding to a Hip Hop prayer from your radio
it started to rain and I needed a drink
from the driver's seat you gazed over to check that I was okay
my eyes told you all that you knew already
you looked away and lit a cigarette

Read more >

Desert Island Survival

“Are you sure these are OK to eat?” She wrinkled her nose.
“Best I could find,” he shrugged.
“Maybe, if you look in those bushes, you find some berries or fruits. Maybe?”
“If you don’t know what you’re picking, berries could be poisonous. These, at least, I know are safe.”
“Not sure my stomach can take these maggots.”
“They’re snails.”
“Whatever they’re, they look disgusting!” she said, her face acquired light green shade. “I wish I brought snacks.”
“It’s a desert island survival experience! We must learn to survive in the wild. With what we have. Besides, you don’t have to eat it raw. We can make them into a soup!”
“Something tells me you’re not joking.”
“Of course I’m not! Wait here!” he said with a mischievous twinkle in his eye and disappeared into the greenery. He returned soon carrying a pile of twigs and dry leaves and, producing from the pocket a magnesium fire starter, got to business. Holding her breath, she watched as the hot sparks landed into the makeshift campfire. In a few flicks, little flame began to kindle, slowly growing in size and heat.
“Wow!” she exhaled. “Where did learn to do that?”
He beamed at her but didn’t reply. Disappearing into the trees again he returned with more wood and the old rusted pot filled with water.
“Where did you get that?”
“It washed up onto a shore half a mile from here. And I found a freshwater stream close by!” he declared proudly, fixing the sticks up and hanging the pot over the flame.
When the water boiled, he threw in some dry roots, leaves and finally snails, and an hour later, their feast was ready.
Read more >


The Tiny Island I Grew Up On

I grew up on this tiny little island where Jews
streamed down sidewalks on sweltering days
of summer to celebrate the Sabbath in synagogue.

Mothers and daughters in long-sleeved blouses
tucked in skirts hemmed well below their knees,
hair covered by scarves, showing humility to God.

Fathers in black jackets, long bushy beards,
their sons in crisp black pants, white shirts
and shiny black shoes, yarmulkas clipped to

their hair, curls of their peyot twirling as they
sped ahead of the group. I grew up on this
tiny little island where deli doors opened to

sweet scents of fresh bagels and blintzes,
knishes and challahs, customers kibbitizing
about families and friends while waiting for

their orders. I moved off that island a long
time ago, lived places where few Jews are
known except for those on TV, where all Jews

are thought of as rich and the same. Where
we were all doctors and lawyers and dirty and
cheap. Where bagels were fresh from the

freezer and reheated in microwaves. Where
I was forgiven for being a Jew. I loved learning
about cultures of other islands. The holidays,

Read more >

Travel Broadens the Mind

I grew up on this tiny little island
but I thought it was large,
a major player in the world.
It was when I first looked at a globe
that I saw my island was a pinpoint
on the face of the earth,
a pimple,
with ideas above its station.

Then I discovered the rest of the world
from McDonalds
to the Taj Mahal,
from Athens to Siberia,
from Chichen Itza
to Uluru.

All of humanity was there.
but they didn’t play the uileann pipes,
they knew nothing about rocky fields,
or crubeens, or boxty, or barmbrack.
Some lived in the rainforest,
some on wide never-ending deserts.
Others roamed grassy plains,
and climbed high mountains.

I learned that all our mountains
were hills.
Our plains were bogs.
My world shrank.
My island was almost invisible.

Read more >


For as long as I can remember we have lived here, my parents and us.
They moved here before we were born, made their home on a platform they built
at the highest point of the island, right in the middle, as far away as possible
from the water.

So that’s how we grew up, looking out over the land and beyond it to the ocean
glittering in all its unquantifiable immeasurable incomprehensible howmuchness
and the waves always licking and nibbling at the shoreline, crunching our island
into sand.

Life here was pretty pleasant but a bit coconutty if you don’t eat fish, and I don’t,
can’t stand the sight, smell or taste of them. I’m pretty sure my sister felt the same
but even so she built herself a raft in secret then last year just upped and left,
and put out to sea.

My parents understood that she needed rescuing and so they struck out after her
and it has been a long time now. Above me the patient palms nod, turn dark again
and light as the stars wink off and on in their shimmering canopy. I wait, I am waiting
for them to come back.

Read more >

Imagine Together

Close your eyes
inhale deeply
and imagine
the world
is an island
the whole globe
is flat after all
with tangible edges
dropping off
into sea or sky.
You can choose
your own adventure.
Regardless, we float
stagnant and unable
to go beyond.
People say
it’s a small
and for a moment
we live
in harmony here
on this tiny
able to touch
and hearts.


Island Bound

I grew up on this tiny little island. I could have done it elsewhere. The growing up, that is. But I am bound by more than water.

There are times when I wonder if we have anything in common. But, we do.

We both give the impression of floating. Of being free, and untethered. In truth, we are immovable.

I grew up on this tiny little island, while it grew around me. It nourished its trees so they would be mature enough when the time came to whisper that I should not leave. It gave me mountains as a refuge, to keep me from the shore. When the rain became too much, and others took flight, it conjured its earthy scent to ground me.

I don't know how it does that, but its very soil is in it. Is in me. I imagine its wetness held in the palm of someone gone before, whose blood still courses through mine. He is truly at one with it now. But that is irrevocable, and for all this land's efforts, I still resist that fate.

I am from a place where we sing laments that despair at the necessity of leaving. Those that have do the same in foreign places. Our voices meet somewhere over the Atlantic. We keen on the waves. We remember. And we yearn.


I grew up

on the world's smallest, inhabited island
in a river with a split nationality—
little more than a sandbar
bobbing in the St. Lawrence.

Before I obtained official sea legs,
The Thousand Islands Nomination Committee
concluded: “To be an island,
one must possess two qualities:
an ability to tread water, and
sustain two trees, or shrubs,

Like every wealthy idiot
who builds amidst
a constant, erosive force,
my parents had more money
than brains.

Placing a premium on privacy,
they planted the requisite trees,
built an island-sized cottage
on the cottage-sized island,
and immediately became the focus
of recreational watercraft rubbernecking.

Ma-maw and Pa-paw Sizeland renamed
Hub Island—their get-away illusion
amidst the current— to Just Room Enough
without hint of irony.

Read more >

The island grows in me

it casts a shadow wider than sunlight,
in a few words, i am a nebulous
shape of episodes reaching upwards
and outwards—i’ve been caterpillars
and roses, still years in a garden
fits of laughter, morse code of silence
a blaze in the crowd, ghost in a closet
a series of stabs at being usual things
brighter, stronger, sharper, lighter
i’ve stretched my outline over the water
learning slowly that yearning can brim over
endless spaces and escaping is not forgetting
i grew up on this tiny, little island
now the island is me


Every Street an Island

Here’s the driveway
where everybody in a circle
watched Hector beat me up
for being new
where Hector walked home
while the circle said hello.

Here’s the backyard
where twins who went to Baptist school for bad girls
with patches for NRA rifle shooting
told me they went to church, then target practice
told me if I kissed them don’t worry
they wouldn’t eat me
because they were vegetarian
which was something I’d never worried about
until then
but the dad said I better not come around any more
so I didn’t
for a while.

Here’s the house
where a man paid me a dollar to snow-shovel his walk
where he invited me inside
where he showed me model train tracks
where he offered me lemonade
where I ran away.

Read more >

we called it home


chalk with bone
ozone with blood
seasons with pulse

this earth
runs through me
fused; to

walk in the market
watch from the hill
wait for the one

my vision is clear by
sun or moon or star
i sing in a

known to all
written by none

watching from the hill as
fire sets fire to fire



I don’t belong in the world but that’s what it is

it was just the two of us
lonely drifters. growing up on this tiny
little island

my colour pencils making sense
of love, light and shadows, two legs dangling

in the back of your lectures, numbers on the board,
myself still, drawing. maybe confused
but earth orbits the sun unquestioning

the stars glow and the rest is silence.

i was your doll
dressed and cleaned by your manicured golden
lifted and pulled back down by gravity

sailing and smiling the 13 different shores
the miles exhausting
our spirits.

it has been the two of us, growing up
on this tiny little island,
thinking about each other like sandcastles
far into the shore.

pointing at the waves, watching the sunrise
We Were Always Going To Be Well.



Beware of fame,
of poems so short they sound like mottos.
Beware of placards held aloft.
Steer clear of talk not set in solid ground,
of any plant kept in a pot, uprooted
from its native soil and lashing out.

I grew up on this tiny little island
and it’s always been kind to me, but I’m
not sure who I am since I began
to shift position. And, what’s this about a
sunken land-bridge?
May I remind you to mind your language.

In this place
of plate tectonics and shale deposits such
a claim can cause division.
Where now we stand so tall and eloquent,
fists full of bristling bracts, neither leaf
nor flower, colours blazing in our hands,

all will be quiet,
will all be blossom brushed aside, all be
words left unsaid.
How long before the last of us is turned
to dust and dug back in?
How long until our silence says it all?


The Raft

I don’t know how it happened, just an idea, really, standing on the beach, the waves under my feet when inspiration struck. I didn’t mean to think it, but it
Grew until it filled my mind, my only thought, a dream I could not give
Up, a hope that possessed me, but enough, I had to wonder, to stake my life
On? I couldn’t say, but nor could I leave
This dream. I could not set it aside, no matter how
Tiny the chance, no matter how
Little my hope of eventual success. This boat, no, little more than a feeble raft, twigs and logs tied with string, but enough that I can hope to finally leave this


This morning earlier and now with the light going

Was it just this morning after barn chores that I wondered what if I
stretched myself my legs and arms high—higher—than the pines grew
higher than the southbound geese flew, what if I piped myself up
tip-toe tall into the soft sky’s translucent swaddle, would I let on
that I saw the beauty of this old world, would I tell you this:
we are all winged and red-feathered, wind-light, we are all tiny
against the stars flapping endlessly against a ceaseless wind, little
and fierce, searching for a quiet branch on this spinning island

I never know where I’m going, isn’t that how the forests
grew, trusting the warm soil and the only direction that mattered:
up? So we go and we go, we talk a lot and we compare prices
on cushions or buy stocks to invest in or bake cookies, do that or
this and make up a life out of earth's largesse, oh we are
tiny and so beautiful and often so wrong. Why don’t we sit here a
little while and watch the boats come and go, the waves wash this
island. Dusk is coming down along the dune, but we still have some time.


Rice Lake

the sound of ripples wraps the
silence of the moss-sprinkled ground
inviting an orchestra of angled sunlight
to come center stage
painting every somber leaf yellow
a grey squirrel leaped from a tree trunk

wilted leaves patiently await their first flight
"they right breeze will set us free"
they thought
as they dance from side to side


It wasn’t a big garden

It wasn’t a big garden. It wasn’t well-tended or full of fragrant flowers. It had bushes. Not roses or anything with thorns, but ones with wispy leaves and bendable twig-like branches.

At the age of five I learnt I could crawl under and find myself in the middle. I was sheltered from the wind, the rain and more importantly from the constant squabbles between my brothers, sisters and the street children who lived on our estate.

As I grew the bushes grew, and so I could still head from my hiding place when noise and trouble hit our family with the force of a tsunami. My brother was arrested for drug dealing and then my older sister was taken in to care for trying to sell drugs at school. My father gambled and my mother worked harder and harder to pay the bills and feed us.

Whenever, family life became too much or I just didn’t want anyone to find me I would escape with a book. I read about princesses and dragons and finding wands that would transport me to magical places. I always wanted to be the dragon. The type of creature that could defend itself and its kingdom.

Then one day I came back from school and found that we’d been evicted. I was taken in to care and couldn’t even say goodbye to the nest I’d built in the garden. It was may refuge, a tiny island in a sea of uncertainty.

Only later I discovered that the island hadn’t left me, because it was still there. In my bleakest moments my imagination can fly me back to the sense of calm and safety I found there as a child.


upon that isle

Here is the land and the sea,
this place, small and crooked.
Distantly seen by revellers on ferries
and on boats.
Never visited.
Is this where word began?
Is this where the grass became green
and the rocks grey
or what are these things
without words to call them?

Does a new-born fish
leap and catch the space
above the sea?
Does it see this land,
its roofless huts
Now left and right,
between the gaps?

Wrapped in sounds
and bleary from the birth.
Does the calf across the water
does it say to itself
'I grew up
and someday
I will chomp the cud
upon that Isle'.



I was born on this small island and grew up here, got married here, have three sons growing up on this tiny island, learning what I learned.
I know the tides and the fish and the reef and the skies, safety and danger for fishing. I know how to make a canoe from the trunk of a tree.
I know the field of corn and the gardens of vegetables, when to plant and when to harvest.
I knew the schoolroom and the counting and the chanting and the writing, and my sons learn the same in the same room; and like me, they will leave the schoolroom for work on the sea or in the cornfields when they are no longer small children.
I know the sacred spring of ground water, and the circling stones, the gods and demons of the island. I know the ceremonies.
I know the people in the two villages. I know who is clever, who is not, who is lazy, who will work with me.
I am clever. I learned to drive the tourist boat from the hotel on the mainland. I learned enough of the tourist language to be polite and helpful, to know what things the tourists like and don’t like.
Other clever villagers have learned to be cooks and waiters.
None of us was clever enough know there would be more and more tourists, and the government people would come here and build a hotel on our pathway to the sacred spring. Or that the government boats would come here and dynamite the fish.
Now we islanders have to go to the mainland to buy fish. Now that we go to the markets the children want lollies. Now that we go to the market or work in the hotel, we have no time to look after the corn and vegetables properly. Now we have started to buy rice from the mainland. Now we are getting sick, from eating different food, or maybe, I think, from sadness and anger, now we have to be boat boys or waiters, cleaning girls or cooks, and always smiling and being polite…
Read more >


My Little Island

No place is that small, when you know
every single corner of it,
its colours in every season,
its odours, perfumes, or bad smells,
the voices and faces you meet
and greet – or avoid, and the sounds
that mark each moment… and yet, each
passing day, you let your senses
pause, and wait, and regenerate,
till you feel there is something new,
something that wasn’t there before,
that you still had not discovered –
and then you know your little world
is not an island, not so small,
if you’re still eager to see more.


She Had Thought The Water Was Shallow Here

They have been together almost 9 years. Feodora occasionally feels a very specific sadness, mulling over how little she knows of his childhood. The weeks approaching his birthday always reignite her need to picture the man she loves as a little boy. Red-cheeked against early November chill. Bundled in a too-big scarf. Crunching and gumming at a toffee apple. Dark wide eyes filled with the spitting of sparklers. Silhouetted against the heat of Roman Candles, colours catching in the black gloss of his hair.

Marcus rarely speaks about his life before her. Everything before the evening at the Olympic pool is blurry; her unquestioning love has brought him into focus, out of the photographic stop bath. She remembers treading water, entranced, watching him glide through the lane next to her.

She knows he was born here, in the east. She doesn’t know how far it was from the little chunk of east they share now, on the 13th floor, suspended in so much noise.

Every year, she makes the same tired joke. “It was hard work arranging firework displays up and down the country to celebrate your birth, but I managed it.” Every year, he responds by kissing her, accepting a mug of mulled cider with clumsy gloved hands. They always attend the same display in the same park. A place ringed by the homes of her friends. He doesn’t have many, has largely taken hers as his own. They don’t mind, and neither does she. They say he is quiet, but kind. So unlike the over-beered and overbearing boys of her younger days.

Normally, one of the friends would host a dinner. Roasting tins, red wine, sticky attempt at a birthday cake. This year they are coy, exchanging glances as he suggests the two of them walk home. It is cold, but not unbearably so. Clouds of their breath blend into the sour sparkler smoke. Read more >


My Island Home

I grew up on this tiny little island, where sun
filtered through green,

leaflets of gossamer, where quills brimmed
in breeze, found feather bouquet,

where paws skittered in snow, gray squirrel
ballet, where wings fluttered toward feeder,

buffet for chickadee, where change reflected
through glass, window of seasons,

where wind chime coined melodies and soul
lit verse, where daybreak to gloaming

healing came first, in this tiny little sunroom,
my island home.


Et in Arcadia Ego

I grew up on this tiny little island. Mom wouldn't let any of us out of the house except for the worst traumas requiring trips to the hospital. Loss of limb or life. That was about the only way you got past that solid oak front door. So the hospital took on a magical quality. For us, brothers and sisters, inmates all, it was like visiting a mall at Christmas. They had televisions there and people of all different sorts that talked to you like a friend. Oh, we children were in our glory in the hospital. We raced up and down the halls devouring life! But soon it was back to that house, that island. We took to calling it The Spaceship after a certain number of years had passed. Because it wasn't really of the earth. She didn't believe in the earth. She didn't tell outside people everything she taught us in our home schooling. All the strange ideas of the ghost world that lay beyond our front door. She had us so convinced of the danger that lurked on every sidewalk in the city or even our suburb. They could take you at any moment. They waited only for that. She taught us things not on those curricula she handed in for the State to approve. The importance of sacred mummification, for example. We did as we were told. Even the youngest of us assisted in the procedure. We had already gone over the process many times, in fantasy and in dry runs. Mother had lain upon her back on that long table in the basement. We had each described and demonstrated our tasks. She had graded us on it. It's amazing that she found everything she needed for the ritual on EBAY. I don't know why she went to all that bother. She didn't rise from the dead. She's down there anyway, despite all her huffing and puffing. Her Pyramid Power and levitations. Still with that same sour look on her face. Like maybe there's too much lemon in death. Read more >


St. Helena

The growing-up words at my grandmother’s feet
Half Tree Hollow, Francis Plain, The Briars, Prosperous Bay,
Dogwood, albacore, plo. Sounds of romance, adventure, wildness –
prickly pear whisky for ones they saved from the Papannui,
the Spangareid that to her and my wonder, burnt in the harbour for a week.
Her old photos of picnics, cousins, my mother’s long gone father,
the colour postcard with Mount Pleasant, her well-married sister’s
country house looking over the family flax destined for post office string,
then down fields and hills beyond the rocks rose Lot and Lots wife
volcanoes once, now a jag and a crag through the pure blue.
I grew up on this small island in stories, visions, memories
the vividness outdid south west London and our worn-thin lives,
in spite of Richmond Park in all its gentle space and English trees.
This excitement of remoteness and simple glories.
My mother the adventurer, took off at 3 years old on a wild climb,
dragging her small body up 300ish steps of Jacob’s Ladder.
The full 699 steps up to the barracks or paradise.
At Christmas the donkeys came into Jamestown with baskets full of Arum lilies.
She got an orange, an apple, and sometimes new shoes.
Auntie Beryl, an ‘island girl’ (weren’t they all island girls?)
made fashion dresses from the magazines shipped from Cape Town,
worn with a pride, alive with specialness, to government house dances
The war? Heard on some radios. But the British servicemen,
some were well-bagged husbands of island girls, had to go.
1947 she was a student nurse in Salisbury, becoming as English
as she always knew she was, adventuring and telling porky pies
about her education, her birth, laughing, skiving, having fun in Wiltshire pubs.
Read more >


Perils of Existence

Mornings begin, blooming into a rosy day
Where we wait patiently to be devoured
By the horizon shift – silver to orange.
Rays hit the pores of our skin,
Craters of dark spots come to light.
Breakfast is an old thing,
We eat our own existence now.
The blood dripping off your mouth
Carries the aroma of mist,
Envelops our existence, blanketed by honey.

I eat the flesh, through mauve nails
Ricocheting between kisses and customs.
As I lay naked on a bloody floor,
Flowing from my veins are remorse-rivers.
You’re one holy dip away from purity.

I write, vomit on ruled sheets
Holding the worst weapon ever created.
The weapon stinks of my existence,
A genocide of its own–
Killing those who read
Living those who write–
A catharsis, unknown.

Read more >


My mother often talks about our home country, an island in the Indian Ocean. She talks about the rich colours, the fulfilling sun and the big-hearted people. I can’t relate.

It’s not that I can’t relate, but I can’t understand. Lovell House is like an island. I sit and stare out of our flat window at the vehicles. They take over the streets like the foam of the sea. The comparison is quite accurate because London drivers’ attitude’s are quite salty.

The high rising buildings in central are like palm trees. Right at the top are the coconuts, hard to get to but sweet and delicious filled with sustenance. We’re all thirsty to get to the top.

My island keeps me safe. It protects me from the lurking sharks and preying killer whales. But it’s lonely on this island, the fruits are among the dangers and sometimes disguised with bait.

My island is looked down upon by the residents of the tall trees and boastful birds. We work hard on my island, we contribute to the environment and protect the reef. We bond as a community and even though we are from all over the globe.

So, I say to my mother;

‘Your island is in the Indian Ocean. My home is here in London, my island is here in the tower block estate of Lovell House.’


You Don’t Need

You wouldn’t call it tiny if you had to walk its single road in winter sleet; or risk a night on our one moor, lightless as it is; or if you slipped off its huge, deserted, north-shore cliffs and nothing ahead of you but the Atlantic.

Yes, I’ve lived on the mainland. Tourists think I’ve been nowhere. I’ve been places they can’t imagine. Joined the army. Places so hot your eyeballs boil. Shattered people, desperate to survive. Some... some even sell their children. The kids will live, you see. Live.

Love, of a kind. You want to give them life.

I fell off the cliff once.In that plummet from safety to the void, I mourned a lifetime. What I’d wasted. What I still wanted time to do. My life — leaving me. I raged. I didn’t deserve...!

I woke on the barrack floor. Paul, my mate, was holding me, fiercely. He didn’t jeer. He knew. Between the bottom bunk and the concrete — fall enough to see too many things.

I came back here.

You don’t need a load of friends, just some good ones. You don’t need a string of women, just a wife, and some kids, and a way to support them.

Any time I itch for more, I look for something to give away.


Island – a villanelle

We live on tiny island nation
Surrounded by protective sea
A rich and diverse population

A magnet for mass immigration
For people desperate to be free
We live on tiny island nation

All grow up with an aspiration
To be the best that they can be
A rich and diverse population

But truth is, many meet frustration
As many judge by what they see
We live on tiny island nation

They’re people, not an aberration
Enrichment to our history
A rich and diverse population

We should embrace all of creation
And welcome them wholeheartedly
We live on tiny island nation
A rich and diverse population



Choosing to keep a white tiger and a macaque as pets was a curious and dangerous affair. Doing so in the aftermath of the city’s evacuation was regarded as insanity, even in the chaos where bombs fell through from another dimension to suck great swathes of property into a black chasm which was painful to look at. But the circumstance in which they met demanded little else. There was I, foraging for food in areas not teeming with the mindless and ruthless panicked who might just as well have been the zombies of countless screen apocalypses – namely anywhere but the shopping arcades – when I saw this huge furry carpet of a thing under a sycamore tree. To be honest, I’d have missed it if not for the shrieking. Now I was pretty used to shrieking, screaming and roaring at this stage – the tenth day of the attack which denied any sort of defence by military or police – but this was something else and, frankly, a welcome change of tenor. I’d hitched up my rucksack of provisions and approached, noticing a smaller grayer bit of fur bobbing up and down atop what I soon recognized as the muscular shoulders of a white frigging tiger. My eyes glued themselves to the hulking animal, as if intent on bringing my notice to the fact that it was still breathing. The grey fur-ball broke my semi-coma by making a half-rush at me. I swung the hurley stick in its general direction and it slouched off back to its post, casting a disapproving look over its shoulder. Echoes of Aesop’s fables came to mind and I edged nearer. The macaque’s bearded little face wore a curiously solemn expression. It had stopped shrieking and the cacophony in the distance seemed to fade into this curious plateau. I’d bent to examine the huge paws for thorns but found none. I swear the monkey had rolled its eyes before idly twanging the hypodermic dart buried deep in the cat’s flank. I don’t know why I blushed then, but I did. Amid the ubiquitous looting, I’d secured a generous supply of medical equipment and supplies. Read more >


Growing Down

Well, I wouldn’t exactly say I grew up.
I wasn’t drawn, twirling and climbing
towards the light of adulthood.
I was pushed from below,
propelled by the seed of birth
to escape the dark earth of childhood.
When I reached the place of up,
where I expected to find a plateau
with a gradual descent,
a growing down,
I found instead a pinnacle,
the top of a tiny island
with no path down,
only a plunge
back to the earth.


Swallow Me Whole

I was seven when I noticed the ocean seemed closer than it had before. Before, when I would play on the beaches with the neighbor’s children, the sparkling sand would stretch far ahead of me, reaching towards the rolling blue ocean beyond where my eye could see. Now, I stood on the front stoop of my house and observed the way the ocean waves lapped at fine white sand, splashing dangerously close to where I hid my toys from the neighbor’s infant child, who had a habit of stealing. I made a mental note to move my toys, and gave little thought to the matter.

I was eight when my parents announced we were moving inwards. My dad had found a better job downtown, and since we didn’t have a car (roads were too narrow) and the daily trip on bike would be difficult (the tires sank right into the soft sand), they decided it would be more convenient if we simply relocated somewhere closer. I packed my few things with the appropriate amount of reluctance and anger of a child being uprooted from the home she’d known her entire life, but I didn’t fail to notice how most of our coastal neighbors were also moving away from the ocean.

I was nine when the helicopters came to take us away. The ocean was rising and closing in on us, they said. By nine, I knew that was the real reason my parents had chosen to move – a few months after we’d packed our things and sold the house, the ocean swallowed the building completely, leaving little trace behind of the place I once called home. My parents had hoped it would be enough if we moved closer to the center, hoping to wait it out until I finished school at least. But we lived on a small island and there was only so far you could go. At nine, I didn’t quite understand the implications of what would happen if the ocean continued to rise, but I held little emotional value to our new home anyways, having only lived there a year, so I wasn’t too sad to go. Read more >



I am no man, though men climb on my back
and tangle in my teeth when ships are wrecked.
My shingle-stomached bays have hugged the keels
of lymphads long ago. My tall sea cliffs,

whose ramparts lie concealed in cloud and mist
deep-pierced and bristling with the loud complaint
of gulls, receive the sea's ceaseless assault,
ridden by intrepidity of men. And yet,

I remain un-won. I am what stays
when all of what once was is washed away.

sister sea, o sister sea,
o please bring no more men to me.
sister sea, o sister sea,
o please bring no more men to me,

o sister sea


“So where are you from?”

With just one exception, this is the question I hate getting asked the most.

Any kind of small talk fills me with anxiety, because I just know that this question will come at some point. It usually doesn’t take that long either. After “what do you do?” and “so, how do you know X?”, the two of us will flounder, waiting for some miracle to present itself and save this stillborn conversation. And when it doesn't, the other person will inevitably ask the question. They'll ask, and I’ll have to tell them:

I’m from the Isle of Man.

It sounds unusual, almost exotic. Nobody knows anyone from the Isle of Man, which makes sense because there aren’t that many of us. The problem is, there’s just not a lot to say about the Isle of Man. More often than not I need to correct people when they respond excitedly with:

“Oooh! Yeah, I went to the festival once.”

That’s the Isle of Wight. The Isle of Wight isn’t so bad. I mean, I can’t speak to what it’s like actually living there, but at least talk about the festival or the nice weather. There’s a bit of novelty to the Isle of Wight, but the Isle of Man is just…

Well, it’s just a bit dull.

It’s grey and it rains a lot, but that’s not a conversation because we’re in the UK; it’s grey and it rains a lot everywhere.

There aren’t many people from there that your average twenty-something year old would know or care about, either. It was alright for Mum and Dad. They had something to latch onto; they had the Bee Gees. Being from the same tiny island, going to the same tiny school as the Gibb brothers meant something to their contemporaries. Read more >


The Hotel in Two Cities

On the island where I was born, the names of the streets have changed a hundred times. They morphed from Eteocypriot, to Greek, to Arabic, to the secret tongue of the Knights Templars up through the winding narrow lanes leading to their castle, and back down the hill in Ottoman, and Turkish, and Kurdish, and Hausa, and Yoruba for the Nigerians who are sold dreams of Europe from its divided beaches. But, despite the many tongues, my street only had a number for a name: “74 B.” 74, for the year my birth city was cut in half, and B, as if to mock us with another possibility.

I grew up staring at the barbed wires crisscrossing Nicosia, all the djinns, vampires, and the gülyabani were relegated to the other side. This is what I learned from my grandmother and her stories of escape, from how they left their olives and feta at the breakfast table, from how the dishes remained unwashed so that they could find a safe passage. The soldiers marching with guns and the threats they rained down on us in a familiar language. When I first saw them from afar, the people walking on the other side, I was surprised to see grace in their movements, a hint of wind in their hair. Surprised that their almond eyes mirrored mine, as did their hatred.

But the soul travels to where the body can’t. For years, my dreams were tinted green and blue, and in them I travelled to the past and right across the border. Repeated journeys until I turned thirty, which is when I decided to cross for real, one foot before the other, through the Green Zone. And I walked with all the languages I had learned on this island, a suitcase full of words in Kurdish and Yoruba and ancient Greek and when we met, you complimented me on all the weight, on all the history, and on all the disappointments I had overcome.

Read more >

Orkney, Many Ports Of Call, To Perth – A Life Well Lived

Dedicated to my Mum, Lenore Elizabeth Zoha (nee Harcus) x

I grew up on this (relatively) tiny little island –
Orkney, 1940s, with my elder sister Jean, wartime daughters;
Hairdresser father, George, away in the army logistics,
Nurse and mother Elsie, working hard raising bairns;
Running with pally gang, initiation rites, Bambi the pet ram,
Family outings, watching breakers crash high on Birsay cliffs.
Artistic, bright as button, top/near top of Kirkwall Grammar class,
English Lit, English language, Art, French, athletics cups won –
Orkney Inter-island Games; left school, exam certificates in hand,
Applied to Edinburgh Uni, history of art degree course, city life.

Applied to Bank of Scotland on a whim, impromptu interview and in,
Successful customer-facing career, Edinburgh Princes Street, popular/
Professional, promotion called, move to Oxford Street, London!
Mid 1960s, vivacious/vibrant; met handsome young Naj, army leave;
Germany posting; budding romance: Crail, Fife wedding, March '66.
Son called Erik came along in '68, (spelled with a 'k', the Viking way);
A quirky character with an artistic bent, reading age of 12 by age of 5 –
So, artistic in a way; also autistic syndrome, moderate-severe spina bifida.
Naj left army, various jobs; settled on Trueform shoes managership,
Gave up my burgeoning banking career to care for/bring up my son.
Needles and pins, strange hot/cold sensations, diagnosed with MS...
Moved to Staffordshire, by Lichfield 1975, Naj promoted area manager;
Home schooled Erik when he was laid up at home post-ops 1978,
Got him ahead of his class peers in English, French, history...
Read more >


The Girl behind the Counter

A pleasant girl behind a counter,
of a soon to be closed shop.
In an endangered species of well-known
chains – past icons of the High Street.

Hitting the buffers of online shopping
and fickle customers deserting in droves.
Luxuriating in the comfort of their armchairs,
with scant thought of disenfranchised assistants.

I talked to her whilst making my purchase.
She was looking for another job – no problem
with a degree in criminology – surely!
But she was now looking forward to a holiday

in Jamaica – clearing out from our dispirited island.
Cloudy and damp – riven with Brexit despair.
November nosing its impenetrable way to December
and a General Election in the season of good will!

I wondered about her ancestors – this child now
of Britain and whether Jamaica was the home of
relations or just a warm winter two week destination.
But a queue behind precluded such information.

Did her forebears come over on Empire Windrush
To help our country and then misled and dismissed
by a Hostile Environment – cruelly metered out?
I hoped not and wished her well and a happy holiday and

future – wherever she landed in our own messed up island.


Death of an Island

I grew up on this tiny little island.
It seemed big then but grows smaller every day.
The sea is creeping ever closer to our village.
We are but a postage stamp on the map of the world, a tiny piece of jigsaw.
The end of our world is nigh.
Do I mind?
A younger generation has been flocking to other places for years.
When I return I peer into the faces of those remaining.
I know no one. They all seem so old, holding onto an outmoded way of life.
I never wanted to eat fish every day and scrape a living here.
Now there is little choice. Leave or be engulfed by the ever encroaching waters.
No paradise island this.
An historical error of judgement.
The indigenous population killed off by the contagious diseases of the incomers. Misguided, misplaced loyalties.
And the young have gone.
The waves win.


Small Islanders

They left their small island
Searching for better
Looking for homes
Jobs to sustain them
They sailed ‘cross the ocean
Leaving their families
Little to bring
But the clothes they stood up in

On this bigger island
The settled together
Raising their children
In an alien culture
Their devalued language
Was spoken no longer
The streets that they walked
Not paved with gold

Their children grew up
Caught between cultures
Finding no roots
In the past or the present
The gossamer threads of belonging
Elude them
Betrayed by the island
That shut them outside


Every Family An Island

While no one person is an island,
according to other poets,
my heart has always been afloat on the bit of land called
"My house" – full of family unlike the others all around us.
We ate different food, my mother worked when
others stayed at home,
my father drove out of the city to a job that kept him
late at night. He wore a suit, but worked longer hours
than those whose fathers worked in factories.
We watched tv, but our house was full of books.
My father spoke three languages, but refused
to speak more than one to me.
My mother brought home imported salami that
I fed to the neighbor's dogs.
We ate eggs and peppers on Fridays.
I never had creamed anything until I went to school
and even then it was hard to leave the island.
My classmates though, were kind, they
themselves refugees from islands, unlike mine
in detail, like mine in that each was small and singular
a place to dream of escaping, but known in our hearts
to be a place of refuge – a house, a yard, people who loved us,
an island we called home.