• Vol. 02
  • Chapter 08
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"How's it looking?" she asks, as you slowly pull back the plaster.

Objectively speaking, you think, it looks fine. Like someone has wiped a faint smear of apricot jam across the back of her shoulder. Barely even a graze, really. There's a couple of thin threads where the skin has broken, but mainly it's just rubbed raw.

As you look at it though, as you peel the plaster back like a playschool painting – see the symmetrical imprint of the wound come away on the cotton pad – all you can think about is the yelp she made as she came off the bike.

How funny! you thought. How tremendously cute it would be! But you should know better.

Horseplay has never been your strong suit. Not when you bust your best friend's lip with that snowball that you’d packed too tightly. Not when you pushed your sister into the swimming pool and fractured her ankle. And not now, when you cycled up behind your girlfriend to pinch her bum and accidentally clipped her back wheel.

How times do you have to learn this lesson exactly? What will it take for you to understand that hi-jinx just isn’t your thing? How many people have to suffer before it becomes clear to you?

"Is it bad?" she asks, unsettled by your silence.

Your mother once told you how hard it was to put plasters on you as a child as you invariably scuffed up your knees or cut your fingers. She was a dental nurse, so she could cope with gore, but she says the toughest thing she ever had to do was to send you out to play after patching you up.

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A Grammar of the Axe

Who is Ben? He is Ben. And he is Dan. Sam is in bed.

Ben has an axe. Can Dan use the axe? Ben says no. They ask Sam.

Sam is awake. ‘What do you want,’ he asks. ‘Dan would like to use my axe,’ says Ben. ‘So give him your axe,’ says Sam.

Later Ben wants to use the axe; it is his axe after all. Dan has the axe, and would be happy to see Ben try to take it from him. In the middle of the night, Ben and Sam take the axe. Ben and Sam punish Dan, who stole the axe, who didn’t share.

Dan leaves, but Sam is sure he’ll come back – and, sure enough, as soon as the rain returns it brings Dan with it. Ben sits with Dan, in silence at first, but after a while he talks to him. Ben tells Dan that he is sorry that he and Sam had to punish him: he took no delight in it. And he tells Dan that as he watched him limping back, he came to realise that he was jealous of him.

‘I expect,’ Dan says, ‘that you’ll explain what exactly you mean when you say that you’re jealous of me for this limp that the two of you together gave to me.’ Ben tells Dan that, first of all, although he took no pleasure in having punished him with Sam, well, he was chopping wood, and Dan wouldn’t give him the axe, which, after all, was his to begin with. And he realised, watching Dan limp back, that he was jealous of him as a man who had learned lessons the hard way and had the limp to show for it. These were tokens of the lessons Dan had learned and the sort of man he was: the limp of course, and also the dent in the back of the head which, remember, Sam had given to him with the axe handle.

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Vehicular Language

Somebody’s taffy is ready to be pulled, and somebody else suffers from summer’s hot thatch. Somebody is right around the corner. Somebody wants to get up close and personal. Somebody called Enid has left a private message. Somebody wants to buy lunch. Somebody is selling girth and stamina, and somebody else is selling a berth on a fjord cruise. Somebody is lonely and bored and they want to meet on a corner of mutual convenience. Somebody has news for you. Somebody is sourcing a crowd. Somebody has found you on a branch of their family tree. Somebody wishes to share their deepest secret, which is that sailors bringing convicts to Australia dreamed they saw colours flash across the skin of a bonito fish they were beating to death, rippling numinous shades, peacock blue dredging to palest nacreous pink, but those sailors hadn’t been too long at sea, they were not dreaming, that fish does in fact change colour most wildly and energetically at the point of death, and the secret is that somebody would like to take on such camouflage during intimacy.

Somebody orders you get ready to have a good time. Somebody you know in passing is traveling in a remote war-torn region and needs you most urgently to send money, for they have been robbed at knife-point and are at their wit’s end and don’t speak any of the vehicular languages and the consulate cannot help because it has been under siege for several years, so you are the only person they can count on, indeed you have always been the only person they could count on, all the way back to that time, you know what they mean.

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Rich Girls Don’t Bleed

There’s a moment when all the colours lace into one. I step into the department store, rain on my lashes fusing with the lights. It’s December, and I’m not crossing through to reach the bus station. I’m taking the escalator all the way up, standing behind Michelle and her mother, wearing a wool coat that no longer fits my friend.

‘I’m not sure the quality is there,’ Michelle’s mother says. She strolls around the glass display. I pick up the snow globe she touched, spin it. Snow falls on a woman carrying her shopping. Today, I’m allowed to touch, my hands look clean. Michelle’s mother picks up almost everything.

‘Come on girls, look at this!’ she says.

And I love being girls, for once, one of two. She stands by a display of stuffed animals, so soft. Michelle picks one up, we all do. Together, we hold an animal close. When we squeeze hard a tiger purrs, a lion roars, the pig squeals.

Michelle says, ‘I once had a friend with a laugh just like that. She had to go!’

‘Imagine giving your kid one of these noisy swines,’ her mother says, ‘so loud! You’d be able to tell how many times they need a hug in the night. I should get one for your cousin, I bet your aunt would LOVE that!’

She laughs. Michelle joins her. I laugh as if I understand. There’s no rush to stop. I've never been so far into the store. Everything is shiny, pointless and beautiful, at any minute anyone could buy anything.

‘Will you be coming to ours for dinner later?’ Michelle’s mother asks, over her shoulder, ‘we’re having chicken.’

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Of course, we didn’t fit
the suggested ratio of 1:1,
I being just too damn big, or you,
being the tiniest of counterweights,
but with my feet never leaving
the ground, my leg muscles
manipulated the bright pink lever
around all the possible angles
the day-glo yellow fulcrum allowed;
so with you knowing nothing of physics
or geometry, or even balance,
accepted the resulting motion as if
it was the easiest magic in the world.



A parade of strawberry handled switchblades
A drain grille stationed by a mobile ice-cream stand
A soft-hued Rorschach Test suggesting nothing other than a pair of Habitat curtains
A giant's game of Pick-up-Sticks with human vertebrae, set on a mat woven from skin
Wooden matches laid across firelighters and strips of tinder awaiting conflagration
Pastel prison bars of domesticity confining my imagination
The interstices of my Xanaxed brain
The crescendoing pre-ECT wave pattern


Jacob’s Ladder

Emma delicately lifts one leg up, grips, pulls the other. Thirty hearts stop, then she relaxes and so does the crowd. She is up. Like a little frog, or a squirrel. I look away. I will never climb the ladder, and no-one will ask me.

I remember the climbing wall before lunch, watching the cool, sporty sprites of girls like Emma glide effortlessly up. Then the "popular" girls make hard work of it but always manage to laugh it off, always manage to stay on top. The boys just went up. There was nothing to prove. They are twelve and thirteen, still young enough to get bored easily, to be hyper, to have no concept of looking good for the opposite sex.

With the girls, of course, it is another story.

I got a few holds up, then froze, shaking. I couldn't go any higher. The teachers let me stop, murmured patronisingly about how "Even Elizabeth gave it a go." They think I'm useless. They don't know I grew up climbing trees and grazing my knees. They don't know that nature holds no fear for me. It is them, the ugly, unnatural, unreadable young faces coated in fake tan and make-up that scare the hell out of me.

I drift in the direction of the loos and squat to look at a fat hawk moth caterpillar on some rosebay. I wish I had a camera with me. I yearn to touch him but know he would rear up, unhappy and disgruntled. He is in his habitat and he is doing his thing. I leave him alone and watch him, respectfully, from a distance. I am his guardian angel.


Push, Don’t Jump, Push With No Exclamations

The boy gnawed on the wood left by drips of garish ice. He was first in line and his final lick would guarantee that his place was not lost. Yet he still felt the rung beneath him and found himself at the end with nowhere to go.

The little girl took his place even though the blue void filled her head with spiders. They shouted at her to hold her nose. Her nose was special to her, as to her knowledge spiders did not have them. Instead she closed her eyes and saw only deep red. Her aunt felt the tug on her arm. She never understood why her twin brother insisted upon wrapping this round the child's wrist. She watched the body of her own flight as she buckled with it. It was oatmeal, a colour she did not recognise.

A man stepped out to hang his legs over the side. He did not want to dangle with freedom but to test the reaction of the hairs on his legs to the cold. To the contrary he found himself reverberating with the heated sweat of his body as if he were playing the spoons atop a metallic heap. He realised this only when a swing garlanded with feather boas and dandelions swung over his head. He reached to grasp on but found he was stuck and that the young woman holding onto the sides was already half dead. Someone at the back tried to surge forward but banged their head against a wall of the purest of glittering perspex. They understood the pointlessness of this and attempted to retreat further.

Signs clearly stating that no pets were allowed appeared at every level yet there was always one or even two in each daily segment. Generally cats that were Ginger or Tortoiseshell but sometimes a canary or budgie which was okay as they had feathers that were preened.

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Upright yellow, straight and youthful with
a hint of morning sunshine, is crossed
by blushing pink.
As they unite a vibrant sun bursts forth to
compliment each of their hues.
Bashful white remains subdued, overcome by their
boldness, and cannot compete .
Yet it is connected to both, and forms a cold
contrast to the warmth of emotional pink, and youthful yellow as they criss-cross with a lattice effect overlapping each other and him.


The Gospel According to Eve

I hear the serpent murmur with dissatisfaction at my fine armour, at my love of the man that I am merged with. I stroll across the lilting marigold fields and I hear the serpent slither in the bracken in the ditch running along the field. The serpent hisses a proclamation that falls down to the soil.

"There is an evening coming in across the fields, one never seen before, the marrow of the Sun is on display, dancing with boneless legs. These lights are not lamps, they are an intricate composition of raspberry ripple flesh ripe for sin wrapped in white connective tissue which liquors unto the dust of the grave."

I know not the words he speaks. I shoo him away, a pet that is not wanted, and go about gathering lilies.

The serpent bides his time and waits for me in the black heart of an apple pip.


Hearts on sleeves

Intricately woven and irreparably stitched, the heart is a shirt.

Beating silently within the folds of skin we flaunt, this machine beats for nobody except the shirt-bearer. A shirt-bearer, it would seem, is a person who owns two hearts. One within the other. As foretold, the fake one rests lightly upon the beating one, its calm pulse quickly soothing the nervousness of the one without blood. The timely rhythm consoles the empty thing, but not entirely. It makes it wish- no, hopes that the flowing blood shall forget its way one day and jump onto its route. And when that does not happen, it takes a hiatus for a few seconds.

Which we all misunderstand to be a heart attack and resort to immediately calling an ambulance.

The real heart keeps on beating, silent yet strong. It might be disappointed for a few hours when you sleep about your undying faith to the empty one, but it never feels jealous. Jealousy is a trait it withholds with faith. This heart’s like an immortal dog- never leaves your side, besides frequently licking the insides of your arteries. So, when you think it has broken inside you as you watch the couple ahead of you walk hand in hand, it’s actually not. It seems to be merely telling you tick tock, like a clock that it shall never abandon you. Come autumn or winter, this blushing companion of yours will stand vigil with you. As long as you keep it safe and feed it blood. That’s all it ever asks of you.

But no, the fake heart listens to the whispers you coo along to the big boy and it plans. It generously takes in the space which the pumping hero has rented him. Planning takes less time within that vast place. To be honest, an empty vessel is a blood clot’s workshop and hence, it begins to beat fast upon realizing that evil is afoot. But nothing can be done for the planning has been top notch and its effects can already be seen.

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Afterward, she said all she could remember was the lights—pinks and yellows, soft and warm. Brilliant, swirling, crisscrossing, and, dare she say, breathing lights.

“I swear, it’s like they were alive.”

They say acid will do that to you.

Even for weeks afterward, she saw the lights, dancing at the peripherals of her sight, flashing across her eyelids when she closed her eyes for the night, sometimes even swimming in front of my face, she said.

“I wish I could’ve seen them,” I told her.

“Do it with us next time.”

Who knew how long next time could take, though, because she got bad again shortly afterward. She stopped seeing the lights dancing, and so she began locking herself in her room, drinking from dark bottles and smoking something that filled the whole apartment with a putrid stench. The smell was the worst part, because no matter how badly I wanted to lie next to her in that bed and wrap my arms around her shaking frame—knowing fully that I would feel her shoulder blades digging into my chest like blunt arrows—I couldn’t, because the smell of her smoke made my stomach twist, and I began working doubles to pay the rent.

“Baby,” I’d say, tip-toeing into the room, knowing she couldn’t hear me even if I stomped. “I gotta go into the restaurant now.”


“I love you, Ash,” I’d tell her.

For a long time, she didn’t say it back.
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Cross-hatched DNA spirals:
Taut, teaching swift patterns-
I see you clearly through colour.

Pink, yellow and white,
Support by elastic tension
You turn in breezes.

You cross dimensions.
In 3D you create perfection
Eternally and with no deviations.

Strum your strings
Across the air gap between us-
Make a glorious symphony.



The day we moved house, from the whitewashed backyard of Colne, to the new build of Freckleton, I had my fifth birthday. At the last school, teacher sat me on my lap, told everyone I was leaving. My friends were sad, and I knew that teacher was too. Miss Sanderson was not delighted to see me , did not welcome me to the new school. When i wrote my story, 'Where I was before I came here', she asked my mum to come to see her.

"Karen says you lived in Australia. That all her toys were sold. Very difficult for a child." When mum told her it was a little white lie, Miss Sanderson offered me the yellow plastic bat, or the red. I chose red, and she smacked me with the yellow. The new house had a clean grate, and a kitchen hatch that mum passed the Ribena through. When it splashed purple on the white walls, beaker slipping from my grasp, I knew it would mean a punishment. White paint was special, the new house was special. I was a bad girl.

To my surprise, no punishment . My dad took me to a park where the smooth green plank let me soar. I saw everything, the whole world. My brother had to be held on, but I didn't.

Back home the kitchen light was a tube. It flickered on and off, scaring me. Dad carried me upstairs, a bag of coal over his shoulder, and threw me on the bed.

The shadows from my pink lamp were birds and a dog barking. Dad promised me the dog for Christmas, I already knew his name. Paddy Paws the Puppy.


Childhood Crushes

Striped candy sticks, red and yellow lollies,
Little prams in gardens, in supermarket trolleys;
Carrying little ones
To carnivals, sweet meats and fun
Back when memory had just begun.
Wonderlands of colors and flavors,
And all that youth devours;
Soda floats and sweet lime,
In the Spring of their time.
For soon the sun will go high overhead
And the first leaf will begin to turn pale
But –
Before all that there’s time still some time
For one last lick, and one last suckle
Of those wonder years before nighttime.



Candy cane colours
Infiltrate black and white business
She climbs ladders
In a network weave
He strikes out
The undertones
As mere feminine frivolity
Blocking the path
Of those who follow
Shading them out
Beneath the glass
In an effort to keep
His whole world grey
Still she strives
To the imperial purple
This world, her canvas
On which she paints
Bold brushstrokes
Of her ambition
The glittering prize
Is hers to take


Substance vs. Style

Ten pink candles burn bright atop the illuminated neon cake.
Five yellow tallies add to the dimensions of one disjointed shape
with twenty-eight white slashes
and thirty-one red pockmarks
laced into the canvass
for some material or mystical reason
to test abstract fashion
against a pink polka dotted pattern of soul.

Slap the design on some overpriced fabric
and market it for a million bucks
to the high end crowd
strutting their stuff up and down the Boardwalk
just itching for the next fad
to feed their fix
and sell their souls for
while emptying out the Gucci purses
and spilling fiat paper all over the counter
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Work In Progress

The palette was fresh, the canvas was brown and to defile it all was the chief of MOBA. He called himself the "God" ,for lack of a better name. He considered the possibilities; there weren't many shades of grey is all that he could see. A few twirls with the brush, a bored smile and a dip in what seemed to be the lightest of all the grays, some random strokes and he was done. He liked what he saw and titled it "Pax". So , it was called for about an epoch or two. It was soon evident that the monotony of the "Pax" should be brightened with another shade of gray, a few random vertical strokes later , he had the lattice ready. He was at a loss for a suitable title , for "Pax" was no more relevant, this was something loud , begging for attention, almost devouring whatever was left of "Pax". Thus, he named it "Geolu". Things would have remained so for many more eons, but for an epiphany and a madness that saw neat strokes desecrating the supposed purity of "Geolu". This was vulgar, this was horror and yet he smiled, because all he could see was just another shade of gray. He had the perfect title for it - "Rudhira". He seems to be done for now, or so it seems, but then who knows what the symptomatic color blindness may lead to. Until then we can only hope that one day he will find his "Pax".


After The Row

Light glows red around the rim
at half past six. The building creaks.
Needles of rain pierce the ground.

Dawn cross-hatches a Western wind,
like swear words, written and scribbled out.
Shadows play on the walls and door.

It’s been like this all week.
Still, it should be over soon.
At least it hasn't hailed...

It's early yet. I quietly close
the bedroom curtains, doze, and wait -
defiant, dry, inside my shell.

Sunlight, sun-white, spills into the room -
seeps through gaps. The patter of rain grows faint.
I hood my eyes, make prisms of my lids,
as pins and photons mingle in the air.



In her inner landscape
bright shades glow
beyond the red flow

in her veins

a symmetry that conveys
in many ways
the coming and goings

of days

and the heart's hand
alight with glee
holds tightly to the candle lit

inherently - not inherited -

the conquered mirth
when finally limned by gifted hands
would look something like this:


The New Mathematics

The New Mathematics
        After the visual geometry of Dutch artist, Sigrid Calon

I. Energy

A new slant
on the Periodic Table:

Just like electrons
        filling atomic orbitals

Just like protons
        filling nucleon levels

Colored quarks
        zigzag their way
        into the heart of matter
Where do I fit in?

II. Entropy

I am broken
looking        into the mirror
but    all I see          is shattered
glass            and images   me
and my toothbrush
            and my tube of toothpaste
            the wrong    damn          way
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It was a game we often played, especially during that caravan summer. It seemed to rain endlessly from the day school broke up until that inevitably sunny morning when we pulled on our newly pressed uniforms and faced the first day in a new classroom. Spillikins, jigsaws, ludo, snakes and ladders.

You were much older than me then. That sounds silly when I think about it. Of course, you’ll always be four years older, nothing will ever change that. But when you’re eight years old, twelve sounds so old, so mature. And then there was the fact that you’d gone up to big school the previous September. You seldom stopped reminding me that I was still at the primary school, with its bright green fence and its hopscotch patterns painted in red and yellow across the yard.

When the rain stopped, we tumbled outside, running to the park in an effort to beat the other kids to the play area. We had a head start, our caravan being nearer to the shortcut through the scrubby rhododendrons which grew around its borders. The branches caught our faces, our arms, leaving criss-crosses of scratches. They healed into a brick-red hatching against our freckled skin.

There was a roundabout, some swings, a rusty old climbing frame with shredded bark underneath in case we fell. We swung from the bars, our fingers slipping against the still-wet metal, hollering like monkeys. We stayed until Mum called us in for tea; sometimes she let us go out again and if the rain held off we’d play cards in the grass and watch the sun set behind the framework.

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All but the feel of it.

No matter which path she took
or rather had taken
as it is only ever in retrospect that we know.


Know anything
but the feel of it.


No matter which path she had taken
she would have ended up here.


With these who and this where.
This setting.

A place set here. A placemat. Checkmate.
Always a win in the end.

It’s good to know.
It is.

But we only ever do in retrospect.
Any way.


She knows this with her friends: heart and mind.
which is rare.
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Geometry of Nature

With both his mud-smothered feet floating at the edge of the cliff, Nematzadeh focused his sight towards the abyssal horizon, his frail adolescent figure balancing on a dead birch tree bough, and indulged in an afternoon conversation with his noble white-feathered companion, Toca, a beauty of a black-beaked cockatoo,

“Can you see it, my friend? That immaculate line spreading horizontally across as far as our eyes can see? The one responsible for the clean division of heaven and sea, clouds and waves, wind and water and above all feathers and scales. Beautiful isn’t it? Don’t you think by crediting that perfection to a supreme Creator, we dissolve the value of which it truly is?”

Toca remained motionless for half a minute before flapping his wings meagerly to signal his half-hearted agreement.

“Correct, master. Correct,” Toca mechanically answered.

“Everywhere I turn to, my friend, all I see are lines. They make up everything. Regardless of being classified as linear or quadratic , they shape everything our eyes allow us to see. If there was a creator, don’t you think he is a master geometrist?”

“Correct, master. Correct,” Toca obliged while flapping only his left wing.

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The Trip

You’ve come back to me over the years, come back often, that bright, blazing light of yours never quite dying in me. And always there are colours. Come back as you come back to me on this train: the newly vamped carriage all orange and purple and blue, the over elaborate patterns on the seats. Trippy! you’d say, with that wide toothy grin of yours. Gawky. Not pretty. But beautiful. Like no other face I’ve seen, before or since. I’m travelling there today, going back to see my mother. My last visit – at least to see her alive. Hope I make it. And suddenly I want you with me. How mad is that?

So long ago. But I long to have you beside me now. You. No one else. I should come with you, my wife said, Support you. No need, I told her, I’d like to do this alone.

It was my wife who brought you back to me this last time: a couple of days ago, just before I heard about Mum going down hill. Several years had passed without you entering my head until then, until Suzanne sashays in wearing this new dress of hers, twirling around, the pink, purple and orange silk swirling in a kaleidoscope of colours, me thinking, Too bright, sweetheart, while seeing you standing there in that tie-died T-shirt. And I missed you. I suddenly missed you so much I wanted to howl, Come back to me! Come back! Lovely, I told my wife, Looks lovely.

My mother loved you too. Admired your energy, the zany colours you used to wear. Wish I’d been a bit more like that in my youth, she’d once confessed. But then, they didn’t have teenagers in my day. That was before, of course. Afterwards . . . well, afterwards neither of us said much. Our world had lost its colour, one black day after another eventually segueing into a grey monochrome. Like living in a permanent pea souper: no energy, gasping, lost. Mum mentioned you a few times later on, but angrily, not saying your name. It’d be: That bloody girl! That crazy, stupid girl! That idiot! Read more >


Perhaps a road through this old land
In order to
Drive our desires further along
This murky plain;
Mocking the shadows and the sounds
Behind our tires;
Imagining the break of dawn,
That blind old sun.
We shall then create a billboard
In a bright shade,
So paint us a destination;
Somewhere to go.


what we did last summers

hot vanilla seagullshit breeze candy floss hair black pier tar on white heels sand in your lipstick hold your skirt down two stiff petticoats patent belt collar up lick your cornet slow black mascara eyes slide sideways bite off the bottom and suck penny in the slot sixpence in the blue moon jukebox tunnel of love how do you do what you do to me quick buttons smooth the beehive rubber curtains spit you out again like enter stage right kids grinning could be anywhere-on-sea but the lickety-pink rock-n-roll stick sez it right through the middle

The Perfect Burger

Fire up the BBQ
Shove your 'meat is murder' branding iron into the hot coals. Always a favourite with the guests.

The correct order is essential to enjoyment.

Sourdough bun: sliced in two, sprayed with low fat oil, undersides blow-torched for exactly 6 seconds
Pickled gherkin: (optional) but essential for stimulation of the foliate papillae
Mayo: thick, homemade (extra rich)
Red Onion: 3 x 5cm thick outer rings - adds essential crunch structure
Swiss cheese: two slices for optimal melting and form (should be arranged so that two corners hang like front fangs)
Tomato Sauce: applied with gusto (squirt one full circle) essential for stimulating the fungiform papillae
Meat patty: beef steak - chuck and brisket - 80% meat 20% fat, ground jalapenos, 2 rashers of bacon, dash of tamari and a sprinkle of red pepper flakes - grind - add egg for binding
(7 ounce optimal total weight)
Medium rare on BBQ
Salt (add at the end) throw from a distance of six feet
Bottom of sourdough bun

Remove brand from furnace - apply brand to forehead
(2 seconds) - remove - enjoy your burger!



I can't tell which came first;
the event or the heavy
montage I trail behind me,
one step to another, knees
swollen with some element of
an abstract the weight of steel,
its properties as yet unknown.

The end

The end
is not the end
is the end
is not the end
The end

The Memory Game

Do you remember the carpet?
Blue with a brown fleck.
Face down they lay
Boxed into square.
We kneeled.
Tattooed. Grooved.
By jumpered elbows.
Peering intently.
Desperate to remember
Each pattern
And pair.
She was not there.
Late again.
All we had was flat packed.
Dog eared entertainment.
Egg and chips.
Garnished by a stray
Beagle hair.
The room made us retch.
To tight bound toilet
Gagged by American Tan.
Pretty Polly had left long ago.
Together we faced this
Challenge to remember.
Teapot, telephone, bluebird, biscuit.
Determined to beat you.
My memory more advanced.
I deserved this victory.
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This thing I won’t tell you

Because it’s been too long since it happened
Because it’s almost irrelevant
(And yet it is not)

Because I lied to you and denied it
And because you believed that my lie was the truth

Because you’re the only one that’s really here
Because I don’t know what else I’d do

I’d live with this guilt forever
As long as you’re oblivious, that I’ve hurt you



Coloured ink-imagery on a card.
Answers 'scored', then filed
in that black, unlabelled
cadaver for psychiatric
white-papered academia of flimsy

Positivity in white
clash openly with steely, dead
harvesting gory innards from their
'No wrong answers', the voice
'What do you see?'
Silvercross pen taps edgily on flaked table
There is a route through the
maze to freedom.
Individuality outwardly encouraged but
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Tree Zoo

Resin scented air, and I’m among turpentine.
Steeped in light, walking through groves
where the possible rises slowly. Across this
forest, we walked freely, in our disinfected boots.

Oaks grazed quietly in their enclosure
within wobbly-leafed reach of the significant
silvered masts of the eucalypts:
the swamp gum, snow gum, fuzzy gum,

peppermint, stringybark. Standing close
to their kin, fenced off from infinite conifers.
We passed empty pens, scenes of failed
transplantation. I noticed the height, the perfect

verticularity of so much that grows, how it
points straight at the sky; at right angles
to its roots and layered branches. Some limbs
were ribboned with bright plastic, as if the foresters

had made wishes. In corners scrabbled
the wild and weird: a blot of flowering quince.
Soft new leaves overlapped, green-deepened
as soor plooms. A Serbian spruce dreamed of home.


Choreographed Hurricane

“How are we today?”
“I’ve been relatively well, thank you. Do you have my results?”
“In fact, they just arrived. Here we have the microscopic image of your lymph node examination.”
“It’s so colorful and pretty.”
“It has been stained with three dyes to guarantee perfect visibility.”
“What do you see, doctor?”
“Your immune cells are aligned in different directions, like confetti. Ssee?”
“They look like ice cream sprinkles, or funfetti. I wonder what they are covering.”
“Nothing. You have to imagine them moving through your capillary beds, like jellyfish in the ocean.”
“Interesting. Is there something else you see, doctor?”
"I see some cells clustering into a fur-like texture that resembles a yellow-bellied beetle with a grapefruit colored crust. Oh and...”
“Another collection of cells appears to be forking its way between the beetle, like a choreographed hurricane and that is unusual for ...”
“For a person my age?”
“No, it is quite unusual for a Granuloma.”
“Is it serious?”
“Not if we treat it. You will have to take one of these steroid pills every day with a glass of water.”
“Doctor, am I going to...?”
“Don't you worry, son. You'll get better in no time.”
“That’s not what I meant. Am I going to be allowed to take the image home?”

The abstract world

The abstract world
A few lines
Different combinations
Crisscrossing or vertical
And horizontal within
A white border;
Non-verbal cues
A complex of lines
Seeking a clear pattern
A harmony visual;
The digital ecosystem
Goes multi-colour
And becomes a
Puzzle for the viewer;
Each mind actively seeking
Its own meaning there or
Creating one that, well,
Is not even intended
By its creator!

Loom Love

Mom bought me Loom Bands. Crazy Rainbow Looms. Thousands of links of multi-colored plastic. I am Sissy. I am eleven. They call me challenged. Or disturbed. I am on a two-week restriction at home; they say I was stalking a student a school. There was a scream-fest. Loom Love. Over. Under. Over. Under. Pull too hard and the plastic snaps. I wonder if I can weave my dreams from synthetic rings, 21 hooks, 170 clips and a loom board. Mom said I could make an entwined heart, a pig emoi, a whoa bow or a dragon scale cuff. I want to make a bow and arrow, shoot it into the heavens and catch a star; pull myself into the Universe.

Strip Jack Naked

I am from any one of the numerous packs of cards
that littered my childhood home —
ever ready answers for idle moments.
I am from Strip Jack Naked, Patience, and Snap,
from Gin Rummy, Old Maid, and Newmarket
played around the dining room table
with family on Christmas night.

I am from brown-stained skirting boards,
from gritty Vim and the smell of Mansion Polish —
from the well proportioned rooms of a 1930s semi.
(Box like, traditional, Music While You Work flew out of its windows)
I am from lupins and michaelmas daisies,
and polished nuggets of coal — calling cards
of the earth that left comfort and warmth behind them.

I’m from roast lamb and apple pie with cream
for Sunday lunch; from my father’s buck teeth
to my mother’s expression of purse-lipped disapproval.

I’m from the Taylors and the Pringles,
(but not the socks or crisps’ Pringles).
I’m from the easily over-awed,
and the ability to fall asleep on a clothes line.
I’m from ‘Always tell the truth,’
and ‘Just wait till your father comes home’;
from Uncle Arthur’s Bible Stories,
and All Things Bright and Beautiful
to tell out my take on life.

Read more >



Her mind was grid-like and grid locked. Each thought was stored in its own labelled memory box. Love had been sub-divided into success, failure, destructive and potential. Her rigid work ethic and obsession with order was genetic. It had been Imprinted on her psyche before her birth and systematically applied at school, university and now work, but deep within the web of her mind she knew was woven a thread of anarchy. The desire to bend the framework and cut the bonds that held her creative being in a vice of routine and obligation. The sun was shining through her office window. It had managed to break through the grey city cloud barrier as if it was coming to rescue her. Its rays were her golden key to freedom. Iris turned off her computer, took off her ear phones and sat waiting. Her world hadn’t imploded. She finally understood that her mental capacity was more powerful than the atom-smashing Large Hadron Collider. She could change the geometry of her life. She picked up her bag, and headed for the Exit sign: hope directing her towards an unfettered and reshaped life.

The Grid

We're all part of a grid, a network, the term 'global village' was bandied about a lot at one time but social networks have made it true. In the sixties people were tripped out, open to new ideas, technicolour dreams the hippies revelled in while experimenting with drugs and free love amid chaos. Vietnam was never far away, pinned to the colours of the American flag when planted firmly in the moon's tenuous dust.

We have perhaps always been global, when our ape like ancestors left the Great Rift valley and set out in all directions in search of hope, the grid's foundations were laid, one of symbols and language and imagination. What lay over the horizon ape-like man may have thought, a better deal?

Charcoal drawings of hands on walls made by a primitive individual taking shelter from a storm maybe. For him it was more than self awareness but a way of expressing himself about the world and these few tender steps lead the way to telling stories.

For unknown to him there was a revolution coming, there's always a revolution coming, agricultural, industrial, political, social, digital. For most life it's evolution and was for us until we took those first bipedal steps, but now it's revolution, a celebration for some, for many alienation.

Some feel trapped by the nauseating colours of the screen, others liberated by the easy access of a world online, others depressed by what could have been, perhaps left for another time. Fountain pen ink dry, the colours awash, screen saver and 'profile pic' changes from day to day, time gone.



It wasn't holding like it should of. Egor's revolving door of a wrist all swollen like a frog in a pond jelly, Alex's eyebrows hooked beneath the wattle fringed sky.

Snake. Who would of thunk it? Just around the corner from ashphalt, football matches, cooking shows and reasons to be cheerful. What would she do?

Alex tried to collect her thoughts, put them where they should of been, one foot in front of the other as she wrapped the hankerchief tighter.

'If you do this then that will happen, and then that', her father's voice talking inside her head. 'It's all about process munchkin. Things fit when you put them in the right order.' She just had to use her brain.

Egor's knees began to wobble. He knew he was going down, but when? Rotten Brown snakes. Rotten Eastern's thinking they could go any where they wanted. Alex scoured the long grass, her eyes hurting from the intensity of searching. Where was it? Had it vamoosed? Or was it still lurking?

Egor stared at the clouds in between squeezing his eyes trying to stop the dizziness that was now taking hold. Pink and orange stripes formed behind his lids as he hoped beyond hope that he wouldn't crap his pants. How much indignation could a person suffer? In front of her? Here, on the grass. Jeeeze. What was wrong with the world?

Read more >



I want to tangle with you.
But you want to keep things the "right way."
I bend and twist and curve around you.
But you keep things straight and narrow.

I think if we merged, we'd weave
Back and forth and up and down
In red and white and yellow
Crossing over to make pink and orange.

Don't you want to try?


The freckle counting machine

I am working out how to send
time-delayed, spring-drenched kisses
to my interlocutor, power-basking in
the canyons and spits of Laurel.

Already rejected: the silver rocket
powered by verdigris afterburn,
ridden by a certain Miss Lula Mae,
wearing a neon basque, downhome smile.

The Heath Robinson in me lightbulbs
and starts to disassemble an abacus
leftover from times of dreams of solvency.
Blueprinted in memory’s patent office

and now ready to head into love’s
workshop: a freckle counting machine!
Robustly retrofitted with teenage tricks,
expertly engineered to aid first fumblings,

this marvel of mechanical longing
will slalom all over skin, distinguishing
mark and mole, blemish and scar,
and lodge in ledgers the number

of bits of you that are colour-matched
with me. But of more pressing concern –
how to avoid stridulation when my
contraption is operationalized. Down
Read more >



The door leading from the room I long for opens onto an arched verandah. A thin curtain the colour of a peach hangs from a wire. The material’s so thin that I can almost see the threads in the weave. Who cares how thick the curtain when it’s never cold here and you sleep and rise with the sun.
       Sunlight, already strong, burns it’s clean shafts across the room. Dust, memory and wonder are caught in the stripes as I wake. I’ve slept through the morning prayer but the memory of the evening’s verses, sung with a slow and heavy sorrow are still clear in my mind. I can remember the sense of lament, the marking of another passed day, the pain and joy of what passes in life, the emotions translating without language.
       A scent of bougainvillea blows in. The shadows of the tree planted by my Uncle outside the window shake in the slight breeze. There’s a branch from it in a vase on the bedside table. I stare at the paper-thin leaves and pearl trumpet of the flowers as my jet lag fades. The purple colour is both vivid and calm at once. I have tried for years to match the shade to dahlias that I would plant in the hard earth of my garden. One winter I searched for a nail polish replicating the exact colour to paint my toenails with. After that I gave up.
       The sounds of the household become louder. There’s sweeping, talking and saucepans clanging in the kitchen. Outside, unnameable birds sing unknowable songs. A train phases in and out of my hearing.
       Then a realisation hits. The cool white prongs of reality pushing the haze away. I’m here for a funeral. However you add up the parts of the memory, this place has gone.


Max hated car journeys. It wasn't just the faint nausea which he felt, or his mother passing barley sugars to him, nor his father's taste in music. He even tolerated his kid sister Martina, when she tipped her pretend pink lipsticks over his lap and made faces in her girly mirror.
      Max had an aversion to stripes. Their garish colours, perfectly matched, yet criss-crossed on lorries, vans, hoardings, emergency vehicles, even chevrons made his eyes ache.Words such as oblique, diagonal and transverse filtered through his head, reminding him of confusing maths lessons.
      His parents were bemused. They took Max to see a child psychologist in the hope that he could unravel the puzzle. He deemed it to be a visual problem.An appointment with the optician provided no clue. Thankfully his sight was normal.
      They all hoped the situation would improve, but Max watched as if mesmerized by transport and trailers.
When he tried to explain his dislike they asked him if there were any other shapes he preferred.
      'Just wavy ones-not straight!' the boy replied.
      He did like football. That seemed to Max to be an uncomplicated activity. Just kick a nice round ball to the team and try to win the match.He wasn't too keen on the stripey socks, but that was a small price to pay for being in the fresh air and away from maths!       Tragically, on one such day Max collapsed on the field and died.
      The post-mortem result given to the grieving family
was Sudden Arrhythmic Death Syndrome.
      Around six months later they drove through a torrential downpour and the sun broke through with the most
glorious rainbow. Martina looked out and through her tears she smiled and said,
     'Max is happy now. He is up there in a lovely wavy shape'

Pop Tarts

At breakfast, the Americans ate the full English and the Brits tucked into Pop-Tarts. Something was wrong. Lunch was the same. Buddy Snr and MaryLou refused chips with their plain salad, while Lalajay and Quentin tucked into a super-sized Mac.

Both couples had vegan children, Buddy Jnr and Maud. No problem for them at dinner. While one set of parents ate roast beef and yorkshires, and the other hominy grits (guess which), the kids munched on nut roast with tahini sauce.

In the last election, when the two teenagers had been old enough to vote, they agreed a right wing agenda was preferable, the only way to keep a strong economy and to prevent terrorism.

Lalajay and Quentin were life-long Tories (no surprise there) but Marylou and Buddy Snr, evangelical Christians, had voted for Obama.

Both families owned miserable dogs who were forced to avoid meat. For Buddy Jnr and MaryLou, it was to do with environmental concerns. Quentin and Lalajay, (content to use the phrase pooper-scooper) wanted to save money. Maud and Buddy Jnr said, on principle, they refused to care for meat-eating pets.

Everything would have been okay, if they'd met in 1964 when those first 'prebaked toaster pastries' hit the shelves in the US supermarkets. Back then, the Brits hadn't discovered pizzas. Yogurt was confined to Bulgaria, and supermarkets didn't exist.

Read more >


Comfort Blanket Stitch

I have a little pattern and it rattles round my head, it tries to keep its timing but doesn’t play quite true, sometimes off a kilter, sometimes back to Go, it wants to rule my life, but I have to slow it down, it makes me do the things I need, to make the right things happen, if I miss a single path, chance can take a turn, I can’t have that, I can’t takes chances, my fingers keep the rhythm, they work and twist, and tug and pull, and keep this body true, single threads like gossamer, needle under skin, pulled so slow so threads don’t snap, the pain will really linger, drawing out the randomness as head thrown back I stifle, cries that take my mind, such exquisite nerve ends, pulling out what’s me, the only time I ever feel, so very much myself, and when I get the threshold, right to that very point, where I am it, the only thing, the centre of it all, right then and only then, do I get to see the pattern, that rattles round my head, the one that tries to govern, which path it says to take.
Needle, thread, cotton bud, to draw the thread around, tissues litter bedroom floor, so very little red, but such a power in stretching out and feel the line pull tight, a sharp intake and long exhale a drug that’s all my own.
And afterwards, hide such small works and wipe the gridlines off, pull down the shirt and up the face that turns towards you all.

Knit Me a Memory

His letter brings giggles and tears. She runs her hands across the rough, textured homemade paper, sees the remnants of his former correspondence. He soaks the paper to bleed out the ink, but it never disappears completely.

She misses him, that crazy old man. How long has it been now? Seven years, surely. Is he all right? His whiskey-laced cheek kisses, his whisker-rich bear hugs. Gentle. Comforting. Sincere. Her grandpa is Sunday morning pancakes.

She opens the card and out pops a photo. Grandpa, wrapped in a blanket. It's in swirls of colour, tropical fruit punch. The lines shimmy down the sides, zig zag back upon themselves. He's holding a drawing. Her childhood drawing. The pattern for the blanket.

She smiles as the tears splash upon her turquoise blue sweater. He took up knitting after Grandma died. He knitted that blanket, and now he wears it at night, wrapped around his shoulders.



Increasingly Foster had found it hard to get going with his writing.
The images and sentences wouldn’t come together neatly, instead they formed a sticky mess of storylines half followed, of sub plots interweaving, of throw away sentences that confused the characters. He deleted the sixth attempt at his latest book, emptying the trashcan icon with a hot surge of rage.
He was a planner, normally, attacking each novel with post it notes and plans, diagrams of emotional arcs and climax points, a curious outcome for each character. A quest and mission for each one too. Nothing could be completed without a plan.
But his latest work had been a snake and ladder affair. Plot holes and tumbles, rising tension on the way to nowhere.
His agent was calling daily. She wanted a deadline. She needed a title.
“What’s the pitch Foster? Don’t let me down.”
But Foster was not sure of anything any more. Dry ideas came and went and couldn’t be committed to. His head was a patchwork of colours and voices, scenarios that were unbelievable, protagonists without passion, chapters that led to dead ends. Repetitive titles. Lack luster twists.
When had it all become so challenging?
Foster knew that Hadley had something to do with it. She had only been an over enthusiastic fan before, someone who he could teach things to, someone he could depend upon for praise. She had struggled to get an agent. Had always lacked confidence. And now her name was everywhere. On posters in the tube, on the front of literary reviews, in the weekend papers, interviewed on Radio 4, trending on Twitter. Hadley whose work he’d appraised and critiqued time and time again.
He wasn’t ready for her success. All the secrets and tips and suggestions he’d made to her on her first, second, third drafts had come back to haunt him. The sales from her debut novel dwarfed his entire career’s. That had never been his intention.

Read more >



'I don't like it either,' he whispers in her ear.
Elise doesn't hear him approach, doesn't hear his gentle cough-cough. She turns to him, appraises him, his glasses and the Gorbachev birthmark on his temple. Bruised red.
'I'm actually undecided,' she replies, taking a sip from her glass of white wine. Too tart, she thinks.
'I misinterpreted your frown.'
'I was frowning at the frame. It doesn't suit the picture. Too much white.'
He stares at the picture, his head tilted to one side. 'I'm undecided about that,' he says, then smiles.
'Touché,' she says.
'Come here often?'
She laughs, a tipple of laughter, her head thrown back. 'Nice try, '
'Markus,' he says, holding out his hand.
'Nice to meet you,' she takes his hand, but withdraws it quickly.
'And what about you?'
'What about me?'
'Won't you tell me your name?'
'My name?'
'I never liked mysteries'
'Is that what I am?' she asks. 'A mystery?' Her gaze turns back to the painting and its mess of diagonal candy-coloured stripes. 'It looks like a mistake, don't you think?'
'You're changing the subject.'
'I am?' Elise indicates to the catalogue in his hand. 'Thinking of buying?'
'Perhaps,' Markus replies. 'Do you know the artist?'
'Now that's a tough question,' she says, her brow furrowed. Then she smiles at him. 'Her bio's at the front. When you sift through the hyperbole, you'll see she hasn't done that much.' She leans into him, lowers her voice. 'And I wouldn't buy this one.'
Read more >


In those cruel, early months of treatment when they changed the toxic cocktail every few weeks and scanned me in slices from head to hip, sleep became a benign escape from the nightmare of serious illness. In dreams, I was visited repeatedly by the same image or, more precisely, I visited the image, for it seemed to me that I was alone in a gallery containing only one exhibit, an abstract of fluorescent bands of colour. With each successive viewing, my interpretation of the canvas altered although the picture itself remained unchanged, freeze-framed, on permanent pause.

I began by seeing it as a sticky bun, sickly-sweet and drizzled with high-visibility icing. It was the sort of item that remains unsold at the end of the day and is forced to languish overnight beneath a plastic dome before joining the ranks of "Yesterday's Cakes" and sold at a large discount.

On another occasion, whilst lingering of my distant childhood, it represented the strangely-textured sweets popular at the time: pink, papery flying saucers, white, rubbery milk bottles, or the fruit chews that made our jaws ache. Efficient tooth-rot at the bargain price of four for a penny.

Once, I hovered over members of a military band, all white helmets and cerise jackets and gleaming brass, as they marched in close formation across a parade ground. Then suddenly, that context melted away and was replaced by a freshly-plastered wall daubed with streaks of emulsion from a garish palette of match pots.

Read more >


Seeing Stravinsky

Dark greens, browns, earthy and thick, small shapes flitting away and hiding between layers of impasto colour, and I'm walking slowly, pushing past, searching for something perhaps, straining to hear the nightingale.

Next, warm oranges. Pastel blues, huge bold sheets like coloured glass moving into each other, shattering, reforming and growing. At the corner of my vision lines begin worming their way forward.

Then zig-zags: shooting stars condensed into thick cloud trails of pink white and yellow: a rush, fireworks, chaos against a cream sky.

The resolution is a static ladder, notes sliding down the rungs.


Test Card Screen

They flick through the channels, over and over, the endless on. They can’t settle on anything. There’s a programme on the art of album covers on BBC4 that Mark says he wants to watch. But then he starts composing tweets when the presenters fixate on abstract 80’s designs, white, pink and yellow. Tina turns over.

‘I was watching that,’ he says.

There’s a cake-off going on over on Pick TV. Contestants have to select ingredients blindfolded. After the reveal, they’re allowed five minutes to plan, and whoever bakes the tastiest cake in the allocated time, wins a super food processor. Flour and icing settles everywhere: face, hair and floor. There’s a strange absence of decorations on the turned out sponges.

‘Do we have to watch this rubbish?’ Mark glances up from his iPad.

Tina turns over. She remembers how as a teenager she’d stay up until the presenters said goodnight, and how comforting closure felt. Some channels displayed a clock; others folded to a static screen of fuzzed emptiness.

On the other side, they’re discussing New Order covers. She mutes the sound. And she sits and stares at the blur of lines and colours, no meaning, or any meaning you like. Test card screen. She can almost hear that tone, and how it would force you out of your chair to switch it all off.



I remember the borrowed suit billowing round me like a windsock whenever I walked outside. I remember an early morning groom and polish, a country house a bus ride away and chairs grouped in threes around numbered, blue-papered desks in a room lined with stoic Victorian oils. I even remember my table number: 6.

I no longer recall who the company was or what they were recruiting for. I think I went along on a pretty slender whim. All I knew was that wheat and chaff were set for an expeditious sorting and that return buses stopped by every half-hour.

The chair clusters filled, the room doors closed and a stumbling, inarticulate company man in similarly voluminous attire ummed and ahhed through the day's proceedings, staring down at his shoes or high into the phlegmatic gaze of those decorative Victorians. There would be tests, he mumbled. Eight tables of three paring down to a top-ranking octet. From these, three would be perking up their workaday wardrobes after a little more aptitudinal probing. It was all against all, despite our neighbourly little clusters. We tucked straight into an hour of brand-driven literacy and numeracy, during which one of my rival 'sixers' committed assessment-day seppuku, quitting the table at a bus-hungry lick.

During the subsequent tea break for marking and weeding, I was approached by the more steadfast of my rival 'sixers'. Eddie was the first and last to make an effort at contact in our Hobbesian bubble. Erudite, irreverent and affably coy about just how far past 40 he'd pushed, Eddie was 'old Army' meaning older than me at any rate. Read more >


Eternal Driver

Man, machine, technology, talent, science, speed.
The genius of the engineer, the designer.
The genius of the driver, the master.

A Spring, inside a spring, inside a spring, inside a spring, would it work?
Vacuum cleaners have cyclones, inside cyclones, in a cyclone of cyclonic performance, “So why not?” Thought the engineer sat at the drawing board.
The new driver on his way to the team eager to exploit the new technology to push faster, harder than ever he could. New technology with new pitfalls and new teething problems, leading to new failures. Failures of machine, of man? Is it man? No it’s machine, it must be machine, it can’t be man. Not this man!
Backs are against the wall and the driver comes out fighting, fighting to prove his supremacy, to prove he is in the ascendancy, to prove that he can master this supreme technology with his supreme talent, supreme ability.
The cars line up at the start line, the air is filled with smoke, fumes, noise, tension, he never felt so alive as he grips the suede of the small steering wheel. Today is his day. His breath fogs on the visor of his crash helmet.

The engineer taps his foot, he twiddles his pen, clicks his stopwatch even the air feels heavy as it floods his lungs.

Three. Two. One GO! Tyres spin, acrid tyre smoke fills the air, the driver is away. First, second, third, fourth, fifth, sixth, brake back to third again. Again he pulls away from the pursuing pack by a metre for every beat of his heart. It’s racing, he’s racing.

Read more >



Never knew a stick of rock would look like this when it was hot.
It reminds me of you when I first saw you on the promenade in Rimini.
The Italian sun recognised one of its own, beamed down some of those Latin lover's looks, catching me off-guard,
as I stood panting,
waiting for a go on the new carousel of love.

To feel cold on a beach on the hottest day of the year

It didn't take long before you burned
like a slender slice of crackling, offered to me
repeatedly lest my skin and bones
crumbled into the sand upon which
you and I now lie. Betraying
our distance are my white emulsion legs,
barely able to carry the weight
of a heart, cross-stitched
with your crisped limbs under
an aching sun. Heavy with words
that will smash the scaffolding of us,
but for now we'll continue to blaze,
the way that stars appear to
light-years away.

escalators in glass buildings

in Crane's poem, the sea surface
as a kind of pattern, wherein
descent is form of knowing of how glass
both reveals and reduces a missing arm,
a hand wrapped around the still oil
of an elevator rail, and the night beyond
is only punctuated by stars. Fourth level,
or one hundredth, or the sense of seeing
a screen fading from some blue horizon
into blackness as if a star had, at last,
eclipsed and the air unburdened itself. You spoil
your lip against a too hot drink and watch
the air somehow condense, and the rain begin,
and the windows which seem burned and the rain drops
are bubbles toxic to touch, the air unclean,
the distance forever and reflected in itself.
You ascend, reflection
among reflection, dark form
risen and gently put down
again on an endless floor of faux marble,
the leering face of Odysseus,
the disappearing edge of the further stair
as a serrated knife puncturing, sideways,
the underworld, the tall lip of the building.

Chasing Ladders

“We’ll draw a ladder, then,” she says.
He looks up in confusion. What ladder?
“Ladders, sorry, you know, the ones you trace the lines down to find which one leads to which. Since you can’t seem to make a decision by yourself. We need something to help you, don’t we?”
He doesn’t stop her as she takes out her notepad from her pocket. Barely a page is free from scribbles of colours, ranging from crayon to markers to watercolour. Some are smeared with not yet-dried oil smudges. Why would you even put that in your pocket? He thinks that her notepad looks like a site of explosion. Her tender napalm dropped down on her world of imagination.
“This will have to do.” She holds it out.
“I can’t really make out what the ladder is from all this mess. Why are these pink lines diagonal anyways?”
“The ladders, not the ladder, stupid.”
She angrily squeaks down a few more yellow lines with her highlighter. "Does that make it any clearer?" She asks.
“It’s not got any options down here, though.”
“Of course I can’t write it down for you to see, it won’t be random then!”
Quite honestly, he can’t really see the point of choosing any of the lines to start with in the first place. But of course he doesn’t say that aloud. He never would. He considers, the first one is rather intriguing. It’s only got one way to start on – just like the situation he’s tricked himself into now. He chooses it.
She trails the path down to the bottom.
Read more >

An apology in my fluorescent pink bra

I was walking past
like a zipper
pulling my ends closer

the goal was to reach
a point of submission
that I have pulled absences
way too far

stopped by a pond
guarded by fishnet
guarded by water
guarded by my lone presence

and you broke in
almost tearing the air
fleecing my eyes of wool
asking me for an apology

yet admiring my vanishing fluorescent pink bra



Pink is a bleed of red through raging water.

A fast swim through candy floss

the pussy shove to the pinstripe.

The head above, finger on the button.

The pink climb up to the bars

the bars outside the bars.

The rising and the setting

to lipstick smile the sun.



She starts out with one idea,
lays down a set of words
in seven neat lines,
but, somehow,
they do not gel.

She turns her thoughts
tries another five lines,
but it’s still not
what she was looking for.

So she goes off
at a tangent;
writing about the fact
that she cannot write
what she wanted,
and suddenly
the layers come together;
there is a pattern
and a poem.


The Remains of a Summertime Party

I will stay down here       alcohol pop on my lips       I left my passport in your leather jacket       underneath the
sofa     with your turquoise bandanna protecting my eyes from the sun    no curtains     I want to explode    no joke    bring out the parade    colored banners    children at play
let no parent underline the soot         underneath my eyes    I’ll be your sixties Twiggy in a yellow mini dress     when the sun comes up     and your mouth is in the shape of

A Ghazal on Lines

Life is full of these intertwining, intersecting lines,
Like those on her face, her hands, careworn lines.

Often, we need to cross a grid to reach somewhere,
They just follow us around, shadowy and real lines.

Sometimes, we are entangled in a mess of labyrinths,
Like psychedelic signs, appear these hallucinatory lines.

I think living itself is a prison with no escape routes,
So, to calm your nerves, emerge these striking lines.

Pondered Roomy, how do we emerge out of it all?
Don’t be stressed, just follow these colourful lines!


Lines of marks (after Kandinsky)

How many is too many?
When is enough?
By my calculation all is connected to the other,
line by line by line.
And when it no longer makes sense
I will pick up that hitchhiker and drive him to the end of forever
Or perhaps 2 o'clock
/28 by 5 by 10

“All my Paintings are grey” – A One to One with the Artist Alan Charlton

I am with you Mr Charlton,
there is something so soothing
and restful about the colour.
It demands nothing and gives all.

A child’s school pullover.
A seal-grey sky.
A solid grey sea.

I particularly like your “Triangle Painting”
in this year’s Summer Exhibition.
It is not boring or mundane.
But oddly challenging, complete and cohesive.

A grey geometric shape.
A passive design.
A leap into the void.

What about this painting?.
It has a sense of mathematics.
Vertical and diagonal stripes,
in bright pink, yellow and white.

A colour offensive.
A vibrant design.
A leap into the spectrum.

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The Recipe

‘You know what I really miss?’ you told me the night before. I’d bought you white wine. Grape, not grain: doctor’s orders.
‘What’s that?’ I said.
You smiled and said, ‘Pop Tarts.’
I looked at you, raised an eyebrow. ‘You’re kidding,’ I said. Last time I had one of those, I seared the roof of my mouth. Hopped around my mum’s kitchen like a kangaroo on speed. Can’t see the appeal, if I’m honest.
‘Well,’ you said, ‘it’s just that for everything else - bread, cakes, pasta - there are alternatives. Rice flour instead of wheat, you know? But Pop Tarts are literally the only thing you can’t switch.’ You shrugged, sipped your wine again. ‘My one guilty pleasure. Forever denied. Ah, well.’
‘Ah, well,’ I said, a plan forming in my mind.

I awoke at seven the next morning, left you sleeping as I quietly got out of bed, slipped on a dressing gown, and headed downstairs to your kitchen. Pastries. That’s all they are, essentially. How hard can they be? Of course, I had to tweak the recipe a bit, but since your diagnosis, I knew you’d be well equipped.
Rice flour. Check.
Xanthan gum. Check.
Butter, jam, sugar. Check.
Rolling pin. Check.
And a toaster. Get in.

Half an hour later, you came downstairs and stood bleary-eyed in the kitchen doorway. Through the black smoke, you spotted me, flailing madly at the hastily-opened windows.
I spun around, a wild-haired domestic god gone feral.
‘Smoke alarm woke me,’ you said.
‘Sorry,’ I said.
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Tell Nothing To Anyone

“Your dress is a throwback to the 70s,” she laughs, “like a fucking picnic blanket, that. Look at that fabric. Terrible.” I glare at her, pass her the bowl of figs to shut her up. She cuts one in half and juice spreads across the dark wood of the table, but she doesn’t seem to notice. If she had paid for it, she would notice. She is a girl with rich tastes and poor accounts.
“Really, think about it though – imagine it. Him, and I.”
“He and I.”
Her lips, plum colored, are pursed, her eyes shrewd, wrinkles almost visible around them in the young face. I look away. The sun burns the part in my hair. “Nevermind.”
She sniffs, affronted by my interruption. I examine her out of the corner of my eye, watch as she cuts fig after fig, setting the halves in another bowl and leaving me to remove the flesh.
The apricots are next, piled into a bucket that sits on the bench next to me, and I can smell the warmth of their ripe flesh rising through the heat of the summer morning; I can feel their softness bruising, overripe. The thick scent fills my nose and I cannot listen to her the way she demands I listen. Flies land on our arms and we shake them away.
“What do you think?” she asks, her eyes cold and sly, and I don’t know how to answer because the question was lost somewhere in the air between us, carried off by the wind; the coldness in her look is like the dew that has soaked the back of my legs; I am queasy.
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Before streets stir and still morning burns into restless song, Alexander wears coffee steam like a beard, absorbing leaden silence from a patio chair. As a young boy, he would wake up to mornings like this, staring into glass canvas framed in aluminum like an art patron, inspecting the still life for authenticity. He would patiently wait for a leave to rustle or a branch to sway to let him know he was real.


Under an eave, a little spider rests in a web, a miniature black buoy riding waves of wind. Each day it meditates, a solitary monk under Bo Tree. Surrounded by maddening whispers of hunger, it spirals inward to mute singularity. One day set to explode into balletic light.


Lost in thought, Annabel shines a secret glow that people sense but cannot name. Her shadow stretching ahead of her on the slant, her hips move freely, black flats clacking on pavement with graceful ease, a conspiratorial smile taking wing, a strange bird ornithologists cannot identify.


A riotous crosshatching of birds momentarily parts for a silver jet, as it stair steps toward hilltop horizon. Reflecting sunlit semaphore, guided by faith in safe landings, its wingtips blink distress, as treetops angle incisors to swallow it into myth.

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I haven't seen graph paper since I was sixteen and taking Maths exams. O-levels, they were called, if you remember, and even if you don't, I'm reminding you.

In the years between then and now I have become a different person and yet I am still me. Measuring the years in time, yes, I could say "Twenty years ago, or twenty-three". But with a ruler? That's hard work, that's an impossible task, nobody can do it. And, let's face it: who wants to admit to having lived that long?

Instead, I've made a graph using my highlighters. Purple and yellow lines for the ups and downs of my life, and white for tippexing out everything I wish had never happened.Together they make a kind of pattern, don't you think? They look pretty. I've fooled you.

In 1985 the graph paper I used was green. It seems pointless to add "I was young" because you can clearly see that there are thousands of little squares which make up the page.


Skies Love Lines

Sit by lines
Look at the skies
None of the stars belong to nations
None to people
Innocent notion
Richly naive
People turn into a star
After breathing stops

How beautiful it would be
For stars to look at the world
And see nothing
But colourful lines
Most blood red
Covering the earth
All around
Giving skies
More new stars


Shame in the City

Their skin, exposed. My skin covered.
Beneath the coat an embarrassed sheen sweats
until it pricks with heat. Skin becomes
as pink as a plaster. Cuts deep.      Age.

Like cattle to market, we queue in grids,
make our way to the Bouncers.
Inner voices screaming loudly.
The young worry about ID, the old being laughed at.

Turning back is an option, thought by collective minds
as we move closer to destination club, a few dance steps
at a time. Weaving our way into bright lights and loud music
where we can forget who we are, for a while.



The pinks of you
Raspberry chunks, surprising decadence, in a late-night complicit brownie
Bouquets of gladioli, standing sentry, beside your father’s grave
Tacks on our map, jagging impatience, telling your future in capital cities

The yellows of you
Sun’s heat, kissing freckles, you stretching forward a mojito indolent arm
Zest of lemon, bursting out, from your kisses deposited after morning                                                                                                          showers
Tenderness of wool, knitting projects, new family members and good                                                                                                           intentions

The whites of you
Snappish shirt, conforming conservative, first impressions following your                                                                                                    promotion
Empty glasses, waiting willowy, after an evening’s gorged revels
Shopping list, falling softly, left behind to the whirlpool of deferred goals



Miss Crowther’s ‘listening to readers’.
"Get out your Busy Books," she says to all
thirty others. We grope out, exercise books
cut down, giving ragged ski-slope edges.

Now the printing on the cover is overlarge
and misaligned. Young and inarticulate
as we are, it teaches us
all we need to know of bad design.

‘Summer borns’, my twin and I can’t yet read
or write, but we can colour. We struggle
lids off tins smelling of 'St. Bruno'. The squares
are small, the wax crayons grubby. Blunt,

they will not reach the corners. So instead
we pass the time in peeling and then stacking
their fresh colours into cross-hatched towers.
And in such ways as these, we miss the sixties.


Opening of the Exhibition

Vibrant colors cover the white walls. The paintings are overwhelming--- grids of lines and dots.

For the opening gala, the patrons are dressed in black. The curator moves from one group to another, wearing a bright blue suit, white shirt, purple tie. Waiters in white serve sparkling wine in glasses.

"The genius of Vorkowsky," a gentleman with a well-trimmed beard says, "the hyper spectral implications of her color theory are most evident in this latest series."

Between the colors, other colors vibrate, a regular rhythmic pulsation not unlike the onset of a migraine. I was warned of this. Vorkowsy's paintings are an assault on the senses. Some report nausea, others a slight unease. There are special glasses for the sensitive. There are paramedics on call, just in case.

It is said she mixes her own colors, pigments unknown on earth. These are colors out of space, disturbingly familiar yet alien. colors that would look different under the light of a different sun.

"Where is the artist?" someone asks the curator. "I would very much like to meet her."

"Alas, she could not be here," the curator says. "There was a problem with her flight."

I feel an urge to take up knitting, twist the colors of Vorkowsky into strings around my fingers, the fabric of the universe, unravelling.


Tetrametrical Stanzas, One Pair Thereof

Image like an Elastoplast
(One designed in the 80s);
Your deepest wounds which you unmask,
Blood flows like the Euphrates.

Let them bleed, don't cover up,
Exposed, therein lies truth.
Take off your trousers and your top,
And sunbathe on the roof.


creative writing

rounding my corners
fixing my indecision
erasing my yellowness
blushing my verticals
with lilac

bleaching out grids
grid less bleaching
my bearings crossed
a knitting pattern
to repeat

it doesn't sound
just the whoosh
swoosh swoosh

regular again
coloured bold
my beautiful strokes
sweeping across
somewhere blank