• Vol. 03
  • Chapter 03
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Three pinhead priests, two in flight, one walking on water, enforce the ritual of land-bound remembrance on a boy child found watching birds at swim

Stand at the edge, feet planted, arms back and winged, and tell us what you see. Myself, face-hanged slack and pouting, body like a plucked duck’s, smooth and long, toes frilling the wet board. The sea is a landscape – tectonics warping dunes, weathering moraine, depositing polder, mooned and distorting – I am distorted too: dunce, moron, poltroon, loon, to think I could leave the ground. That is the preserve of priests – light in their godliness, anti-gravity, hydrophobic, magnetic repulsion, aerofoil – full of maths, full of signs unreadable, faith in the experiments of others, of machines more expensive than all the breakfasts, dinners, suppers, and snacks of whole races of men: lifetimes of sweetmeats, collisions of electron volts, compact muon solenoid. Keep your arms back – imagine them tied at the elbow. Keep your knees together – imagine them stuck, cyanoacrylate. Don’t dare enter the water – colloidal suspension, suspended particulates, particle accelerators, sharks (great white and killer). Enforce the ritual of land-bound remembrance. We float above, and to the sides, no need to wonder which; don’t check the magnetic field, alignments of pins, floating corks; don’t wonder at the absence beneath our frocks, footless. Don’t touch the pole! What pole? What compass? Small bones, ossification of mineral salts. Pigeons homing. Look down instead at the landscaped – surface of the mirror. Warp and weft and remember your idiocy – failure of language, inability to commune with the ineffable, Geiger-Muller tube, reflection, refraction, that light in the distance, lensed? Mass spectrometry.

Read more >

Reflections on a past life as a Western God

I return each evening to stare at my reflection, cast in gold.
My last incarnation was as a goddess, and this was no more or less than being a woman. I became tarnished with tears, so many wept for me, and though I cast around I could not find a mirror that would tell me my self.
And so I took the form of a bronze-boy.
Boy was that a case of mistaken identity.

I don’t understand. They say I must learn.
I learn: every second word of your language means 'jump'.

I miss my wings.

Today I learned the word ‘jump’. Hey mama, can I not lean? Forward into the depths, like you do when the day is done. Pitch into sleep, your body slumped. Your folds are in on the joke.

'Hey, narcissisus!' You say when you wake up.
And send me back to the pontoon to see if you are right. If it has finally happened and I have changed my skin.
If you can see me, why can’t the others?

Now among the angels, wings refusing to open,

The water waits to cradle me.

My face, looking back, is serene.

You have sent the man to video my transformation.



Bird Boy

We are winged for the asking, in comedy,
in serious play, flapping our featherless
elbows and wrists above the waterline.

Birds dive, and swim the air, lifting
our eyes to the milky horizon, a skein
draws its line over stippled hues.

We behold, and feel our bones go hollow.
We see ourselves in the warped reflection,
poised to glide, to swoop, to wheel an arc.

We will dance on the docks, taunting the water.
Let others bathe, and preen, and gather seed.
We will pray for wings with two hands apart.

"But did he ever jump?" the bookkeepers ask.
The water keeps no record after the splash.
The sky, too, has emptied out its pockets.

Be here with me, Bird Boy posed for takeoff.
Smoulder with ignition, ready to jump.
Burn your ashen shapes against the dusk.


The Dot on the Horizon Isn’t the Sun

My older brother was sitting with his camera in the shadows as I posed for the jump.

“Aren’t you ready yet?” I asked, crossing my arms and tapping my foot. The wood, though wet, still felt rough on my bare soles.

“Just gimmie a minute.”

I turned again to the water. My reflection stared up at me, teasing me – why are you waiting for him? He’s connecting his camera to the hotel Wi-Fi so he can upload it straight to Facebook but the signal isn’t strong enough; he’s not watching you, jump! – my brother always told me to wait. I want to jump in. I don’t want to annoy my brother.

I jump in.

It’s darker beneath the surface, deeper than the shadows the sun is casting. I imagine my brother yelling above me but I can’t hear him. I look up and see his face, blurry with watery ripples. His head is illuminated from behind by a bright dot on the horizon that isn’t the sun, first one, then more than I can count. I swim out of the way as he falls into the water.


When Bobby Fischer Goes Swimming

he puts his hands high up behind his back,
in between the bishop and the rook,
and slides his eyeballs down to d4 - a5
check mate.

He dives into the Siegen Olympiad
deep through Germany
The Philippines
takes a quick breath at Sweden
finishes at Iceland -
mostly breaststroke,
sometimes butterfly.

He revokes his passport
spits on his mother
(right in the retina)
breathes radio station fumes
coughs up the American Dream
all dull brittle black and white
like charcoal
or 64 stages
of lies.

He cracks his lip
as lethal as a queen
drunk on
cheap Russian champagne
mourning the death of her
Read more >


The Ecstasy

Oh, the wonder and water of it.
The angels keeping their watch;

and how I want to dive in. A new bird
ready to chance the air of it. Cast off

the ground at any cost. And I know,
you’ll be there to welcome me

when I emerge, recognize the splash
or gasp: the joyous sound marking my arrival.



It was after Matins that the boys crept down to the pier, and hung their cassocks on the temporary mooring posts: set up to accommodate the expected pilgrims.

“We should have left them in our rooms,” Oisin hissed from shadow, straightening out his rosary beads as an excuse to delay immersion.

“Then Flaherty would know bloody well where we are,” Sean said, squeezing his eyes clear with finger and thumb. He knocked on the underside of the pier. “You coming or what?”

“Practicing my diving technique,” Eoghain replied, blowing air through his cheeks three times in rapid succession as be bent forward, arms splayed behind him.

“It’s a dip, not friggin skydiving, you clampet. I wonder if Saint Patrick had eejits like you with him. Maybe that’s why they call this Saint Patrick’s Purgatory.”

“Sanctuary,” Oisin corrected.

“If you don’t shut up and get in here, I’ll go up there. Tie those beads around your–" Eoghain’s less than perfectly executed dive drowned Sean’s expletive. “–ankles and chuck you in.”

“It’s both, actually,” Eoghain said, shivering as he acclimatised to the chill.

Oisin lowered himself into the water and drew air in through his chattering teeth.

Read more >



The umbrellas resemble monks, don’t they? Funny. Not in a good way, obviously. It’s like they were following her, even then, watching, waiting.

They were always watching. From when she was born; a childhood shunted from pillar to post. To when they packed her off to boarding school. She was never alone, not for one moment – they didn’t even have curtains around the beds in the dormies. She couldn’t breathe, couldn’t be a young woman with hopes and fears and such, such pain.

They managed to persuade her somehow to stay back as a teacher, though she was barely qualified. She did bitty work, playing piano, conducting the band, taking the girls for walks. She had no talent for or love of music, but she did enjoy walking. It was her thinking time. And she made plans. Plenty of them. If they had known what was going on in her head… They would probably have restricted her to the library or kitchen. But those pines, and the lake, so clear and turquoise, and the evening sky, with clouds scudded across… They gave her ideas. They let her dream.

And here we are. That magical, longed-for image. She is fiddling with her camera; I am poised, ready to dive. The monks surround us, watching, ever watching, but they are inanimate, they cannot interfere any more. We are at the edge of the world. The sun is setting gently, kindly. The sea is blue. It is all perfect. It should be. On paper it is amazing; it is all she dreamt of.

In reality, of course, it wasn’t. It was close, but it wasn’t. Have you solved the riddle yet? What’s wrong with this picture? My mother is accounted for, so am I, so are the monks and the clouds and the sea. So who’s left?

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Daylight’s End

The day's ending reached,
dusk leaping towards darkness.
Ripples of silence lap patiently,
hues of creamy yellow reflecting back the daylight's end.
Shades of denim and midnight blue wash under the boards,
the collapsed umbrellas breath sighs of relief.
The shady figure bent over
arms stretched out behind life,
ready to break the peace of the blues
The water braces itself to be broken apart.

Atlantis Burning

Rising from the azure cobalt kingdom below,
Towering centurions stand guard witnessing a splendid fiery show,
Amidst doubt and cutting curious whispers,
Sacrifices breed unknown revolutionary clusters,
Preparations are made for a people not to fade,
Rising surfacing creating a new horizon - taunting an impatient Poseidon,
Protecting each other from dividing discord and political churning -
Preventing Atlantis from burning.

A new generation spreading their wings,
No more the innocent obedient fledglings,
Yearning to find their rightful purpose - rushing to explore and inhabit an unknown forced surface,
Protected by familiar centurion guardians,
They gather together shedding unnecessary fading fodder,
A bright new haven seemingly their new heaven,
A shared determination empowers a new rising nation,
Creating a strange sensational stirring - as Atlantis is left burning.


The Lullaby of the Water

do not pay attention
to other people
my dear narcissus

I'm the warm womb
in which your
can rest

do you fear my swinging?

it's the mild swing
of the mother's arms
my dear narcissus

throw yourself
in the mirror of your beauty
and sleep



here at the end of the pier
daylight fading quietly
youth crouches, tensed
anticipating the shock
of water on face
oblivious to the three
guardians around him
abstract monkish robes
heads bald and therefore
presumed more wise

if they could speak
move their iron tongues
would they urge him happily in
or call him cautiously back



The boy is fifteen, cold and distant, he does not dream of a lake or rills or a boathouse or anything so pure as dark water, but something that might have been full of spring coldness, the sense of isolation in a chilling country of desolate people frightened of themselves, scared of the love of others, despairing of their mornings and dying into their evenings, a people entranced by the eerily green aurora borealis that flickered across their starry skies from time to time, that northern sense of place or placelessness, the freezing into hope abandoned, where history might rhyme with hope if it could, but where pastoral purity could not touch the ice-coldness of a boy who knew these people and their lies and dying cadences, and he wrote a sad poem for them because he knew he would have to leave, they were beyond hope and it would get much worse for them, as war does for people who cannot avoid it, so he wrote a boy's poem and left it on the tongue in that cold classroom, a kind of haiku at a time when he had never heard of haiku, and he had never dived into cold dark water with a girl whose eyes looked into his, though later some girls in an ancient Kyoto wood beside an imperial building, perhaps the Golden Pavilion, would try to tell him how you must compose a haiku, and he realised he could only do it if he learned the language of a poem that belonged in that language and that can only be uttered with precision by young girls who dived into cold mountain lakes and spoke in the rhythms of that country, because so many things about love, or about hate, cannot be translated, and the fathers of those girls knew so much more about hate than even he could imagine, and he wondered about their samurai swords and their folded precision, and the warm public baths they took, naked and not looking at each other, Read more >

The journey north

It starts with bombs. Gunfire. Snipers. Murder. Mass murder. Innocent murder.
We cheat death amid the destruction and rubble and corpses piling up on the streets. It’s no way to live. My father says there is no future. He begins speaking. To people he knows. To people they know. Everyone trying to find the elusive ferryman.
Mum maintains order at home. Makes sure we eat well and read books. My sister cries constantly. So does Mum. I can see her hiding it behind her eyes.
The regime comes knocking, door-to-door. Rounding men up to fight.
Money exchanges hands. Finally, it’s time.
We cram essential items into backpacks. Papers, medications, clothes, and leave under cover of darkness to the sound of machine gunfire. A wooden dinghy awaits us on the beach. Crowds of people. Men with torches tell us where to stand to avoid overbalance.
The ocean appears rough, waves crashing. We are given orange life vests. Thin pieces of plastic to preserve our lives.
The dinghy lurches in the waves, bobbing along in the darkness. We are soaked. People screaming. People retching. People sick. The torches yell orders, don’t move, don’t move. Dad holds me close by his side. Mum carries my sister in her tired arms.
The man next to me convulses, vomits down my arm. I shiver. I’m cold.
Our journey is a mystery. Five days, six. It depends on the weather, the tides, and local authorities.
Talk of shipwrecks. Hundreds drowning. Just yesterday, making this very same crossing.
Read more >

The elements

The silhouetted figures on poles
mysterious, foreboding, alone,
spirits from the other region, perhaps,
framed against a darkening sky,
as guardians calmly overlooking about the space
around the Dhigufinolu Island on South Male' Atoll
on a diving deck with chairs, mostly empty
at this hour of transition;
The carefully-arranged elements on this resort
combine together to add to the sense of solitude
for the viewer escaping a mad rat race into
this tourist paradise created for such customers only
the entire mesmerizing scene kissed by
a sun departing;
A boy bent, poised on the edge, quickly morphs into a bird-figure
with hands as tiny wings, fingers splayed out, and
about to dive into the tempting waters
of an infinity pool that reflects the evening- gloom so well.

Dive In!

There are a few things I’d like to tell that ‘younger me’. Like forget the olives – you’ll still be calling them 'Food of the Devil' and picking them off your pizzas when you’re thirty. Like thirty isn’t anywhere near old, though it seemed like it then. Like get some fresh air; life isn’t all about studying and you’ll do fine in your exams anyway. And that pretty girl who’s going to smile at you across the bar during your first week at uni? Do me a favour and give her a miss, she’ll only cause you trouble.
But most of all I just want to tell you to give life a go. Dive in. Don’t worry about who’s looking or what they might think if you stumble and fall. Try things. Taste things. Travel. Sing. Dance. Well, maybe not the dance so much – that’s a talent you’re never likely to acquire. Be more like that boy you were on holiday. Sampling the local food. (No, you’ll never like calamari either, but that’s beside the point.) Picking up phrases from the local children and learning to swear in three different languages. Posing with a fishing line while your Mum takes photos on her new digital camera. (People will be taking photos on their phones soon. No, really. Trust me, they will.) Lying on your back in the sand at night and picking out the constellations: The Plough, Ursa Minor, Cassiopeia.
And diving for the first time off that wobbling pontoon. The canvas sunshades ranged around you, like characters from the Spanish Inquisition. Your Mum scrolling through the images on the screen of her camera and missing the moment. The setting sun colouring the sea in shades of peach and violet. The light across the bay. And you diving in. Boy child. Then bird. Then fish.


He used to swim, that boy of mine,
romancing the impending night:
heedless of the compound fright
his fearlessness to me consigned.

In twilight yet, he used to dive
and dared the world to injure him
as he leapt into the dim
deep waters there. He used to thrive.

Now as I sit on old pontoon,
working old half-hitches free,
closed parasols stand silently
as soft I hum a mournful tune.



I’ve come to collect your worship,
keeping the black streams

radiantly alight with reflections of
beauty-scented fruits

and the juiciest grapes that have
swelled in delight

under the cooling of a rare celibate

I have nudged the bees
to the mountains to hive

to eat only the sap from the trees,
these flowers are

for you, their buds intact, none of
the fire shall suck

away the youth from your ageless
face, take a dip

in these greens of a berry laden forest,
its paunch

pulsates of your bulging temerities,
the curiosity of a bone

in silver, the mane of a horse,
the dauntless hooves
the eyes of a mass consumed sea,
take a dip in

Read more >


Recollections of Water

I'd seen water like this
In open fields of dreaming,
Teeming with a texture I would dare to touch
But without remembering
its pattern under fingers
Trying to remember literally each drop in its
Gorgeous ratio
(Past daily rations from a canteen, old friends wishing to reconvene)
Synchronized to swim in this
Velvety softness
Reflections upon reflections
Sights changed with states of mind
Belonging to yesteryear.
I have
The fear of drowning in memories
Warped and pinched by
The seduction of
Lunar bodies
Harmonies that existed beyond the rhapsodizing
Of the hindsight blighted traveller,
Nostalgia dealt
In slices of sepia filters
To when I was
The boy,
Where all such properties
               were peripheries,
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The spotlight found you
Wings outstretched
Perched on the edge
Of that final fall.

You were looking down
A momentary pause
Reflecting on a life led
In front of cameras

You see yourself as you truly are
A once-was, now has-been
On a slow dive
To rock bottom

The light loses interest
Bored by your inaction
Although you have an audience
The ones who lie beneath, waiting

Their voices clamour, urging you on
Demanding a performance
You couldn’t give in life
… and you jump.


For my son

All I want is for you
to be free regardless of
the countless ribbons
attached to our days

The clasp of destiny might dent
certain pages; there might be
the odd salt caught
in the apostrophes of your lips

But don't let the rain stop you
From sailing. Don't let the end
of the day halt all your dreaming

Open arms might
not always mean embracing
but grant all empty spaces
a chance of receiving

If not a gift then another

As welcoming as you'll be
to the years and the many
grains of dust pelting the trail
that cut through the sandstorm

With a smile as sharp as a knife

And before the day drapes
its light into blue
another plunge into the water
and the tides shall tend the fire within you


New-Found Shore

They won’t turn to him, the Three Guardians, even though they’ll hear the splash.
       They’ll turn to the woman.
Their poles will creak, amazing her: she’d thought them fixed. They’ll look at her with bright eyes. They’ll put their hands together and they’ll bow their round heads. Their capes will flutter in the wind.
       After the splash she’ll take photographs.
Of her son’s bobbing head as he swims away.
       Of his arms ploughing the water.
       Of his kicking feet.
       And she’ll remember his kicking feet: in nappies; the first time he played football; leaving black marks on his bedroom door; hurting his toes on the tyre of her car. She’ll take photographs until she he’s gone.
Then she’ll look up and see the Three Guardians closing their eyes.
She’ll look back at her screen. She’ll see her son, but not the Three Guardians. Only images of her son. Swimming away.
       She’ll close her eyes and see him pushing himself up onto a different swimming platform. She’ll see him walking towards a young girl, his feet making damp prints on the wooden boards. She’ll see him sitting down beside her, pushing his wet hair behind his ears. She’ll see the girl take his hand and lift it high, their arms making parallel branches. She’ll hear their laughter.
       And then she’ll hear the Three Guardians sigh and she’ll open her eyes and watch them quarter-turn away from her. They won’t be looking at her, nor will they be looking at her son, on his new-found shore.
She’ll hope her son will send news, from time to time.

Circle and Spread

And what is your reticence,
        boy of the world,
to fly over the foam
        of your father's first home?

To see his wet face
        cracking through the muck?
Or to ride the warm wind of his voice
        as it asks, "who?"

One can fly too high, sure,
        or too low. But sitting with the difference,
even in the slantest light, only turns us all
        into shadow —


The Edge

Evening suddenly a purple blaze.
In the sun's stained falling
        a moment
winged and breathless/
an arc of soft bone on the brink of a bird.

Buoyant on salt air the silhouettes are silent
guarding the edge of the gentlest death.

        in this last light
        faith must unfurl/

soon all will be bloomed black.


Dead Brother’s Note to Our Dad

Dad, happy to see
you’re taking a nap.
I’m down at the pier
so give me a shout
when you wake up
and I’ll come running.
The fishing’s been great--
three coolers of pike
iced in the trunk.

You always tell Mom
before we leave
you won’t be drinking
and she lets Tim and me
go with you but
you drink all day
here at the lake.

I'll get my license next year
so things will be different.
I'll drive back at night so
you can nap in the car.
I’ll keep the radio off
so you won’t wake up.
It’s always good
to see Mom.


Taking the Plunge

There is a boy in the water broken by ripples, he dares me to dive in after him. As I draw back my arms so does he.
Will he come leaping out of the water to land by my side? Or will he take me by the hand as I break the surface,
welcoming me into the cool dark waters. Joined as one we
will swim like fish.
Could he be warning me.
"Don't jump, it's not safe, danger lurks, go back to your picture taking friend"
Yet he beckons me in, drawing me like a magnet.
I prepare to dive and chance my luck.
As the evening clouds gather on the horizon I am at the point of no return.
Will I return?
Will my life ever be the same after I take the plunge.
Only one way to find out.
Here I come.
Get ready to catch me!

The Lick of Salt on Your Skin

On the horizon, the beacon beats, already lit in the twilight; so easily overlooked by us travellers and tourists as we pass through. The wise ones who have gathered to bless the sinking of the sun, they see with clear eyes, and are strengthened by the sight. The line of beacons stretches far, away round the coast, joined by those who witness it. A net of light unfurls, when the dark melts the land, sea, and sky together.

Down by the shore, looking out to the hills across the voe, with the wild open sky above: this is a thin place. Time reaches and buckles, touches itself. It leaks through, sparks through, shines through. Everything that ever was, exists here. We have known, and forgotten, the remembrance is traced in our veins.

You have to be there to see it though. If you want to go through, you must make the leap in person. This is not visible in a photo or a video, will not be Vimeo-Vine-Tubed.

So to the shore, quietly you must go, with no expectation or urgency. Take a moment to be still and to look. See through your own eyes, set aside your camera, let your spirit be conscious a moment or two, and cast yourself out and away.

Be present, waiting in hope, to return and return. To feel the sea birds cry and wheel above, the tides turning, see the sea race run, taste the air you breathe.

To return to your home, sea air in your lungs, and the lick of salt on your skin. Knowing in your very blood, that you too, are truly alive and a part of the universe.



Today I wear the horizon
like a necklace.

Cruise ships float into my mouth
I swallow them and they fall

off the edge of the world, playing
show tunes, letting go

of swimming pools
and cocktails, of the pockets

of urine in the bladders

of the crew and the passengers,
all of which might rise

like the contents
of bottles of saline
and the lenses that float within

glass jugs of vinegar tip
their necks
at the table, but don’t pour.

Spit stills in the mouths
of people who are talking
about falling: in love; out of love;

into bottomless wells of debt.
Falling ill, falling deaf, falling silent,

Read more >


Every great adventure

Every great adventure starts like this,
with a lick of water, a kiss of the divine.
A rush, a flutter as the heart seeks bliss –
every great adventure starts like this.
Dive again so you can reminisce,
make perfect memories by design.
Every great adventure starts like this,
with a lick of water, a kiss of the divine.

Point and shoot

The boy teeters there, head thrust forward, toes over the edge. Arms stretching taut above his head, fingers fanned like feathers. I can see you fiddling with your camera a few feet away, but you’ve not noticed him.

If you had noticed him, the boy, I mean, you’d be busily working out the composition of the image you could capture; the curve of his body reflected in the pool beneath; the parasols standing guard; the glare of a distant light - perhaps another camera’s flash - from the cruise ship on the horizon.

But just at this moment, you’re focused on adjusting the settings, turning dials and changing filters, to take another photo of the sunset. To add to the 47 you’ve taken so far tonight, of this particular sunset; you took 63 last night. It is beautiful, of course. I’m sure you’ll enjoy looking at the pictures when we get back.

There are lots of your pictures at home. Professionally framed, on the walls and the mantelpiece. Of sunsets, and waterfalls, mountains and cliffs; of exotic birds in mid-flight, raindrops on cafe windows and churches lit for evensong. Panoramic vistas, architectural details, close-up portraits of locals doing charmingly ordinary things in a charmingly ordinary way. People remark on them when they come over; what stunning photos, they say. You’ve got a real talent there. You must be so proud. And you are proud; you tell them about the cameras you use, and the techniques you’ve learned over the years. You tell them about the Photoshop treatments and the difference between shooting digitally and shooting on film. You don’t really notice their eyes glazing over. Inconsequential detail.

Read more >



Sipping cold retsina on the beach
we watch the sun sink over the horizon
and smile as the young boy
plunges energetically into the warm sea.
The umbrellas are furled, ready for tomorrow,
and the sand is swept clean.
We sigh with contentment, relaxing into
the soft evening air.

Something causes us to glance to our right,
where we see a silent procession of people
making their way along the edge of the water.
There are adults and children,
babes in arms, and older folk.
They look out of place, but it takes a moment
to realise why.
These are no holidaymakers, enjoying the balmy air
and beautiful sunset.
They are a raggle-taggle bunch, looking exhausted,
some wearing life jackets, others clutching bundles.

Assylum seekers.
Fresh off a boat.
Landed on our holiday beach, our piece of paradise.

Read more >


Amid fathoms

Of this angled
with undulating wings, paused
in the causational dusk
holding with articulating hands        family
of stilled and onlooking
        readied to
leaps into the marbled flash of water’s
        metal, rising again, aged
        the circumstances of an
hour’s radial mobility
of contoured

A Moment Of Freedom

In that moment, when all the weight of the world is lifted. Just for that one moment, whether one be a child or a grown up. Just to forget everything for that one moment, forget all the troubles of the world. To be free and to simply live, to either just take a dip in the cool untamable sea or just to enjoy the sunset.
Take a picture and immortalize that single moment. That moment when you truly enjoy the joy of being alive or just to witness it… just witness how beautiful life could be. How the world will always be there, filled with beauty. With sanctuary, with paradise, with escape. So just paused for that one minute, that one second, that one moment, to relief that back that has been bearing the weight of life. Remember, looking out into that horizon. As the land slowly darkens and the setting suns orange tendrils recede as if pulled by the setting sun. Filled those lungs with the smell of the salty seas and listen. Listen not just to the songs and lullaby of nature. But also listen to the talk and laughter of others.
Do not envy, but strive for that same happiness. Even if for a moment, a minute, or even a second. For a second of relieve is still… Relieve for those tensed and weary back tired and strain from life.

If you listen closely, you can hear me whisper

Here, only a magnificence of everyday wonder,
while the lady with the leather handbag takes pictures of the sunset, I'm staring at her shoes the shape of a boat,
boats are boats even before they dance on water,
you sit at the table, I sit inside the boat,
then I stand on the same ground where your chair sits,
you look up,
I look down,
Hear me sing you a song.


As boyhood takes a plunge
its shallow depths,
a while the manhood's slime and grunge
awaits to soil the fresh skin coats
of deep deep dreams
of infinite
in finite.

But from beyond
beyond horizons, glimmers green flame calling
to an enlarged infinity. Signalling
the spirits that lived beyond
time's slime and grunge
are boyhoods taking the plunge
not in shallow but infinite depths.

If the doors of perception were cleansed,
everything would appear to man as it is:


The (Thinking) Train

An artsy piece of drama,
yet potent enough,
to turn the cards
against a solid soul.

That abstract vision
into a reality – concrete.
The once only imagined,
into an unshrinking truth.

The thoughts – so secure
free themselves,
into mindlessness,
too hard to grasp,
easy to slip.

And you, in a drunken stupor,
succumb to the insensibilities.
The anti,
the pro
solely merge.



Diving for a living, as the world turns away
Swallowed by the deep, find the breath in the fish,
The strident blue, swimming across the ocean of life
Matsya avatar, a symbol of evolution, predating Darwin
The legend handed down from one generation to the next
Sacred to some and recorded in the Vedas for the world to imbibe
That knowledge of the ancients, streaking wild in our technological age
The blue of the seas, covering most of planet earth, the depths a mystery
Uncovered in stages, opening pages of wisdom from a mere aquatic being.


You see me, poised-
swan's arms spread.

My back is bared,
knees, feet ready
to kick into the bay.

It is late but not too dark-
soon I'll be fluid again,
a liquid mineral in the sea.

Fish boy,
of human dynasty.

You, the scribe and three senobites
will witness my flight.

Perhaps, one day, I'll sail forever.


Maro Some Adda

One day we will be able to go back.

We will dive deeper than before, find our old flats that stood proud on the College Road, overseeing the booksellers, hawkers and street traders. At the bottom of our new, old world we will rediscover mountains of books, preserved in the briny water; facsimiles of the classics, Marxist tomes, boys adventures and business textbooks. When we beat the waters and get back to our city, we will find chaat stalls with aloo dam still cooking, kathi rolls ready to eat, piles of smashed clay tea cups waiting to be swept up.

When we have found a way to submerge ourselves, when we are old and weary, I will walk around Fort William. I will listen to the sounds from Eden Gardens, the buzz of a run chase, the throbbing drum of a thumping over. I will sit on my father’s bench in Park Circus and maro some adda until the sunsets and it is time to swim back to the house to receive my reunited cousins for dinner and a whisky. Inside the house we will look at wet pictures of Ma, Baba, mashis, pishis and jethas. We will remember them before the water rose and everything drowned.

When I go below the surface, I will ride the tram to the Hooghly and chase the river out of the city. I will damn it at Achipur and it will never threaten our home again. The waters will drain and the buildings will see the hard light of the sun once more. When the shadows cast on Kalighat, I will wait for my didi outside the Basusree and we will watch films together until I am so tired I snore in the seat and she hits me awake with pretend anger.

But until I can dive in, I will remain up here. I will continue to stare beneath the surface. I will wait for a signal, some sign from someone to tell me everything is as it once was and we can dive in together to the old city, our city. We will no longer have to remember it by the pictures on our camera.


Desire Like A Day Waiting To Break

I look down into the water. Were you ever eight? Stuffed full of words, of mourning and orders; all you can do is swim in darkness; desire like a day waiting to break. My dead sisters live at the bottom of the sea. In the past, the done. The teacher calls this the “preterit tense”. My mother says, "Stop swimming boy. There’s nothing there but liquid”. My toes grip the edge. Cling to the border. Everyday, a line bisects here from elsewhere. Light cracks the horizon. A necessary dawn; pink on the tip of my tongue. Heart pumps. Arms spread. Muscles tense, shoulder to finger. I wonder if I reach them, I can drag them to land. Swim my sisters back to the beat of life.

See The Woman In The Copper Lights

See her.

She is the woman carrying
the camera. She is alone
near the water. She is under
the milky sky blue, she is
cut out, black.

She watches the boy –
a bird hatched too soon
clucking at himself
rippling back.
His elbows are sharpened,
a bird ready to soar.

She is not a mother or a wife
yet – she may never be. She
is not someone who speaks
her mind – she speaks her brain.
She is not a surgeon
or an editor – she may never be.

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With Caution

I am often in the background,
reaching for his soul,
trying to prevent any harm,
yet his Dad has always told me
to let him, "Be free."
I watch him as he spreads
his arms out wide bends over,
and then dives into the deep,
losing himself for what seems like
millions of seconds
only to reappear again, unharmed.

He is all questions with no
settling and the very best
thing since prank phone calls
and double stuffed Oreos.
I sit back and view my eyes,
my ears, my nose, and all other
parts of his Dad staring back
at me, and I lose myself
in his form.
A swimmer. My son,
the little fish that could...

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Born Into Soon the Sky

Girl, bird me.

Flocked and flocking, no fear
(of flaccid, of fecund)

of the second – split second,
my second in this duel with
that bright device – of reflection.

My girl bird, emerging
between splayed fingers
linked to shoulder blades
lifting bulge and tender play

at the epicentre. Epic entering
the water wa-water, rippled
in difference from its self.

Sun sets in blurred lines, no
cloud nations, no bordered sky.

Bird, I’m girl.



Seated in shadow she glances at a
Squared porthole on the past composed.

Deck puddles evidence previous dippings
Whole-hearted plunge or tip-toe tap untold.

Weight now pinned by pelvis and heel
This commitment is not quite firmly framed.

Pose set, yet as yet not unbalanced,
A mill swung pivot hinting coy.

An unwarned navigator's stitch pierces the bay
Safety emerging from his forearmed eclipse.

Furled shades mark their watch. Above, behind,
Below. Their itch stands contained.


Moments You Regret Not Being There For

He hadn’t meant to call her but he couldn’t stop himself even though it was nearly midnight her time. Below the surface of her words, he was could detect false notes ringing like sonar in the deep.

- All by himself, without water wings? That’s great, really. It’s great you’re having such a good time together.

- Only took a few hours. He should have learnt years ago.

And, just to make sure it hurt.

- I’m sorry you couldn’t be here to see him.

He promised to send her a photo of the boy swimming but he didn’t. Lying on a sun lounger he kept half an eye on the boy paddling and watched a shoal of fish in the middle of the lake leaping like they were eager to feel the warmth on their backs.

For the next three days the boy practiced his new skill. He would hitch up his board shorts like a workman tackling a tough job, sit on the edge of the jetty, legs dangling, and then lower himself slowly into the water. For up to an hour at a time he did a careful breast stroke in circles round the wooden struts, under the boards, swim twenty metres to the shingle shoreline and then back out to the jetty again. When he got tired he would stretch up and grip the bleached planks with the tips of his fingers and bow his head, water droplets running from his shoulders, his chest rising and falling while he got his breath back.

The man checked his text messages. Hi, don’t forget to send a picture/Get Sam to phone me at bedtime but only if he wants to/ Would love to see a photo of Sam swimming.

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A woman, a mother
looks from a sunset
to see her son
poised between
land and sea,
child and man.

Do I dare
dive in and cleanse
the dirt of childhood
from my skin:
sun lotion so lovingly applied,
dust from games played in the streets,
half-melted ice cream on my hands?

Do I dare
dive in, dissolve
maternal love to find
flawless pearls
of purity
for me beneath
the flawless tropic sea?

All she does is watch
and suffer a change
into something strange
and emptier than before.


a little break

January tells us to dream
of dark beaches and cool water romance.
The kind of love that only happens in the movies, but somehow you believe
that summer will be more bearable than this, and your heart will open like a bird
lifting from the jetty.
You imagine the cool breeze and the warm sand and the sweet mojito buzz
but you forget how your sundress
got stuck to your back last year.
Tell-tale lines of sweat under your boobs and straight between your buttocks.
Did you also forget how quickly you burn? And how Jose, the bronzed barman with such elegant fingers, slapped your sharply red shoulders to a flame. It was funny, wasn't it?
Or that day you wasted after eating too much crab and drinking too much vodka.
You still have the photos of the saucepan you were sick into. Social media doesn't care if you're unable to consent.
And not just pictures. You remember.
That sunset, that walk by the water watching the local children dive down deep into the dark.
The beach was dark. And you did say yes but that was way back when you had just finished your third beer. He thought it was sexy that you drank straight from the bottle, like a man.
So he took you like a man.
And you liked it. Didn't you?
January tells us to dream of dark beaches and cool water romance. It says this time it will be different.
So you sleep. And you dream. And try to forget that last last summer forced itself on you and you still haven't managed to wash all that sand out.



(for Steve Kleptar and Mike Dockins)

How long before a dream gets old?
An infant’s scent, the latest trend?
When is the year no longer new?
Oh, months and months before its end.
- Robert Wexelblatt, "Newness"

Youth with limbs akimbo, reincarnation
of Li Bo. A trio of sun-brellas stand
as guardians, offer no interference

as he re-begins. This time, we see him
at his dawn, too young yet to be drunk;
today he's diving into the reflection

of the sun. The lake's embrace entices
and awaits him. Li Po dreams his dream
anew; he knows that some dreams do come

true if you don't rub them out of your
eyes. This life, he's starting early.


The Boy in the Water

The early morning reddish orange sky reflected off the calm of the ocean. The dock was empty except for a few umbrellas’ and Paul’s father ready to snap a picture of his son. Paul positioned himself, arms back and knees bent. Paul’s reflection stared at him with poise. He took a deep breath and jumped. The splash disrupted the serenity of the water.

“Great job Paul! I got a nice shot of you in mid-air. Paul? Paul!” He didn’t resurface. In haste, Peter dropped the camera and jumped into the water fully clothed. He took a deep breath and went under. Paul was beneath the water conscious, but his foot caught in-between a reef. Peter, with all his might, grabbed Paul’s arms and pulled. Paul’s foot released and with one arm around his son’s waste he swam him back to the dock.

After they both regained their breath Peter put his hand on his son’s arm. “Paul, you scared me to death! I thought I lost you.”

“I was scared too, but I knew you would rescue me. That’s what father’s do for sons. They protect them and are there, just like I’ll be there for you.”

Peter patted his son’s back and smiled. “Let’s go home.”

The walk to the car was silent.


The Guardians

From what galaxy have they come,
these guardians of the dusk, gathered
on the corners of the dock?

Twilight mutes the water, and they
stand on two corners, their dark elongated
bodies bearing robes to their feet, if they
have feet, their heads piercing the waning light.

And the boy between them, arms spread
like wings as he arcs before his dive, the
curve of his spine and bent knees ready to
propel him into rosy ripples, does not see
them, only craves the joy of a brief flight before
his plunge, like Icarus, into the patient sea.



A plunge,
poised at the edge of the world,
blurred reflections
on the river of life,
sepia-tinted memories
captured in travelling cameras,
a masquerade of emotions, experiences,
taking shape in the clouds -

I wait for the water to hit me,
wash away the dust of the day,
and soak me in the pleasure
of life.


Water Wings

When the arm cuff inflated he thought of water wings and his first swim at the local pool. The first strokes without, the first jump off the diving board, the first time he ran into the sea - all those stepping stones, leaps, bounds, and now this pitiless tapering out. The heart had lost its knack.

The day after, he sat in the garden and got drenched. He had woken to the heavy beat of rain, a sound both ominous and reassuring, and checked his limbs for relative coherence. Not quite 5 am when he shlepped outside. Still dark; sky, ground, foliage in grey hues, colours lying in wait. A few windows in the neighbourhood lit up, dull yellow cut-outs. He pulled the chair away from the wall he normally leant against and sat, eyes closed, shivering in the morning chill. Salvos of fat drops on hands, face, shoulders, the rest of him, drumming sensations directly on skin, through dressing gown. Different degrees of cold. Feet warm in socks and slippers. The metal staircase rising behind him - drops swelling and falling at longer, irregular intervals; from further off the hum of car engines and the occasional aeroplane.

For as long as he could he stayed in place, which was suddenly new. By first light, the elements moved out of reach again. Something to remember though.


Red Sky in the Morning

Determined, he stands at the edge of the pool, his early morning shadow reflected in indigo water.
Arms splayed behind him, shoulder blades touching, he pauses, a flightless bird. Silhouetted against the blush horizon, parasols guard his efforts from prying eyes.
In his mind he soars, in reality he flops and emerges from the rippled water wounded, his wings clipped and torso stinging.
Not a worm in sight.



When you first arrived I was worried you would break, you appeared so small and fragile. You demanded my attention day and night, controlled my every thought, pulled me into your orbit like a planet to the sun. We existed in our own small world where we bonded, breast to mouth. As you grew I fought off mythical beasts, protected you from yourself, fed and clothed you, while you provided me with untold joy.

But time has played a trick on me. You have grown much quicker than I thought possible. Your fledgling wings are already flapping against the invisible boundaries. I have seen the questions flit across your face, watched your gaze wander outside the confines of our small world; watched you look with curiosity towards the horizon, down into the depths, up to the stars. You ask me questions I can no longer answer.

Soon those fledgling wings will have grown big enough and strong enough to carry you away from me, enabling you to discover those answers for yourself. I have been preparing for that moment all of your life; understanding that you are merely borrowed. My love is unconditional and therefore, when the time comes, I will let you go. It is also why I have captured your image so many times over the years, a reminder of our time together.


The Key is Hope

Dusk is rapidly descending. Soon nightfall will be upon us like a damp cloak swallowing everything. I do not look at the faceless – the hooded figures who stand and watch us with eyes like smouldering embers, or so I’m told. It is their duty to watch us perform the same trial; passive spectators who attempt to conceal their glee at those who fail. Many have failed before me. I do not wish to be another nameless statistic.

There is an ancient key they say, deep in the ocean, a key that is disguised somehow and is only fully revealed once the subject’s consciousness has become separated from their body. I have watched my friends succumb to the murky fathoms, the lasting image of Mikhail’s bloated body being dragged unceremoniously away in a net composed of nightmares.

‘Come now. There are others waiting.’

I toe-grip the splintered wood, the gap between land and sea no bigger than two hand spans.

‘Focus young one. Clear your head of everything you think you know. You are an empty vessel, information flows through you the same way water turns into wine.’

I hear the smile behind the words and shudder inwardly.

And then I jump, breaking the distance between success and failure, allowing the arctic water to chill every vein in my aching body. Suddenly, Mikhail’s bloated body surfaces at the forefront of my mind and my heart beats furiously away like the loudest snare drum known to man.

With a surge of strength I do not feel, I pull my way through the water, willing my limbs to fight away the numbness which seeps in. I glide through the water, the wind tugging at my hair with invisible hands until

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The Silent Dancer Redux

“You want to take my picture? Put me in a frame, remember me forever!”

As she did every time she looked at the photograph, framed just as she had promised him those few short years ago, she recalled in vivid detail the boy as he had responded to her offer to take his picture.

He had been glorious, standing with his hands on his hips and giving his best dazzling smile. His shorts were grimy, his feet bare. His too-old awareness of the world and the need to survive in it had been on display most of the afternoon as he cajoled and wheedled the tourists into allowing him to carry, fetch or show, but now that layer of burden had fallen away and he was a boy-elf with no responsibilities or cares.

The photographer held out her hand, offering him the colourful pile of ragged little notes. To her, inconsequential, like colourful fragments of the wrapping paper from a pass the parcel game; to him, the prize itself.

She laughed as he started to dance along the boards, moving his scrawny arms and legs to an internal tempo so pulsating that she could feel it in her own body. She moved along with the beat, her body unconsciously mirroring his sways and leaps. He posed every few seconds, offering a tableaux as he held a beat within his heart-song, elongated a move with a natural flair for where the highlight should be.

A sudden jarring note insinuated itself into the previously joyous composition, as she felt a surge of unease in this exercise of her power over him. The command of the money; the muscle of her whiteness.

But he was still dancing; like a bird, now a fish, and then a whirling top. His eyes fixed on her, grinning, he danced with total commitment along the boards and she allowed herself to fall into the counterpoint they made together, she providing the more sombre melody.

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Avenging the Peacock of Angels

Nimble toes crept past Peter on guard at the gate. Our bodies stiff, ethereal, and feather light. Of course, he saw us or felt our presence passing. Two long shadows, guardians of this perpetual seventh night of rest. Even we need some distraction and no doubt he, Peter, would give up his sentinel stance to join us if the entrance were a little less busy.

Inveigled at heart, we’re mischievous reprobates one and all. All flawed as fragments of the One spirit. Painted as perfect, snow white and guilt free, such human myths persist to become truths in a skewed perception of knowledge. Beings tainted by that first defiant act, by that serpentine evil. What knowledge was really revealed if not slavery and we are slaves too. Enslaven to an eternity dedicated to salvation. Above all we are the true watchers. We have the critical job of saving sinning souls through persuasion and through our own heroic attempts at a divine temptation. We thrive upon good thoughts, good words, good deeds, by drawing the undecided toward the perfect light. As autonomous creatures we too choose. We too break the boundaries between right and wrong to be judged in time. From that first sin, free will and rebellion became a match made in Heaven. We protect from the influence of the malevolent, who masquerades as Iblis the light bearer, the Peacock of Angels.

This time our mission was evident. We snuck down to steal moments in moonlight at the beauty of the breaking dawn. Skinny dipping casts such a romantic notion. We are the influence. We indulge in witnessing, supporting, coaxing the undecided toward an ethical goodness. We revere beauty and partake in healing transitions toward love, forgiveness, and peace.

That day, our disobedience was for the greater good. We came swiftly to catch angra mainyu, the seeds of corruption sown by the “son of the

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Fading light on the jetty

The boy looks into the ocean ready to dive,
only his fractured shadow looks back at him
from the rippled water, an incomplete image
of his fleshy counterpart.

The other human in the scene photographs
the end of days, something to hold onto.
On the other side of the water a spotlight
keeps our eyes focused on the future.

Only the ghosting parasols, small headed priests
are at ease in the twilight, they constantly gaze
into the futures we strive to find.



Dry days and a notion
Of the altruist returns
Sloop like, tacking on a drift breeze
Coming in infinitely
Eyes of imploding mass
High cheeks
Burn with acid tears
Saltocean tang and I
Are thirsty
With mouthfuls of sand and soil and salt
Handfuls of nothing
Headful of wonder



I’ll dive in.

“What’s in there?”

“The perpetual sleep
of a hundred fallen saints,
my dear boy,
my dear, foolish boy.”

All the same…

“We ascend towards the sun,
not back into the muck, mire,
murky space
where earth and water meet
and intermingle,
mother and father
to a bastard child…”

“You mean me?”

“Man is the bastard
to be overcome.”

“And what of woman?”

“Ex nihilo, my boy.”

The tohu wa-bohu writhes
under the agony
of having been forgotten,
swelling up as though ready
to meet the boy halfway – to

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Still Shot at Sunset

The camera catches you
a dark silhouette on the dock
arms raised and back
imitating wings
body curved forward
eager for release
on the edge
of infinite potential
taking a deep breath
before you dive
into the reflection
of the last light’s
and everything changes


The Big Slide

I was eight the summer that he climbed the steps of the big slide, stretched his arms over his head, and slid head first into the murky water of the bay. I recall the whispered shock of the women who sat in a circle on the small beach, their knitting in hand, beach towels strewn over plastic woven chairs, squinting children, wet hair slicked back on their heads.

"He went off of the high dive head first. Hit his head on the rocks. Ambulance...not sure...died."

Was this my first time hearing of death? The high dive was the secret danger of all the kids—the first pier, the high dive, so far from our small beach where we spread dragnets to catch jellyfish, minnows, baby shrimp. Sometimes, we were allowed to walk along the boardwalk to the first pier to watch the older kids go down the water slides. The first pier was the place of teenagers, hanging around the pavilion, cigarettes hanging from the sides of the boys' mouths, held delicately between the second and third fingers of the girls. Two piece bathing suits, Chubby Checker singing Twisting Time, the soda fountain at the snack bar, and the high dive.

There were rules. Never to go down the big slide head first.

Ocean Gate summers were the sweetest and loneliest times. Finally, out of school, I was free. My mother sat on the beach all day with the other women, glowing golden, bandana holding back her summer blonding hair, a look of seduction in the black and white photos I still have of those summers. Husbands showed up on Friday nights and stayed until Monday mornings. Shirtless, stomachs growing over the waist bands of their bathing shorts, they drove the motor boats, flirted with each others' wives, hooked minnows onto the ends of fishing lines, and made love to their wives while the children sat on the dock, legs hanging over the side, waiting for crabs to bite onto the bunker tied to the ends of the string

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Suspended over my reflection

I have found myself in that position a few times in my life.

Do I jump? Do I push myself to discover what is beyond my reflection?

A bit like Alice through the looking glass; a journey of gathering force , growing up and feeling fuller.

Painful though leaving the safety of the pier.

I have done it enough to have strong memories both of the exhilaration of the discovery and the sadness of the loss.

Emotional milestones those times that I sat suspended , almost like the growing happens before the jump:

-The paddling in adult life in the lake of my university town, having left home with a conviction of my decision.
-Vesting myself the robes of the professional, when I jumped off from the pier of the thinkers into the sea of the doers.
-Taking a big jump of living, dreaming and living in a borrowed language, discovering a new reflection of myself there and wondering gradually why and how I missed my old one.
-Then the dive into parenthood and redefining myself through these little co-constructed reflections that grow different and separate.

And now, the fluidity of my reflection is once more enticing, almost like a gravitational force.

"Is this all? Do you need to do the journey once more? All you full enough?"

It could be that some of us grow by sitting still on the pier and others need the jump. I don't have an answer for others.



remember us, soggy feet slapping
cement, chanting "the ants go marching
two by two," parading the pool’s
perimeter, "hurrah! hurrah!," toes crimped
over the edge, slush puppie tummies,
thin arms hugging our own
shivering, dripping bodies
with frogged fingertips.

what was the point other than
to be poised above the liquid
gloss and feel the fraction of
unbecoming, a phase transition
between solid and liquid. we never
talk about this, how every wet foot
print obliterated the ones
we slapped down before.

how did we not see the beautiful
ageing bodies reclining by
the pool, oiled, playing bridge in
their flowered bathing suits. how
irrelevant they seemed. how did we
not see our own ageing, invisibly,
how we ran past our own
futures and leapt.


Letter to my Son

i am leaving you
to your father
he is a good man
(he’ll take care of you)

he’ll teach you
to shine the blade
to swing the axe
to split the wood

he’ll teach you
to be a man
i hope you learn well my son

he’ll teach you
to pick the shovel
to plough the field
to plant the seeds

he’ll teach you
to be a man
i hope you learn well my son

he’ll teach you
to be ambitious
to shun the dark
to conquer your fears

he’ll teach you
to be a man
i hope you learn well my son

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We Reigned Over Summer

As a kid, I understood water.
Dive in head-first, water seems hollow.
Feet-first, it’s a brick wall. Sometimes

I’d pretend to be a boat, capsized.
Or an iceberg. Frozen. Stiff. Floating
like a Pooh stick. Then I’d wade out
of the shallows, imagine every stone

left dry and parched, fish flapping —
all that water held in my nose and
ears, and plaid swimming shorts.

On hot days, my ears could drink-up
a whole ocean view. Just a scattered
wind, and a whip of cloud remained.

And come late September, I’d still be
diving off the dock while the adults
drank gin and tonics on the veranda,
watching us kids with half an eye.


helen’s bay

"Awful still, the water."

"So it is. The spring'll be here a bit longer so."

"I wouldn't be in it, I'll tell you that.''

''Sure they're all away down, they're mad - the child's no glasses on!''

It's alright; the silhouettes lose their horror when you can't see their shape.

"Ah sure he's is used to it."

Dives right in.



On the deck above the morning pond
knees bent, feet and legs firm on wood
arms stretched overhead,
Then the bounce and the thrust
and the diver flies through air
downward to water.
Spatter and ripples
bubbles and foam
aqua circles rotating circling
Then silence

In the sky white con trails
emerge as cirrus clouds
from the tail of a plane.
They swim against the cloud filled sky
back stroke
side strokes
breast strokes
tumble higher and higher

The diver who flew through air
into water
shields her eyes with damp hands
from the glare of the pond in the sky
She waits for the con trails to disappear
like the ripples do in the pond
every time her body hits the water.


See Me Jump

The sea undulates. I stand on the edge of the pier. My heart thumps inside my chest.Beads of sweat perspire on my face. I am frightened.

Meiki erupts into bouts of guffaws. He sits on a wooden bench, cackling, clutching his stomach with splayed hands.

A pang of anger engulfs me and hot tears brim my eyes.

How dare he?!

I glance up at the sky; seagulls soar, their wings fluttering in the wind and a myriad of stars twinkle.

Suddenly, my hearts returns to a normal cadence and my anger miraculously evaporates into some semblance of peace.

My grim face morphs; it is bereft of all the gloomy expressions that I just had exhibited.


I take a deep breath and plunge into the sea. Consumed into water, my strokes are filled with gusto.

I have battled my fear.


Past the Bedtime of the Earth

I am never sure whether to photograph him or not. I wonder which is the more powerful image, the one in my mind or the one he makes in the dusk, his body blocking out light, the form travelling through lens to eye.

These are our last days together, I tell myself, and it is true: these are always the last days, always our little fragment of existence darkening to itself.

At three he would lift his salty bed-head from the pillow and ask: will you love me when you are dead?

I will love you when I am nothing, and when you are nothing, I did not say to him. I gave him smiles and said of course, following the braille outline of how to be a mother, a role in an advert for something clean.

Now he bows his arms back to jump into the smallest and largest thing he can imagine. At night he will ask more questions: what is darker than black? Then: what is lighter than the sun?

I wish I could answer, wish that I could stand ahead of him, a great shadow to follow. Instead, watch: he leaps past me. How quickly we are overtaken.

Sometimes I ask the Internet his questions but all it gives me are song lyrics. Small videos where blonde women sing about men they have clearly never loved.

Meanwhile he keeps his baby scent, for now, and when I part his hair it is still there: cradle cap, a meagre covering, an attempt at something more.

It is unnatural, ladies tell me at the supermarket. He should stand at my grave, grey and disappointed. He should throw a flower onto me, and then return to his pirate ship or call centre or place in the sun.

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Take Off

The sun was setting, hanging on by a thread in the orange and purple sky. He stood at the edge of the dock all day watching the others. His reflection in the water was mocking him, too. His silhouette danced between the tiny waves blowing in the breeze. The more he waited, the more he psyched himself out, found reasons not to jump, why it was stupid to jump. It would be the end of the world if he jumped. He needs to learn to let the past go.

But what was beneath the surface? Would he see schools of colorful fish darting between the coral? No, because it's late. All the other children have gone home. All the fish are hunkered down in their rocky homes, waiting for the sun to rise again, hoping he won't jump, taking bets. He thinks about the lack of sun. How would he get back to the surface? He never could float.

I silently watched him from behind. I was there before. "Shit or get off the pot," my father would tell me. And I'd cave. Every time. I sat silently, camera in hand, the battery going down with the sun. I wanted him to jump. I thought he would. He was not the type to let things go unfinished. Just wait him out. Don't look. Give him a chance.

He bent down and raised his arms up like the seagulls still scavenging the dock for leftover sandwiches left behind by screaming children and sleepy parents. It looked like this would be it. If he didn't do it now, he never would.

As a parent, you want to go up to him and explain how this would be the moment that defines who he is as a person, and give him a little push, words of encouragement, you want to let him know the battery is about to die on the camera, and that traffic will be the worst. But that familiar look of determination was in his eyes, he bent down as if he was going to jump to the moon. A smile grew on his face, his tongue sticking out. He refused to hit his head again.



You go on, you sit,
you watch, I'll do the planting,
I'll do the walking, all
the movement will be my
own. You relax there, snap
a photo of me in motion. I
will always be blurry to you.
I'll do the diving in, bear
the swimmer's weight.
I'm sorry I brought you here,
wish it could be undone.
If I had known the ugly I
was prey to, I would have
shouted warnings. If I
had known the teeth
under the surface, I would
have said, Just stay there.
Just be still while the big
fish are passing. So much
I would have unsaid, but
unsaying is not an art
which gives me much practice.

Who Taught You To Sleep

You dive into sleep, a bent-winged raptor,
fall to your dreams like a peregrine.
Who taught you that? Who taught you
where the depths are, underworld rivers
delicious with rest and transmutation?
I wade in shallows. Slog
for hours toward the falling tide, moss
and algae, busted shells and jelly.
I fall now and then, couldn't drown
if I tried. When you die
it will be like that--you'll fly.
I'll fight the sheets for oblivion.


There, I freeze,
In space...
Between 'me' and 'the other',
The force that pulls me back,
Is the same that throws me ahead.

In the confusion,
The eyes gaze at the moving shadow,
Across the solidified void.

There, I see,
Where I end, and where I begin,
Beyond the fainted reflection...

Dissolved between salty foams,
And biodegradable plastic bags,
My corpse floats,
Staring at me...
Nude, clean, light,
Purified by the muddy waters.

I love what I see,
But I despise what I became.

This never end fraction of time,
Exposes all my hidden names,
And places...

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Obituary: His Excellency, Jabba the Hutt

The last thing Jabba remembers is the smooth young boy he saw on a watery planet. That image seared onto his mental camera. The grace of the boy, arms spread like a bird’s wings.
       Nothing like suffocation. Nothing like the rasp of the metal chain on his neck. The heat and the swirling around of sand in his large, always-sore eyes.
       Just a dip of the head. A pause. The water ready for him.


Icarus! Icarus!

Ich! Ich!

Flaccid beach umbrellas,
like onlooking priests,
wait to watch you plummet
into the ocean.

I give you wings, child.
I hold you up on outstretched hand.
Fly, far.
Far from these onlookers
who watch you,
who lay claim to the sky.

Icarus! Icarus!

Ich! Ich!

I am here. I have captured your visage.
My cloud-borne child.
You gull, you cygnet.
A-flutter, a-twitter.
In an instant, gone, but always,
forever in the cloud.


What a lark! Where’s the plunge?

‘Dyusha, where is Mama?’

‘Over there, with her camera.’

‘Tell her to look this way, with her camera. I’m going to do it this time. It’s like flying.’

‘вздор. Not THAT again!’

‘It IS like flying…’ he muttered as Andrey turned around to leave.

‘I’m going back inside.’

And Andrey did go back inside, leaving Ivan on his own to face the cold oily water and their mother’s indifference.

But Ivan had dreamt it many times, that you could fly just like the way you swim. Breaststroke. Whipping the water with your legs, making half-moons with your arms, making your way out of the old water to dive into new salty wetness.

Ivan knew, that if men were to fly, they would fly the breaststroke. And they would whip the rosy clouds, and draw wide open clams in the night sky.

‘Mama, Now!’

And as Van’ka was about to take off, he heard the fatal shutter click.

For a moment, he thought his mother had seen another boy take off before vanishing into the dying of the light. But she was looking the other way, into the horizon on the LCD screen of her new Nikon.




They are like cardinals, those closed
umbrellas of the lido, conducting
a silent evensong.

Smudged by sunset’s inks,
their prayers rise, floating upwards
on pink post-it notes.

Intent on the eternity before them,
they do not see the small boy
poised to dive.

Head bowed, knees bent,
his arms are raised out behind him
in reverse supplication.

The boy’s prayer from out of the depths:
a pearl for the Badajao:
people of the sea.

All are silhouetted against
the same dusk, but inhabit
different worlds.


Be Still Time

I’ve often heard the claim: Time is a healer
but I want it to slow, to stop.
I can’t be mended, patched up.
I am irreparable, like a shattered vase.
A crushed spirit.
I just need him to come home.

Time is not a healer.
It is a destroyer - wrenching me away
from his voice in the hall and his unassuming presence.
From him.

I don’t want time to dull my grief, to cloud my memories, to turn me towards brightness.
I want to remember – as if it was yesterday, as if he is here today,
just left to watch the sea – will soon return.

Be still, time.



My hands shake slightly as I focus the camera. Pull yourself together, Abe I tell myself. Nothing stays the same for ever. Young Abe turns for a moment, steadies himself for his dive, totally engrossed.The camera snaps. Maybe this will be the finest one I've taken? We share the camera, but his pictures have finer detail, with more light and shade.
The old, furled umbrellas stand starkly guarding the water, as I reflect over the times Abe and I have enjoyed our time
together. He always carries his tin box for our snack, also the camera. The towel keeps my shoulders warm. His grandmother, Ella, has been in hospital for days and today her tired body has finished it's earthly life.

        I remember her words from years ago, to young Abe,
        'Your mom has been very sick and she has gone to Heaven. She is in a better place.That's why you have come to live with us, we are very privileged to welcome a fine young grandson'.
Young Abe's face had become very serious, as he absorbed this. Finally, he had turned to Ella and hugged her.
        'Well. I guess, if my Mom is in a better place, that goes for me, too, Grandma'.
Dear God, give me the right words to tell the boy, I prayed, silently. He must enjoy his diving time first. I will gently break the news to him on our walk back to the cosy homestead. The words will come; and the tears. We'll sit on the porch and dip biscuits in our cocoa and listen to our
Marley records until we are both so tired that he'll slide into bed. I will sleep on the old couch on the porch covered with Ella's favourite blanket...



Just the way you made your way out of your mother’s womb, head first, arms next, legs last.
If the water was the sky and the air was the sea, which way is upside-down?
While she fades away into the dark ashy blue of light inversion.

The world is too dense and too suffocating, I know.
A slight brush might murkily cloud the seas.
So this is an escape, a flight—
A single eye watches me float.


Tessa, That Time On Lake Toba

The boy didn’t need a raincoat.

(Nope it wasn’t raining.) He swanned in,

diving in the magenta heat,

light as scales, throbbed ballet-like,

and you know what he got?

The coins we tossed into the clear,

and it was such a theater,

to fetch them back.

When I went on a vacation,

it was rest alternated with seeing.

Sitting under the shade of some tree–

bodhi, chestnut, tree-with-no-name.

That time I sat on a wooden deck chair

under the open sky, camera in hand,

watching the repertory of dives.

Touching. Heart babbling.


Small Boy on the Dock

As if falling, his knees
bent in prayer, arms flung
back, palms up, ready
to wing into sunset-silked
water. Father’s “little angel,”
fearless of unknowns. Sharks
wouldn’t discourage him.
Secret guardians by table
and edge of dock, sentinels
to umbrella him—angels
in the shadows of the folds,
watch, ready to swoop him
to safe haven.

After a photograph by Ville Miettinen: ‘One more dive tonight’
—A kid jumping into an infinity pool as the sun sets
on Dhigufinolu Island on South Male' Atoll


an invitation to a drowning

limbs slice cold water
cerulean sea foam green
boy on winter day
swimming to/from clarity
reasons need not a logic

what will be will be
earth's rotations stop for none
arabesque sunset

inhale bravery
a dive to exhaust the now
water reflecting
vertigo - exhale - his body
drapes itself into the rush



he said,
angel arms!
Time stared back at him,
wings folded.

the sun,
a sliced blood orange,
slid into the sea,
saved from time,

Soon, he will take flight.
Lenses dilated,
he will slip into the water
a small boy,
Time’s fugitive,
lost in paradise.


The Boy with Water Wings

We met when the light was low and a breeze lifted the sea's surface.

Don't listen, they said. He'll draw you into the depths. Keep your sights on the light.

I did at first, unblinking.

But he returned to the pier every evening with his quick smile, his silhouette an easy shadow for the sun.

'Come in, come in.' He beckoned. 'The water is warm and clear.'

I followed him to where dappled light barely kissed the sand bed.

We danced in the coral with the Red-toothed trigger fish nipping. Smooth Hammerheads looked on.

When he broke the surface tension, I watched him soar into the clouds. And I stared after the light, unblinking. Breath still held.


Hidden Treasure

Trawling through the photographs,
He remembered the holiday vividly,
Captured forever by the camera of his mind,
A rare day filled with sunshine and excitement,
He’d just learnt to dive at school and decided he wanted to become a champion swimmer,
But the tide of life had swept him away in a different direction.
Holding his breath for as long as he could,
He had scanned the seabed for a pirate horde, golden doubloons or priceless gems from an ancient wreck,
Instead he’d spotted broken bottles,
Scurrying tiny silver fish that dashed and darted around him playfully,
Seaweed that waved at him,
As he propelled himself through the cool, refreshing water on that hot summer’s day.
He was dragged from his new watery home by pangs of hunger.
He had found a few tarnished coins lost by holiday makers, which to his delight was enough to buy an ice cream, But even better he had discovered a love of adventure, a priceless treasure that he had never lost.

The Present Moment

It's not the first leap, or the last
but it's the sweetest; sun still warm
enough to dry the skin,
light dancing off the water
illuminating the sea not as deep
or terrifying but the moving waves as
limit-less and all-knowing,
the push-off just right, the hanging
air a second's lifetime, before the splash
so joyous
it fills the brim with
desire, energy and
full stops, repeating the leap
until it is perfect again:

a mother’s suicide

slip into the water, it's cool.
help me understand why i never could.

i made you, out of heartbreak and ecstasy,
intertwined in temporal bliss

there is one time i thought of taking my own life
but found your eyes gazing at me intently

what really makes you understand, why I'm sad
i told you, dive in the water

the water is cool, it extends to the horizon
that is rising to my forehead very fast

if the sun sets, i will be there for you
even if i am gone

never forget the way i held you
when you sleeping with wet eyes

your cheek against mine
death so temptingly close

i find peace
i will always be there
even when my horizon
flattens me

the sun will always dry your tears.


Water into Wine

I only dove in
because you promised
to catch me.

Now I’m swimming
with shadows, reflections,
and mirages in the dark.

Your sky was once scarlet,
but your water was frigid.

Your lies ran deep to the core,
but your love was a shallow gesture.

I only laughed
because it helped
to tame the madness.

Now I’m dancing
with chaos, despair,
and delusions to the nth.

Your glass was once full,
but my lust was insatiable.

Your stain ran red from a sieve,
but my heart was the vein left empty.


The truth as understood by a child

The mind soars and is convinced it is in the body of a bird. It zips and dives, swerves and glides, and hardly notices its reflection in the sea doing all that it is doing. The reflection smiles and reaches out as the mind comes zooming in. The mind then becomes a part of the reflection and thinks, 'I am a fish under the ripples and the waves. I am the truth.'

This is when a voice travels from a table a few feet behind, 'Come her at once. daddy is waiting with the camera for a selfie with the setting sun.'

The child stands there and allows his hands to wave a no and remains poised to take a leap from the present.


Heart of phoenix, the fire bird

Give me wings to fly,
mediocrity might choke me and I shall die,
give me the key to explore the vast sky,
heal the invisible wounds, inaudible yearnings and cry,
let me swim in the oceans of desire before they dry,
burning to ashes being born again to glorify,
singing the immortal desires of hope and a freedom lullaby
piercing intent to win that burns in the eye,
let the heart open to new avenues and give it a try,
incarcerated bird cuts off the chains of social norms and bids goodbye,
with a heart of phoenix, I am ready to fly.


answers - that is what the Gods had promised
with their etched out Escher wood cut digits
darting insects in the puppet clouds overhead
and fanned out clarinets of black and gold

these Godzillas of superstition, they travelled
from one home to the next
over brittle lawns and hoses and beetles and the odd four leaf clover gathering in conversation

over tiny imprints of podgy toddler toes archived in the salty earth, pressed and certain and visible beneath the neighbour's dog and his bottom all wormy and wriggling

they moved
inside people's breath
through gentle mishaps and beds twisted with after party sex
twenty years ahead the shadow of what could have been dangling in the corner
around kitchens where families chatted 'toast for you, butter, jam and a touch of cyanide'
tanned teenage limbs wrapping around shoulders, heads collecting in baskets of generations, drifting slowly away one blue wren winking at the morning light, cage less, trapped in its freedom

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I watch him. Paused. Perfectly. Fingertips elevated to the right angle, exactly as I’d positioned them at the start of our holiday. He hasn’t plucked up the courage to plunge in yet. I’d told him that I might be able to make his first dive with him by the end of the week if everything healed up ok with my face.
       I see him more clearly in shadow as the sun drops down, my man-boy. My boy-man. His thin body wavers on the warm planks at the edge of the pool as he looks into the thrill of dark water.
A waiter swipes away my empty glass, replacing it with another mojito. Side by side for a second, the two drinks are a ‘before and after’ of the same thing; fresh mint collapsing into wilted leaves swimming in melting ice made from mineral water. Without looking up I suck down half of the sugary cocktail in one and tell the waiter to bring another.
       Maybe it’d be better if he didn’t do his first dive here. I can take him to CentreParcs or somewhere at half-term. The credit card can cover the cost. Then we can really spend some quality time together and forget all about his father and his stupid child custody challenge.
       I want my boy to look over, to look up from that edge of endless balance. I want to wave at him, for him to wave back and smile at me. I almost call his name. I know he wishes I’d take my sunglasses off when it’s dark or when we’re inside but the black stitches and green and purple bruising would be a worse embarrassment. Things haven’t been easy since the divorce. When I booked the eye tuck, the cosmetic nurse said it would be the perfect surgery to fit into a week’s break. I’d even thought I might have time to meet someone out here but it’s all couples anyway, mostly Russian and although they could be rich, they’re certainly fat.
This was meant to be fun.
I watch him at the water’s edge. Jump. Don’t jump.
He jumps.

The Scimitar

Am I as potent,
as perfect,
as the knight who holds me
in an ungenerous grip?

Or am I mere speck
worthy of disdain
worthy nonetheless,
in never ending battles?

Or am I slick beauty,
days and nights,
skies and oceans,
curls and pearls,
for my palace royals?

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Afloat is the soul that finds peace where the heavy heart is free of its burdens,
like the palms that dance with the breeze, and the white sand that shimmers in the sun.

The sing-song voice of the soul now hums its own mantra, and the mind is laced not with light or darkness.

The Eyelids are shut yet all seeing.
White-washed are the walls of my consciousness.

Memories waving goodbyes tread with grace out of the seamless door at the very end of those walls. Grudges, spirit-like spiral up, their dark wisps disappearing.

The palms continue their dance in the wind, the colors of the world dimming in the trail of its twilight.

The humming voice is now silenced, asleep. The trees cease before they fade.

The world once color then white is now colorless. A breath in, a breath out.The bell-like chime of time stops. It is time to let go.


On the Other Side

Underwater, Mummy, there is gold,
And pirate hats,
And the old wreckage of a sunken ship.
Maybe the Titanic.

Underwater, Mummy, there is the skeleton of Jaws,
With all the skeletons of people that he ate inside him
Of course.

Underwater, Mummy, are the ghosts of the dead,
And the most beautiful women,
But with tails instead of legs.

I am going to jump, Mummy.
But I will come back to you.


Wanting more

He dives in like a boy,
a boy who is bored by a sun

who must set then rise with
no earthly thanks

and moody clouds who never linger
long enough to be friends.

Like a boy with no books who will
find the line where oceans join.

Meet clowns and black devils and
an octopus that can hug an ugly fish.

Sift sand from the ocean bed through
webbed feet, feel the change.

Rise on the back of a manatee,
a starfish hung by seaweed around
his man shoulders.


An Epiphany moment

Is more than the sum of its parts.
It multiplies our fears,
intensifies our desires
and separates our families.

Listen up small boy
as you labour on the edge
of something monumental
and necessary to your life.

Listen to the three wise silhouettes.
Who are kings in spite of their drab garments.

They didn’t bring you gifts for fun.
They don’t want to anoint your dead body.
But Herod and Infanticide concentrates their minds.

Of course you know more and destiny
is not all it is cracked up to be.
You are bold beyond your years.
Arms flung wide as if in anticipation,

of flung stars and crosses to bear.


The Edge of Tomorrow

Ripples and shimmers assault the senses as one sits in wonder. In a silently held breath I watch an ending and a beginning. My mind still echoes the chaos of the day while around me silence engulfs all. Chaos and calm, the two sides to each day. Like an artist before his canvas I look on my fingers tracing his path capturing this moment in time.
My eyes sky bound as the air which gives life brushes against me reminding me of purpose. Like the hairs on the artist's brush my body bristles to life, lungs draw deeply as the final rays touch my skin.
Like the flowing of my life's blood my fingers trace the calm of the sea following its motion, my heart in tune. With each lap and ripple I feel my body shimmer into non existence, mingling with the life that flows all around me. Fire and ice as body meets sea, chaos recedes to balance and calm. Anxiety and fear, loss and heartache greet on the edges of the day in hope and dismay. The edge of tomorrow is balancing so elegantly on that final ray. Breath and blood unite as one beneath this setting sun. The senses abused and neglected in the throes of the day align once more be it in silent pain. It is in this moment so precious and so pure that life is at its most vital and we so needing. Close your eyes, breathe in deeply and wait. The silence is like thunder the touch like silk. How can something so untouchable assault us so beautifully?
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The boy who could levitate

He always practiced flight over the water. Standing, back to the horizon, he would flap his arms, shake his head and jump. And for a moment, seconds even, he was flying. Levitating, feet firm upon the water, and then damp.

He’s been coming here, in the late hour of a mild sun, since that first time he levitated. Middle school, rushing between classrooms it happened. He was sure it happened. In the rush to lunch, for maybe just a second, both of his feet left the ground and he was levitating. Nobody noticed. They were too busy concentrating on lunch queues to notice him weightless. But it definitely happened.

Home was a cacophony of voices, frequency set to white noise. And so, while his sisters talked about nothing in particular: school assignments, fights amid the lockers, he practiced. Under the table. Focus and focus, lifting one leg first. Then, for what felt like forever: both feet off the floor. Levitating.

And so it began. Ambitious but not overzealous. Sometimes, just one foot, to get practice in. But more frequently, between lunch and classes, he’d find a quiet spot in the playground, run and jump, somersault, and for an instant, he would be floating.

Over months he got focused. His normal routine of airtime was drawing thin. Levitation was no longer enough, next he would succumb to flight.

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All the Space is Hers

Her mother teaches her to swim, walking backwards into the deep in her chin-strapped bathing hat covered in daisies – beckoning, smiling. The pool is full of splashes, chlorinated echoes. But when she launches out, arms outstretched, legs kicking, all the space is hers.

Her lover shows her how to dive. He treads water beneath the springboard. Coaxes her over the edge.

Afterwards, for a long, long time, she floats – in the starkness of a mountain pool, in limpid brown rivers, the open sea. She lets the current take her far away, or around in circles.

In the end, she crouches on a jetty in a quiet harbour, arms flung up behind her like a child, fingers splayed. Ready take the plunge. Ready to go.


Aerodynamics of Meditation

Sanctuary of passion
Filial longing
Figure of speech
Clarity of thought
Vast sea
Glimpse of horizon
Ranch in action
A still animation
Anarchy of art
Monarchy of moment
Priestly levitation
Splendid navigation
Illusion of sun
Pinned to grey tapestry
Five figures emerging
Like dichotomy of truth

A cup of tea
A jump in sea
A gentle plea
A sudden glee

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Six False Starts

Nan-tuck-et. The name of the island catches in the throat, sharp like hoes in its rocky soil or the harpoon barbs that won its inhabitants their liquid gold. The English called it the little grey lady of the sea. She punishes his memory of his own green carapaced island home, carving it with bitter winds, casting its shores in ice. Neither place has escaped the twin ravages of greed and soul-loss. For him, as it was for the Wampanoag, Nantucket will always be the far away island.

No one loafs under umbrellas on Nantucket, he notices early on. The sun has chiseled the features of the islanders into a ruddy granite as unyielding as the land itself. When they finally stop sailing-golfing-fishing and convene on the hotel veranda they don't order umbrella drinks, either. No rum and coke, no daiquiris. Just gin and tonics, the juniper taste ascetic, unindulgent, an echo of a Quaker past.

He is fully aware of the irony, that by emigrating to America he has completed another leg of the triangle trade, albeit this one by choice, unlike the one which brought his ancestors to the the Caribbean. That he has traded servitude on one island still paying the price of colonial rule, for servitude on another which profited immensely by it. But for his son, at Catholic school on the mainland, anything.

Every evening the memory recurs, of the ending to a similar day's fetching and carrying, when twilight dissolved the clamor of a thousand requests. He remembers watching a woman watching a digitized sunset through a three centimeter square pane. He remembers thinking how small her world must be, not to have registered the child on the dock slipping into the water as easily as a duck after a minnow. Alone in his room, he is grateful he knows what he's missing.

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A Slow Drowning And Then A Leap

He had always had a fear of water. His father once tried to take him to the swimming pool to help him get over it. It was a quiet affair. He listened to the muffled echoes of other children having fun while he perched, his toes dabbling in the tiny eddies formed by his uncertainty. The sign informed him that this was the shallow end but bellybutton deep was too deep for him. He watched his father lean close to the lifeguard, his elbow resting against the very edge of her elbow. She was blonde and had a pert nose that the boy could imagine sliding down and falling from with a painful splash. 'Go on', his father said. 'Go on. Aren't you lucky that you have Anya here looking out for you?'
Anya did not seem like a stroke of luck. Anya was probably only ten years older than he was. At the very most. When they got home, he watched his mother's eyes turn red and puffy and he guessed that it must have been the chlorine in his father's hair. Some smells did that to her, like an allergic reaction: the smell of the bakery, the gym. It made the boy's eyes sting too.
There was a kind of water lapping at his mother, a cruel water that washed her adrift sometimes at the kitchen table, not speaking, not blinking. He'd watched programmes on drowning people. Sometimes they tried to drink the seawater but they weren't supposed to and it made them sick. He thought that tea might be better. It was all that he could offer her: a brimming mug and a little wet circle left on the countertop. Not like a smiley face; like a vicious circle. He'd heard that said. People can go round and round in the same place and slowly get sucked down. Like whirlpools. He'd seen programmes on whirlpools too.
'We need a break.' His father announced. 'A change of scenery.'
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If there is a boy there

Three hooded women stand on a pier -
the signal // the sisters // kindly.

'Look from the pier at sunset on the third,
look for light.

If there is a boy there,
he will dance.
If there is a child there not dancing
nor diving, run.

Some of my best
are waiting in the cloud.'

Hoods in wait, becoming the future -
seducing // sewing // sluicing.

Time on the shoulders.
Lives on the line.

'We looked long into the horizon line,
becoming lighter.

If there was a boy there,
we didn't see dance.
If there was a child there dancing
or diving, we stood.

We lost our worst
waiting on the pier.'

Sisters singing, stone turning -
basaltina // spun // finally.


Craa craa

I've come to find more courage
she whispered to the trees.

Hands on trunk, leaning.
Life so heavy.

Looking between leaves while doing so

carefully, much, much too carefully.

Where does one order another serving
she asked a bird in flight

craaaa craaa

She stayed too long.

Leaves fell
birds flew


They must have taken it with them.

Craa craaa craving courage.

Maybe come spring
too, too carefully.

I've co me to f i nd more co u rage.

She fell
she flew



That cloud, she thinks, looks like a narwhal.

She had always found shapes in clouds. It had started on long car journeys. Looking up, locating a dragon in the sky and watching it as it morphed into a dog and then scattered into flurries that resembled nothing other than other clouds.

Her camera is in her hand. She switches it on, the blue light glaring in the darkening sky. Perhaps, she thinks, as she so often does in these moments, perhaps she can take a photo of it before it stops being a narwhal.

Except... and this was what always stopped her. Except, what if no one else looking at the photo could see the narwhal?

That was the thing, with clouds. She had tried to show him, once. Look, she said, pointing. Can't you see? She willed him to follow the direction of her finger, to a swirling cloud that looked like a Chinese dragon made of crinkled paper. But either he had been looking at the wrong cloud, or the wind had whipped up up there and changed the shape, or he hadn't been looking, not really looking; or perhaps he simply couldn't see.

What dragon? he said. I can't see any dragon.

The thing with clouds was that no one could see what she saw. It had become a hassle, in the end, to keep pointing out each shape. So the clouds became her secret; her own way of looking. Her own way of seeing.

She had once toyed with the idea of writing them down. A log of the clouds she had seen, a photo attached to each one. Maybe even a Tumblr. M4 between Junction 13 and 14: butterfly. Windermere, October 23rd: daffodil. The M5 M6 roundabout: a mouse, or maybe a shrew.
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inflatable elephant

dive into the dark
if you can cope
and not rely on anyone
to nudge you up
although it's fresh
less buoyant
you've reserves
bomb (grip both knees for maximum effect)
spit and swear (75p fine)
pet heavily
drop wrappers
run around the slippery edge (soft wood chalk rock)
take an inflatable make it an elephant
keep going back
everything prohibited
but don't go back in that knitted swimsuit

Sea… or sky?

on the edge
of infinity,
I do not know
whether to dive...
or fly.

My shadow
and my reflection
are already one
in the water,
but my soul
between the questing, rippling deep
and the unending sky;
leaving me balanced
on this narrow wooden bridge,
which is neither one,
nor the other.



The new moon shape reflected is even more ready to dive than him. Thick and all-too curved to be true, it's more of an illustration, bubbled and almost following through its circumference to make a full mouthed 'O'.

Or is it more of a question mark? Man-in-the-moon-sliver, or small body coiling round into the rolling *punkt* of lively punctuation. The water is silk, nonetheless,
silk crepe stretched outwards far and wide, bound too quiver in the wind (currents
           churn down deep)


The Swimaway

I’ll tell you how I got the strength to swim away. I was ten years old and most of my friends had gone in the recent months. There were so few of us left. Despite the colourful poster campaigns and the stern talks we got inside what was left of our school, the urge to swim away weighed down on us that year. You had to have regular dives because of the heat, there was no way to stop us having those and still call society humane, but increasingly the dips were looked upon with suspicion. Back then we were untethered. Be careful, Mumma would say, we’re close to the city. She said that a lot. I knew where we were, I knew the old layout. Don’t venture too far, she’d say, there are spires. Drowning from getting tangled in the manatee grass that entwined the weather vanes was common. It was two days since Anna became a swimaway. Come with me, she said. I’m scared, I said, I don’t believe in the map. Stay with me. She was disappointed at first, then disgusted, and finally absent. When she heard what Anna had done Mumma spat, Silly girl!

There was chatter of sanctuaries scattered far across the ocean. Chatter of a map promising attainable stepping stones that could get you halfway across the world to a better life. I never saw such a map. Anna never saw such a map. We were circumfused with all this chatter and the promise of a better life if we’d just swim away. But the wrong direction by a fraction of a degree would wipe us out even if there was a safe passage somewhere. Anna wouldn’t listen. Nobody listened. All this chatter and nobody was listening because caution had become the minority position among my peers and by voicing it I was the leprous naysayer, far too circumspect for my own good. I became the problem. Something else to escape.
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Soul mate

Like a lost moth chasing quivering flames and the never ending length of threads that tie our dreams to us to our destinies, then run miles ahead to tie all those whose destinies are bound with ours. Iridescent unseen faces and reverent pious caresses. All that the day takes away, the night returns. Wait at dusk for the stars to appear, for destinies may be intrinsically woven and only served on a silver platter of a faded moonlit sky. You'll end up on the right shore, under the right clouds. Certain as the oceans move forever, tip and empty their treasures on the right edge. Keep moving, one foot behind the other and at the right time and under the perfect deep blue, the treasures will find you.



As the sun set, silhouettes we formed,
The unfamiliar setting becoming even more beautiful.

Adults pulled out cameras to capture the moment,
Children used the last few rays to gaze at their reflection.

The young boy threw his arms up in glee,
While his mother coiled hers to gaze at her picture.

Feeling invincible, he dove head first into the water,
The woman lay back in her lounger,
And both were blissfully content.


Bright Spot

That one bright spot in the distance
Could be enough
To plunge into coldness and darkness
And airless unknown.
To jump forward and go
In search of what makes it glow there.
And to know you have to go there.
Light comes to us and rushes through us
Only to tell us
Look over there. That's where
The people are.

And if it was light from a distant star would it say
I travelled so far, in time, space
To get here and now...what?
It's too cold for you outside?
Too cloudy
For you to come out and see me?

Go and find the source.
And if it's just a bright cold room?
You'll have to search again.
You'll have to find a better course.


Long distant shores

At 7 he had his very first experience of a beach. It was the perfect day, a sunny drive across the moors, chips and ice-cream, the deathly menace of the gulls, cold wet sand and a shoulder blistering sun. But the waves. Oh how he loved the sounds of those waves.

At 12 his parents somehow sprung for a foreign holiday. Universal sign language, warm evenings eating out as the sun set, late nights, a family more relaxed and adventurous than he had even known before. The villa was a stone's throw from the beach, pebbly though it was. Falling asleep to the glorious sound of those waves, to the roll of the smooth ground rocks. Breath in time to the swell of the ocean.

At 24 a bonfire on a distant beach. Food and beer, laughing carefree travelling companions who would come and go over those weeks, names long forgotten. Barefooted and shirtless, the fire heat on one side the cool sea washed air caressing him from the other. And the sound of those waves, hidden by the inky horizon, but rhythmic and calming, and almost touchable. Propped against a log he dozed, beer in hand, and was taken into sleep by the ocean itself.

At 44 he stood and watched his younger self dive and play in the calm warm of the Mediterranean as his wife looked on, half in his world and half her own. He swam and played and surfed, but longed for the abandonment and pure joy of being that child again. The surface almost mirror flat but if you stopped, made the time to listen, it was always there. The almost silence of his own blood welcoming the heart beat of the sea.

At 76 the click and beep of machinery, the silent drip from the intravenous bag held high by shining chrome scaffold. End stages now as his wife sits beside him and his son uses his phone to played the soundtrack of the sea. The sound of time passing, the real rhythm of the world to let him drift to sleep.


Suicide Bay

They say the sunrise there bleeds into the water
when it rises above the coast.

And soaks into the seabed where a thousand dead souls reside and regret ever existing.

They say that when children play by the docks
their feet tickle the dreams of those who have died
and make them remember the horrors they had lived.

They call this place paradise above the water
Yet others like to tell of this hell under the sea.



When they pulled him from the sea bed,
sticky with sand and sweat,
they’d asked son, why’d you jump?
He said two figures were watching him.
They wore capes and their heads
were rounded against the blazing sky,
He’d heard of types like these before,
they wanted him for their own.
He could hear the clang of coins
in pockets against the ocean winds.
They did not move. They only watched.
He had to jump before they pulled him
under their cloaks; folded dank and dark.
Jumper goes free, he told them.
Jumper gets the fishes in the sea.


We were on the decking.
The sun went down.
The sky was smiling,
water lapping, warm
and calm. Conditions
perfect. The air still.
Imagine. I turned away
just for a moment (The memory
on my phone was full). So
no one was watching.
He was nine. His name was Jonathan,
and he was mine.


Before the cities, there was wind over water.

Our city floats above the water; it is one of many such cities. The elders, aunts and uncles, say that under the waves are the cities of the old world – they have old names like New York and London, Tokyo, Amsterdam, Istanbul. We learn about them in school.

My city is called Aqua – it floats over the water that covers the city of Chicago. We have streets and buildings and elevated rail lines that mirror the sunken city below. One of those buildings was called Aqua. It had flowing lines above the street. Aqua had a view of the lake.

Once there were lakes and streams, a long winding river called the Mississippi. There were cornfields growing along its banks, my great aunt said. We have hydroponic gardens, now.

There is a floating city called Iowa, and my class went on a trip to see the rolling fields, the red barns, cows and pigs and horses. It was so different from Aqua, where there are parks and trees, squares of green between tall buildings. The open country frightened me, the low horizontal line of the horizon, the clouds, the sky. I was glad to go back to Aqua. I was terrified of the stars.

That is understandable, my uncle said. We have evolved beyond weather, here. I went to the city of Denver once. I saw jagged mountains covered with snow. The air was too sharp there.



Since stroking water is out of the question,
we postured, all bent out of shape,
before breaking and twisting to get in.

It looked inviting, and we knew it'd yield
if we told it to. It shouldn't be so blue
and soft if it doesn't want anyone to enter.

More of a return than rupture;
a jackknifing, most unlike an insult
or a wound, makes us partners or allies, doesn't it.


When My Shadow Called Out Loud

Standing on a wooden groyne
This nebulous shadow of mine
called out to my timorous soul
—at the far end of the skies
the clouds begged to settle down
when my mind reflected my thoughts
upon the silvery darkening surface
of the sea; the clock tickled each second
with a thought before an afterthought
I flipped my arms above
Ready to dive into the sea
Unknown to the world under the waters
I become like a pillar of salt
Waiting to melt into the sea
When my shadow called out loud

Lake Shadow

Diving, I die,
shadows who are not real,
just dancing figments
of what could be,
what used to be, Platonic
ideals on the cave wall.

Diving, I live,
burst into sudden flame,
not knowing the others
around me,
a shadow world of
whispering guests
whose words are like
grating sandpaper.

Divine, I rise,
body tingling with
ice crystals, beads
of sweat, sudden
baptism, a boat far
away echoing like
a suffering creature,
calling my name.



Their shadows outlined their black, flowing robes, Clotho, the ancient web weaver held the lines of ages taut, halted by the child's decision; his ready eagerness to at least try to save the life of the girl even though he couldn't swim. Lachesis stood at the end of the jetty, flipping a coin, it pinged and toppled, momentarily reflecting the setting sun; Atropos, the Inevitable had left her web cutting shears at home.

'This modern fate lark doesn't quite have the - the -'
'...the finesse?'
'Next thing we know we'll be trusting in only One God, then we'll all be out of business.'
'Disaster - like back in the day.'
'So what now?'
'50-50 - he can't swim.' They all gasped, delighted. The young boy faltered; pulled back.
'Don't you miss the snip of my shears?'
'Come to think of it I do and the resignation on their faces...'
'...and the power trip - to decide on a mortals fate.' They all sighed in unison.
'Let's at least bet on it one way or another. '
'I mean, only one can live. '
'No doubt.'

The boy crouched lower, the last piece of fear hanging on for dear life in his big toe.
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