A Womb of My Own

I grew a seed,

embedded and safe,

charged with potential to be.

I swelled like a spring fruit,

nascent and sun-blushed,

full of juice and tender flesh.

I stretched and sustained,

moulded and flowed,

an insistent present tense.

I blossomed into autumn,

round and lumbering,

a pulsing pod of blood.

I reshaped as the shell, the outer husk,

fierce and ferocious,

fighting tooth and claw, protect my form.

Until I became,

I separated, split in two,

into us, our necessary cells,

an ecstasy of emergence,

bleeding and bonded and whole.

I flooded into his immaculate mouth

as lilies opened in my heart.

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For Safe Keeping

Find her by the canal in her black and white skirt with bells. Find her navigating it all as she jingled, as she smiled.

And there under the August sky, find her leaning up the old Orion, in her black Mary Jane’s and her silk waistcoat.

Later, after chicken salad, no doubt, find her by her candlewick bedspread, chartreuse and tattered but perfect. The only way to end the day.

And in the morning, in the same skirt, find her smile at the bedroom door and make plans to carry her home.

Just find her. Over and over and over again. Always in August, to keep her safe.

For the Poppy Fields

I liked the terracotta tiles when we first moved there and the way the ribbed glass on the conservatory door shook every time we closed it. It was an old, neglected place, needing repair like me.

A deer turned up on the back lawn in the summer, must have come down from by the Clock House, the owners ran the local dance school, were always ferrying children or horses about. Their place backed onto the woods. The deer was startled, lost. Like me.

It froze when it saw us in the kitchen, then spooked itself and ran off, like I should have done but I stayed. Its white tail bobbed, flashed through the hawthorn, leaves ruffled where it passed, then settled themselves.

I tried to settle myself. I don’t remember the date when it first happened, somewhere near the start of that first year, I think. It just seemed a natural response, somehow. I do remember how I backed up to the white wicker laundry basket, I could feel the lines of weave as I smacked it with my hand. And then the melamine working surface, I noticed it as I shouted out and had a fleeting thought of how it might feel to bring my head down hard on it. Of course I didn’t, but it did help to think about it.

There were a lot of flies that summer, we gave up trying to catch or kill them, they seemed to take over the kitchen. I remember swatting at them, as though dislodging a thought, like something darkening which had buzzed across my mind. I was making sandwiches no doubt, my arm still hurt from earlier but it wasn’t my dominant side, so that was alright.

I remember the fake pine cladding in the hallway to the toilet, sometimes the bathroom was a place where I would stay a while, pretend I had tummy problems, that sort of thing. Keep out of the way, you know?

I wore a lot of bracelets in those days. I remember banging my fist so hard into the cladding that it dented, it formed a crevice where my small hand had smashed. My bracelets jingled in the force. A bruise came out later down the side of my fingers. I didn’t feel anything at the time of course, just the hot release of wood against my skin, something to let the energy out.

I grew to enjoy the sensation of my nails as they dug in. Well, enjoy is too strong a word but I would appreciate them, yes, I was grateful for my nails down my arm. I’d do anything to make him stop but still his words would carry on. And I remember thinking in some disheveled part of me at the back of my mind, the part of me that sat on the floor with my back to the wall and hugged my knees until it stopped, I remember that part of me was thinking this isn’t normal but by then it was already too late, by then it was just the way it was.

When we left there I took a moment with the fake pine cladding, I ran my small white fingers over the tiny gashes that I’d made. It helped me to balance things out. I didn’t want to feel sad for leaving there with all its endless lawns and deers, with the quails and rabbits, the chickens which we befriended and the summer house by the pond that I grew to call my own.

I wanted to remember how it was and where the scars were on the walls.

I wanted it to be a fresh start and I wished for that with all my heart as we drove away past the poppy fields where I had stood, smiling into the camera. I had lifted my hand to shield my eyes from the sun, lifted it up to protect myself.

I became used to that I guess.

Luminescence

I wanted to be that little girl, right there. That girl, and she was four or maybe five. I passed her by on the roadside, in the sunlight, in the delerious white-out of a spring afternoon.

And look at that girl, I thought. Just look at her and I held her in my mind for three seconds or maybe four.

She shimmered on the roadside, on the pavements grey, in her sparkling silver padded jacket which fired back photons to anyone who dared to look.

She lit up the streets, defying smudged reflections of rushing people, of chaotic traffic on grimed windows. And passing by upturned hot wasps on peeling windowsills, she jumped the cracks in the pavement because it kept her safe.

Her baby pink flared jeans flashed candyfloss at anyone who noticed as she hopscotched herself along. Armoured bears growled behind her, goblins sneered up through drains but she didn’t care.

Because it was a springtime afternoon and the blossom frittered away the hours all around her and city sparrows sang joyous, despite the fumes.

Just for a moment if I could be that little girl, casting halos around the litter, that pulsing, beaming dance of limbs, I would be free.

And I passed by the little girl and held her in my mind, like a retina stain on my memories of what it felt like to sparkle under blossom. What it felt like to be magnificent in the spring.

And I passed by with her shimmering in a review mirror, with the candy pink jeans just a flutterering on my shoulder, like the falling petals in my pinned up hair.

And for a second or two, or maybe three, I remembered how I used to feel.

Beyond Glenfield Road

Breathe on me and I will vanish, I will disperse into the air taking my long thick dark brown hair away. And the red fleece of my jacket and the fluff in my pocket will be a memory on the wind.

But you will remain with your calcite core, with your compounds, your glinting similarities to my seashells and my pearls.

And I will shine near the summit looking out to Sabden and Padiham, holding tight to Colne.

While you nestle tucked away, carboniferous in russet, smooth in sandstone in my palm. And I will rub you while I crumble, I will feel the biting wind shriek up my hair.

There with my glacial tilt, my boulder clay which called me. Pick me up and hold me close and I did. I squeezed you in my pocket, I hid you out of sight.

While December chills took my left hand to my ear to keep out the gusts. And the smell of her perfumed cheek and thickness of her winter coat were shutter clicked and frozen to the bone.

We grinned in the cold.

But you will remain with your time smoothed angles, a permanence beyond my emphemeral form. So breathe on me and watch my smile flake to the clouds, watch me scatter in the hills.

And long after the imprint of my trainers has eroded, after my keratin has blown away, you will still feel me. The warmth of my hand embedded in your limestone and your limestone and my secret smile, a fossil of our day.

Residue Theorem

Let me feel your bristles, firm against my form. Insistent, purposeful as though they’d never lived a day without motion.

Brush me from my hiding place, my quiet soft decay. Gather me up into your arms and lift me from my chill. Smother me in your hands and then release me.

But first stop. Pause.

Bring me to your face, your nose and mouth and breath me in. Long cool limitless breaths which remember me with calm, with the intricate scents of my form, with my rich bracken twisted broken core.

And inhale me deep, fill your gaps and crevices with my wisdom, my stench of a year gone by.

And then look up. Turn your face into the softened dusk, up to where the night moves in.

And then hurl.

Scatter me to the soil, to the dark places under the shrubs where the robin picks and pecks. And leave me warm, leave me replete with the hours, with the moments which slip away.

Like your hands as you release me.

And I sigh and rest my form, feel my edges crumble where your fingers traced. Feel the gladness of the earth and I will rostle and rustle into place and wait for the cold to take me home. Into my welcoming loam, mulched down soothings till the spring returns.

And it will.

And your fingers will find me once more as I dare to go around again, as I summon my courage and strength to raise my form up from the soil.

And you’ll be waiting.

Standing stoic, through the cutting winter until the light comes, until the hope will lead me back into your hands.

Ephemeris

I have been avoiding myself for a while, she thought, but the leaves rushed in and said don’t worry. Watch us dither on the bluster, see how we don’t care.

And she strained her head to the sky, to the spaces where she used to be and watched. They maundered like old thoughts which caught her out in the night, like missed moments, like the regrets which crumbled at her door, twisted and fragile, the haphazard seconds of her life.

But the leaves taught her well. They cried out as they tumbled into her, thither-zither, helter-skelter to her palms. And for those which remained on the trees, she poured her love up to them. They were weary, clumped and battered on the undressed branch. They knew not to resist.

Clouds moved in, cumulus caressed her mind and she didn’t care, not really. Not now. Somehow the day was still gentle.

Listen to the leaves, she said. It’s only spacetime. It’s only 9,192,631,770 periods in the hyperfine transitions of the ground state of the caesium 133 atom. One second after another falling to her soil.

There was nothing to worry about after all.

Me in Amber

Near the top of Three Maid’s Hill, in the din of russet pavements, light pierced like a diamond, caught the edge of purposeless leaves.

Whipped them, wild. Clattering up in eddies, delirious, absent-minded in the disturbed air between cars.

And it was my eyes which soothed them, which held them as we passed by. As though I were unique, as though the retina stain from a low flying sun could only belong to me.

The hill smiled, outlived me and everyone else, until all that remained were my thoughts, thinking. And may I be a memory of this place.

Our wheels were long gone. Leaves settled in the drains, they bunched up, held on tight to each other.

They knew what to do.

El Techo de la Iglesias

It didn’t matter to her that she pushed English pavements under her feet, or that the maple leaves which cluttered round her boots were from local trees – she was not there.

And it didn’t matter that the spire which she was drawn towards, or the parapet which pulled her eyes up to the sky, belonged to Saint Peter’s Church or that the gentle whisps of white which framed it, came from her Hampshire sky – she was not there.

And because she wasn’t there it didn’t matter that her English streets were busy with people wrapped and warm. And because she wasn’t there, her form cast no shadow as she passed Saint Peter’s Church because her boots were in Barcelona and her autumn coat was a waterfall top. It billowed around her hips like the soft white fluff above the spires which framed the baby sweetcorn. And it was irrelevant that her eyes looked up to a Hampshire sky because they were not there. They looked out across the park and studied Gaudi’s glory which left an imprint in her mind.

It didn’t matter where her boots wandered in an English town because she wasn’t there. She was striding out across the Carrer de Sardenya as though her small feet belonged on Spanish soil.

Falling Teacup White Robe

Cushion pushing tight into the twists,

the rumbles. Shh, time to sleep

I said before ears came.

The night, perched on the bed edge,

minutes like breaths, squeezing me.

My foreign body. Pulsing.

Weight of silence, an endless open mouth.

Yawning, howling.

Wait in darkness.

Shoe-horned into the car

under my tree, its soft reassurance,

resolve. Battered power

of an injured tiger.

Here, take my body,

it’s yours now.

Pummel me with

your ice cold faceless faces.

Watch me like a cat pawing bird

as I jolt, ricochets up my spine.

I don’t recognise myself

as they trolley me to the new room

with endless breasts which smother me.

Suffocate me in starched white.

I lay still in-between judders

with their walls and wires, lights that beep.

Daylight, hopeful smile on a wheeled-in tray.

Entonox is my friend, it brings me echoes,

fractured words and giggles

as her fingers inch.

Searching for news

but there is none.

Try again tomorrow, they say.

And I search the ceiling for a way out.

I’ve grown used to their window

though I cannot see outside.

One day there’ll be flowers on that table.

Another face on the end of the nth syringe.

I laugh and cry at the same time.

My turquoise bag reminds me of home,

it jars me.

She’ll be back later

and she drops a smile by the door.

Later the ceiling mocks me,

while they swab me clean

and tidy me away to nothing.

I may watch these walls

for the rest of my life.

You know night, that space

where everything sinks?

It takes me, leaves me shaking

in their hard backed chair,

drunk on spasms, they roll me over

strip me bare.

There, they lock the medicine away.

Tight lipped, they make me wait

till morning.

In daylight, pethidine is my best friend.

I call for surgeons,

but their absent hands upset me.

They sip tea on Sundays

while I rock, ridiculous,

a wretched remnant desperate for a gown.

Somewhere a woman wails,

disembodied hollering.

I wonder if she has flowers in her room.

I have no limbs now,

no head to call my own.

My pupa waits, watches the clock

push the hours, breath by breath,

my shadow up their wall.

Till everything bustles, they rush and prod,

watch over me in their Petri dish.

They tut-tut and poke.

Their needles search and pierce,

severing my pain.

I am numbness on plastic sheets,

chrome glints at my feet,

lights wink at me.

They concentrate and congregate,

explore me until teatime.

I give it my best shot.

Then I concede, consent to them,

give up, give out and give in.

I am aware of my breath,

my lungs expanding and contracting

by their green scrubs.

Their scorching lights and tinkering.

Brush the hair out of my eyes.

And where my abdomen used to be

the world opens, lilies start to bloom.

Loud and excitable, like a new heart beat.

Ceilings come and go under the sheer love.