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.

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.

Chamber of Stars

And she breathed and unseen beaks opened as if to say, me too. They took in the fresh morning air and remembered what it is to fly. And on her wings she swooped over distant rooves where cars parked up and bins lined up and people did their thing.

She did her thing and she did it well and there she sat on the roof of the house, ruffling feathers and with knowing eyes, she peered inside his room.

And there she sat on the floor with her back to the bed and her lap was filled with books, with the words, with his bright blue biro scrawl and she reached in.

She traced her fingertips over pages and watched as he appeared. Out he came like a thought, floating up towards her, like the curve of a balloon in a hot summer sky and he circled and he led the way.

He led her to his shed at the bottom of the garden and pushed open wide the door. It creaked and eased onto a world she’d come to know. It was as though two small girls had found their way, had dared to creep over the threshold, like a childhood place, like a secret land that called them to come inside.

And inside they looked up in wonder and stared at The Machine.

What is it? What on Earth is it?’ they would ask as though they were characters in a well loved book.

Till the small girls faded and she was stood with him in the dust, in their particle-wave duality. And he would be in his element, in the quiet fug as he set the cogs in motion. Gears moved and wheels turned, firing bits of muck and fluff into the air. Beetles scuttled and woodlice trundled out of sight as the universe in the shed sparked life, shaking the detritus from the gloom.

And there they stood in the photons, as he burbled through his ideas and concepts and his thoughts danced around her like a flutter of butterflies, their fresh fragile wings entangling her hair.

They flew up from the contraption and out through spacetime, released into the universe, like a tensor, like a field equation of their life to come.

And she observed it all, sat high upon the shed roof, ruffling her feathers and watching herself take form.

There was a shed and The Machine, there was a bookcase and a girl. And everything rippled and reverberated out. Irrepressible, on that day, in the embryo of their world.

And she breathed out as unseen birds sang and beaks opened loud and glorious, as if to say all’s well.

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.

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.

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.

Aerial Faith Plate

She found August in the packing boxes, in the quiet chaos of the empty house with the phone on the floor and their son at a friend’s. And it was still, dust balls plumed in corners, little spheres of moments where they’d sat. She found August in the slow closing of the door, the soft steps to the car and the pulling away.

And removal men like Brutus and Popeye upended sofas where they’d sat, manoeuvred their minutiae until one home morphed into the next. And in August, she found it in the giggling of their son down hallways and the opening of boxes and playing hide and seek. She found it through the serving hatch which hatched out their new world. August, in the packing tape and box numbers, August in their days to change and grow.

The rain had soaked the bamboo, now it leaned over, leaned into her like the weight of feelings. Its persistent lushness rippling, forging through it all, like her. She found August in the way the bamboo had grown.

***

And then the bamboo took her oxygen for a while, it gave up and gave in, drooped down to the ground as she sat out on its leaves. She was the tiny spheres of her world turned upside down and in the inversion she saw the old kitchen chair by the bedside with her clothes laid out for the trip, the crisp, white, crinkled cotton top, the reams of Indian skirt. Ready. Waiting.

She sipped tea and watched. The leaves waved, sodden, as if to say this is now, this rain is right now. But she didn’t care. She was upside down in raindrops and then it came again, a rush, a gushing on her patio, the fractured sky where the water wouldn’t drain away. And in the rain drops she leaned up her parents’ kitchen cupboards, black Mary Janes and a smile. You know the one, the one that took her to Wooten Wawen with canal boats moored alongside, their gypsy painted roses watching them as they parked and went inside.

And every petal knew what lay ahead and boats bobbed and algae glooped and pond-skaters did their thing. It was early evening, and mid evening, it was much later in the day. But above all else it was August and she found it yet again, upside down in raindrops.

Thank goodness for the rain she thought and through it she saw herself swishing, with tiny bells which jingled from her waistband as they walked. And later her parents’ settee would rear up again and beyond that, later still, in the silence, the soft moth-winged breath of their beginnings.

She was so glad she made it rain today, she clung onto the bamboo leaves and waited to dry out.

***

The sun had turned up, a little too excitable for her liking, a frivolous energy like the birdsong. She paid attention to it but nothing more. The bamboo had perked up, it felt optimistic and each leaf was striped and the stripes were their roads heading south. All of them, filling her garden with directions, with arrows saying it’s nearly 4pm, it’s time to leave. And it was and they did, in the old Orion, pausing at Evesham for a tea-cake, then beyond.

Appears A Prayer

I was never one to recognise events as they were unfolding and every time they came to a breach, to a gash, they surprised me, they gave themselves a shape, a moment in time rather than a seamless continuation.

And this morning I was taken to one side by the day and told to stop and look. But before I was forced to pause, I opened the day, in my usual way, with my identity intact, my sense of where I fit into the world and I sat.

The garden was doing its thing, as it did, as it does, growing and decaying despite me while I watched and let the heat of my mug wake my hands. Two, or maybe three mint leaves pushed against the surface tension of my tea. And I sipped. I sat and I sipped in my quiet certainty and watched the surface of my drink.

And now I take hold of my thoughts and pull them apart, now I question why it’s taken me so long to reach this place. This need to draw attention to the quality of my drink. It could be fear. It’s often fear. And now it’s marching up the path towards me, through the weeds and places where the stones are loose and broken, where small things live without my intervention. And it’s here and it smacks up against my door. I let it in of course, I have no option. Not that I can recall.

Life and death belonged. And was I monstrous? The words rolled around my head, poking and prickling, nagging me into a place where I could form the thoughts and they are these.

I sipped. I sat. And then a tiny flower floated over the surface of my drink. I was prompted to remember lotus flowers, delicate edges, beauty in their fragility as they bloomed despite the mud. Or water lilies, fragrant and glorious, spread out petals, preening over algae on my pond.

And this smallness, this clump of petals moved towards me. I studied it for a second, held it in my mind and then it changed. Its image became clear. There were no flowers in my mug, just a fly. A dead fly. Its fine filigree wings reaching out as though it wished to be remembered for the way that it could move, as though in death it was captured, it was held, as a testament to its life.

And I sat back. I placed the mug down, my favourite mug that held the shell of the insect, scalded with my boiling water, the water I boiled to bring me peace and calm had killed, in a second, the living thing in my mug. I wondered how it held onto the mint as I plucked it from the plant, as I rinsed it under the tap. But it clung on until I scalded it.

And I had drunk for while before it appeared, what if I had swallowed it, but I would not have known. And worse, as it drifted loose from beneath the leaf, in its first silent moments, when its body had ceased its purpose, what if I drank from its form, if some escaping essence of the fly had been consumed? And I, responsible for its death, or at the very least, a co-creator, now held, now owned a part of the fly in my mouth.

And I swallowed and I hoped. I hoped that death was in an instant, that there was a split second when its identity was whole and then the water came, the heat appeared like a thought, it drenched and saturated its tiny form before he could react. And that is all.

But then my drink changed, no longer warm ceramic to settle nerves but now it was a resting place, an in-between place and the weight of responsibility came. I left the mug and walked away to contemplate my options.

My friend Jenny jumped into my mind, Jenny with her backpack and packed up tent and her wheels spinning, biking and hiking to Wales. And I wondered how many insects her tyres had taken down, how many smears on concrete she’d created and as her hiking boots stomped and trampled the dirt down did creatures search for shelter from her feet?

But nothing helped the thoughts because Jenny wasn’t still and contemplating, Jenny was full of pumping blood, of sweat and motion, Jenny could never be pinned down. But I could. I was used to being calcified and my reward was the remains of a fly.

And so I needed to be exempt from myself, to make the best of decisions. And if I think the thoughts with the sound turned down I can admit I considered drinking up, to paying tribute to the fly with the act of consuming, to complete the job I had started and allow its carcass to rest deep within my own.

And hope maybe in death, it could step out of the shadows and see that it had lived. And I would know and I would make its essence subsume into my form.

And I yet I couldn’t and I didn’t, I couldn’t cross the line. Although I studied it floating for some time, I wondered would I taste it at all, as it slid down. But it wasn’t the tasting that prevented my mouth from its work, it was the need to honour, to live by a code that would bring structure to my chaos. And so I let the tea cool down. I left it for hours alone and silent, the mint leaves disintegrated around my fly and I noticed that he had become mine. Not an it anymore, not now. Now he belonged to me and I must do him proud.

And later when the chattering of children in the park has seeped away and the garden has regained a sense of ease, I will go out.

I will take my mug, my favourite mug and the body of my fly and I will tip out tea. I will find a quiet corner and a plant it may have liked and I will pour. My morning tea will soak the soil and if I focus I may just see the body of the fly fall into the ground.

But if he’d left the mint leaf before I plucked it from the plant, then we wouldn’t be in this place now and my eyes would not have seen the things they did not want to. But the fly hung onto the mint leaf and I scalded it into the void. Everything is relational.

Still, the sun will set over the plants soon, over what remains of my drink and my fly upturned in the soil. And as it sets there will appear a prayer in the photons, in the dust and the muck in the air.

It’s been a long day. I apologised to the fly and at the edges where our lives merged, we took responsibility, we impacted each other’s lives. It was a difficult joy.

In Through the Out Door

To be honest she had not smiled so much in years and she noted it to herself, it was undeniable but shh, she wouldn’t think about it now, not right now at least.

She would take herself away and take tea. Yes she would take tea with herself, with her best china teapot, the one from her dearest friend Kerry. Kerry with all her verve, her energy bounding like a Labrador pup, frenetic, abandoned. And she would sit opposite Kerry in her own quietness, in her smallness and wonder how it would feel to be so light.

But now, here she was with herself, with Kerry’s teapot and how she smiled, how she used muscles, dormant for years and she would give herself a good talking to. Yes, that’s what she’d do. And maybe there’d be ginger biscuits, home-made of course. Yes, something pungent to bring her back to herself and ginger root, like an old friend, who would warm her up with their familiarity and that slight kick of heat on her tongue, like the friend she could trust who would tell her home truths.

And then Madeira cake, yes then the softness would come. So gentle and kind, it would break apart in her mouth, like moments she could no longer hold. And golden crumbs would scatter, left discarded on her plate, like fragments in a relationship, like the little things left unsaid.

And yet despite it all she continued to smile. Smile, like a child who had learned a new skill and her feelings bubbled loose and fluid, tumbling round her like a ruffled toddler fresh from bed, with pillow shaped hair and a teddy bear, dragged paw first straight to the toy box before breakfast. And she was giddy, unbounded by the day.

She wanted to rush up to strangers and pull the masks from their faces, she wanted to see them smile, with their whole face not just with their eyes and if she could she would take them all out to tea. She would find a hidden teashop where the bell would jingle as she pushed through the door and trailing skirts behind her, she would drag over a chair or two. Here, here, sit a while she’d say and take tea with me and there will be ginger biscuits, Madeira cake and Darjeeling will flow pale golden into their welcome cups.

And they would sit and talk and share and smile and she would flow. Around them, she would flow through them. Shh, shh, it’s ok now. Bring me your shadows, let them out and show me who you are. And there in our darkness you’ll be safe. Let me hold your shadows close, now that I can smile.