Tuesday, 13 September 2016

Millennials' Picnic

‘Never be afraid to laugh at yourself, after all you could be missing out on the joke of the century,’ Dame Edna Everage

If you go down to the woods today, you’re sure of a big surprise;
you’ll catch the strains of Fall Out Boy midst the closely-knitted pines.
They planned their route on Google Maps, brought camembert and wine:
for that’s the way millennials have their picnic.

Twenty-something dilettantes
scribbling free verse lines of anguish in their moleskin books;
don’t enjoy being young and tortured, but we rock that look.

We exaggerate a tad,
think life’s never been this bad.
We’re just dreamers life’s abraded ‘til we’re cynical.
Now we’re choking on uncertainty and laughed at from above,
they all say we’re spoilt idealists like this world is not for us.

If you go down to the woods today, you’ll hardly believe your eyes;
see hipsters frown at phone screens ‘til they’ve got that filter right.
Why immerse yourself in nature if it doesn’t get you ‘likes’?
For that’s the way millennials have their picnic.

Echo chamber politics;
Corbyn is our new Messiah and we’ll follow him;
blocking Tory scum on Facebook and we’re loving it.

Yet I have this subtle hope
(it’s naïve, by God I know):
one day we’ll be in the driver’s seat and change it all.
Perhaps we’ll cling on to our passions and we’ll shout until things change,
screw the tone police and thought pieces that say we’re all insane.

So although we’re quite pretentious and in love with silly fads,
and we’re guilty of self-righteousness and glamourize being sad,
we can all be daft together; in shared folly find a home:
if you go down to the woods today, you’d better not go alone.

Photograph: Ms Hazza Haugvik

Sunday, 1 May 2016

a thousand years

All the things I’d say to you and all the things I’d ask
when far from home they find our bones once a thousand years have passed.
They’ll try to reconstruct you from the scattered parts they find;
they’ll take our bones and think they know our dimmed and distant lives.

All the things I’d say to you and all the things I’d ask
if our bones should lie together by some miracle of chance.
In nights lost to living memory we once mirrored this embrace;
I was maddened by your strangeness, crazed by flesh that’s long decayed.

All the things I’d say to you and all the things I’d ask
now that tourists come to look at us behind the thumb-smeared glass.
Curators say there is no way to know what we once were;
crowds are squinting out a language to decode our ancient hurt.

All the things I’d say to you and all the things I’d ask.
We can scrawl our motivations on the thumbprint-laden glass,
or keep them close and on our bones they’ll read what we confess.
They can circulate their theories in the academic press.

All the things I’d say to you and all the things I’d ask,
don’t you realise that your answers are all priceless artefacts?
With our jaw bones stained and broken and our tongues long turned to ash,
we can find a time for talking once a thousand years have passed.

Tuesday, 29 March 2016

all we are

The dog
(sunstained ginger)
tears cereal boxes with chortled breath
(a scrap extracted from skin-flap cheeks),
until the sunbeams are dressed in hard-cut edges.

We mirror its destructiveness,
and all our energies led to this:
a messy, drool-smeared carpet
in unlovely beige.

Slopingly, it comes to rest,
aloof and reasonless
in grey confetti flakes.

Friday, 25 March 2016

Pillow Talk

Heart is bristled bark
beside stark, unearthly chalk
of burnt-out embers.

Did you not enjoy the flames?
Dusky dance of campfire games.

Yes, summer scorched us
red raw, and stung by your touch
I shed skin like leaves.

Tongues congealed in sticky knots.
Skin aflame like sun-kissed rocks.

I remember this:
pillow talk shorn of substance
since that soft, spring dawn.

Oh, I would not be so sure.
We were. Dare you ask for more?

Sunday, 20 March 2016


'And when Delilah saw that he had told her all his heart, she sent and called for the lords of the Philistines, saying, Come up this once, for he hath shewed me all his heart. Then the lords of the Philistines came up unto her, and brought money in their hand'- Judges 16:18

You’re not the sort of girl I’d stake my life on,
and I know that you could never call it trust.
We know, my love, we know the foregone outcome—
we breathe it in; we even found it fun,
those daily games of glib betrayals and lust.

You’re not the sort of girl I’d stake my life on—
but I was young and lost and needed someone.
This heart is yours so take it if you must.
We know, my love, we know the foregone outcome—
and maybe we both needed them to come
to lay my broken body in the dust.

You’re not the sort of girl I’d stake my life on—
but who can wait to stake on sure foundations
when your sullen smile means more to me than trust.
We know, my love, we know the foregone outcome—
and I longed for it. My hands stung by the stone
that shakes and breaks and blisters at my touch.

You’re not the sort of girl I’d stake my life on.
We know, my love, we know the foregone outcome—
this heart is yours so take it if you must.

And here's a reading of this revised version, in my best approximation of a weepy Ben Wishaw voice:

Eurydice & Orpheus


Eurydice and Orpheus
are seated at the bar,
hands nested in each other’s palms,
and pupils knit like yarn.

Their lips are restless, wandering,
to soak the other’s cheek,
but disapproving glances force
them teasingly to leave.

She’d love to fuck him endlessly,
but it’s a weekday and it’s late.
They pull apart unwilling,
as his stiffy starts to chafe.

The morning after Orpheus
confides to his guitar.
He charts the agonies of love—
the trials of his poor heart.

He tries to frame Eurydice
in bland acoustic pop,
and clings to clichés carelessly.
He frets. Then sighs. Then stops.

The trouble is he cannot start
to praise her peerless mind,
when all his inspiration is
for wand’ring eyes to find;

and though the marriage of true minds
was always his ideal,
a bodiless and senseless love
is difficult to feel.


The next day brought a dinner date
and promised true romance.
They’d booked a table, called a cab—
not leaving things to chance.

The waiters hurried to their side.
The wine was flowing fast.
Their fellow diners grimaced at
Eurydice’s violent laugh.

Three courses later Orpheus
claims he must foot the bill.
They stumble out the restaurant
and stagger up the hill.

The bedroom beckons, Orpheus
swiftly fumbles at her clothes.
He grinds on her mechanically.
She tries to fake a moan.

When he comes she thinks, ‘thank God that’s done!’
and says she must go home.
It seems she’s drunker than she thought,
as she struggles with her clothes.

The morning after Orpheus
arises with a groan,
surprised to hear the troubled tones
of Jason on the phone.

A deafly silence clouds his ears.
His insides sink like lead.
‘I don’t know how to say this, mate,
Eurydice is dead.’


In the hours after Orpheus
is madly writing songs.
He tries to capture his despair,
served up three minutes long.

The neighbours shudder at the sound
of his caterwauling wail,
as sobbing for his sweetheart’s death,
he dreams of album sales.

The funeral comes and Orpheus
sings his love an epitaph.
The mourners grimly clench their teeth
and struggle not to laugh,

aside from someone at the back—
a woman in a veil.
She giggles softly to herself
at her boyfriend’s deafening wail.

Eurydice, see, faked her death—
life’s too short for bad sex.
He only loved her carnally,
but was a bloody bore in bed.

Besides, his songs were pretty shit—
he could hardly hit a note.
So she softly feels the purple marks
of Jason on her throat.

And Orpheus, that ghastly man,
was soon in love again.
Persephone craved his hellish shriek—
you can’t account for taste.

Friday, 18 March 2016

Perseus & Medusa

When Jo and I were bored, we decided the best form of entertainment would be to challenge each other to write sestinas based on random words selected from the Wikipedia page on Medusa and the OED word of the day (which was fall-back, bizarrely). Whilst Jo's was obviously better, and featured romance and death, mine is just Medusa moping about her cave for a bit. Here it is:

Still crawling out of infancy,
you closed your eyes, remembering
the stony stares of silent gazers.
They thought they’d peered behind your mask,
and they froze you with their force. Fall-back
to where each shadow soaks the echoes of your name. Medusa.

The echoes of the arms that sheltered your name, Medusa,
the hiss of the lisp of your infancy.
Arms out—the shadows overlap—fall-back.
Let the darkness cushion your remembering.
Let the darkness lick the outlines of the mask,
of the stone-cold ones you’ve overcome, your gazers.

“Ash-back eye-holes swallowed me on the street. Gazers
reframed me in the spit of their hiss. Medusa,
sitting in the shadows and stroking each death mask
with the tip of her leathered tongue. So many boys
who’ve shared their lips since infancy;
the texture of each tongue, the friction, worth remembering.
Arms out—the shadows catch my skull—fall-back.

“Fall-back, and fuck their understanding, fall-back
away from the ash-black eyes of gazers,
and later I will wake from this remembering,
but now the cave cocoons me with my name. Medusa.
This stone is the shelter of an infancy
come again. Child of darkness. Girl with the Halloween mask.”

So you spoke. “Don’t come close. My last mask
has worn through. Could you fall-back
just a little? Here, in my den of infancy,
each ash-black stone will smother gasping gazers.
My rules. My statues. The playthings of Medusa
weep blood with the force of their remembering.

“Do I see you trembling? Or am I just remembering
the man who came here last? See his death mask.
One of my best. Crying for his Medusa.
I still trace his tears. But fall-back,
this place is not for you. Your eyes are not cruel like those gazers
who’ve shrunk me since my infancy.”

I rose and put an end to her remembering.
I kept her head and stroke the snakes sometimes to mask
my guilt. I took it home. Already stone, I killed Medusa.