Anniversary I said he could have anything for our anniversary; he asked for space. I grudgingly agreed, believing when stretched we’d snap back together, closer than before, but the gap kept growing filling with drifts of bitterness much too treacherous to navigate and the thaw I waited for did not come: there were no warm words to melt the silence, no spring flowers to mark his return, and hope stayed low on the horizon refusing to rise. Yet still I find myself in the kitchen listening for his key turning in the door, and making enough tea for two. (from Flights, e-zine #6, editors Darren J Beaney and Barbara Mercer, nominated for Pushcart Prize, 2022) Come to me after Paula Rego You kept your secret in the attic harness-tight, straining straps that proved too weak to stop it from breaking out and tearing away betrayal’s veil you'd placed before my face. Though that night I walked away it follows me, prodding, pulling, screaming to be appeased and at night it breaks into my bed, its weight so heavy on my chest it suffocates any hope of sleep. Yet it cannot snap the strings which knots this heart to yours that draw me back to where its home is. (from 'Unmuted', Hedgehog Poetry Press, 2021, nominated for the Pushcart prize, 2021) “Employers should take every possible step to facilitate employees working from home,” Government Guidance on Social Distancing You are through to the office of mum and dad. Unfortunately all our direct lines are busy right now. Current wait time is approximately 60 minutes. For an automated response to your query: press 1 for menu and meal times; press 2 for help with home lessons; press 3 for entertainment restrictions; press 4 for advice about difficulties with siblings; press 5 if you have a fever and a cough. For all other enquiries press 6, leave your name and number and we’ll ring back when available. Thank you for calling the office of mum and dad where parenting is our priority. For the latest family news and events, including arrangements for grandad’s funeral, check our Facebook page. (from 'Psychopathogen', Hedgehog Poetry Press, 2020, nominated for the Pushcart Prize, 2020) Miscarried When she lost the little girl she'd longed for, they did not try again;'Too old!' he'd said. She did not lie silently in a closed curtain room; she did not stare mutely into the unused cot. He grief was a howling, bared-teeth grief; a sinew-ripping grief; a snapping, snarling grief that locked its jaws around her throat and swiped at both his outstretched hands. He learned in time to tip-toe round her, flattening himself against the nursery walls, but he never could igmnore the quiet sound of ganwing, as it devoured her hour by hour. (from 'Saudade', Hedgehog Poetry Press, 2019, nominated for the Pushcart Prize, 2019) After the all clear When doctors declared him all clear there was no dancing in the streets, no confetti canon fired in celebration, no bunting strung across the street. Instead he retreated to his sickbed in the blacked-out room, unable to blink away the darkness that made shadows of the light. Though they’d armed him with statistics, and said that he’d be fine, he couldn’t find the strength to make a truce with peace. For hours he’d hide behind the bathroom door checking, checking, checking for the enemy within and at night he’d lie awake, waiting, waiting, waiting; surrendered to the certainty that the attack would soon resume. His body had betrayed him, threatened him with death, and now the sounds of sirens would never leave his head. (from Impspired Magazine, Volume 3, 2020, editor Steve Cawte. Shifting Sands Fifty weeks of fifties, crammed in an old jam jar; he promised her a week living like Jay Gatsby on the southern coast of France, but Lockdown grounded all her winter-warming fantasies of walking hand-in-hand on sun-bathed beaches; of dancing barefoot in his arms to the silky rhythms of the waves. No choice but a DIY holiday at home, instead, with a ton of builders’ sand raked across the yard; and Mediterranean-blue emulsion sloshed across the fence, where they doze for seven days in deckchairs, dug from the back of the shed, and sip consolation cocktails they name Captain Tom and the Furlough Funster, as they empty plastic jugs of each, and in her daytime dreams, dressed like Jay and Daisy, they build sunset castles on the Riviera beach, laughing uncontrollably because the sand’s too dry to shape, oblivious to the storm clouds gathering in the east. (from Wishing You Were There?, Hedgehog Press, 2020)
Juliet in a hijab She'd promised them gangs, riots in the streets, revenge: Eastenders in Verona, she had said. Even subsidised the costs to turn the spot away from their estate and focus eyes beyond the flats. Act One, they cannot see beyond men dressed in tights, swollen codpieces, breasts squeezed skyward by tight-fitting bodices, and their titters rub away the age-thin patience of matinee habitues. Act Two, they launch a fresh attack across the generation gap: an armoury of drinks and snacks that snap back disapproving heads assailed by bottles' snorts and wrappers' insistent whispers. Act Three, too much to bear their teacher throws her hands up in despair and in the darkness pulls her pupils out. They do not need cajoling, their yawns are wide enough to swallow time: all that is, save one, Jahidah. She sees a sister on the stage, who reaches out to take her hand to tell a story she understands. She sits wide-eyed in her back-row seat, and though there is no one around her, she knows that she is alone no longer. (from Saudade, also published in Acumen, January 2019) The Cleansing We thought the pond just needed cleaning to make sure the fish would thrive but you said overstocking was the problem and not the years of silt. We deferred to your authority idly standing by as you labelled so many sick, diseased and weak: threats to the well-being of the rest. You judged them by their colour, despatching the unchosen to the pile beside your booted feet impervious to their mouthed appeals. Afterwards we cleared up the carnage yet the memory still lingers, like the stink upon our fingers, that no amount of water will wash away. (from What the Moon Was Told, Dempsey and Windle, 2020) Psychopathogen I'm a globetrotter skipping over borders unannounced, travelling incognito though you'll know I have arrived when my hand hooks into your, and won't give up its grip; when my breath corrodes your throat; when my weight falls upon your chest as your lungs flood. President or pauper you're all the same to me just numbers in a sum. You'd like to wash your hands of me, but you'll need to catch me first and I'll ensure you do, then slip away unseen from the siren scream to keep the total climbing, the records crashing, the headlines coming and be for eternity the measurement of time. (from Psychopathogen, Hedgehog Press, 2020)
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