if there's a gate I want to climb a rose through it/ if there's a window I want to bring the sea to it/ if there's a word you want to drop a rhyme with it/ if there's a joke you want to make a crime of it/ if there's an alley I want to skip away down it/ if there's a sail I want to build a raft for it/ if there's a thought you want to put a sock in it/ if there's a pot you want to put a lid on it
I bought Fernet-Branca to remember my mother/ lover of Campari, Jägermeister, Angostura/ F-B best and bitterest of all – one sniff/ brings astringent gentian and licorice/ coffee-tables ashtrays stilettos/ I swig the bottle shudder and swear/ but another swig and I'm prepared/ for this unholy hair of an ugly dog./ An eagle on the label/ offers the bottle above a sea of clouds/ pouring bitter balm over the planet/ while the sky turns orange – / a bitter wake-up call or the day's/ bitter end? I'm getting used to it.
to reduce property: remove instructions – all MUST comply/ do not install systems, do not install supply lines, do not install water/ reduce the risk associated with grasp damage/ protect from foil label, mark your contaminants calendar – reset ingestion of 2-3 glasses/ write the date on your device, insert an unpleasant taste and odour – actual backflow may vary/ if you are uncertain how to check this condition, turn to the left – pressure a disposable local
We're modernist people we don't like things brown we like things vermilion and ultramarine. And white./ So how come that's brown and that and also that? Your living room seems to be a shrine to brown./ For starters that's not brown: it's aged leather from Spain and that's blond wood and that's clay. Those are natural rust and that's tropical wood and this is woven fibres./ Oh. OK.
Her tone is breezy. This time she left it on the bus she thinks or perhaps they've found it at work, lost track of it last Sunday./ It lasted so well, months since that mis-juggled tumble into the bowl while she screeched at the toilet jeans round her knees./ The rice treatment succeeded for the previous model dropped into the sea, at least until it was run over by a bus for which her phones seem to have a certain affinity.
I'd happily write only a mystical paean to Hone Tuwhare, master poet of rain/ but then again my rain today is not the same as his, leached through a thousand mountains/ milled down a million rivers, raised up in vapour from two billion hectares of ocean/ carried in cumulus, swirled and ice-crystalled, flashed and thundered/ cloud-descended over these green hills and emptied over me/ the drop at the end of my nose perhaps once drunk by the maestro himself in 1963.
Then, we lived at 27 metres below, the canal at the back level with our bedrooms,/ the house built on stilts on bedrock, a thousand years of engineering skill expressed in the locals' confident sangfroid/ although Dutch friends from further inland always asked if we owned a boat./ Now, we're at 16 metres above, still not enough when the big one hits/ at least here, there's a hill at the back and when all else fails, a pair of kayaks.
A roar in the background (the raku kiln heating up), a tui singing. I'm holding my phone tightly and swiping.. As soon as he walks in I fold: Have you heard? At London Bridge? He knows by my voice what I mean. We scan our screens. One's home safe, the other's out, could be anywhere. She left her phone on the bus last week, can't call. I phone the club where she works, don't care if it's uncool. Not working tonight. I've already messaged some of her friends, they're not sure. Minutes later there's a ping and I'm running to the shed. Her mate writes: she's working in Hackney tonight, safe, nowhere near. In my mind's eye her happy selfie at London Bridge, another day, another year.
The scratch band's practising 'Rio', dry Mike Nesmith's swingingest song. Maka wants it calypso, Dave can you syncopate the cajon? That bass is relentless, she grumbles but Alan scowls, refuses to change the groove: the original's perfection – dancing funky lines through a nonstop party, luscious backing vocals and a plaintive slide, through silly flight announcement snippets, clinking glasses, laughing, yells, a jokey video, sublime sweet 70s delight. A winter chill's on the Saturday morning market, coffee, muffin, mandarin scents mingle with our ragged version's sunny chords and a few smiling people sing along: tonight I probably won't fly down to Rio but then again, I just might.
Over woods sinking into black, a celestial salmon stretches and flattens, sheds its tail, wraps itself in feathery folds, ignites in apricot shards against the babyblue./ A row of hilltop cut-outs sucks all colours, exposing the hover of a pale lopsided moon through a bruised sky, a plate of grey fillets.
Two lemons from the local market sit in a handmade terracotta bowl – or perhaps it's a saucer – on the engineered stone work surface of this kitchen./ The lemons' yellow against brown earthenware bring back 1986: our last Greek island, the rocks we lay on all day, between swims, sex in our dim room, and later/ on a terrace, scoffing dolmades drenched in lemony olive oil. Wild thyme in the air, hair stiff with salt. I scratch a lemon and sniff.
O gilded youth you laid down your laptops/ O gallant youth you got out of bed/ O gleeful youth you unlocked your bathrooms/ O glorious youth you strode out the front door./ O lovely young things you put x on the ballot/ O limber young things you stepped into the light/ Later, young darlings, you'll have further chances/ I hope, my young friends, you'll continue the fight.
I'm a hunchback, he says, I've a weird centre of gravity
as he heaves himself onto the barstool, wincing
some days everything's painful, like today
he pulls out a handful of blisterpacks
to swig with his beer, laughs and shrugs
Crusaders v Lions in the background
the knock and clunk at pool tables
dim lighting and misplaced spots
throwing the band into silhouette
– when he was up earlier, growling his verses
backed by massive Beefheart-crunking rhythms
this silver-haired flailing bear owned the stage
at McMorrissey's Irish Bar, drunks yelling outside
beat poetry was alive and kicking and Ian Dury never died.
On days when I'm feeling murderous
it helps to find a place moist and murmurous
to crouch beneath a shrubbery in dank dark gloom
to wrestle with the mothweed and uproot a tree in bloom
to wrangle juicy branches, rip 'em off their cosy trunk
tobacco weed's my favourite, just hear my hatchet thunk
into its green and feeble bark and twist its pure white wood
– take that you scum! (I'd rather twist some balls if I could.)
I want to see orcas blowing rainbows, not buy age-reversing cream
I want to laugh at the dog shaved for summer, not buy a new car
I want to watch kittens in boxes, not buy paste for sensitive teeth
I want to listen to a new track, not buy funeral insurance
I want to see people being pranked on someone else's phone
I want to see an operation with nothing pixellated
I want to see spots being squeezed and not be judged as creepy
I want to see nonstop pratfalls, in handy compilation form
Right now, I want to watch a fire burn across a city
Right now, I want to watch a perfect storm destroy an island
I want to watch the carnage moments after the attack took place
I want to watch the dusty faces look inside the bomb blast crater
Each voyeuristic moment takes its toll – one soul's the fee
Each small endorphin frisson says: despicable, privileged me.
One exception perhaps: larvae
live in fast-moving streams
adults fly weakly
their emergence from
is most unusual, the pupa
comes to the surface and explodes
catapulting her into the air
the wings are pre-expanded
though finely folded – she simply
flies away – they never lose their creases
see the adults' long slender legs
dangling into the water
along stream borders.
When she woke that night, she thought
now that I'm published, I must send
a couple of pieces to Dad in Thailand
of course he's not on Facebook
so he wouldn't have seen any
and they don't have internet out there
him and his new wife, beach bums
I can picture the thatched bamboo house
him lounging in the hammock
chickens pecking, a pig or two.
As she stood, she had another thought:
he would have been been 100 this year
and felt a drop of urine trickle down her leg
realising his birthday had passed, unnoticed, months ago.
Producer (drawing of a spade): San Sebastian
Varietal (drawing of a leaf): Bourbon & Caturra
Processing (drawing of a sun): Natural
Altitude (drawing of a mountain): 1700 masl
Suitable for: (drawings of 6 pieces of apparatus)
Flavour (drawing of one big+two small intersecting circles): melon, orange, milk chocolate
Story: 15 lines of eloquent italics about the 4th generation heritage farm
on the slopes of an active volcano, shaded by macadamia trees.
I squeeze the package and my mouth waters
like Pavlov's dog to the bell
– a hint of melon? a chocolate whiff? –
my nose pretends to be able to tell
but my close focus is distracted
by the piece of cheese I'm eating
and a sudden waft indoors of wet clay
my mind's eye is patterned with woven fajas
swaddled babies, marimba and zampona groups
in summer markets around the world
and I don't know where I put the grinder.
Rain marching up the valley
rapid striding pillars
and this a mild precursor
to a bigger downpour on its way
the news barely dampens me at first
that she's gone, my old friend
suddenly blown off her feet
we knew she'd be in for a rough ride
worse weather on the way
a couple of years ago
exchanged some hearts
and likes and on 22 May
Day 1 of this project
I messaged her: Dear Go,
will you be home 5/6 August?
I really want to see you. Love Vxxx
She wrote back right away: I'll
make sure I am, it's in
the planner now so I'll be here Xx
– in Dutch, her language
through and through. I looked forward
to her chuckle, her menagerie,
the drenched tropical swirls
and sexy curves of her paintings.
Too late I realise I'm soaked
without thinking I've stood still
all these 30 days
while someone precious washed away
but at least I'll be there that weekend
and so will she: grounded, as ever.
They're playing football the teacher said
hardly looking up from marking
as we push our bikes round the back
to the school's paved playground
the standard scuffing and shouts
Over here! Pass it! and Shoot!
the clichéd scene beyond the net
mixes up with skittering and screams
bouncing manes and bare legs
three tall girls intent on possession
hustling the ball, barging it off
some little lad, a short keepy-uppy
two snappy passes and a goal
victory lap and high-fives
fake pearls and bracelets leaping
glitter makeup still intact
– I salute girls doing what they like
exactly how they like it
and mourn a short while too:
three 'borrowed' pairs
of my best fuck-me shoes,
a little worse for wear.