Poems

Self-Defence

The instructor tells us
Imagine you’re on the telephone, holding
an ice cream with the other hand.
Get into your fighting stance.
You have four scoops
(strawberry, chocolate, rum and raisin,
mint choc chip) so don’t drop
your guard. We’re not pretending we’re ninjas here
but you have to breathe like one,
push the air between your teeth and clench
those glutes. Now jab –
cross – jab – cross – aim for the solar plexus,
ribs, chest. Upper cut to the chin, if you do it right
their teeth could sever their tongue,
give them a left hook, slam their temple in.
Knock ’em dead. Block with your elbow,
bob and duck when you have to.
Now flick your knee like the lash of a whip
cracked against a sailor’s chest, curl your toes back,
kick like an axe. Execute, again. Cut their legs out
under them with your foot-sword.
Your partner’s going to come at you and you’re going to
send them flying into next week.
When you roundhouse, you’re spinning 360 degrees
smashing all the cups in your kitchen.
Walk forward on your hands to the top of a press-up,
and pick up the pieces. You are a bridge,
a plank you must cross to meet
your kick-ass self. If you wanted nice,
you’d have gone for tea and cake instead.
Remember Buffy? Forget the ice cream, imagine
you have a sharpened stake and a crucifix.
Aim straight for that virgin heart.

– Originally published in Poetry Wales

The Philobrutist

Give me the man who keeps a lead in the boot of his car for rescuing loose dogs.
I want him crouching, shooing daft pairs of ducks out of oncoming traffic;
I want the pavement lined with dandelions he steps deftly over, open-palmed.

I want his humane mousetraps, the miniature fences he makes from Cadbury’s fingers
to send him out jogging at 3am, so two fat rodents can taste chocolate and freedom
in a wildflower meadow. I want him to fix a broken radio

and rig up three extension cables from the garage, so a budgerigar can sing and bob
and see out of a window. I want his unerring, unnerving birdsong whistle;
I want him to bathe his mum’s tortoise every morning

and dry her carefully on old newspaper, while explaining how her shell’s nerve-endings
respond unexpectedly to touch. I want him when he matter-of-factly
puts peanut butter sandwiches out for the badgers. I want him to lay his hands

on my shoulders and loosen the knot at the nape of my neck and I want
to stand on his feet while he spins me in circles. I want him so badly I’m giddy
and ravenous; I want him to follow me, follow me home.

– Originally published in Cheval

 

 

Still Life

In the cradle
they gave you, your head
rested round as a peach, so
perfect, they said, we could eat you.
You were delicate, sweet; slept still
as a seed. Through glass, we watched
you ripen to a bright banana yellow;
your blackberry eyes open
to smile, then crease in a cry.
There were strawberry prints
where forceps had
freed you.

 – Winner of the 2010 Cadaverine/Unity Day Poetry Competition, and published in Cheval

 

After the Feast

The way you hoard mugs:
keep dregs for days

on half-drained, brimming surface space;
leave perfect rings on polished wood.

Or, how sleeping,
we lie cupped, tipped

hip to hip
in soft creased napkin folds.

How, pulse to pulse,
your pressed lips brush,

take warm sweet sips
in cooling heat, leave prints.

So like your unwashed cups
(heaped, held shoulder-high)

is how I gather, careful-clasped,
your thrown-on shirt,

your pale cool cheek,
its sunlit stubbled auburn shock:

how, piece by piece,
half-dropped, at ease,

I stack collected, still,
scraped clean.

Honno Poem of the Month, September 2012

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