Matriarch

nans'eyesHer eyes are robins, bustling and darting

They can stop a baby crying at fifty paces

Embarrass a handsome young man

At twice that distance

Her hands distorted lobster claws

From polishing up all her pride and joy

For so many years

Her handbag arms, so strong

In taking care of others

In taking charge of others

 

Her 1950s hair and posh ‘Toosdays’

In the right company

Turn into curlers and long-drawn ‘Ooooh!’s

The chink of spoon stirring cup

At home in her blue and gold

John Lewis splendour

Her heart broke when they made her

Step down from her high heels

 

She is outrageous draped curtains

Whiskey and gin, a clutter of objects

She is too much food

That wants to be eaten up

She is nosier than cats

Cheekier than squirrels

And pulling her skirt to just above the knee

To tell you her life stories

 

Softer than butter

Wrapped around a brick

And though the Pear’s soap

And the petal skin

Might fool you

She is a whirlwind

Confined to an armchair

A storm in a teapot

Always ready to pour me a cup

 

Thanks to the lovely Chris White for his workshop on metaphor where I began to write this poem. Please go and see Chris any time you get the chance, and don’t miss his amazing show Moist Moist Moist

On the Surface

fear

 

You are so much less than

The man you declared yourself to be

So loudly, so insistently

The anarchy symbol tattooed on your skin

Is a lie

When you think that you always know better

 

And although in the daylight

You’re almost convinced

By your own self-image

That fantastic creation

I know that deep in the dark

You feel the fear

You feel the lie

You know you’re falling

 

It hurts to feel the truth

Does it not?

To reveal to yourself through your actions

Not your words

That all your rebellion

Free-thinking

Environmentalism

 

Crumbles away in the face of

Shiny new things

Central heating

Domestication

And a woman who is so much more

Than she ever revealed to you

 

no labels

 

Summer Uprising

xr

Take to the streets

And dance for your lives

Sing the pollution

From your lungs

 

Take to the streets

And raise your voice in protest

Whose streets? Our streets!

Whose planet? Our planet!

 

Take to the streets

Talk to everyone you meet

Eat and sleep together

Share the hope and the love

 

Because it’s love

That brings us here

We do not want

To see you harmed

 

And so

 

Take to the streets

Sing, dance, raise your voice

Wave your flags

And bang your drums

 

Because we love you

We stand in your way

Because we love you

We take to the streets

 

We are standing on the precipice

And we are dancing

We are singing

To save humanity

Four Walls

painI don’t usually write about this sort of thing, but I decided to try. Perimenopause sucks a big one, but it is getting better as I get stronger and fitter and if I eat and drink and sleep enough. Love and good wishes to everyone going through this too, I hope you find ways of managing it that work for you.

 

 

I lay trapped in the tunnel of pain

The four walls

The box sets

The world is narrow

On a day like this

My body calls the shots

And shapes my whole reality

 

It doesn’t matter what I want

What I plan

Whatever my intentions

But I must lie

First one way, then another

Sometimes there’s no way

That doesn’t hurt

 

I eat I drink I take the tablets

And I try for the relief of sleep

Another sunny day gone by

While I lie

Trapped in the tunnel of pain

The four walls

The box sets

 

On other days grief overtakes me

Or hopelessness or rage

My whole psyche is so sensitive

I can’t bear even the gaze

Of another human being

 

I wish to be both far away

Alone on an island

In a storm-tossed sea

The blessedly cold salt spray

Caressing my hormone-hot skin

Or else wrapped up in total love and care

Someone to cook my eggs for me

And hold me

 

Inside the four walls

Migraine lays me low

Every joint and cartilage inflamed

Hot hot pain at the base of my skull

I press my knuckles hard, hard

Into my eye sockets, my temples

And pray for the pills to work

 

A hand has taken hold of my womb

And squeezes it, squeezes it

And I’m gasping, dumbfounded

There’s nothing to be done

But let it rush through me

Like the incoming tide

Is it better if I breathe?

Or if I don’t breathe?

 

I have to change position again

Sometimes there is no way

That doesn’t hurt

And I’m scared and alone

Trapped in the tunnel of pain

The four walls

The box sets

 

And all the pills and hot water bottles

In the world don’t help

Reassure me that one day

This will all be over

And I will be set free

To enjoy the sunny days

Outside of these four walls

And It Was All A Dream…

castle

You see, I built all these great shiny castles

Out of air and fairytales and need

My need to love and be loved

I think you built some too

But I don’t know what they looked like

I was too busy piling up summer palaces

Full of flowers and sunshine

Laughter and starry nights beside the fire

We laugh as I chase the boy and dog

Around and round the garden

I turned my face away

From anything that didn’t fit

And hoped that the fairytale of love

Would work its magic on us

But I see now

I am looking now

Only we can work that magic

Love takes courage

You can’t build it out of hope

And air and fairytales and need

And it should not be locked away

In castles and palaces

You must love everything

From the ground up

You must join with everyone

Join the dance

I won’t turn my face away from you

Although your jagged edges

Hurt my eyes

Although your rough surfaces

Scratch my skin

Although I do not know how to make

The flowers bloom in our garden

Shhh!

loudnoises

I wish that those men in my life would shut up
Keep on telling me, telling me, telling me stuff

Telling me how to keep my car clean
Telling me how to smoke my sweet green
Telling me how to paint a wall!
As if in my nearly fifty years
I’d closed my eyes and stopped my ears
And done and learned nothing at all

Oh, I wish that those men in my life would shut up
Keep on telling me, telling me, telling me stuff

Telling me how to do my job
Telling me how I should love
Telling me how geology works…
Perhaps they think that I’m impressed
But, no, it just makes me depressed
That the world is so full of jerks

Yes, I wish that those men in my life would shut up
Keep on telling me, telling me, telling me stuff

Telling me how to chop potatoes
Telling me what my mental state is*
Telling me how to write my novel
Why won’t they ask, or ever listen?
Coz probably I could give them tuition
On health or design or Greek myth or fossils

See, I know lots of things as well
That I don’t feel the constant need to tell
And when you bang on, and on, and on
Telling me things that are often wrong
Your superiority is what you’re proposing
Your insecurity is what you’re exposing

Yes, I wish that those men in my life would shut up
Keep on telling me, telling me, telling me stuff

Telling me I should try a Mooncup
Telling me that my hormones are fucked up
Telling me that I’m unfulfilled
Go on, assume that I’m incurious
Very few things get me more furious
They’re lucky they don’t get killed!

I love to exchange anecdotes and ideas
And I can keep talking for years and years
But I’m not out tonight to hear you lecture
Conspiracy theories and wild conjecture
The facts in your brain are a meaningless stew
Inspired and genius only to you

So I wish that those men in my life would shut up
Keep on telling me, telling me, telling me stuff

Telling me things that I already know
Telling me things I disproved years ago
Telling me all your urban legends
YouTube videos and pomposity…
No longer will I curb my ferocity
Mate, you’re coming across as a bell-end

Can we not have a conversation?
An exchange of information?
We might both learn something new
You from me, and me from you
Because, my dear, I think you’ll find
That’s the mark of a truly intelligent mind

Until then those men in my life can shut up
And stop telling me, telling me, telling me stuff

 

  • ‘state is’ and ‘potatoes’ actually do rhyme in my London accent, so there

What you can do if you fall

fall

If you fall down, what you can do

Is let the shock wake you up.

Feel the pain, breathe, shout it out

Or cry. Then, in your own time,

Get back up.

If a friendly helping hand

Extends towards you, take it.

Back on your feet, you may feel bruised

And trembly, unsure of your footing.

Take your time.

Breathe. Check out your bumps and scrapes.

Rub them better, give yourself a shake.

And hope that you have learned

How not to trip again, over the same old

Twisted roots.

Your first steps may be uncertain,

But one day soon you will be

Far along the path, striding happily.

And you will smile ruefully at the memory

Of falling.

The Wildest Path

thorns

A true story, on more levels than one…

 

Recently, I took a wrong path.

I was uneasy on the flat,

the dog-walking couples in uniform

oppressed me.

I spotted a hole in the hedge.

 

Mistaking it for one of those paths the children make

to the nearest rope swing,

I scrambled, sprang and crawled up

though the intriguing gap.

It seemed like fun awaited,

a path hardly ever taken by anyone.

And the thrill of being odd; not like the others,

I’ll be frank, always entices.

 

As soon as I emerged, I knew, really,

that I had gone wrong

It was not a path to anywhere.

Uncertainly, but sure I’d find my way

I followed tracks trodden by beasts

 

They meandered and wandered,

appearing and disappearing,

skirting a steep slope.

Watching my every step on the rough ground,

I pressed on; I saw the flowers in the field,

the beautiful wide sky, the larks sang for me…

But I knew I should not be there.

I was nervous, on private land

 

On and on I went along until I met a hedge,

a barrier that seemed impassable.

And so I backtracked, climbed a fence

and gained a thicket pierced by badger’s sets and trails.

I crawled and ducked and pushed the whippy branches

aside

 

But the further I went, the more tangled

the way became, with

thorns, and nettles, brambles and

old dead bracken. I had to step very high

not to trip and fall.

Determined, convinced I was making some progress,

I struggled, barbs tearing my skin,

pulling my hair, clutching at my clothes

 

I pushed and pushed, I sweated and I shed blood,

and finally, I was free!

I’d found my way through!

But where was I?

Back in that same field!

With no way out

except the way I’d come

 

Immediately I turned around.

Decided to chalk it up to experience.

Slightly shamefacedly

I scrambled back down

through the hole in the hedge.

I emerged on the sand

with everyone else

and I took the shortest way home.

 

A poem with no name

campfire

The people come with their stories front and centre

They wear them like shields, like badges of honour

This is why you find me in this state!

This horror, this lack of care, this tragedy

Has brought me here. Oh, I could tell a tale or two!’

 

And so I sit, and roll up fags for us, and listen

Sitting on the pavement, on damp walls, or on the ground

We smoke and I listen and the terrible tales pour out

Until they have been heard and felt, until

The shields are lowered, the armour loosened

 

And then the people let me glimpse amazing lives

Of courage and adventure, and the honesty or

The grit that means they can’t become

A cog in the machine; a spirit shines through to me

A will that keeps them striving through adversity

 

How many weary miles they’ve travelled, battling demons, sore of heart!

The revolutions fought, the stallions tamed, the families left behind

The starry nights with drink and fire and good companions

The mountains of bureaucracy they’ve scaled

And wild capricious seas of prejudice and kindness, life and death

 

Pushed the to edges, the margins, these people

They have the best, most unexpected stories

And I feel privileged and also strengthened

Because I too, am an outsider, a piece of grit

And my mechanism don’t always run smooth

 

And when I sit, and roll up fags, and listen

That’s when I feel that I fit into something

We don’t run smooth, but we run side-by-side

That’s where I become my best self – sat in the margins

Hearing epic tales from heroes much braver than me