A collection of poems and other writings...

Wednesday, 29 July 2015

Friday Fairy Cakes

I lift my
the cloth of my
my T-shirt
my drenched T-shirt


three o’clock
and she
triangulates the kitchen
with busy-ness
waiting for the homecoming of us
on the four o’clock bus
pondering tea
and so she
anticipating hunger
reaches into the centre
for the large gripstand bowl
and fetches
fat and eggs
from the Lec
in the scullery
stands them next
to the range to warm
washes her hands at the kitchen sink
by the window
glancing up the garden
to the point she knows
in an hour we will become

to see beneath my
under my right ribs
a gaping hole in
wrenched in
the flesh of me


because it was
the preparation day
that the bodies
should not remain
upon the cross
on the Sabbath day
besought him that
their legs might be broken
and that they
might be taken
so came the soldiers
to brake the legs of the first
and of the other
which was crucified with him
but when they came to Jesus
and saw that he was dead 
they brake not his legs
but one of the soldiers
with a lance
pierced his side
and forthwith
came there out
and water

where the guts
the guts have been
and the heart
the heart has been
they have been


four ounces
each of caster sugar
and soft unsalted butter
creamed together
with an ancient wooden spoon
then eggs, two,
free range
beaten and added
by drop
by drop
with a teaspoonful of essence -
Madagascan Vanilla -
followed by flour
another four ounces
self-raising, sifted and weighed
into the glossy mixture
and then the batter
by spoon
by soft spoonful
on top of a finger of scarlet jam
in the bases
of paper cases
in the tarnished indents
of a well-used muffin tray
then posted
into the oven
preheated to
three hundred and seventy five degrees
until domes of golden cake
glisten proudly above tulips of paper
ready to be
lifted gingerly
and lined up uniformly
on the waiting
mesh cooling-rack

through loss
through injury
and through loss


it was the consultant haematologist
in maybe some clumsy attempt to
comfort her
had pointed out
that as she
had older children they
would after her death be
able to attend to
the infant
with whom she
was now

and the triangular
the triangular blade
the wound made by
the triangular
bayonet blade
is such
that the sides
the sides of the cut flesh
cannot be

 to staunch
the flow

six o’clock
and at tea
there are ham sandwiches
and soft-boiled eggs we pass over
before we
can peel the papers
from the waiting fairy cakes
to reveal the terrifying
broken heart of jam
that has burst into the sponge
to leave a chasm of syrupy sweetness
blood red and oozing
while she pours tea
while she still can
from the aluminium teapot
its dull tannin-stained
surfaces scoured
to a shine
in the last few moments
before we arrived

and the
the wound thus fails to
it bleeds
it still bleeds
and thus
fails to
it fails to

to heal

Tuesday, 28 July 2015

sock drawer

Is this the drawer
where Grandad
kept his gun
wrapped in an old crepe bandage?

This drawer
with tortured walnut veneer 
where I now keep my socks?

An old service revolver
from his time in the war
the Great War
wrapped in a crepe bandage
and tucked at the back
of this drawer
next to a small cardboard box
of ammunition.

And did you find it once
when, aged fourteen,
on a cold Sunday afternoon
you were searching 
in forbidden places
for string
or a thimble
or some such thing?

And did you
when you spoke to him later
of your find
and though the sharp rebuke had
stung your ear
then understand what he had
had in mind
during the dark days
of 1941
when Hitler seemed invincible
when the War seemed lost
when he had promised you
and Joyce
and Grandma
that Adolf would never
take his family alive?

Saturday, 18 July 2015


I just felt I should 
draw to your attention
that it gives me 
very little pleasure 
to mention
that the animal 
I described 
as a 
and that you described 
of my imagination
is currently partaking 
of the packet of biscuits
you left 
on the dining table
to enjoy after luncheon

Friday, 17 July 2015

Enfin, nous avons décoré la cuisine

after we had had
the kitchen done
the plaster on the walls
took several days to dry
turning slowly in patches
from muscovado to soft brown
to a light coffee stucco

the slightly 
less than competent plasterer
had left small arcing ridges
as he smoothed his float
over the silky surface

they crossed
they interrupted each other

after the plaster was dry
there was only one real decision to make

so we sought out colour charts
from do-it-yourself shops
such as Homebase
B and Q

there were many

we would choose a colour to wrap ourselves in together
we would choose a colour to swamp our lives
a verdant sage green perhaps
we would choose a colour to heighten our ecstasy
a vermillion
a burnt orange
sexy hot pink was however not available
in the Kitchen & Bathroom Range
too steamy

should we matchpot?

we considered tiles
thick and small
deep blues, buffs and siennas
terracottas and tomato tartines
offering the rustic charm of
an Italian farmhouse kitchen
spattered with pasta sauce

and yet the decision could not be made
there was tension
in the new kitchen

we crossed 
we interrupted each other

which remained
for ten years
taking on the aspect of 
a Sheffield terrace offshot
spattered with pasta sauce
until the prospect of
a French exchange student
called Sandrine
staying chez nous
for eight days
drove us to


Tuesday, 14 July 2015

the first language of love

of love
there are five languages
the five love languages
are a tool to improve
your relationships

is there a problem with your connection?

quality time
spending time
on each other
this is the first language of love

the people in this picture were all murdered
by an F16 strike on the building
in which they were
in which they were sheltering
this picture is all that remains of the family
the people
in this picture
were all murdered

having trouble viewing this?
are you having trouble viewing this?
if you are having trouble

is there a problem with your connection?

some need words of affirmation
so tell your loved one
this is the first language of love

Syria’s children are dying
blood leaves their bodies
blood is leaving their bodies

here we have
physical touch
is this how you receive love?
this is the first language of love

there seems to be a problem
with your connection
please check and try again

five tips to turning your life around
after you've lost your way
this is the first language of love
acts of service
perform acts of service
for your loved one

if you continue to see this message
contact the person
in charge of your network

give and
receive gifts
for this is the first
the first language
for this is the first language

of love

Wednesday, 8 July 2015

brain food

life is but a
melancholy flower

life is
and from youth the matter
suffers a decline
from the airy sanguine
through choleric blood
to the melancholic earth

life is butter
the phlegmatic young
may be enjoyed lightly inspired

life is but a melon
yellow bile
black bile
piel de sapo

but with individuals displaying
a darker humour

other culinary techniques must be employed
up to the testing of by fire

for best results
look for a cream colouration
indicating a level of maturation
blood and phlegm

life is but a melon
Too, too solid Air

but not yet too advanced
while the firm flesh should offer
some light resistance

life is but a melancholy flower
blood, yellow bile, black bile, and phlegm

as the palpating fingertips
carefully check each ventricle
for blemishes and irritations
pineal parasites, pests and aberrations
Other    Dark    Spots
the frogskin of encasing leaves
should be removed
and the stem severed at the base
to thus allow extraction
from the cranium case

having washed the whole
separate the lobes

a melancholy flower

and with a sharp blade
sever the cortex
right through the stem

"Basal ganglia" by Mikael Häggström and Andrew Gillies*
from each segment
incise slices
no more and yet no less
than a centimetre thick
the which lay flat in your pan

life is butter-melon
medulla oblongata

drizzle with a fine
extra virgin olive oil
or spread with rich butter
spice with whole cumin seed
then salt liberally

life is but a melon

a steady temperature

Gas Mark 6 to 7
depending on the
thermal efficiency of your oven
will be sufficient
to tenderise the flesh
and caramelise the cauliflower

life is but a
life is but a
melancholy flower
melancholy flower
life is butter melon
life is but a melon


- Made in Inkscape. The following raster image was used for modelling:Basal-ganglia-coronal-sections-large.png (By Andrew Gillies/User:Anaru; Creative Commons Attribution ShareAlike + GFDL license). Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons - 

Friday, 3 July 2015

In the Queue - Cashier Number Five, Please

“Is it your birthday, Doreen?”
“It is my birthday.”
“I saw your badge.”
Doreen’s wearing a “Birthday girl” pin badge.  She perches on her stool counting out the woman’s money.
“I’m taking tomorrow off, Jean,” Doreen smiles, “making a long weekend of it. Might have a facial.”
“Ooh! That’s nice.  Is it a big one?”
“Not particularly,” says Doreen.  She mouths “forty-five” through the glass.
“Oh, I had you as older?” says Jean.
Doreen stops smiling.
“How much did you want, then?” Doreen asks
“I’ll have the full two hundred.  I’ve gave up smoking and every week I’ve been putting it aside – twenty pounds a week.  Now I’ve got two hundred!  Just from not smoking.”
“Amazing,” says Doreen.
“I’m still doing them e-ciggies though.”
“Right, but they’re much cheaper, aren’t they.”
“Oh, so much cheaper”

Crystal is serving me.  She’s new.  There’s a sign above her window “Staff in training. Please be kind.”  I push the banking under the glass as kindly as I can.  A small rubber band rolls out of the cloth bag, too.
“I’ve just got some banking to do and a bit of change – oh, and a small rubber band,” I tell her.
“Oh, haha!” says Crystal.  “Er…”
Dawn has been spring-cleaning the shelves on our side: one by one emptying them off, wiping them down with a J-cloth and a bit of spray, then popping the things back on exactly the way they were but without the dust.  She comes up to the counter to talk to Crystal.
“Have you not done banking before?”
“No,” says Crystal.
“You’ll be fine.  Doreen, soon as you’ve finished Jean off can you help Crystal?”
“’Course I can, lovey.  I’ll help you, lovey, I’ll just finish Jean off, you’ll soon get the hang.”
“Here,” says Dawn to me, “look at the colour of my hands,” she spreads her fingers out to show me their blackened tips.
“That’s me done,” says Jean.  “ Bye all!” and she walks out struggling to close her purse around her two hundred.

A man walks up behind me heading for Doreen who has sidled across to look at what Crystal is doing.
“Hello, Len,” they all say.  He’s a regular I’m guessing.
“Hello, girls,” says Len.
Crystal is occupied slowly counting out my twenties into piles of four and wrapping a fifth around them, so Doreen slips back over and sidles her bottom onto her stool to serve Len.  Len puts his card in the card machine.
“How much do you want?” says Doreen.
“All of it,” says Len “soon as I can remember my number, er… .”
Dawn has taken the rolls of silver wrapping paper off the high shelf above where Len is standing.  Now she tries to put them back but they topple off and one hits Len on the head.
“Oh!!  Watch out skies a-falling!” says Len.
“Oh! I’m so sorry, Len!” says Dawn and another roll topples down.
“Wo-oah,” says Len “you take your life in your hands in here!  ‘Sallright Dawn I won’t sue you.”
Dawn picks up one of the rolls from the floor and taps him a hollow knock on the head.
“Steady on, lass,” says Len, “that’s my weakest point! Oh, hang on…” he’s remembered his number and presses it carefully into the machine. “Had to be rattling round in there somewhere! I’m obliged to you.”

Crystal’s been picking up speed; she’s finished the tens, and fives too, and is just fiddling the loose change onto her little coin rack.

“Did you get them bees, Len?” asks Dawn
“What?” says Doreen.  “Bees?  What bees?”
“Oh, did I not tell you,” says Len, “got chatting to a man over Wombwell way last Sunday.  Beekeeper chap.  BMW they used to call him - Bee Man of Wombwell.  But he’s ninety three and he’s giving it up.”
“And you fancied a bit of honey on your porridge, didn’t you Len!” says Dawn.
“Eh, it’s not just that,” says Len.  “I do, like, but it’s not just that.  He says he’s got hundred thousand bees but he wants to give them away.  So I says, well I’ll have ‘em.”
“ Blimey!” says Doreen
“I know!  With all the equipment, like.”
“Hundred thousand!  That’s ever so many.” Doreen can’t quite believe it.
“But you took them back,” Dawn chimes in, “’cause when you got them home there was one missing!”
“You’ve not done it before though, Len,” says Doreen
“No, no,” says Len, “no, not done it before – don’t know one end of a bee from t’other.”
“Haha!” says Dawn, “well I reckon you’ll find that one out soon enough, Len.  Eh?”
“Oh, be-hive yourself!”  says Len.  “Be-hive yourself!”
"Eh!  I'm Queen Bee around here, aren't I Dor?"
"Oh, yes."
Dawn grabs her midriff in her hands and wobbles it.
"Look you can tell I've had too much of that royal what d'you call it, y'know..."
"Jelly," says Len
"Ay, that's it," says Dawn, "royal jelly.  Too much royal jelly!"