Mark flies home to Baby
for Mark E. Smith

You were on my cassette up in my ears with your
violence. My walkman was a scratchy portal straight
to your gammy mouth. I liked it, and the tight sound
of the drums, mounted with the skin of pigeons.

I was also frightened but not of anything.
The time the kids spat on my woollen shelf and
stoic as a pink sparkler, I knew you knew. In your
tank top, casting flames from your ancient hanky.

Something dumb and vicious that ran through all of it.
The ditches laced with porn- distaste in the kitchen,
I knew it. In our world apart, the southern quarters,
we knew the flailing, social hurt. I hid in woodlands

and heard the silence, we were better after all. You
in the gnarled old roots, a latchkey in the darkening
cover and I, proper with my bronze spoon, my
residuals, my uncanny face all flattened by

witches and tarmac. Now gone, into the farflung
corners of the disco- cosmic gargoyle, rings
of smoke around your ankles like A-OK, and
up in your thorax, the flickering burden of joy.


Outside, the twerpy birds flit mad
special into the sunlight. The dog’s ears
robo-swivel to the drama of rustling ivy,
unravelling like an unwound cassette.

Fox-bothered pots, imperial in carnelian
drape themselves over shingle,
business-like over the brown shouting
of spilled soil. Dog finds a hurt yellow

balloon, popped dead on the forecourt
and tries to kill himself. Items revolve
through his sharky mouth, impish sticks
and pink bits of flip flops- he chews on

the cryptic roots in unending query.
Far away, the sound of a seabird sends
him quivery, whiskers gone hi in electric,
the Musketeer pins that scurry him in.


Kingsley is alive with life, a puppy and a world.
I will stroke him senseless and he will be my hand,
a smiling horizon of fluff with a collar of dawning blue,
an extravagant Fibonacci tail of promise. This dog has
small Tourmaline eyes, I don’t know them yet but will-

that’s what they’re for. I will learn how to play, steer-
in the middle of the night he will swish round the house
like a silent boat. His tag will merrily ring the hours,
the hero of a larger dream. Soft and found, a Christmas
dog for life- he pulls the sled. Noble, he will trot

through the years, his tongue kept shining best
for the child that never comes, bright river in a garden,
some halfling coming home. He will eat up old shoes
and knit me boots to stride dark mornings hard and
chase the marsh, the wobbling reeds. He’ll race

the rain and crash through bracken, sponge
with paws like hooves that cleave the doom.
Watch this dog explode in droplets- a small silver
spring at a fairy-tale ball. Bear out of starlight,
our doglet- the best goodest boy of them all.


A Winter’s Tail

Now you are a lion
in this dim lit room.
Your watchful eyes
scan mine like cubs,
I like your chest &
heart too wry for our
un-slice of time. Post-
captive & plain, our
fluid tooth of force,

one whole world in
a world. A thing of
snow now loud with
masculinity fights
mine, half quiet
as mechanism, the
happy hour paws, we
wrestle our trestle, all
exit, pursued by a bear.


Supposing there is a tiny kernel of life
lodged somewhere behind the furious wave
of your ailing masculinity, hear this-

we are not for you. We are not for your
tears as the shock of cold air hits you
square in the gullet. More powerful

than you understand, we watch, can see
the desperate boy, red as an egg,
your failed excuse. Buoyed with need,

the big man- hear your foghorn, feel
the scrabbling, all the -ests then more,
most right, most loud, most sexed.

And all behind your blinds of meat,
the old days gripe- that time you touched
the sleeping girl, the feels you copped,

the castles built and smashed. You know
we know, your default fear, some idiot pride,
your fingers dank with beer, with blood,

the well paid plans that never birth. Don’t
sweat it kid, you’re still alive but brinked
and beached for sure; A kind not long,

your war is done- a violence all unclothed.


Leaves chuck themselves onto tracks, flashers
in their airy clearings. A stack of mags with hot
chicks, the haunted caravan in Weeley, Essex-
haunted with Essex. My roving 10 year old mind

like a priest in a lady of wicker- a rubbish witch,
dropped off at dawn to the seafront toilets where the
mirrors are sheets of metal. Dark tearooms of fudge
and lingering death. The fracas of rain on a skylight

which cuts. Wore his t-shirt in bed for months,
breasts pressed flat in penance, the neck too
high, the way he called his sister slag. We burnt
the lanes, as fiery idols of corn that flickered

bright then slipped down cracks to London.
Mocking the plimsoll line, our cat-right reflex spin,
locked in hedgerows with glo-worms and peat,
slight openings and watchful glassy silence ftw


Clean shelter and bounding dogs between the lake
and I for miles. A queen in the fresh mountain air,
up above furrows and vines arranged in perfect
portions, a full-fat exercise book of juicy maths.

Not a mountain person with this pouch, a little twinge
in the back of the knees, cold-stuck in coffee, art,
watching, don’t care if you’re better than me, it’s nice
here. The air is rarefied and sends me dreams of

dead babies, a party at which I am weightless as a
ballerina. I rot in the pool like a lily pad, dangerous
underwater as a sister. The unicorn has popped,
grappled in fabulous rodeo, the horn gone down.

Not my Dad. I am on holiday and keep working
to fill up the silence. We hear a story about a
bricklayer whose fingers stuck fast in a pulley,
crow hard at absurdity, dress light.

The old ship left, creaking into the chop & good-
bye to you. Another month with empty arms &
the racket of other people’s luck, tiny little eyelids,
the slight smell of burning from a fontanelle.

Off you go. I am waiting for ze blood to come, it is
baptism, a renewal of hope. They say relax it’ll be
your big opening soon, I say forget it. Ego’s overrated,
the whole point is to give & it seems I cannot do that.

Sandy tears for the tiny speck of morse-flecked
light that circles my Shangri-la, wanting a go. It is
missing me, wants a gro of skin to slip into,
for me to give it a bit of a stroke- old Niblet.

Honestly, perhaps I am not destined to love that hard-
it is hard. More to give the oak-eyed olds a break
& call those quickstep children as my own . Ok then!
We are all one after all. A writhing mass of golden fleece.


Wrong Birds  
after Leviathan 2012

33 Upon earth there is not his like,
Who is made without fear.

- Job 41

Spreading out from the brave houses of New Bedford into the darkness these men- Azoreans and Portuguese, black Cape Verdeans propelled from the barbarous coasts, ghosts with their whaling mouths- where the sea speaks in fish. These oil skinned men hang from the edge with their golden links, her white hand open to them like a roaring Christ.

From one silver-bloodied hell to the next, they haul this rope of a hanging man, sprats held firm in their yellow fists. The bone white gulls, horrible like stars, have throats full of the electric hum of the terrible machinery. It is distilled wind, the sound of death- they are throwing it out across the knocked up depths of her baited breath.

Smoke pours from their nostrils as from a boiling pot on a fire of reeds. Their breath sets coals ablaze, and flames dart from their mouths. Strength lives in their necks; dismay goes before them- the folds of their flesh are tightly joined; firm and immovable. Their undersides are jagged potsherds, leaving a trail in the mud like a threshing-sledge.

Wet lipped, his smoke leaves scrimshaw on the night. She’s hooked and knifed right down the middle as a wingless skate. Shuck on shuck in a steel cage, a man with the face of a pike. Eyes couched in a nest of nets, filmy with salt, hopeless with his sunken chest. He is scrabbling around, lost as a knife as it enters the husk.

Athena, your waterfall of blood. There is a wisdom that is woe; but there is a woe that is madness. He dives down into the blackest gorges and soars out, invisible in the sunny spaces- tension in his neck. Tension in ropes and winches, Tension in the nylon and crow’s feet, tension in floats and forecasts, hands like the jaws of a shark.

Johnny is a sailor, he is in a white vest. he has coffee in a paper cup. by high noon the men are back. Johnny’s eyes are fixed to the TV. Brian makes a phone call home, the crew loses thousands of dollars a day. Indigestion? Constipation that comes and goes every day? 4.5 pounds of fecal waste. He coughs- his throat is fucked. He is fucked.Johnny is fucked up. he has run out of coffee, there is kitchen paper. Johnny is in a room on the sea. he is all at sea. his eyes close. he is asleep- his whole life he is asleep. His eyes are heavy. His eyes are pain, heavy weather, exhaustion, brotherhood.

The birds are upside down and they are wrong. They are wrong and under the water. The fish are gulls with bent wings. There is a joint in them, a small tense joint.  They are giving off light and are the wrong way around. The birds are wrong and your lungs are heavy with them. Thier feet are made of small bones.

Pull in the Leviathan with a fish hook- tie down his tongue with a rope. His snorting throws out flashes of light; eyes like wilting flares.The Lady of Grace is found submerged in 56 feet of water at the bottom of Nantucket Sound, the bodies do not surface. The bodies roll across the sea bed, eyeless, to East Chop- wed with the Summer Flounder.

The mermaid on a man’s arm moves. She undulates on skin, breasts made of skin. She is the colour of skin and the screeching of a terrible bird, harsh as a child. Man as machine, prising out the life and bathing in eternal mildness of joy. Golden beards and eyes that that have seen death forever, foreheads welted as tide-battled sand.

Bug-eyed fish and their gasping mouths. Cut and opened, inside-out and raw as widows. They swim
in their own blood. They judder and crash on the waves, souls like tiny Noah’s, stomachs tipped out, gutted and chucked, wet purses nicked by boys. The sea’s red belly empties across the decks like a sickness- a bloated bird that stalks the bloodied boards.

Chainmail from some giant knight, the mechanism churns and moans. Ropes unfurl like the trunks of great soft trees. The sea and the vessel trawl the other, their hulls like chins that push through butter. Starfish- helms from an airless heaven or the hell above- half-swimming wrecks, piled up like Jews. Call them Ishmael. These men of old and their god-like strength.

Image by Louisa Albani, painted especially for this poem