Category Archives: Poems

Dead Man’s Time

I wear a dead man’s watch
And read a dead man’s books.

I walk down a dead man’s streets,
And look at a dead man’s statue.

A dead man’s thoughts are all I have
And a dead man’s map leads the way.

A dead man’s music lulls me
And a dead man’s painting inspires me.

I pay a dead man’s taxes,
And wait for a dead man’s money.

I follow a dead man’s advice
And make love to a dead man’s wife.

If I live in a dead man’s world,
What does this make me?

For the Potato

I told my parents you won’t be having

any potatoes

when you come over, you say 

as I swallow peanuts one half at a time over

the phone.

You say things like that sometimes 

not knowing

how I banged my head when I

tipped the scale last summer and lied about

it after.

You’re 29 and this is your first time

counting calories;

you love the numbers, the novelty of them

even as they go up, you laugh in a way I haven’t laughed

about anything.

I have binned five thousand yellow-green

paper towels

dipped in oil, it takes five minutes 

for sun-dried tomatoes and olives to strip

and dry.

The appetite really does come en mangeant— 

rushed in

A bout of gratification and pallid starvation,

A hideous hand-me-down culinary tradition,

given by

my mum, measuring out her carbs with

coffee cups

(often replacing them altogether)

and when night fell on those cheese-platter evenings

I slept

with my earphones on, my thighs apart under

the covers.

Changed the sooted glass of an ever burning

scented candle in the bathroom every morning as

she slept.

Never vanilla or other edibles, only ever

pine-wood

rose-water, lilies – or some other “mindfulness” 

scent as she liked to call them, laughing a

minty laugh.

Your mother’s food isn’t mindful at all,

it’s motherly —

(how many times have I groaned in bed from

a lactose-induced stomach ache?)

she tries

and prepares me separate meals, this is with

your milk

she says as though my milk brought allergies of

its own, lest they should skip the whole-cream milk for

one meal. 

And then there is the potato – how it haunts the 

English cuisine;

like a speech impediment never corrected.

The most hated of all the golden earth-births:

potatoes.

This starchy shapeshifter of a legume is ever present—

Mash, gratin, chips, crisps, golden, sweet, lemony, roasted,

fried, double cooked, boiled, browned, crispy, mushy in all and 

with all.

Your mother makes a mother’s sort of meal,

repetition based—

potatoes and meat potatoes and meat potatoes and meat

so that you might always think of her in your

Proustian moments. 

Your mother’s shepherd’s pie which isn’t shepherd’s pie

at all,

but cottage pie tastes like being nurtured

in a way I’ve never been nurtured before;

not like this anyway

not like this.

It makes me feel naughty the way only

children do,

when the pink smell of the pink marshmallow 

Sauce ripples over the sticky toffee pudding

with a thud.

She remembers what I like and buys it in abundance and

stomach aches

Are normal and not anything dangerous at all

In your home, and I don’t mind the potatoes for that sme

of hers

when the pie comes out just right, and I don’t mind the 

cold fish

on those “Meat-Free Mondays” for your father’s large

hand laying out the cutlery; remembering how I like to eat with a 

small spoon.

I could eat potatoes every day, I want to say 

when you

say things like that sometimes, not knowing how 

I never had a mum and dad even when I did have a mum and dad;

not like this anyway

not like this.

To Turn and Fall

nine and a half meters; 

a foreseeable twenty more years, 

sixty-three square meters, 

and a large sink where she would hand 

wash the nappies, never again shall she

descend the stairs to a laundry room, 

and the vows —

about three minutes each

(rambling as he would — that an altar has to be

so much like a stage)

 

nine and a half meters;

till they ask me if I do and of course I do—

three hundred guests expecting a cake cut in two

and hand fed, photogenically, between the two

(daring to touch their lips only with cream)

while at least 130 of them cry again,

their awning lids flickering.

 

nine and a half meters;

of stone floors that would crack the skull

of a fleeing bride, no doubt. 

 

nine and a half meters;

of finger biting relatives whose husbands

hush impolitely as they wipe their wet noses

with their off-trend shawls.

 

she’d often thought about fucking those

middle-aged

medium-rare

half-relations.

 

does Jay want to put it in my aunt?

 

nine meters and sixty-seven centimeters

to be exact. 

and it had been so good those first months—

hard against the metal-clinking of the window-blinds

as her cold butt-cheek fled back and forth back and forth;

her hand-plucked nipples catching the cold

in the air. 

when was the last time Jay had sucked on her nipple?

 

nine and a half meters;

nine and a half weeks

of fucking the neighbour in the laundry room.

never again

(the nappies will be hand washed till her fingers

melt off the bone and even then there would be

no more fucking)

only nine more meters.

 

eight now. 

he was there of course;

sat on the sixth row waiting to catch some of the depravity—

the unspoilt scent of alabaster beauty;

he loved the outperformance of it all.

(I guess I did too—

why we kept coming back for more)

 

fuck me in these knickers she had said

pulling elaborate lingerie out of a laundry bag

in the space of cobwebs and concrete residue she undressed

steading herself against the out-of-order sign,

put on stockings so thin you could not take two lovers in a day

without leaving a trace. 

 

such beauty must be broken she said

(even a laundry room can be a stage) 

and he put his fingers in her mouth as they came

 

five meters and thirty centimeters; 

Jay smiled

she would die a thousand poetic deaths only to

have him brush a bush aside as she walked,

hold a hot hand to her cheek and sigh,

for there to be more sickness and less health,

for the stocking he picked out to come undone

thread by thread

 

two meters;

one meter seventy;

 

you’re such a klutz he said as she

ran with new stains across the hall

 

one meter;

 

how she cried as she watched the over-washed clothes

turn and fall

turn and fall

 

twenty centimeters to;

turn and fall.

Foreign flu?

This is a liberal translation of Kurt Tucholsky’s “Spanische Krankheit”, which was written in 1918.

Something’s slithering around industrialised states,
Shifting infected protective clothing
From the rat race into our homes.
Who here has seen it? Who could recognise it? Who dare mention it?
Headache, sore throat, loss of taste:
It all looks ‘foreign’ to me.

But! when I consider it more closely
And pay better attention to the symptoms,
All of a sudden, I realise:
This sickness is not globalised.
It looks anything but ‘foreign’ to me.

Slight fever, aches and pains,
The nice doctor says, “You’ll be all better tomorrow”.
We lie awake at night in cold sweats -
Anxiety, quackery, and hallucinations -
At noon, boiling up; shivers in the evening.
The next day, everything is back to normal!

This is no flu, cold or virus:
This is a Western political crisis.

The Death of Pallas

IN MEMORIAM

to all those who have risked and lost

remember

the gods have left us

to go our own way

to all those who have sailed away

remember

failure is human error and you know why

the gods have gone and left us

and we have gone our own way

to all those countless young men

just like Pallas

just like Palinurus

jut like Polydorus

thought themselves men and were killed like boys

take heart

for the gods are gone and we are left

off Libya

off Rhodes

off Catania

off Crotone

off Lampedusa

off Turkey

off Kos

off Farmakonissi

off Lesbos

he who dares yes of course he who dares

and endless bullshit told to endless young men

propaganda or necessity

Arcadians fight against the young beauty of your premature leader

mothers implore your sons not to cross the ocean

young men accept that dying is easy but living is harder

to all those who have risked and lost or lost and risked

is there not another way

the gods have left us yes

but what point do you have to prove

the point is that I

the point is that we

what exactly is your point

to all those who have risked and lost

hail and farewell

the gods have gone and left us to our own mistakes