Reykjavik bared its teeth to me;
its bay an open mouth asleep,
its blocks were concrete studs
in tarmac gums
and from it sprang a midnight hum.
I, awake with Iceland’s frost in my blood,
heard the beat of the Valkyrie drum,
slunk through corridor soft and dumb
to seventh floor balcony-come-clifftop,
where the dozing busses and snoring cars
played soundtrack to my soaring heart.
This city’s foreign slumber,
dreaming deep oblivious under
Aurora. I glimpsed Valhalla’s gleaming floors.
I stood, pyjamaed tourist, unworthy of this
private promise the sky was making,
that I could belong to an island waiting
to rejoin the myths from which it came.
I stayed awake half the night,
so I could write on the back of a postcard,
'I'm sure I saw the sky alight.
Send all my clothes on the morning flight.’
I would gladly spend my quicksilver youth
standing on the black sands of the Atlantic,
hands pressed to the glass flesh
of iceberg nests in endless headspace.
Instead, I crept down from the fire escape,
imbedded myself in hotel duvet,
woke at five to dejected disarray,
packed a cracked mug in a suitcase,
took a packed bus to an airplane,
boarded and sat, crushed by altitude,
realising all I was about to lose
as my precious hollow filled
with tomorrow’s mundane mundane.
I sighed off the plane and into home,
and missed and missed the ice and stone,
and wished I’d sipped more meltwater from the glacier,
so it could feed my bones,
my knuckles and knees
and teach my tempest mind to freeze.
Some boys grow distant like ships
in the midst of the waves;
sails taut, parting fleets scatter faster,
by their master
and boatswain against
surging blue to black, ‘til canvas slacks,
and currents kiss their hulls, allayed.
Some boys are gulls playing,
wheeling bicycle-bliss about the bay;
stealing crumbs of sonnets from distracted fingers,
calling for artificial prey.
The mist off the estuary lingers;
there’ll be no rest for the timid today.
Some boys are indifferent,
resistant to sea-air and coastal decay.
They are driftwood persistent
and charred from heartbreak,
blackened to the wrist with
tar and hard clay.
Some boys are evening-opaque,
leave some girls dreaming awake,
leave some embers as evidence they ever even stayed,
some gorgeous remnant remains of the day.
Some girls are full of chorus;
some girls breathe to bridge the pores of the earth and find their thumbs on the pores of your face.
They are siren-safe and wild aflame
and worth all the ointment your tears contain.
Some girls will rinse the brine from your brow,
pluck the sand from your hair,
press the ice to your doubts,
pull the reeds from between your teeth when a breeze
delays your voyage by another week.
Some girl, some excellent girl,
will soon enlist your company,
guess whether your tale is trustworthy;
offer theirs as exchange,
commence polaroid days,
which I’ll scan in years to come
when I’m framed in elbows;
some excellent boy’s,
who found this heart when it lost its voice.
Some boys are enough to lose a year on,
as you relay ghost signals to hopeful neurons.
Some boys are enough to cause daydream asylum;
allow elysium instead,
build Eden in bedsheets,
exorcise loneliness out of your head.
I hope you’re feeling sunnier, lover,
I know that you’ve been darker colours.
Your palette is patchwork pain and promised better-tomorrows
falling short again,
falling like morning; all adolescent and weary,
trudging into traffic
and easing into light and life teary-eyed.
Dawn breakfasts by itself and its dewdrops frame spiderwebs,
rain is soft as felt and comes in gusts of winter breath
unsettling the hairs that down your cheek,
your lashes are feathers that flutter and keep
the water from finding your eyes.
The water will find you when you next cry;
let it shed,
next time you’re compelled to sigh;
make it said.
Our thoughts confer
like flocking birds;
populate the silence,
don’t leave it dead.
I hope you’re feeling sunnier, lover,
I know right now the clouds have covered
but you shall not be standstill dark.
We have lamps and streetlights,
We will make our own glow,
neon to cinder,
we have our own fuel,
kindle the tinder.
If you’re gloomy then know
we can fix that, it’s whether
light would just light the darkness better.
I was eclipsed tonight;
my flesh fell out of favour,
and so my skin fell down like paper,
onion shells about my bare calcium
hell lurked in these bones.
I lacked an old Indian dignity,
the fervour of confluent Ganges,
instead my blood was puddled in
my vessels, boiled lust in rusting kettles and in the rising mist were nettle stings and their dripping toxins held only him.
Filter coffee granules litter the sink like static ants, where time left my poor Mother running late;
swerving frantic pottery collisions into cooling dishwater as she exited the kitchen
and I half-wished she’d had a daughter.
I embargo you successfully. My nation navigates trade agreements with your warring state,
hot chocolates for hospital visits, crossed fingers for makeshift crucifixes.
Laying palms flat on linoleum, in walk the disciples of medicine in tunics cerulean,
anaesthetise the burdened, so the cross they bear is light as gas and air, until they fall under like saints into the water.
Easter’s boulder rolled into a forest where no one heard the tree fall cold.
Easter’s rising will be a hungover Simon blessing the water for not being wine.
Easter passes in idol masses dawdling from church to high school classes; I am in the grasp of that restlessness.
Give me tea in flasks,
and your best wishes.
For Lent I’ll give up listlessness,
or attempt, then break my promises
like fast, and feast on equinox’s kiss
or relent for next evening’s eclipse.
I am not indebted to you.
There’s little left for me to prove,
There’s some respect I’m yet to lose,
So I will bury it
Certain fathoms deep
Beneath the safety
Of a pebble beach.
When the shore beats,
And it will,
Against the stones and sand and silt,
I’ll still have that piece
Of my pride
Outside the reach
Of stranger tides.
I recommend you befriend
who know sometimes justice
just isn’t enough,
Whose tempers are land mines;
you trip, you trigger, you fall.
Women who align themselves with you,
fellow magnets pointing north,
but remind you it’s a coven
and they can summon up a storm.
Women who are stubborn strong,
Women at their weakest,
Women who kept you together
before you knew you were in pieces.
This convent mutters gospels
over popcorn, tea and pizzas,
here gossip isn’t slander,
it’s the last-surviving treason.
It’s appraising others’ secrets;
not for leverage, or ammunition.
what could or should
be done and if done,
done for good.
Your tongue will start at manual,
and shift to automatic,
And if you disrupt the current,
then prepare to feel the static
They are conductors, they are teachers,
Lightning strikes on empty beaches.
With them, I’m learning not to dilute;
don’t measure life in millilitres.
I am fierce in the face of silence now,
I can use it as a weapon.
I question them, I call them out,
It’s natural to be threatened, but
I am heading towards accepting
compromise in moderation.
There’s safety when sorority
outlasts your graduation.
If you’re not a formidable woman,
then accept an invitation.
Befriend one or become one,
baby, it’s in your nature.
This is my third poem to be published in two years, and this time, does not come from a place of mistreatment, as Picked Last and No Shame did before it… instead, I wanted to capture something beautiful, and, hopefully, reassure the reader, by advising them to accept the scale of their feelings, know the world understands and is on your side.
This is friction.
Knowing the position
I’m in is withholding me,
Tension building inch by inch,
I’m going to give, I just know it.
My temper’s a tremor growing. The bridges
Are showing weaknesses. Fractures,
The fastest I move isn’t a patch on you,
We’re matches and waxwork, I lit the fuse,
It’s going to blow, I just know it.
The fallout is huge, it spreads like news;
Gossip on the tongues of the loved and the bruised.
I’m using all of my energy now,
All of it.
What a way to start the year,
What a way to lose a friend,
What a long way left.
The ground is as lined
As the shallows of my eyes,
And under each footstep, stress.
This isn’t my fault.
This is friction.
This is a different kind of lonely. This is a lonely as strong at 10:40 as it is at 8 the next morning. A lonely that crawls upward and creases your brow and weighs your face down; a mass of melancholic sadness that sits on your shoulder and dares you to smile. This is a lonely I didn’t drown in drink (not for lack of trying, but days passed with no give) instead I chose a glass of milk tonight and did the washing up, knowing full well my father disapproved of every badly-placed mug, every overly-soapy scrub. I shut my eyes and brushed my teeth, always too hard, always pressing like a death-grip - my pen carves paper like a trail being left for the blind on the other side of the page. This is a lonely that stays, that nestles in corners of brains and ticks away like drips of a shower too short for my height. This is a lonely that accumulates clouds like a growing storm of restlessness. This is a lonely that looks a lot like lovelessness from the outside; that people run from, or shake their heads and step back slowly muttering under their breath their apologies. This is a lonely I haven’t felt in a year, but this is a lonely that brings me to tears like a child left waiting to be picked up from school, all logic-less and shamelessly honest. This is a lonely that drives me to tell people stupid things, that warps feelings and throws them back at faces. This is a lonely that walks the spaces of my heart yelling the names of former inhabitants as I scroll my contact list to find them and say too much. This is a lonely that corrupts love and kicks its spluttering ribs. This is a lonely that let’s me know who my real enemy is. This is a lonely I shouldn’t mistake for permanent - it’s more a biro-scrawl than a tattoo. This lonely won’t be cured by you. It’ll exit as it arrived, pursued by a bareness that strips your pretensions one by one. This is a lonely that’s almost done.
I could do with a compass,
Could do with one of my boyfriend’s jumpers…
Could do with a boyfriend,
A weekend away from thoughts of the future future future.
A ukulele, maybe,
The confidence to use the talents
Nature gave me,
To face the challenge of what it didn’t,
All I have to say that’s still kept hidden.
I could do with you, honestly,
More than ever,
I’ve proved I can lose you, now say it’ll never happen again.
I could do with a body, a temple,
A vessel for all my sentimentalities,
A new diary,
An opportunity to voice what I think and mean it.
This year, I could do with a secret to keep,
A heart to beat in time with mine.
This year, I could do with finding a you.
Should I be thoughtless,
Be a fortress
Against the forces of this love?
Be more cautious,
Hold my horses,
Wait for orders from above?
Or test the waters,
Fall like autumn,
Smother all this, suddenly?
There’s something for us,
Something sure ahead. I see
Torches are lit.
Life’s taught me, it’s
An awkward, flawless little gift.
I’ll walk the hills,
I’ve caught the chill,
I’ll author all of my own myths.
I’ll find there’s more to life than this.
In response to all the problems you put me through last year,
I’ve drafted some solutions. I’ll list them for you here;
- Apologise less.
Assemble your self respect,
Don’t tremble at the prospect
Of not always being liked,
The war within yourself isn’t worth
The smile of someone else.
Everyone you’ve encountered seemed to learn how to hold their ground,
It’s your turn now.
Be the express train they didn’t expect.
To your parents, though they don’t always know best,
And it hurts to know
They’re only ever as happy as you are,
Be as close and tolerant as you can,
Let them learn who they once helped stand.
To your friends, though there are many
Yet hardly any you remember enough,
Know their waters will be just as rough,
And if they’ve given you their trust
Then you should
But don’t you dare fall in love
With someone who lets you listen
And not interrupt,
Just wants you there
As an echo for their thoughts.
And really listen, to the observations, hesitation, the elation,
In their voice.
Project the plot you wish would occur
On someone who didn’t want you hurt
And so let it unfurl. Don’t romanticise them,
Don’t be surprised that gentlemen exist.
Give up the kiss you’ve saved
For anyone that doesn’t move you,
Who’s just a moon to your sun
You deserve better than a reflection
And less than perfection.
They should have a solar system
Of a personality,
And be as hot and cold as yours.
Talk more. Until you’ve navigated so many conversations,
Your instincts will be your sails.
Until you’re confident to expose yourself,
And accept when you have failed.
Think things through.
Don’t think them true, or sink them,
You must prioritise what needs to be done.
Step back into the shadows until you’re ready for the sun.
- And finally,
Don’t expect to have achieved this list, Simon.
You achieve all the time.
You’ll be fine.
You have a string of fairy lights formed
From the times you made people glow
And they returned the favour,
Hang it in your bedroom.
Savour every moment you want to.
Wishing you much good luck,
Don’t reply too soon.
Remember, tomorrow is