Saluting Magpies

Poetry in Motion

the baby carrier

it is the last thing left of my children’s childhood

for sale, on Le Bon Coin

we have fixed the time and price

that is how it is done.

bartering between buyer and seller

of objects, second hand

second hand, which in the turning

does and has always undone.

forgotten in a basement corner

I dust it off before she comes

the children crowd but do not remember

how we carry them when we are young.


je veux pouvoir

vous tendre la main

deviner le dessin de votre bouche

d’une salutation à visage nu,

vous, l’inconnue.

je veux pouvoir

pousser la porte

la vôtre

celle de tous les autres

rentrer pour vous y croiser

à visage nu

vous, l’inconnue.

Madame Vice-President

Kindle new and kindred fires

Ablaze against the dark

Make America Legendary Again

great was never enough.

a waterfool

the lake, child?

he is peering at me, even I can see that, in this desolate evening.

they drained the lake, child, years ago.

why, it was a long while back.

your mother had not even dreamt of you, then.

I thank him. She had said,

be courteous, as you make your way.

So I snatch at words which will not convince him

and walk on, for she also said,

be courageous, if you lose your way.

but if they have drained the lake,

I have failed her.

bathwater, turned stale, and I will have failed

the only quest and request

she has made of me.

the classroom assistant

a thrown stone from the local school,

we live, term-time

to the tune of its filling and emptying

and petit quart d’heures of play

punctuating week-days

like hole-punched paper.

dominating the rest

is the strident snap of the school-mistress

no whistle needed.

they fall in line and obedient, save for

one small résistante.

parents’ coaxing unheeded,

her cries rise,

loud and indignant

through our open September windows.

there is always one, I say out loud,

passive accomplice

of the system.

à lui même

We cannot lay claim to his memory
no planting of our flags in this sentiment –
we were but briefly of his joyful world
and so, it would seem,
was he.

let us stand aside
flagbearers, all the same
as the real explorers arrive.
they must find

desolate wastelands
of last will and testament
long before it was time.


I am not asked to describe it
Because you have forgotten.
Crosses to bear, in neat rows
I already have mine
I walk on.

I do not hazard to describe it
Today, invisible, tomorrow, invisible,
All the days before now
All those we have yet to face.

I sometimes cry:
I cannot go on
I shall go mad
It is unbearable –

there is no-one else.
It has been borne,
And must be.


hadn’t heard the song in twenty years
half my life. a lifetime ago
catch a plane to central America
English white girl,
what did I know

I would pick apart the lyrics
until I could roll them in my mouth
I would learn to drink tequila
and cuss
the right way round

I would merge my skin and senses
to those who shared my days
sleep out, or late, or not at all
the local scrap-fed stray.

Manu Chao on counterfeit CD
half my life. a lifetime ago
I had picked apart the lyrics
qué horas son,
mi corazón

no-one makes me tea

No-one makes me tea
now you’re not here.
let alone that first cuppa

as wary of bed-hair
as of spillage.

But you never slopped the tea.
is not in your nature
nor your resignation letters

left downstairs
propped against lukewarm.

no-one makes me tea.

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