Saluting Magpies

Poetry in Motion

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.

hey fever

the grass roots of it,
watered well,
are these:

yawning chit-chat of sweet nothings
sliding onto Sunday counters
softening the coffee

murmurs on old-fashioned landlines
cables curled in absent fingers
winding words between

oral flings at cold coach stations
punctures patched by perfect strangers;
our pitstop cavalry.

the life sentence

I feel your wistful rage
foot stamping and fist beating
rain your blows
as best you can
you are weak and ineffectual

envious of my ever-after
like all those who came before you
what would you not do,
give up
for a share of my forever?

forever. yet for what, exactly
which folly is your fever
the empire you are sure to build
the indignation
of your heartbeat?

my flame goes on, and on
consumed, yet all-consuming.
what I would not do
give up
for the obligation of your ending.

the caretakers

not the desperate thrashings of drowning sailors
shipwrecked on the sea
nor the glistening gashes of midnight werewolves
too deep to ever heal
nor the horror of a dreaded headline
you would have chosen not to read;

no, rather, a dull endurance.
that of

a thread-bare carpet in the hallway
once glorious at your feet
rusted signs in village squares
marked by dogs and weeds
constant in long duty
waking bone-dead from their sleep.

serving sovereign subjects

unheard, untold, unseen.

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