Because anger is a luxury not everyone can afford

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Poetry

red curtains xs

It was so still the sound wasn’t moving

the fog horn barely audible through the whiteness

hunched up around houses all day

finally lifting just as the sun set completely

exchanging dim for dim

the veil so thin now

they’re asking us to hold our nerve

finding the right distance

our own truths     known rules dissolving

Where others felt restless

she felt reckless     pulling at silence

prodding     piercing     until it tore apart

the rain was more like pouring out an ocean

across the hills    the sound of noise

drowning out fear that had been taking

far too many hostages     She’s determined

to have her revolution

“…I like to wander / to find things…”

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Poetry

Feather xs

Like the wind stroking the grassy hill     as if careless     caressing

Like shadows of leafy branches derwishing on the house wall

in the evening sun     as if teasing     whispers of something fleeting

Like clouds falling apart     into a caravan of memories     as if blessing

Mum’s advice     carved from a single heart beat inside her rib cage

sharp     it punched me in stomach     sucked out all oxygen

leaving just a swarm of wasps     then nothing but stings

I find a single husk at my feet     golden black striped armour

wet from morning dew     if only I could collect and string them up

like prayers on a rosary     Feathers were my thing before

but even I notice the reluctance to pick them up now     events

that started somewhere else with a clot of fruit bats

I’d still make an exception for the kingfisher

 

Title: line by Vahni Capildeo in ‘Skin Can Hold’

She thinks it’s denial

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Poetry

Clouds over Stoodly Pike

The silent days are shifting nervously

After lockdown weighed us down

like a lead apron     no line up of cars

no drones of planes     nowhere to go

people kept to their houses

as if in the grip of a winter storm

snow sucking up all but faint whispers

of comfort     hushed reassurances

as if in the presence of someone gravely ill

Fear is silent as a thief    this one stole

the exuberance of spring     left us glued

to the soundlessness of statistics

then I heard the owl’s call at night

from above the valley     they say it’s

the messenger of death     shortly after

they lit a fire in the front garden across

shadows dancing on our bedroom wall

heavy with wood smoke as their voices

Then loud music started at 1:30am

waking up the traffic that hasn’t stopped

drowning out the owl     Now I can hear it

in the silence of the house     the creaking

of footsteps coming up these stairs

since the 1880s     heavy with burden

the hum of someone’s washing machine

the siren of a hoover     talking in the streets

Lead is toxic     something has stayed behind

Final Curtain

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Dance / Poetry

DanteorDie

There’s a fog gathering in the valley

more velvet curtain than lace veil

sluggish     almost still     as the canal

I wonder what it’s hiding     maybe

it’s where they put our old ways

outdated now in the face of masks

distance     movement restrictions

What if there’s a wizard     slowly

switching off nature     one by one

like the light assistant     at the end

after all the bows are taken     cleaners

have hoovered up any dust that’s been

unsettled     turns off all lights     first

in the orchestra pit     then on stage

finally in the auditorium     before

making his way out     by the dim halo

around the emergency exit sign

The theatre left to itself now     like us

during lockdown     while spring

was happening outside

 

Photo from Big Dance 2010, dANTE or DIE

What I’ll remember

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Place / Poetry

Skegness

Starting off in rain      the morning already too warm

rain sweating in trickles down the steaming windshield

gathering in lagoons where time etched grooves into tarmac

squirting out beneath tires      spraying vapour around us

that turn into clouds     like a wash house     soaking every skin

the horizon a thick sheet of metal     until finally     the rain lessens

more light evaporates into a fog that billows across the road

ahead of us     untethering itself from an island of tree shadows

searching for a new place to cling to     hunching up now

against our window panes     like breath in winter

In the distance     a lace curtain lifted by giants’ tentacles

it’ll turn into rollercoaster     frozen in midair by the lockdown

The deserted sea promenade     taken over by a haze of horizon

and my eyes hurt from taking in so much white distance

until they find that yellowhammer     a ray of fluorescence

like it’s waited for me     here     on a fence post that melts into fogginess

Our last laugh

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Poetry

Skegness 12 June 2020 xs

I spent two weeks getting frustrated

about all I could see myself unable to do

chasing illusions in my post-furlough world

that has become the worst of both

the pace of day a race against stop

while still queueing outside shops

like a traffic light blinking furiously

with all three lights on      When I stopped

I spent six hours in the car with Adrian

to collect seats for his 1979 Clubman Estate

in Skegness      an hour with another enthusiast

tips on tools      paint       parts that are now rare

as rocking horse shit      that chocolate brown

crocheted teddy bear      left on the rear bench

of the other Clubman Estate winking at me

who’s soaking it all up like the salty vinegar on the chips

we had in the car on a side street dead with lockdown

the arcade amusements stared empty as a circus clown

who forgot why it’s so important to laugh

We laughed anyway      at jingles Adrian made up

about the circumstances      based on classics

we were old enough to sing along to without shame

the impossibility to find a toilet during lockdown

our luck      to be      here at the sea      without anyone else

Grinding a tooth with a pick axe

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Poetry

Canada cushion xs

I’ve seen Avenging Angel Michel on countless cemeteries

his white righteousness     word-lengths away from justice

wings spread out as tragedy      taking off over this vast ocean

words’ emptiness      the contract ripped up      r.i.p. George Floyd

And inside the washing machine finally comes to a stand still

so still I hear my own bones growing old      picking up things

hanging up laundry on the washing line      his Canada cushion cover

against a backdrop of net curtains      the window frame      fractions

of his identity      complicated      compromised      Reality

can’t just be put into the washing machine     come out clean

clear of frustration      fatigue      When even hope is a privilege

he’s got everything to gain from Judgement Day      withstood

getting whipped      shamed      ostracised      stared at      touched 

body checked      yelled at      accused of letting others die

lightly     being too heavy     his uprightness an accusation

they’ve long decided to outlaw

I always wondered why foxgloves are called foxgloves

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Lockdown / Poetry

Foxgloves xs

An ad popped up on Instagram      hands wrapped

in cotton gloves      the silvery colour of undyed silk

seamless      cuff-less      ending right beneath the palm

where they feel your pulse      in embroidered binding

ribboning around like a moat around the castle

fastened lightly with a white cloth-covered button

three points across the back      whiskering in white

Altogether more like a Victorian Lady Magician’s gloves

barely suitable for much else      their whiteness

cottonness      did you know that cotton draws dirt

unlike wool or cashmere      which is why they popped up

because of those black recycled cashmere gloves

I bought in the winter      These ones were a solution

saving the planet      saving the NHS      without latex gloves

ending up in oceans      or land fills in far away countries

who’s governments can’t afford to say no      or who’s no doesn’t count

Yesterday a woman in the queue outside Lidl held a tailor-made

in blue gloved fingers      I wondered whether the smell of latex

overwrites that of tobacco      Cotton also takes on smell quickly

and can be washed easily      unlike wool or cashmere

I guess that balances it out      then      But there’s no balance

in the continued production of disposable gloves      plastic PPE

or the way the plastic industry benefits from the virus

yesterday I didn’t leave the house

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Poetry

Stairs xs

I can feel it starting to slip away

my back tightening up again like a weathered knot

I’ve not seen the goslings for over a week

and the water has lost all motion

a crow is landing at my feet but I don’t understand

the significance of it all      cling on

to what felt like victories      then a life line

now ordeal      They say in their email

we have to keep holding our nerve

My dreams are full of endless bridges to cross

there’s also houses      large public buildings

floors above floors of endless corridors

multiple lifts      staircases      somewhere

always a forgotten spiral staircase      always

somewhere to get to      but I keep wandering

I’ve heard the word before a lot      wrongly

assumed that meant there would be an after

“the ghost of the loss of control”

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Poetry / relationships

quote by Vahni Capildeo, Reading for Compass: Response to Mark Ford, Enter, Fleeing, in Skin Can Hold

img_3602

The air outside startles me      so much

cooler      airier      Whatever’s trapped here

between thin walls of a narrow house

recycled over and over by us two

God knows by how many people before

this terrace from the 1880s

the carpet probably from the 1980s

the night breeze barely finds us

He lies next to me      heavy with food

worries     work      where people will expect

answers from him      about George Floyd

The unspoken relief that it didn’t happen here

isn’t for him      His skin hot      so smooth and taught

as if it hadn’t been whipped raw      scarred over

hundreds of times      nerve ends gone silent

until someone flexes their muscles      snarls

rears up      We both wake from the thud

thinking gun shot      get up quietly     hug

Now I’m out here under a sky so blue

people like me could think of summer holidays

but for the single trail that reaches all across

splitting it in half      like a blackbird’s egg

 

Custody [noun] /ˈkʌs.tə.di/ the legal right or duty to care for someone or something

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corona / Poetry / Racism

Rope

It comes down to a layer of protrusions

called spike proteins      forming a halo

like a circle of light      around the virus

Most have trouble breathing      the fever

some say      it’s like their body on fire

fighting back beyond duty      their mind

slipping in      out      of consciousness

while pain sits on their chest like debt

Our lungs work on negative pressure

each exhale a collapsing that draws new air

Some symptoms make it hard for the lungs

to pump oxygen to the blood      triggering

a cascade of new symptoms      The fatality rate

goes up for people over 60      they say

it’s four times higher for Black people

It takes anything from two to eight weeks

until death

 

It comes down to layers and layers of prevalence

spiking in scientific reasoning to dehumanise

a shadow of hatred around hearts that stopped beating

centuries ago      He cried I can’t breath

slipping in      out      of consciousness      begging

while the knee squeezed his trachea like      rope

his lungs collapsed      unable to draw new air

because of centuries of white debt on his neck

his lungs sucking up all reserve capacity

Bellies are on fire      it takes at least 16% of oxygen

for a fire to burn      this one has at least 32%

with a death rate twice as high for Black people

in US police custody      The officer kept squeezing

for seven minutes      three officers watched him die

Because my friend is so tired

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Poetry / Uncategorized

roses xs

Dear weariness      your letter stayed with me for years

maybe because of the birdsong that came with it

light as confetti from silk paper      like eddying about

resting on a fence post for a moment      then off

to land on the bonnet of a black car      as if unaware

of the owner polishing it every night with a cloth

softer than his heart      You wished you were like that

leaning on that sun warmed wall by the garden shed

wondering how you’d ever made it up on that branch

growing over the wall from the neighbour’s garden

How you’d climbed all the way across that night

when the moon was on your side      stealing roses

from a bush near an open window      curtains drifting

not knowing they were prize winners      Constance Spry

you thought they looked like little pink cabbages

fitting into your closed hand with a little squeeze

sending off a scent of something cold      reminding you

of church      so you took just a niggle before rushing back

She called the next day      her hair paler than her face

which was the colour of clouds      her voice paler still

whether you’d seen signs of anything untoward around

You felt genuinely confused      shook your head slowly

promised you’d look out for      it      hoped she couldn’t smell

sin wafting out of the front room      you tried to close the door

too quick      It looked guilty as a snitch      she held it open

invited you over for a cup of tea in the afternoon      angel cakes

pink as roses      began blooming inside your stomach

then outside      she planted you close to the garden shed

Clinging on to my furlough routines like a boxer to her gloves

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Poetry

Great Heron

Looking for a safeguarding certificate

I stumbled on a two-day course from 2010

in Systemic Thinking I couldn’t remember anything of

not even the names of the trainers on the certificate

triggered any memories      My Dad still remembers

his Latin vocabulary      I can’t remember something

I know I would have found mind-blowing then

Then this morning I understood this:

Time is more precious when scarce

Also the White Geese were down by the lock

where the water’s movement almost stops entirely

though they were so motionless it wasn’t clear

which stillness had stilled the other

until I saw the Great Heron on the other side of the lock

still as a rock      a stillness so complete

it took me a moment to realise the bird song around me

the air busy with tweeting      chirping      humming

When I lived in London someone told me

city birds adjust to the restless noisy environment

by starting their dawn chorus even earlier      before the traffic

so they can hear each other      find each other      mate

I slowed almost to a standstill to observe the heron

which took off instantly

TNN*

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corona / Poetry

milk xs

*The New Normal      I’m so bored of that phrase      refuse to speak it

Language is savvy      it turns mere ideas into reality      or buries them

I’m hiding the phrase with an abbreviation      sounds like a news channel

which is very much what TNN is all about      Total Never-ending News

nothing stays in place for longer than 60 minutes      no coincidence then

I heard the phrase long in the tooth three times yesterday      I ended up

checking its etymological roots      At least I get an education out of it

What scares me most are my dreams      stronger than ever      more vivid

dramatic      they take me places      only that I never get there      forever

trying to reach somewhere      escape somewhere      too many doors

perilous climbs across narrow bridges      gravel dunes deep as quicksand

Then this one early Sunday morning      where I was due back at work

after five weeks of furlough      at some point I looked on my phone

saw it was already 11:30 and I had forgotten to show up      I panicked

and woke      In a moment I will have to show up after weeks of furlough

lingering a bit for a last moment of limbo      no normal for some time for me

last day of furlough

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Furlough / Poetry

Lamb and ewe xs

I’m surprised I startled a field fox in the hills this morning

drinking by a stream that’s collecting pools of sun

and spring water      around slabs of sandstone this valley is built on

like growing right out of Earth      with all the rights of conquering

It was quick as a shooting star up a slope      so steep I could barely follow

with my eyes      just caught glimpses of fur gleaming like buttercups

thick as winter’s last snow      flagging a tail as long as its body

I haven’t seen a fox since I left London      where they don’t get startled

sometimes just stare at people passing by      or depart with the gait of a king

who should be given way      despite naked patches where fur won’t regrow

Some don’t even have a tail      still they inspire dignity in me

the way they balance along that thin boundary between urban and wilderness

reminding us we’ll never escape despite the Flat Whites

Teslas      Alexas      and insurance packages      The one this morning

was close to a herd of sheep with newborn lambs      a birthright