At night, I sit by a bridge.
Watch coloured lights ripple
in the water. I am drinking
juice. My friend has two bottles
of beer. She tells me that happiness
is balancing on a knife’s edge:
you are always waiting
for the cut that follows the fall.
I watch my friend as she places one foot
in front of the other, arms extended,
knees wobbly, looking like the most
novice of tightrope walkers.
I imagine her smiling. Living up
a tower with books and cakes and wine.
Here, she doesn’t need to grow her hair long.
Handles her things with toddler fingers.
A beautiful boy kisses her and she knows
he loves her. It is a very long way down
the tower. Her cheeks are beginning to hurt.
A voice in her head tells her that she does not
deserve this. Wonders how her blood would look,
pooling. Sitting by her window, she slips.
While she tumbles down she tells herself
that she meant to fall.
On the bridge,
I do not understand this. Out of her tower,
there are too many goblins and ghouls
and snakes who sleep easy at night.
Who glow brighter than us. I want to shake her.
Tell her that there will always be others eager
to steal your portion of the cake that
life gives you on the platter. That not everyone
gets cake. For someone supposedly
articulate, my words keep failing.
I finish my juice. Watch my friend crack
open her second bottle of beer. Promise
myself to always take the fucking cake.
For years I have dreamt of teeth:
stunted roots scratching a probing tongue
gently loosening bloody gums, and
mouth agape, watching them spill out
on the floor like a tray of yellowed pearls.
Last night I spat out again the hard seeds
that crowded my mouth only this time
they were nuggets of diamond and gold
falling on the floor to glitter in the sun
leaving my teeth in my mouth, whole.
I woke wondering what this meant.
If I was finally doing something right.
More than once the silence the naked boy on rumpled sheets who looks at me with wide rabbit eyes while I continue stroking skin pretending not to notice his sudden stiffness wondering how is it that those easy words weigh heavier than lost sleep and borrowed books and handwritten letters and twisting tongues why is love where the line is always drawn and when will I hear it back in return.
The first time I saw my parents
holding hands, I was twenty-three.
Twenty-three years of bare bone arms
wishing for flesh to be buried in,
of fleeing from hugs from giggling pinafored schoolmates,
of family photos where we stand so far apart
you could line up all the bones and organs
in the human body and still not cover
the spaces between us,
to nights spent tussling and biting
between twisted sheets, always
blaming that childhood lack so I never
knew how to be gentle and then
to suddenly see well-worn fingers twining
like lovers, as tender as newborn skin
my breath left itself in my throat and forgot
how to make its way out.
I liked the prompt so much I did it again. Still needs a title.
Write a poem about an unexpected desire, yours or witnessed.
my daughter fell in love with her gingerbread boy.
black gumdrop eyed sugary smiling gingerbread boy.
giggled as she lifted him from his plastic wrapping.
whispered secrets to him. stole wet kisses
and licks of sweet flesh. left her toys unwrapped
under the tree and snuggled up to him in her sheets.
woke up the next morning screaming.
he was missing a limb. with a mouth full of crumbs
she cried. baked a new leg (paler brown
and lumpy) that she glued on with icing.
swore to him that she would never hurt him again.
i told her to play with her dolls. that gingerbread boys
were only meant to be eaten but she told me
that was how she knew she loved him
– that she wanted him to kiss and cuddle
more than she did in her stomach.
one night i walked into her room to find her
cramming her tear-streaked mouth with sticky brown flesh,
promising that the next time she would love harder.
Write a poem about a Christmas past in which you (or someone you know) had your/their heart broken. Make it up if you have to.
– don’t refer to any of the usual trappings associated with X’mas, but evoke the season anyway.
When I am done, I twist the words up, make a rope from nothing more than tender nervous sentiment, and cast it out into the sea. I wait for them to find their way to you; a line stretched spider-silk thin, which you could brush off without thinking. But still, I hope. At night, I dream of your hands and the way they curled against my skin. I think of you standing along the shore, finding a thread gleaming faintly against wet sand. That you will pick it up and hold on.
he wakes to find
the endless jack –
– hammer silenced.
squints in the light,
palms and whiskey.
a wish. chases down
the thought of dark hair
and thin red lips that
curl in the corners and
realises he can breathe
without the stone ache
of loss hanging down
his lungs. he gargles
water, eats his eggs,
throws it all up.
it continues. ulcers
from too-hot food.
his feet, popping and
swelling without his
onions and painting
his kitchen red before
finding the tip of his
he thinks he can
make this work.
becomes a fireman
and is always the last
to leave a burning house.
his eyebrows are permanently
singed, he is a patchwork
of burns until he is fire –
– d for being a danger
to himself and the team.
he is back to the bottle
that night, wrapping lips
around glass like lovers
who will not part from
a kiss for air.
his skin stretches
tight against his bones,
yellows, he hacks
a cough that rattles
in his lungs and spits
something red out when
he sees a woman
dark haired, smile
a slash of scarlet.
his heart presses
against his chest.
– the protest of his
joints, gut, liver –
comes crashing down
but above it all he feels
the weight of stones
hanging down his chest.