Teenagers in Love
I chant superstitious rhymes
and stretch chest muscles; for you,
watch teenagers in the sun,
tangled arms and tongues
at bus stops.
I walk past; thirty-two.
I watch as other girls with bigger breasts
suck the wet lips of disposable men;
the same white light in the sky,
shining like something other than the moon.
In the defragmented, opium flame and glaze of sun,
in the silk-soft gilded green and bird song
of warm and cool afternoon;
gently softened skin exudes the absorbed
heat of the day, skin; soft, lush as the watered grass,
tender under the palm of him, whose palms are
somewhere else, wandering over someone else’s
skin with borrowed caresses, cupping undeserving shoulders,
drinking the evening in ignorance.
On benches or in the burning flare
of back-gardens; next to hosepipes,
trees. Tiny red spiders on thighs.
And we, in garden chairs with pens
blooming and fizzing
with impotence and infernal futility
cup the shoulders no-one will
The Behaviour of Moths
I stand over the sink in the bathroom,
a neon box against the mud walked in.
The window is black, and against it hit
four enormous, greenly white wings.
In the town, moths are small and silent,
uncanny but safe.
Here their wings are hard enough
to beat against the glass, making
a thud like the bones of goliaths.
In the town, they might fly in
in the summer, and surround me in the shower,
I might twist as they circle the light bulb,
cutting my shower short.
Here they fly at the window, attack it.
They have intent to come in.
The steady beat of the pair of them
feels like a system, a co-ordinated
breaking-in, weakening of barriers.
When I leave the bathroom in darkness
they are there, outside the borrowed house,
searching for a vulnerability.
I had a drink with hands that weren’t yours.
It didn’t comfort me.
Twice-diluted replication. Nicotine strip.
Rest your legs across mine
in a chair.
The brackish, light, sweet sweat that lives
in pillows, t-shirts but not in you.
The smell of a crash helmet lining
and a jumper. Feet.
Your girlfriend was in my dream
last night. It ruined the atmosphere.
Afternoon light, murky and shining. Gloom,
soft, cool, unnerving.
Chatter. Adolescent half-immersion in
conversations shouted and thrown.
Feet fly far above, I am a temporary gymnast,
suspended in slow-motion and the flare from the sun.
I am transcendental.
An embryo in amber fluid,
floating paralysed in sunlight.
Suddenly a soft thud,
skidding on gravelly road,
the air sucked from the lungs,
shoes lie six feet to the left.
Frozen in cool air and sinking sun,
the final moments of an orange salute.
Red and purple bleed across the soft pink clouds.
I am pickled in sepia film,
suspended forever as a silhouette,
a twilight negative in the cold acid tray.
A clammy, breathless statue with cold skin
in the dusk of another day.
Bank Holiday in New Brighton
Breadline children and their underbelly parents
in the sun on the damp, gasping beach
in tracksuits and bare chests
and generic, cheap logos in murky ink
on unwashed, public transport skin.
Auschwitz steel and rust in institutional tiers,
the scrubby grass and motorbikes of soldier films
and the windmill arms of a camp skyline.
The memory of American suits and feet
dancing with chewing gum on English coasts.
Blitzkrieg sirens, searchlights and engines
rolling in the relentless waves and every
recycled ancient breath of wind.
A sad, dole queue line of tents
on litter stained, dogtrodden common ground,
playing gypsy games of football
a metre from the road.
Families grasping a holiday on wasteground,
waiting in crowded, perspiring queues
for fetid busses in bank holiday shorts,
strained yellow light and thin warmth
on the cold and limey scumline of clammy skin.
Bank holiday barbeques and the bus ticket
safe in Dad’s pocket,
a fondly remembered holiday
on council-cut grass.