Poetry

Cover art by Rachel Braff

Cover art by Rachel Braff

You’ll find samples of my poetry on this page. From time to time I offer a free collection of An Old Man from India and Other Poems to readers who subscribe to my mailing list.

She Slept Unafraid

She loved with a passion
that requires courage,
her heart a tiny bird
in her chest

Not for her
the robotic focus
of suited men
and painted wives

Or the false gods
of screens and cables,
the trappings of
human endeavour

Instead, she ran barefoot
through fields
and slept unafraid
under the stars

She read poetry
into the early hours
tangling her limbs
with mine

She never grew old
though lines spiralled
like cobwebs across
her face

Her irises were as clear
as the day she tumbled
into my life
and my heart

On the day she died
I held her in my arms
Azaan rang out
from marbled mosques

Church bells chimed
across hallowed oceans
the Raabi bent his head
over the book of the Jews

We sat in the fading light,
my name a simple prayer
falling from her lips,
each syllable a jewel

And I knew I was loved

  • ENDS –

The Vial

Come into my laboratory
where I toil over
a bunsen burner,
pearled beads of sweat
on my forehead

You’ll find me
in a white coat and goggles
the Mary Shelley of my time
venturing into the dark
when all is lost

I hover at the abyss:
a witch, a mad scientist,
a soul doctor
risking addiction
for self-knowledge

I’ll not stay to witness
the despots, the zealots,
the hopeless and the lost
destroy good men
and the defenceless

No.

I’d sooner use science
as a release from
the gloom of our time
invent an opiate,
a shady tool

A substance to emulate
what men cannot
see for themselves
all they have forgotten
and lost

I’d remind men
of hope and pleasures,
bottled impetus
to emerge renewed
from melancholia

In our natural state
we are neither beasts
nor charlatans, nor villains
bent on maiming each other
to get ahead

Come
dive into this vial
created just for you
Spend a day in
happy imprisonment

The cocktail will taste
of cherries and pumpkin –
all your favourite things –
Swim in the memories
you hold most dear

Let the flavour
fizz then mellow
on your tongue
until your belly warms
and you remember

Who you are, and
who you could still be,
if only you were a being
filled with hope
not doubled over with fear

Stay within
the glass confines
transported far away
entranced by
this magic blend

Taste
your mother’s teat
childhood friendships
past victories
and sexual love

Savour
a future that
is not yet written
where men remain
as pure as children

But when you are sated
breathe in reality
take a litmus test
of the toxicity you find
and be ready

To fight with spirit
like Venus reborn
in surety that
life does not have to be
Hell on earth

  • ENDS –

Making Home

We went back
to bright city lights and siren calls
bleak rain over stacked chimney pots
where the big clock stands
proudly amidst carved buildings
of yellowed stone
sticky pubs and well-trodden streets,
in which the street lamps
cast familiar shadows

We travelled back
to the rhythms of my childhood
of parental love
and my grandmother’s food
the constant beep and boom
of the television and telephone,
sprawling networks of goodwill
chiselling away
pieces of our time

Easy to slip into
the patterns of youth
when self-determination seems
an unachievable fantasy
to be buffeted instead
by the storms of others
and forget to thrust our spear
into the ground
on which we wish to stand

I mourned the distance
before we left,
love scarcely tangible
with an ocean between us
Cables and distorted pixels
a poor comparison to touch
What I would give to always
sit at my grandmother’s feet
and welcome back
the ghosts of the past

Still that home is not mine
My home is the one
we created together
brick by brick
kiss by kiss
the circle of your arms
the meat of your feet on mine
underneath the cotton covers
when we sleep

I dream of the third child
we may have,
if the stars align
I think of the home that will be ours
when we move again
And my heart is sore
for the places we have known
I miss the blood and sweat of the city
the clean mountain air and snowy peaks
though we are still here

That little Vietnamese place
with the benches where we used to eat
and our friend sweated out the spice
Our favourite park with its hills,
small like a jewel,
where we walked with him,
the one we loved
and saw the city skyline
if we squinted

The bridge in Eastern Europe
where we picked up the watercolours
and I kicked off my shoes to walk the cobbles
Or our first home together,
above my father’s workshop,
where we’d hear the call of the men
toiling below and my culture
made me feel a hussy
between the sheets without a ring
though we were bonded by love

I think how funny we are
with our need for a place of our own,
a door to close and lock,
when some have only a cardboard box
in a shanty town and a future
that dissolves through their fingers
And it’s not important, place,
or having four walls
to call ours away from the storm

Except it is.

Until our health goes
or our heart.

  • ENDS –

An Old Man from India

An old man came from India,
scooped up his savings
to visit his new grandchild
The baby, quiet and soft,
suffered from an ailment
that marred its first days

Still the man beamed,
his heart filled with gladness
that the child was there,
a gift, a fighter
he planned to lift up
with his own hands

There was exhaustion
etched on the faces
of the mother and father
Fear cast a shadow
that threatened to
blot out the light

The old man could not protect them
so he walked in his helplessness
as he would at home,
where the streets were dusty
and the vapours drove away
the clouds in his mind

He paced the asphalt streets
in the land of the brave
A poor man praying,
a grandfather seeking
to renew his courage
on that lonely walk

And they came, with enforcements,
with sirens and loudspeakers
But he didn’t understand
their words, their manner,
Or that he had given reason
to cause alarm.

Alarm!

Slaves to concrete, pixelated screens
and hidden tools of death
The man from India
never imagined
he would be condemned
for walking on the street

Or that in the midst
of his very human battle
suspicion would settle
around his shoulders
like a dark mist
he could not pierce

Because of his skin colour
Because, he walked

Tell me

Guardians of the peace
in the land of the brave,
how is it you arm yourselves
to fight the old man,
the troubled boys and the homeless
without first considering
your own flaws?

Use force if you must
but first take a moment
to understand that
poverty, misfortune,
alien ways and DNA do not
automatically make an enemy

He walked.
He will not walk again.
And one tragedy
became three.

  • ENDS –

The Gift

I dreamt of you when I was a girl
a hazy promise,
alien and enchanting
The vision bore fruit decades later,
a happy union of God,
luck and human biology

When the time came
you slithered out covered in vernix,
beautiful from the moment I saw you,
a part of myself I did not recognise:
pure, unmarred,
miraculous

Each sunrise brings growth and learning
though often it is you who are the teacher,
gracious when I disappoint myself,
encircling me in childish arms of forgiveness
before toddling off
to wear your sister’s pink boots

A boy whose character came fully formed,
already propelling away from us
into your future, where you will carve out
a small space in the corner of your heart,
that will always be mine
though I want more

My love is for you is a rolling beast,
the last of my own childhood
dispelled with the birth,
a baptism from which
faith was reborn and
a handmaiden and warrior emerged

Sometimes I dream
my hand on your brow heals,
that God has bestowed mothers with
not just nurturing hands but powerful ones
How we turn away from science in our fragility
preferring to cling to beggar’s beliefs

We are guardians not jailers
Though you were born of me
you are not mine to keep
First a thought, then a bean,
now a boy, and one day, I pray,
a man

And I will pray.
I will pray.

For your safety, and your health
That your passions sustain you
and do not burn you
That the war ravaged Earth
remains a haven for you
even if it does not for me

From the moment of your conception
I cannot envisage any other way
but for the soil to be my bed
before it is yours
Happy sadness, that though I rot
there is yet life in your bones

Still, I mourn the distance
that stretches ever further
from the day the cord was cut
under the bleak hospital lighting
when I heard your first wail
and I knew

That forever would not be
long enough to be with you

And we are at the mercy of fate.

  • ENDS –

Lost and Found Girl

Darkness came
to take the lost girl
Those who were left
mourned and beat their breasts
They knew not
her unease had fled

No longer imprisoned
by her broken body
her sleep was peaceful
for the first time
since childhood
Night blurred into day

When she woke
an old lady was waiting,
black dots trailing
across her skin
just as she had
worn them in life

At the woman’s side
stood her son, strong and tall,
a cigarette between his fingers
He smiled a greeting
for the new soul
and held out his arms

Made of neither flesh nor mists,
they were as real to her
as the sun or the moon
and the stars, or her mother
who knelt at the grave
with flowers and incense

The lost and found girl
had not been ready
to untie herself
from their bonds
She fought fiercely
to keep the circle whole

But Death still came.

The realisation struck
in that moment
of parting
that he was neither
angel nor monster
but complexity itself

He had compassionate
globes for eyes,
hands that warmed her
though she was cold
He spun stories of
gold through the dark

So she went with him,
but first she sought
to tell the weary ones
that her days were
a mere drop
in the ocean of time

The old and infirm
would die
and wombs filled
with new children
so the cycle went
fruitful and fruitless
in equal measure

Though she could hear
their beloved voices
at her ear, speech fled
She could bring them
neither comfort
nor acceptance

Their love became
a stone, pressing down
with a jagged edge
It left a deep cut
they wore with pride
in honour of her

  • ENDS –

Loving You

My love for you is burned
onto the pages of my journal
It pools in the grooves
where my pen has pressed
The past in a capsule

Let me savour the man I knew –
the one hidden by cares
I’ll hold the memory of us
on my tongue
and let it mellow there

In unguarded moments
we buoy
Interlaced fingers,
lingering kisses I want
to keep in a glass jar

By night our feet are magnets
Lumps of flesh melting together
Warmth that spirals up
to where my heart is
And yours

I mourn for the day
we will be separated
by a force greater than me
I will rip the cries
from where they are buried

And try to follow you

  • ENDS –

Pilgrim

Shrouded silhouette
against the evening light
Nicotine swirls
in the air
Yesterday’s newspapers
litter the stairs

Shackled by integrity
Devoted pilgrim
High-flyer in
the angel stakes, yet
hurt bloomed
like a bruise

Left bereft by
a broken circle of blood
Your thoughts
now confined
to a mound of earth
that bears your name

Exalted grave
made anonymous
by rows of white rock
You lay in a bed of worms
a hundred miles away
from aching loss

Worn cotton sheets
bear your imprint still
A home echoes
with emptiness
The sound of you: a memory
The scent of you: erased

Pressing absence
Poisonous renewal
The vacuum pulls
devouring those
who are alone
Without your love

Regrets and yearning
A love that still burns
fiercely
purely
until we too
are gone

  • ENDS –

Dancers

Walls washed in white
Leather seats in echoing halls
Piano concertos ring out
through closed doors
Muted tones of pre-pubescent girls
clad in whispers of pink
and ghostly tights
Pointing, springing, arching,
fingers dancing
Bending the future
to their will.

  • ENDS –

Frozen

Sadness heaves
inside me,
waves of
rolling sickness

Weight has
found a home
in the midst
of my brow, and
in the corners of
my downturned mouth

Spaces flooded
with blackness
Concrete over
springing joy,
sucking away
momentum

And I am
frozen
in time.

  • ENDS –

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