She taught me not to mix my drinks And how to read the Telegraph for free. She burned so bright, so far, so fast; Instilled in me an amorous envy. She was a sparking diamond In that roughshod teenage land; I would have braved the gaggle for More time to grasp her hand As her disciple, eager For release from knotting woods, Away from wolves and solitude Where I’d be understood. But hanging branches blocked my path; I found her far too late. Yet in those fleeting darklit hours She made the dark abate. Each redhead …Read more
Ask me who Dionysius was And you’ll get no reply. I get the Iliad and Aeneid confused; Did Icarus or Daedalus fly? Ialmenus? Othryoneus? I can’t put a name to a face; The classics didn’t feature much In my educational race. But I can weave a wondrous tale About Vaermina’s Orb; And her sixteen brothers as well And the Nine Aedric Lords. And I can name you Faerun’s Gods When I’m Down by the Reeds, Singing songs of Oakvale’s sirens And Banshees and Balverines. To always roam, with a hungry heart Much have I seen and known; From …Read more
I heard my neighbour say last night whilst walking down the stairs: “I don’t much like that Pamela, I think she puts on airs! And all her rhymes are dreadful, and she sprouts banalities!” Miserable fool. Well, I’ll show her my skill at poetry! And so here I shall detail what I did the other day. I think it was a Saturday, or maybe a Sunday? But either way I wasn’t working, and so I popped down The high street for an outing, and to have a look around. I went into the coffee shop to have a …Read more
Fore ðæm nedfere nænig wiorðe ðonc snottora ðon him ðearf siæ to ymbhycgenne ær his hinionge hwæt his gastæ godes oððe yfles æfter deað dæge doemed wiorðe. And when compelled to stare into the face Of that disastrous journey, none become Too prudent, or gain wisdom-thoughts-fast-raced That they have no occasion to set one’s Mind on, before the sea swallows them whole: Whether in Godly goods or wicked vice, What price, fair hearing for their sin-stained soul On Day of Death? What price? What price? What price?
Who’s that strange creature With black-rimmed glasses And braided hair And a logo imprinted On her torso, like A billboard? She bites her claws now Before pounding her keys, Desperate to retrieve The price of a theatre ticket Or sandwich. Suddenly she’s rather alarmed And jumps up, revealing A skirt of heaving fire. The orange glare Of a dying sunset. And I realise… Whoever she is… Whoever she was… Whatever she’ll be… I’m late for lunch.
Omniscient Bibles, resting on the shelf; Professionals, professing prophecy. The silver-lined tongue-speaking Babel-shrieks Of disparate expert voices, desperate To practice preaching; preaching practice to Practitioners, harvesting their chosen field. No sun-blessed crops, no heaven-manna here, Only congealing mud, littered with cracks; Where once green shoots sprung up – now plucked and drained, Now thistles, summoned, spring amidst thick air; Some Enoch; some autumnal choking breeze Heralding some man-child, winter-born. Fables of Babylon: Demonic husks; Abominable mothers; Seven years Abominable luck; some Martian race Whose ranks do not permit Venusians. The bottomless pit’s already snared enough; In tenses past …Read more
Five pillar-obelisks, Egypto-Greek, Surround my altar of Obsidian. A blinding emerald light devours my sight Before I scramble from my mother’s womb. But then, I’m sure I made that memory up. He shoots a frostbite dagger, past the jagged Stairwell, straight ahead. Incisors Tear my throat; my iris bleeds A strange cerulean puddle. This is His Apportioned fiefdom; I’m a trespasser Within the Queendom of “His Mother’s House.” Inside some sepia-smothered bakery Between the Swan-and-Mitre and the Glades, A shawl-wrapped newborn screeches in my ear. He has a title: Brother. All the same, I think this happened in …Read more
The Trials and Tribulations of Mariella Etherington – A Piece I wrote in ten minutes at a Royal Society of Literature Masterclass
I have two master’s degrees and a doctorate but I still feel like a failure. I checked the Oxford records the other day, and a grand total of two have read my thesis on the representation of hot-air balloons in seventeenth-century French literature. Two!!! And one of those was me. I’m not going to lie – the Doctor title helps in restaurants and hotels, always gets me served first, served fastest, served best. I can see their pupils bulge when they hear it – there’s a Doctor in the house! But all the same, I’m a fraud, really, aren’t I? …Read more
I complain about the 70s’ era brown linoleum floor in my kitchen, but I secretly think it serves a good purpose… I haven’t washed my kitchen floor in 5 years! Was it even brown when I bought it? Perhaps the specks of dirt and muck have just pressed so far in? And I’m being generous calling it muck. And was it this sticky five years ago? I’ve always assumed it was the material – not the best make, this one – but come to think of it, the squelching’s a recent addition, and it’s never really peeled off onto your …Read more
The Teacher’s Twisted Rant – A piece I wrote in ten minutes for a Royal Society of Literature Masterclass
To the class of 1977, I still hate you all. I can hear your warbling cackles in my head right now – SHUT UP!!! Especially you, Lizzie Gosling! Always staring, always tutting, always… contradicting! Weren’t you ever taught to shut your horrid little mouth until spoken to? Weren’t you ever told that what the teacher dictates is final? My god, how I loved caning you. But it never shut you up, did it? Always picking at every little slip I made until ‘His Excellency’ the head – a fat, worthless parasite if ever I saw one – had me moved, …Read more
My name is Mark Anderson. I was born on the twenty-first of February 1974, and make no apologies for it. I was born New York – that’s in the United States of America, just so you know – to Henry Anderson, extinct, and Lucinda Anderson nee Griffiths, extant. But when I hit twenty I fancied a change – purely for youthful, frivolous reasons, you understand – and upped sticks and moved to the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland. I don’t know if that makes me British, or English, or ‘United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Irish’, …Read more
I’ve heard it said I’m some quaint, programmed husk Who cannot think beyond a rigid box. Cold facts, harsh figures, dance at my fingertips While sweet imagination slips me by. But I can spot the spondee in a verse And signpost trochees, dactyls, and iambs; Uproot acrostics in a pyrrhic rush, Uncover the choree and the dibrach. The anapaest and amphibrach are clear As colours in a painting, to my mind. The cog-wheels of each line keep churning round As dative clauses latch onto the vine. And I can spot grand theories spinning round And sit back …Read more
Quiet’s my quilt when I tread the Earth, Or inhabit my habitat; afflict, Bring ripples forth in cloaking-sea’s wide berth. At times my armour-trappings, and this mist Of lofty heights and deepest pride exalts And lifts me up, past dwellings unadorned Of those heroic men who’ve battle-fought. In firm, unshaking might of clouds I’m born Afield so far from tribes of army-men. My ornaments and trappings sound aloud And make a swansong melody, and then Recite; sing splendid; chant and cry to crowd When I avoid the sea that floods the coast And earthen soil, a departing ghost.
I am a marvellous being, something strange Yet miraculous, bringing hope and joy To wives of men, given in ring-exchange; Quite useful for the neighbours! I destroy, Scathe, harm no borough-citizen; none die, Except the one who chokes me with their hands. My base is firm, my stem is steep and high And burrows deep; and in a bed, I stand, Arise, remain, and last for hours a time; Somewhere below, in nether-regions’ lewd – I’m not sure where – I am rough-haired sublime. Sometimes the comely daughter of a rude And boorish man, fair-haired, handsome to view, A maiden …Read more
Whenever strawmen leapt at her, she’d fly Up high, spread wide her holy eagle wings And smite the heretics who dared dissent. And in that square prayer room of thirty chairs She was the Queen of Heaven for a time, Until my mind was prized wide to the knotting weeds Infesting every sip of ‘knowledge’ that we took Like parasitic sleeper tapeworms. She was Wormwood, poisoning the well, And she’d sit at that desk, hands clasping her holy book Like a homophobe coveting Leviticus. Last night I saw her at Ye Olde Whyte Lyon Bumming Marlboros and downing …Read more
Things fall apart. The centrists cannot hold The line, and the centre wobbles, like a drunken Aunt at a funeral, thrusting here and there and everywhere, Staggering from grumpy old colonel to snot-nosed twerp Shrieking mangled plastic platitudes into a barren wind That swept away the chaff she used to munch, Clawing at the family silver like a demented magpie Lunging with her gargantuan beak At copper knives and rusty iron forks, Hidden in the dusky corner at the back of the cupboard Where they escaped her last midnight banquet, So she can appoint herself executive pie-cutter And slice up …Read more
He stood at my desk, hands drenched in congealed jam, Flicking through my notebook, leaving his crimson mark, As seven men in mud-stained hazmat suits Deposited a chicken on my lap. And then he barked “You’ll have to leave!” and chucked me out. I felt like to a spectator to a fight – a roadside scrap? Or football match? – Who knows they can do nothing, yet feels they should… Break them up? Or cheer harder? Ooosh, oosh, oosh, or so I’ve heard. His jam, a gorgeous strawberry shade, kept warbling Like a gramophone actress in a grainy …Read more
Prosperous is he that walks not paths aligned With purpose of the guilty, justice-blind, And the unlearned, nor dwells within the tombs Of those who spew foul vice from rancid wombs. Consenting to God’s scripture’s his desire And on His law he’s pondered all life prior Through longest days, and nights in dark enswathed. He is just like the tree of truthful faith Planted adjacent to the Water-Course That hawks and flogs his fruits when God-endorsed: On righteous Feastdays, seasonally received. God shan’t permit his life-filled shoots and leaves Or richly-breathing fruit to fail, or die, To wither, or to …Read more
My mother was a fridge, a theory goes. A maid of Ice, Uncaring and unfeeling, never taking time To love, or share, or care, whose idea of comfort was a brisk “There, there” Before speeding out the door. I bristled at her wounding stroke; it left my skin red-raw. She cleaved her glacial body to my skin And drew me into a straightjacketed Embrace of tight neglect. I’ve always found That theory rather contradictory: She cared so little that she held me close, So close that nobody else could; and then, When she’d gone to that effort, ignored me? But …Read more
So much depends Upon A tick within a Box Made by the right Woman In the right Place At the right Time.
A maiden walked this village way Some other year, some other day Some long-gone time, some yesterday Perhaps to sing, perhaps to pray Perhaps into the woods she’d stray To hunt, for husband, some young prey Before her roots were gnarled and grey Before she had seen better days Before her beauty leapt away Before her sturdy frame gave way Before all she could do was pray In long-gone time, before today. She had a good life, lived it long Of wine, of men, of blazing song Collected gold and silver gongs Always the centre of a throng A foot …Read more
They f**k you up, your children. They may not mean to, but they do. They buy expensive, useless things And then present the debt to you. And freely sprout vulgarities From youthful, bile-coated traps. While law and decency bar you Administering the slightest slap. But they’ll have children in their turn Whose vice-grips will ensnare their throats. They’ll sacrifice their lives for them While their ungrateful charges gloat. Then you can sit back, quite content That their ordeal was worse than yours. And you can rest your weary feet And live life free from child and chores. Man hands on …Read more
On Thursday, Spring, We make our Covenant. We choose, to worship; instigate His death And His rebirth. Or vote with feet, and wash Them clean; Our consciences, our crimes, our sins He carries for us, and is punished so. A Scapegoat. Nailed with crosses to the post. So, to our church, we make a pilgrimage. A family outing, to be party to Our chosen gospel; blue, yellow, or red And be enfranchised in that hallow house. The Old Gods litter stained glass windows there; The New Gods beckon, with metallic glare Of boxes stacked, totemic, round the hall. The doorman, …Read more
Beginning; Introduction. Write it last, When everything’s tied up, and side’s been picked. It’s simply the conclusion echoed back, A summary of all that follows it; Of all the punctuations!!! and the words That fight its battle for it on the field In paragraph formation, advancing To spread its argument and its doctrine. A miniature essay. Homunculus. The Bulk. A vulgar word, and quite at odds With flowery niceties that blossom here. Substance without style will perish sure; Substance that’s bound in wondrous packaging Will capture hearts, and not offend the eyes Or pain the mind with rudimentary tasks Of …Read more
Outside it’s dark; the vengeful sky Envelops roads that should be dry With tears of clouds. Through air, they fly And soak the whole pavement. So back indoors I quickly steal And, trying to find time to kill. I search. And find my parents’ will. An old one, though. It’s spent. So I flick through and see within Provisions made to next of kin Now obsolete, however you spin It. Half of them are dead. And so it has been put away Where moths can gnaw, and time can fray: Behind the sofa. There to stay, To nevermore be read. …Read more
I long for nostalgia. The good old look back Of a grey, chequered past And whitewashing the black. But now that black past Is with us every day. The videos, the photos. The comments we make. They’re frozen in time And a record is kept. Forever and ever In stone they are set. Those kind, carefree times; That rose-tinted land. Now the roses are knotted. Delusion is banned. You weren’t always happy. You weren’t always mild. You could be quite a bastard When you were a child. I long for nostalgia. But I won’t be led By the nose. The …Read more
Why’s my husband such a lazy pig? Anna muttered. She grabbed a bucket to stop the ceiling’s drip-drip-drip. Scrubbed the red-stained carpet. No help from him. Swiped a plaster for her bloodied hand. She’d got a splinter dragging his chest. Washed the dirty knife. The blood kept drip-drip-dripping. Drip. Drop.
It comes from… Italian? Aphatos. Speechlessness. I can’t quite grasp the letter. You’ll have to read it me, and speak queer Betide I underline. My tractor’s Burgundy, the shade of blue You’ll find on a spritzling daffodil. I think I left it by Fornicator And Masons. Or Thornberrys? You know, the charcoal slop! This pork’s not as familiar as betide. Parts of it plop away in my membrane. It’s changed so much, I can’t even remain What I used to call that thing with legs. Sometimes I’ll catch a stipend of my wedding day. Jigged free from that barn of …Read more
“Children should be seen, not heard, Never voice their thoughts absurd. Never dawdle, never linger; Against blood, not raise a finger. Never speak against their betters, Parrot my views to the letter.” That is how my mum raised me And how my naughty child should be. My naughty children; always silent, Never argue, never violent, Never whinge, or want for more, Never them do I abhor. Never they’ve embarrassed me, Never seen things differently. Had I one, or two, or three, Perhaps they would. But I’ve noughty.
Sarajevo, 1914 Bells ring triumphant as the car splutters past And the oblivious cattle laugh and cheer and wave Until a grave error’s made, and their guardian fool Delivers them straight to the slaughterhouse. And then a bullet, launched from boyish hands Delivers his mind’s savage fantasies With a whizz-bang-smash! The Archduke cries a while. He screams a strangely thunderous wail, Each boom blasting a deathly rattle-call As the assassin’s calling card drips crimson tears. Until, eventually, struggling with the blood, He sings his almost-wife one last long orison: “Sterbe nicht! Sterbe nicht! Bleibe am Leben Für unsere Kinder! Sopherl! …Read more
Words, words, words Pour from the mouth. Misinferred, They fall on a deaf mind. Bridges, pathways, electrons Scramble to respond. They hastily package A reciprocal song. But the tune is turgid and the music’s malformed and the singer is slurred and restraint retreats And where one little word would suffice you impose milliards Evermore intricate, evermore elongated, evermore indecipherable; Gehenna’s maw is grinning wide: They’re lost in the crashing waves of a Stygian cascade and have to ask “What?” So you try it again. Bit better this time. But it’s still a hard slog To neutralise The mismatched signs. And …Read more
Sorry, but the bridge of your nose is peeling like Old wallpaper, and the falling flakes Are rather disconcerting. Have you tried moisturising? Forgive my bluntness; it’s just one of those Things I notice, when I’m trapped in a chat And have to summon up a civil face. I spend aeons staring at your nose; because, to you, It looks as though we’ve interlocked our gaze. I got that off a dating site. I guess I’m a Lothario, given the swathes Of men and women that I use it on. I’ve tried to make contact before. But when I stare …Read more
I have come to this warehouse to escape. Brown boxes stack silver shelves Forming nooks and alleyways For me to poke and wander. The dust flows by like a charcoal cinder Wind-plucked from a fireplace Inferno. Odd that solitude Should be so warm. Someone there? No, just the Vent, churning the air Into a muggy paste Like the taste of a hot winter day. I think I remember a time When my senses were hooked together ‘Properly’. And no one heard them As ‘strange’. Decades gone, now. So I don’t think I’ll leave. The boxes and shelves are silent. They …Read more
Thingy Something. The sun rose again as I woke up. The dark-living didn’t last long, I don’t think. I couldn’t really tell because I was eye-shut-visioning but then I can’t have been out too big-length or I’d be dead: hunted, poached and stuffed. I should really sun-live now. Thingy Something, but I’ve existed a bit more. I wish there was a word for it; existencer? No, that sounds ridiculous, like a ray gun from a children’s cartoon only it creates things not kills. Whatever a child is… is it a thing-not-much-existencer? I think it might be. I’ve done more sun-living. …Read more