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This peninsula where the river enters where the earth disappears where moths and fish gather at the light, where we swim into each other, braced in the sea cradle in the rock. The scraping of shoes on the mat the soil trapped in the tread The space once travelled which then feels known arches back like a snare. To stretch your arms around both sides of his body Pull him close to your chest rock the squalling flesh into a curved hush like a horizon.

What if you lay with a stranger? What if you fell asleep and woke beside him? Recognised your shape in the sheets your colour against the white. Geometric alphabet with its sharp edges offers no security for the memory It cannot keep the devout gushing of the mouth. And of Thomas just the chair and the chest of drawers, and of Jessie a pair of candlesticks and a gold bangle, and of Frank another shopkeeper and two scribes.

And when we are all gone, there will still be moons and virgin worlds.

The Unknown Citizen

Previously Published by Unusual Work. Waking on his narrow temporary bed, surprised without his face, he looks at me with unshuttered tenderness. I make us breakfast and we each continue with our work. Soon he shall be out there somewhere chasing some fresh and pretty girl He shall nuzzle into her, mouth and mind Outgrow her, chase another Or be outgrown and left And I will miss him in soma and aura, earth and space, satellites and colonies of duplicitous language and occasional casual notes.

Bamboo embraces resonance of music savours the sound like wine on the tongue tasting mellowness.

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On the wall, the creased and deeply worried portrait of a genius, staking his reputation on one fragrant cup. He watches the relativity of waitress and patron, measures infinitesimal degrees of variation in his formula for cappuccino. Perhaps it was the Hahndorf hills that Heysen, in his mystic way, had captured with his wondrous skills.

Yes, your dreams and letters made him smile, so sparkling and original their style. A generous rival, you waited, worked and planned as he fought to capture that special glow, that atmosphere, the weight or heat of the moment, the ethereal quality of each new day. You honoured him, organized the humble artist, loved him, brought eight lively children into his Hahndorf paradise, but tempered their exuberance and joy, ensuring his work and passion were rarely compromised. I hope he did, if not on that perfect morning then as your evening embers glowed red gold, when he knew that far too soon he would be missing you, his partner in his Heaven.

Long legs vanish into tight skirts shoulder length hair swings in unison with pert shoulder bags.

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Their ancestor reputation is ferocious the kamikaze menace the piercing Bonsai scream. Their icons are distinctive the Sumo, the Geisha the Fuji and Zen and slaughter of whales. They swarm to the station to ride in a state of sedated acceptance of a subservient fate. Their uniform conforms the shoes gleam black the cuff-links expensive the silk-tie matches the shirt. They work in a prison one hour from home with a chain gang of men in their suits. With Samurai discipline and impeccable manners they collect information for the salaryman team.

Their loyalty is embedded they are born in a country of Kanji and clan and animist lore. The Shinto early life and Buddhist hereafter ancient rituals to honour the spirit. The sun dies slowly on this final day Shadows long and soft lay sleeping — ghosts of yesterday. She cast her dreams to an evening breeze, hopes and promises floating like angels. She watches them drift towards tomorrow like a cloud of butterflies.

Each season has a secret soul — mermaids and leprechauns, creatures that live in the minds of dreamers, and as the day loses its colour, she thinks of him. The sun is so obliging today but they sit below umbrellas and try to deny it exists. Afraid of freckles, afraid of sunburn they are just afraid. Teapots with cosies bone china cups and chairs on the green. Lives unraveled like a skein of wool tangled and forgotten. They sip their tea and wipe the crumbs from their laps — it would never do to seem untidy though they have forgotten why.

Somewhere in the distance a bell rings the song of noon and heads turn, uncertain.

Where did their minds go after youth and middle age leaving behind those empty eyes History written in the veins on the backs of hands hold many secrets. Beware the intersecting vehicle as you circle like a shark, round and round and round and round the DFO car park. Sniff out your prey, then Fasten to the parcel-laden shopper, as she hobbles to her car. Blink, blink, wait patiently as she unlocks, unloads, climbs in, belts up, backs out, All with elaborate care. A queen dispensing favours as her craven subjects stare.

Dive in the space released.

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Cheer your victory in the DFO car park. I asked her what it had been like, the need to compress words on scraps of paper, burn them. Cold winter afternoon, door opens to tentative knock weather-brown face, dark eyes, oiled plaits, ragged great coat. Clutched in fine hands, bunched chrysanthemums, her craft, whittled sticks cut from hedgerows, pared, peeled into curving petals tinted earth colours peddled at back doors.

Last night the rubber fishtailed despairing graffiti. The young men sat around the tank stand, drinking. Their Blundstones crushed tinnies underfoot. Fingers denuded the oval where squatting on haunches they muttered and mourned and howled like dingoes, shattering the glassy silence of grief with bewildered memories. Tonight the only sound is wind in the high gums and the muted growl of a V8 way off in the valley. The woman stared at the sky sullen and drawn in lead. She drank in the rain overlain with orange blossom sweetness and heady jasmines on the fence.

In Midland, he is on the prowl. A Grisly bear without the growl: wandering through a field of verse jolly shaman without a curse. Most fathers had sheds. They built or plumbed or carved their collected joinery, their finest wirings in quiet corners of Sunday hours. My father had a wooden table— weighted with heavy bolts of fine woollens.

Worsteds, melanges, ladder-stacked a mount of pin-stripes and plains.

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He moved his hands back and forth like a comfortable loom, unrolling silver greys, charcoals and midnight blacks. Most fathers preferred a shed to a kitchen. My father washed dishes, laundered clothes, walked to the picture theatre and said I was his special star. Bless you my beloved machine Bless your splish, your splash your splosh Bless every dish you wash. Bless you my beloved machine Bless your tumbling drum of fire Bless all the clothes you make drier. Bless you my beloved back yard Bless all that grows in my garden Bless the rose as it softens my heart Bless the snail which makes it harden.

Bless you my beloved fridge Bless your cavern of cold and ice Bless you once in winter In summer bless you thrice. Bless you my well stocked pantry Bless the jars of rice and flour Bless all the provisions For dinner in half an hour.

Pilbara land is old, ageless, With red soil, rocky scarps. Sometimes a cavalier Rolls or some other post-war car made in Heaven. We owned an Austin 7. Once, with three lemons, Uncle entranced me. He danced over watchful one-eyed daisies juggling a choreograph of lemons. Funny, freckled red-haired Uncle. Such beauty of balance! He could do it with whisky wizardry, kneeling on the floor, singing a Fred Astaire song but Mother disapproved of war-hero Sam.

They said at Ypres he had killed ten Huns. Now no more cars, leaping lemons. In the trance of Belief there are spaced-out gurus, wild messiahs, and can-do men like Sam, tight-rope stars, in god-fearless equipoise, they speak to a child and to the child in man. First published: 8 August He was awarded a CBE in First published: 28 February Her poem commemorating the Battle of Bannockburn was inscribed on the monument at the site in Just out of shot, your neighbour the ex-smoker smokes behind the flats and feels ex-touches shivering down his back.

Interior: your ex-face in that photo on the shelf is less than half the shadow of your former self. A coat pools on the floor.


Real shadows take the walls by stealth. Zoom out: that man-made lake again. The fishermen and geese have left, the sun slinks off towards the west. The camera pans across the water, comes to rest — and there: the sun beneath the surface holds its breath. First published: 6 December Helen Mort was born in Sheffield in She is the poet laureate for Derbyshire. Today a spat of Valleys rain has stopped it there but each Easter makes tinder of this hillside, a swathe of crisp brown question-marks, fire in them itching to run where it will and how could you resist it, being fourteen and full of the slack of the day, of the nothing to go home to, with a lighter in your jeans, the others looking on?

Watch them chasing the last of the flame-snakes, wriggling here, there.

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  4. Different greynesses into the night sky: smoke and steam. The scar. First published: 18 July