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Bum

It’s nonchalant.

Or it pretends to be unaware of us: the audience.

It’s powered by apologetically female hips

that tilt to make it wobble delightfully,

like two huge raindrops on the window of a taxi

and we titter.

As it quivers to a stop we become outrageously aware

of the dark gap between the thighs

and we blush collectively

but continue to be mesmerised.

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The Mermaid

Have you heard the mermaid cry?

She sits beneath the yellow moon,

on an overturned oil drum,

and sobs with the sea.

 

Her hands clasp a toothless comb,

snapped on the wire in her hair,

which is dark, thick and glossy

with spilt petroleum.

 

Rolling down her face

(sallow with swallowed sewage)

are the tiny plastic beads

you get in toothpaste.

 

They bounce off the six-pack ring

which encircles her slender neck,

expanding with each breath,

tightening with her panic.

 

Her hands pull at her tattered tail;

blunt nails grasp at something sharp;

blood and saline start to mingle;

a hook is forced between two scales.

 

The Only Blonde in the World

The tiles and bricks and sky of Hollywood are grey:

she is painted onto this canvas in a hundred shades of light.

 

She looked powerful,

surrounded by her success,

but they’ve painted over that in a thick green oil paint

so that only her figure remains

beneath her coat of clouds.

 

She makes you sad:

translucent legs,

cling film dress,

watercolour smile.

Ta-ra

I thought that you were gone

until I heard you laughing yesterday

at a dirty joke in the pub.

 

I was starting to miss you,

but when I heard Corbyn condemn austerity this morning,

your smile was on my lips.

 

Sometimes, when I write,

it’s your stories that fall onto my paper

(I’m sorry that it isn’t your dialect.)

 

Last Friday your energy kept me dancing until 5a.m.

Your stubbornness helps me win arguments even when I know I’m wrong.

Your warmth will be in every hug I give.

 

So, Grandma, I’ll say ‘ta-ra’

but only for a bit.

The Silent Children

Over the Aegean Sea,

under the sorry eyes of the Sun,

the silent children sail.

 

No over-tired tears,

no restlessness nor wriggling

from the silent children’s boat.

 

Monstrous waves seize the sides

with freezing fingers,

but the silent children’s fear is numb.

 

Their eyes have been mirrors

to too many horrors,

now buried within their silent minds.

Purple Frog

In the North of the Kingdom, a young man searches for work from before dawn until after midnight; until his skin loosens on his face and his hairline retreats wearily towards the crown of his head; until his eyes are patterned with red veins and his ears ring, but he finds nothing.

On a particularly gruelling Wednesday, the man leaves his house to think. To his surprise, at the bus stop he finds a large, ugly, purple frog. Its skin is glossy, its eyes are dark and, as the man watches, its thick tongue flicks out to catch an unsuspecting fly before returning to its mouth.

“I can help,” the frog says. The man blinks rapidly but the frog is still there, “Look over there and tell me what you see,” it continues. The man turns around to see a big house with two well-dressed children playing outside. They laugh as their dad chases them inside for tea. In the window stands a beautiful woman with soft, brown eyes and shiny black hair. She waves at the man and he turns away, feeling a familiar pressure behind his eyes.

“I see a happy family,” says the man, but when he turns back, the frog is gone. He marches home, burning with humiliation. That evening, he checks his bank balance, checks the cupboards, checks his emails, and lies with his ear to his wife’s swollen stomach in hope of hearing the heartbeat of his child. He doesn’t sleep.

By his sixth cup of coffee on Thursday, his pulse is pounding in his ears. He walks back to the bus stop. The frog isn’t there so he sits and watches the children at number 16 climb out of their dad’s car and listens as they talk over each other about a birthday party. The beautiful wife greets them on the porch, wearing a beaded dress, the colour of sunrise, and a jewel on her forehead. He feels the pressure return to his temples and blames the coffee. That evening, he drinks whisky instead, falls straight asleep and dreams of the purple frog.

“Is this your country that you live in so unhappily?” it asks.

“Yes,” the man replies. “Can you help me?”

The frog seems to smile. “Tonight, go to their house, dressed in black, bring paper and a brick. Be ready to attack.”
The young man wakes, sweating. He opens the fridge and closes it again. He opens a catalogue and closes it again. He makes another coffee but leaves it on the side. His head pounds louder. He clenches his fists, pushing his nails deep into his palms and gasping briefly at the release but the pressure begins to build again. The clock strikes twelve as he leaves the house.

The frog sits at the bus stop and watches as the man pours his anger onto the paper. He ties it to the brick. By the time the house alarm sounds and the children are crying in their beds, the young man is half way home.

The following morning, the fridge is still empty. His wallet is still empty. He hears his wife’s cries from upstairs. The baby.

At the hospital, they are given a little room off a corridor where the man lets his wife squeeze his hand until it turns blue. When the midwife enters, the man recognises her immediately but the beautiful woman from number 16 doesn’t recognise him. He watches, dumb, for four hours as she carries his wife through her pain. He watches as she makes his wife laugh; as his wife squeezes her hands and calls her by her first name. He watches as the beautiful woman delivers his first born boy into the world.

Driving home, they see the father at number 16 silently usher his children into the house, which now has a star-shaped hole in one window. He looks fearfully up and down the street before passing a hand over his eyes and pulling the door shut.