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.


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.



It’s in the middle of a field

dancing to the bonfire’s clumsy rhythm

soft as dripping marshmallows

loud as grown-ups singing children’s songs as the sun goes down.


Or in a corner by a broken fruit machine,

encasing two people, two pints

and a week’s worth of whispers.


It’s curled up beside you

when your bedside lamp is the last one left on

and your body’s buried in blankets

but your head’s lost in a book.


You’ll feel it and you’ll smile.


One café noisette at five euros 10 cents:

blackened tears dripping down white cheeks like melted poetry,

the grubby corner of a job application is rubbed between aching fingers.

Two hours and twenty-seven minutes.


One café americain at 4 euros 50 cents:

a white shirt as over-folded and stained as a script at a dress rehearsal,

a rumbling voice whispering numbers from a spreadsheet on a laptop on the table.

Three hours and sixteen minutes.


One café leger at 4 euros 70 cents:

colour palette cheeks turning from ivory to grey-green to crimson,

ears ignoring another phone-call and eyelids struggling to trap curiosity.

Four hours and thirty-two minutes.


I grope blindly for butterflies

when I meet your potent hazel eyes

but in this hollow stomach there’s only

a slice of toast and a double espresso.


Nerves leave your lungs as laughter,

which presses uncomfortably on my eardrums

like it’s trying to feel for a pulse.

So I ask you about your new job.


Small talk dances from your tongue

to your intricately familiar lips

and I ignore the sharp shadow of what I felt

that’s trapped in between two ribs.


“Where does that road go?”

I look up and the moonlight has bounced

from the sky to the water,

into your wide-awake eyes.


I follow your pointing finger

to the trail of shimmering scales,

waiting on top of the waves,

whispering to your little soul.


“It leads, Lillan,

to adventures you haven’t had yet,

to Mormor’s midnight stories.

Maybe it leads to love.”


“When can I follow it?”

Your hands look so small

as they cup the moon in adoration.

Your face beams brighter than it.


“Maybe tomorrow.

But tonight, close your eyes.”


When your lungs feel like tissue paper against your ribs

when the blood in your legs turns to lava

when sweat burns your eyes

just run to the next lamppost.

Your mind will find fuel for another ten metres.


When blisters bloom on your writing hand

when familiar words turn to strangers on the page

when sleep offers to numb your brain

just write one more paragraph.

Tomorrow, you will be grateful for those 700 extra letters.


When you wake up and with leaden limbs

when your mind won’t let the sunlight in

when you can’t meet your eyes in the mirror

just live one more day.

It might be in the next 24 hours that it starts to get easier.


Make sure you don’t leave

the slice of me that you took with you

in some cloudless paradise

or let it slip from your pocket into a throbbing sea.

Keep it, little pioneer,

it’ll guide you back to me.


As the plane leaves the ground,

I capture a breath in my lungs.

It’ll stay trapped there

until I return over the whispering sea

and my toes touch the land

that gave birth to me.


I’ve found a house here

but a magnetic force

pulls each atom of me back

towards the seven hundred mile sea

that rises and falls

between my home and me.

Stretch Marks

Don’t try to erase your tiger stripes,
your battle scars,
your story lines.

They’re the day love planted life inside you
and your skin, as strong as a spider’s web,
expanded to encase your child
for the nine heavy months before you released her into the warmth of the world.

Don’t try to erase your tiger stripes,
your battle scars,
your story lines.

The time you made friends with food again
and your skin, as thin as a butterfly’s wing,
swelled and glowed like fruit in late July.

Don’t try to erase your tiger stripes,
your battle scars,
your story lines.

Don’t try to disguise the choice to be strong,
to stand, legs slightly bent, weight on your shoulders,
with the heat of a sunrise trapped in your thighs,
until your muscles ache and grow
and your skin tightens around them.

Don’t try to erase your tiger stripes,
your battle scars,
your story lines.
Show him with pride
the shimmering map
that decorates your thighs.