For Leanne Bridgewater

The world needs more women
“crazy” enough to be themselves,
whose boots made of springy compassion
trample down the paths
of least resistance, in any given conversation.

The world needs more quirk.
The world needs more ‘out there’.
Out there every night, in the frozen field,
fighting to save the things you love.
The world needs more mischief and mayhem,
sincerity and singularity.

The world            has been robbed.

Assumption: a mistake.
We were secure. Plenty more years ahead,
to admire how you tinker with society.
Bump into you, in pubs and galleries,
watching your chatter
play narrow minds
like a pinball machine;
your directness spinning them off
in confused directions.

Some artists spend years
trying to develop personas
as refreshing as your personality.
(I think I hear you laughing.)

But ‘refreshing’
makes you sound like a cocktail.

If anything, you are Molotov:
smashing through ideology,
curdling vanilla froth;
a searing attack on convention.
Sounding alarm bells to wake up
selfish lives, as the shelter of lies they live behind
are gobbled up by flames.

 
I get it now.
I thought you were unafraid
when, secretly, you were being SO brave.
Pedestaled you as shining example
of how to live full-time as yourself;
to tear up the rule book of everyone else,
doodle on those paper tendrils
and scatter them, swaying, arms waving –

and the whole time you were smiling through pain.
Dancing in spite of, not in triumph over, this world

and chemistry playing silly buggers in the brain.
Whatever the neurotransmitters whispered,
you were NOT a stain –
but you ARE indelible, an impression that remains.

Endless refrain

of a song where I don’t claim
to understand all the lyrics,
but I’ll cradle it to my ears, on repeat,
and cherish the harmony just the same.

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For Leanne

I

I am such a child.
Waiting for someone to call up,
to say Psst, it’s not real,
social experiment, installation;
the funeral your latest art,
with audience participation.
Out you pop, coffin redundant.
I would forgive, it would be fine –
anything that lends us all more time.
More mischief! You had us going, ha ha,
welcome back. You: delightfully
sprightly, forever youthful.
Me: moron in need of growing up.

 

II

Brilliant poem
comes to unexpected halt;
never predicted.

Wayward pen wobbled
outside the lines: scribbled out
in sad non-colours.

We try to write our
way back to Wednesday, conjure
up chance encounters.

Brain scrap-snips friendship
into collage memories;
charges of neglect.

 

III

I cannot sleep
for, if I count sheep,
each sheep is accounted for
and will be branded:
lambs to the slaughter,
of which you would not approve.

 

IV

I don’t know if you believe in heaven?
I think you are like me, in that respect.
But, just in case, I hope they prepared
and went meat-free;
I hope the menu options up there
are all rocking the green V.

Otherwise, I know,
you’ll unleash hell.

 

 

I’m waiting for

everyone to wake up

to what I am;

to creep up on

my dormant failures

while I sleep,

with soap bars in their socks,

and attempt to beat

competency into me.

 

The full metal jacket

is not waterproof

and it is raining hard.

 

When shots will fall short

of each desired target,

don’t bother

aiming

for much.

 

I drag down

the whole platoon,

and resentment is gurgling

from within

much-better-

disciplined bellies.

 

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Creep past

the sleeping guilt-monster

curled up in a stained duvet;

do not disturb his fitful slumber,

for you won’t like what he’ll say.

“Any spare change?” he’ll ask,

before puking between his knees.

The students keep their distance,

angled away by several degrees;

the workers frown in concern

‘One missed payslip and that’s me…’

 

Nowadays, the trolls

under the bridge

won’t eat you –

haven’t eaten much in days;

flame-cooked

the fruits of their labours

and fed it

directly into the crook

of their drowning waves

…until bruises, rot

and collapsed veins.

No more vanity.

Starved of attention

since infancy;

whet

nursed

an appetite

for self-destruction.

 

It’s the inaction

that gobbles you up.


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Life is installed in blocks of annual payments.

 

Everyone has read the instruction manual,

                                                                except you.

Everyone was SENT the instruction manual,

                                                                  except you.

 

They devoured it in 8 different languages

and laughed at the inside jokes in a footnote

                                                                  YOU wouldn’t even have noticed.

 

You received the manual way past schedule

and stared at it upside down for hours.

 

You have misplaced the Allen key and

                                                 several vital screws;

assembled this half-wonky monstrosity,

and now wonder how best to hide it.

 

Wonder if it can function, regardless.

 

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And your drinking buddies,

they learn to drive –

turn up with a bottle of cola

and turn down the bottle of wine,

like they forgot

sobriety’s a crime

against all those good times.

 

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tombo-fly

Turn up. To clock in.

Some mornings,

the congregation electrifies,

buzzing bottle-green

scintillation, as

welcome to the eyes

as a chill-studded bottle                

of beer on a dragging    

July day.

And then

the group breaks apart,

and all you’re left

with is the kerbside turd,

a few slow-witted flies;

the empty calories,

a burp on the rise

 

and an aching thirst

for something new.