Things That Happened On The Way To Somewhere Else

(some good and bad things that happened sometimes by accident)

Month: April, 2011

Hyacinths (for J)

The hyacinths called me, and I came. The softness of
their dying hurt my hands, and the garden was
all new, at midnight,
the dragons with their stone teeth
watched me through the kitchen window,
folding shrouds for flowers
in sleep-fat fingers. All quiet on the Western Front, three
flights of stairs and still they didn’t wake,
a man on the road, time, gentlemen, time,
time. The kitchen clock sings the hours till the end.

Child, lay your ghosts to rest: the phone at midnight need not
mean a death, and no bats will make their nests in your long hair.
The man in the moon will stay his hand, his crater-eyes and silver knives
sky high, and the voices of the spiders are quiet in the night,
and this above all: that leaving need not
mean the end.

Dry your eyes, child: ignore your nightmares, the temple is
long fallen, the idols long destroyed, the world you made
is fading. Listen here:
listen to the whiskey voices down the line, and dream
good dreams.

Go back to bed.

Time, child, time.

Downstairs, the moon on the kitchen bin makes
a mausoleum, the bread crumbs,
apple peel,
the sweetness lingers.


Love, Like or Hate

Love Like or Hate
For Lucy and William, a long time ago.

How heavy cardigans are when they lie in the rain,

and how boys stay on their half of the playground,

and how to love with all the desperation of six,

and how to be loved, and how to tell the time, and how to stain

with berries the bitten bits of your fingertips,

and gold stars, and how to hear the sound

of fairy flowers, and how to drink from nettles,

and how to make a house, and boil a proper kettle,

and how freckles fade, and nothing lasts,

and how all at once to make yourself an outcast.

Some of these lessons I have forgot, now,

and some I kept; today’s

a day for daisies, and

for counting, and for old signs;

a bet with God, or with myself,

or with the birds.

There is a little box upon the shelf

of the bookcase in my room, and full of lines

that were important, once, when I was six. All words and chains.

The dandelions blew away in three. Afternoon play.

These odd little games that nobody outside could ever guess the rules of.

We used to use to them to make fools of

strangers; Mother may I? yes you may.

And this one: blindfolded, and guessing at the faces, to tell if you love them

or you like them

or you hate them.

It all hangs on your answer.

Simpler really to play Truth or Dare. At least it’s faster.

Standing on the chalk line, between us and them,

and the cardigan around my eyes, blind and guessing, and

what they said

about that most innocent of kisses. My hands on his face,

and her hands on my shoulders.

I swear I felt his freckles.

and I wished to be anywhere, wished I were dead,

so as not to choose.

Love like or hate, they said,

waiting for me to hate him, and my rival’s bunches brushed my neck,

Lucy waiting for me to lose,

and I knew who she’d picked for me to love

or like

or hate.

Say hate, she whispered, say hate, say hate

Love, like, or hate, and they were waiting

for me to hate him. I kissed his cheek and fled;

The cardigan in a puddle on the tarmac, and I sat at the top of

the field, picking daisies, dry-eyed, heavy rainy summer-skied.

Girls who wear a daisy chain

grow up pretty never plain; we picked

thousands, loves me, loves me not, he loves me, loves me, loves me loves me not,

l-l-l-l-l-l-l-loves you, loves me not

(but keep the petals, in your pocket past the post office and the pub

and the place where the hot

tarmac turns to tar

and the bit of grubby wasteland, for the vans and cars

and the lavender

and past the church where the dead people are

and to your own front gate.)

and if

the little grey bird stays, he loves me, and if

the door stays open before I count to three

he loves me, he likes me, he hates me,

love, like or hate?

A papercut; the sharp edge of the conditional tense.

If X then Y.

Along the fence

The weeds grow through the concrete.

Daisies don’t grow here, and the clock flowers are out of season,

and berries come in bags, numbered and neat,

and no-one knows

the old games, and so

how am I

to count the ways, or count the hours?

to count my loves, and love-me-nots?

All bets are off; the bright bead of blood

on my finger and the page, and I have forgotten

the difference between being Bad and being Good

and how

to sleep with the petals under my pillow, and I think I left that boldness

in the playground where the fairy flowers and the nettles and the daisies are,

but in my head (oh please oh please)

the little grey bird,

on the open door.