Sunday, 25 April 2010

'...And We All Fall Down'

Barefoot, and dressed in dove-plume hues,
I am learning peace. We're walking through
the cornfield, where the air
runs low and the gold rushes
against our legs, when you give me
the first insight. 'Here,'
you say, 'is a hand of seeds.'
You let go, and the essence of life
is lost in the land. 'Time,'
you explain, 'is built in an hourglass
from grains of sand.'
The lesson is to hold tight.

We go on. Above, starlings soar,
and the sky utters our reflections
whilst the white clouds
and the white clouds drag
me in four directions –
but it is you and your breath that catches
on me with its tiny hooks.
'Look,' you say,
and you show me the way,
picking a path beneath arches
of tree branches and brambles
that entwine over our heads
in a crown of thorns.

We go on, adorned in grass-
stained white, until the light
breaks and we reach the lake.
The water laps your feet
as you pace out, your shadow splitting
from your form. 'This is how
you discard your scars and take flight-'
You return pure.

But I am stuck where the edges meet,
for there lies the broken body
of a bird. Kite-boned, splintered wings
struck stark; the heart
blooming out like a great red fruit.
I bury it quickly, before decay sets in
or you can say

We turn back. You lack
no grandiosity in the dusk.

'One day,' you say,
'we’ll acquire the air
with our birdnest hair,
and climb, dark-spined,
to the clouds.'

'That is,' I frown,
(having learned the lesson
of the birds) 'until
we all fall down.'

* * *

Learning peace, the lessons of the birds and the art of answering back.

There are some bits of imagery I like in this, but the linkages seem all wrong. From the phrases I started out with, I wanted something more like In The Mother Tongue, but instead, I got this...
So basically, please con crit this all you like, it really needs improving!

Tuesday, 20 April 2010


‘Good night, ladies; good night, sweet ladies;good night, good night.’ – Ophelia
(‘Hamlet’, Act IV.v)

I’m moving through the mirror again in search of you,
watching shadows of the world appear as the mists clear. I look
upwards through shifting waters, marine gaze
hazed by the chasms of lunarlight drawn vaulted: a litter
of broken jewellery. Quartz-eyed, I watch silted moons
shift beneath the surface, looming blackly like negatives,
a loop of O, O, Os –
in the fabric of the dark. The water’s diaphanous -
a thin skin ravined and seamed by ripples, my breathmarks
that echo as endless spheres – each concentric to you,
my blue muse. For you
are always there, crowned with your
laminaria hair, wraith-voice at the end
of my line, tugging tight. One hand on mine,
the other tearing at the weights
round your throat, you float upwards, unravelling
skeins of myth in your wake. You’re
the lady of the lake, medusa, mother –
paragon heart of pith and chain.
My Other – in you I see

Two-toned, jade-boned, she lies
beneath the tongueless water,
waiting to rise.

* * *

Phew. I was beginning to think I'd run inspirationally dry after last week's little batch of poems...

Now for some explanation:

This was inspired by Emilie Autumn's music and writing, especially her creation of the 'Opheliac' figure - the tragic drowned girl - and her portrayal of the beautiful tragedy of a young girl's death - what Emilie dubs 'the art of suicide'. Emilie mocks these traditional literary/artistic portrayals of women with her wonderful sarcasm and wit, but she also relates to the tragedy 'behind' the tragedy - the true emotion behind the desperate actions of the drowned girls.
I hope to replicate that in this poem: the dismissal of culture's misguided portrayal of the artistry of suicide (especially concerning pure, 'virginial' women - hence the references to Ophelia and 'The Lady of Shalott' - the first lines are based on some of the original Tennyson poem: 'And moving through a mirror clear That hangs before her all the year, Shadows of the world appear.') but also relate to the real tragedy behind the theatricality.
In the poem, the narrator is haunted by the image of the drowned woman - or 'mermaiden' - who takes the form of the triple goddess as maiden, mother and crone, and recognises how these culturally-constructed aspects of femininity lie at the core of her own heart, too. The mermaiden is both ghost and reflection - the diametric opposite to life and its embodiment.

Yes, it's paradoxical again - what isn't? - but this time with a feminist theme. :)

Tuesday, 13 April 2010


Baby born in amber, sun-
set ready on the horizon pinned in yellow
with the stars gorged below: bad sign, good
lie – it’s all the same. She doesn’t mind;
holds her hands to the skies to test for rain
and all those lost words that flow fluvial
through the bright vein of constellations;
hesitations of sound and light. Her head’s
veiled in night, but her heart’s planted firmly
in the earth – it breaks white water, roots
through rock. Finger on the pulse,
she holds the haunted whorl of a seashell
to her ear, and without fear,
treads earth’s threadbare carousel laced in dulce,
spitting dreams at the seams. Forsythia –
how her puckered mouths scream. Half-choked,
riddled with ghosts, she leaves nothing
but a trace of rabbit feet
pressed in dust. But she’ll survive.
She peels back rust and pulls
the socketed stars from the sky, milking
chaste tears from angel-eyes, and unravelling
faith to reveal the blunt, worm-sucked bones beneath –
dragon’s teeth and the lean face
of an earthenware god,
picked clean.

* * *

It is what it says on the tin really; a poem about forsythia...
Inspired by the song 'Forsythia' by the band Veruca Salt, and the flowers themselves, obviously. There's quite a lot of references to both the lyrics and features of the flowers in the poem, so if you really want to 'get it', I recommend reading the wikipedia page on the plant.
A relatively quick write for me (a couple of hours max. - I usually take days on each piece!). I seem to be able to find the words I want more readily these days...

Sunday, 11 April 2010

Lazarus' Lover

Here you are again, at my door:
clawed back from the fall with the same
old call: ‘tell you all, I shall tell you
. Well guess what? That’s the last straw.
It’s hard to be amazed
when there’s no audience to enthral
and you’re trailing frayed
paper guts ‘cross the floor. But no
more! Each time you come back back
back to me, your heart bleeds blacker
than blue, but there’s no remorse
for what you put me through. This time,
‘sorry’ just won’t cut it; you can cry
yourself dry for all I care: ‘cause
each time you pop out of thin air, I swear
I’d stick a knife through you before
I’d take you back. Well you can chew
on cut glass all you want
whilst my heart break-
fasts on all the halfboiled sunrises
I’ve spent waiting for you
to stick yourself back together. Sure, there’s glue
on your hands, but blood too - mine from
each time I believed your stories.
Back from the dead? Screw you! I know
how you lie, and how we’ve been tied
by fiction fractious as us – but
no longer. From each bruise
you left in my chest I’ve grown stronger,
and this time, dear lover,
I’m through.

* * *

OK, so this is my entry for the Writers' Workshop workshop on Poetic Monologues. The workshop criteria was quite challenging, and a little out of my comfort zone, so I read up on writing poetic monologues, and one of the examples was Plath's 'Lady Lazarus'. So a lot of the inspiration for this came from that, and from Plath's poem 'Daddy'.

The bit of speech quoted from Lazarus is taken from T.S. Eliot's poem 'The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock'. The actual quote is:
"I am Lazarus, come from the dead,Come back to tell you all, I shall tell you all"

And the 'form' of the poem (if I should call it that) was inspired by a series of poems written by Carol Ann Duffy that are monologues written from the point of view of the wives of various literary / mythological people, such as 'Mrs Aesop' and 'Mrs Midas', which I saw her perform live recently at the Warwick Words festival (she was amazing!).She has in fact written one called 'Mrs Lazarus', which I didn’t know of until after I wrote this, so mine bears little resemblance.

Oh, and of course, if you don’t know about Lazarus, here's a handy link to the Wikipedia page that should explain all...

The 'Lazarus' she's talking to in the poem is not meant to be the actual Lazarus, by the way, just someone who keeps disappearing and coming back. Call it 'Lazarus Syndrome', if you will. (:

Friday, 9 April 2010

In The Mother Tongue

And now,
after winter’s spite left
the sun rung white,
it begins:

the stirring of survival
under sleep, where the waters
meet and fold into gold-
lipped petals; the buds of blossoms,
strung illusive as dovetails; the
malachite movement skyward –
the earth-sung pulse
of spring.

And I, too,
am crowned cornflower
blue when I speak
in the mother tongue,
grasping the wish-
bone split into seeds that
feathered plumes untie -
so that each breath, godlike,
unfurls worlds into honeyed airthat melt into the cloud-cloven sky.

* * *

I've been waiting for days for the inspiration for this to strike me, and it finally did!
My entry for devLIT's contest themed New Beginnings.
Wish me luck!

Oh, and some excellent news! You know my visual poem Vox Vitalis? Well, I placed third in the competition I entered it into, and got an honourable mention! Yay!

Monday, 5 April 2010

The Crows

It’s February, and a dismal forecast when you and I
meet under an ashen sky for the last time. Our breath
makes clouds which suck our voices out of the air,
and you’re wary - conversation is a little too close
for comfort. You’d rather cut
the cords between us and feed my good intentions
to the crows - those black angels sewn
across the skyline and below
where they line the fence, your last defence. Or
is that mine? – the horizon melts into my spine,
shot through with stones and bits of bones
that the birds pick at, but I won’t let
your cold words break
me. You can hiss and lie or kick
and cry all you want, I won’t retaliate – just
weight my words and tip this balance
against you. You spit venom into vapour, but
you won’t atone – you don’t even realise
that this bird’s already flown,
in a flurry of feathers
to crown the end.

The presence of the crows
grows - their wings beat airborne heart-
beats; the fence bleeds black. A fitting
backdrop for what you’re due:
and drop


As for the crows and I,
we’ll take form from formaldehyde
and let our wings kiss the sky. For
the crows know I won’t hide
from the inquisition of their eyes - a weapon
I cannot defuse; an invitation
I cannot refuse – a look
with all the intensity
of love.

* * *

One of the groups I'm in on dA set a monthly challenge called Let Music Be Your Muse, which is really exactly what it sounds - write a piece inspired by music. And this is my entry.

Seeing as my poems are usually inspired by at least one song, I tried to do something a little different and exclusively base it on the idea of one song; that being 'Crows' by QueenAdreena - although, as the album it's from, Djin, is a concept album, I must admit I did take inspiration from other songs on it too.

Any constructive criticism is welcome, and wish me luck in the challenge!