Feature

It’s as if it’s their first time.
Coupled in the house lights,
centre stage, stood in view of all,

dwarfed by the sweating Belgian beer
advertised behind, the rise of music
drowning their hushed voices further.

Which row is theirs? Which seats?
They look to the screen, to their tickets,
but can’t place themselves amongst

the young, their phone-lit faces,
who cross their feet on the seats
in front and give them no notice.

There’s tender nervousness, caution.
She takes a step to the row before
and he stops her, confused, unsure.

Suddenly they’re the feature: a lost pair,
timidly holding their salted popcorn,
their melting milk chocolates,

who’ve nowhere to sit,
who can’t find their place
amid the sea of certainty

of kids, of teens, of adolescence.
They know all of life –
– and at the same time, none of it.

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Whitecaps

I know whitecaps,
night skies splintered
white with lightning.

Imagine: amongst the thrash
a keel splitting waves,
the full-bellied sail.

Youth

These woods are quiet now,
holding only memories of youth.
We searched for Liberty Bells,
tested our knuckles on redwoods,
tried our stomachs with granddad’s
Irish whiskey until we were singing,
smitten and sick, when days were golden
and nights were long and longed for.

“Nothing lasts forever,”
said once some drunk old chap,
strong and august, and we listened.
Who could blame us? What values
aren’t drawn from the slumped
broken man outside the pub
who sits in the gutter and tells you
how things never get better?

Quiet Earth

What does the morning hold, the evening,
in some distant, foreign place?
One nameless acre no one calls home.

It could be country, coast, undisturbed
rolling hills, fields of lavender, bluebells,
and marbled streams warbling between

where woodland trees sing and sough,
and anxious starlings rush above
the sulphur rocks and stink of fox.

These aren’t of my home nor of my life,
but I’ll wring the landscape for all its worth,
for sand and seed and grain,

I’ll let that part of quiet earth know
I am back. I want to call it home.

A First

In retrospect, a strange
suggestion, to agree
to meet behind the train
station in the half-light
of dusk, but a resort
made for solitude. Tucked
behind a concrete wall,
they stand opposite
and kiss with eyes shut.
It is clumsy. Teeth knock
like hard pearls, their dry
awkward lips slightly stick,
but it is a first kiss,
the most important,
when the distant fuss of
trains and traffic are muted
and the heart hammers
with young, artless love.

At The Car Boot Sale

The year the mud had dried and the grass was full and grown
we drove out to the field, opened our car boots,
set up the tables and laid out the things we no longer wanted.

Animal-shaped salt shakers, dented biscuit tins, wobbly footstools,
books bound in weathered leather, silver gravy boats, cloudy decanters,
bags of jumping jacks and army men, all priced in pencil on sticky, white labels.

And I wonder what that plate meant to you when the couple picked it up,
steered in it their hands, admiring the patterns, eyeing the base
for cracks, talking to themselves and digging their pockets for change.

You were a proper seller before, convincing those boys
to buy the horror films for a real scare, demonstrating the blender
for the older man. But for this treasure, you held your breath.

I saw it all in your silence, how the plate once served breakfast
for chattering children you tried to calm and you remembered
laying out the eggs and toast and beans upon it,

how it once carried a rich lamington, domed by a glass bowl,
that you whizzed about in your hands pretending a UFO
as you brought it to the county fair proud and pleased,

and how it once held grapes, sliced peaches and pears you placed beside
the brass balls of an old bed as you plumped the pillows and spoon-fed
a feverish loved one his favourite comfort steak and kidney pie.

What relief when the plate returned to the table.
As the couple walked away, you carefully stowed it in the front of your car.
You weren’t quite set on selling those memories.
No, not yet.

Eggs

Her room was last on the left.
I passed closed doors, a dozen or so,
before I got to hers – except one,
which was open, and light spilled
into the corridor. In a single stride
I crossed and glanced a life.
An old man hunched over a cooker,
a fried egg drooped on his spatula,
the smell of burning toast and cigars.
This life, in the pocket of a building,
has sewn itself into my mind,
and I spend hours picking at the seams.
I do not know if the boy, the small boy
who was sat alone at the table –
ever got his eggs.