Starlings over on The Drabble

A thank you to The Drabble for sharing Starlings and to the kind readers.

Stain

It took an entire summer of peer persuasion
to crawl under that fence after dark and tread
the forbidden land of the bowling green.
Our new black trainers, bought for sports in school,
marked the grass in aggressive curves and streaks
as we scampered from one end to the other
in relish of childhood anarchy.

I returned in the light of the next morning,
pretending to chase an escaping tennis ball,
and I scrubbed those stains the best I could,
with the edge of my hand,
my sleeve on the butt of my palm.
Nothing worked.
Black stain on the bowling green, I remember you.

Space and Soup

Beyond our little waxing moon
you’ll find the black holes,
the milky, marble nebulae,

the restless tumbling spores,
rich, rolling clouds that fold
and envelope upon themselves.

This is where the wild meteors roam,
and the comets carve and landscape
the black fabric of the unknown,

where the sandy specks collide
in waltzing gestures, drunk they kiss
and part and kiss again

backdropped by stellar spirals
tinselled with dust,
the back streets to demoted planets.

It gently stirs beneath the surface,
in the cinema sky,
in the cusp of your spoon.

Look up. This could be the warping lens
to another world, a scope far too big
for our breadth or thought.

Otherwise, look down.
You’ll see it’s all contained
in a bowl of miso soup.

The Man Who Lives Above Me

At night I hear him
ascend in weighted
steps that grow
heavier and heavier
in his climb
treading in those
big black boots
hauling that great
coat of his
on those slumped
shoulders
with everything
else in his world
and there’s a moment,
when he stands
before his door,
a minute, to sigh
or think, to quietly
breathe, and that
silence, drawn, full,
is the loudest
thing I’ve ever heard.

All The Difference

Our plan was to ride the Oslo to Bergen route. Seven hours
of picturesque landscape, some say none other is better.

Climb the ancient mountains, span the lakes of glass,
range the snowy pine you wouldn’t dare disturb with photographs.

Somehow, that dream turned. Another plan wanted wear,
and in its place, spawned descending stairwells, dark basements

dense in drum and bass, spotted floors with faux-leather seats.
The intoxicating snare of Krakow’s nightlife captured us both.

We sampled vodka so pure it lined our throats
with crystal clarity, and drowned our minds in doubt.

Encounter

I’ve become the walking man at midnight,
meandering streets in spectral silence,
slow steps to pace a racing heart.
Count the trees, count the doors,
count the cars,
slowly.

Sometimes, I cross your path, familiar fox.
You pause, one hesitant foot, head turned,
ears up, and then you smooth and slink
yourself into the dark.
It swallows you whole.
Count the stars.

The fog is thick, clouding golden lampposts
in capsuled breath, blurred fireflies,
muting their electrical buzz
resisting death.
Count the lampposts.

I hope for a fresh encounter. Not the fox
or late drunken straggler, but a giant,
whose grace I could meet on the streets
in soft, gigantic peace,

a behemoth of modest pride, metre strides,
polite in presence to soothe a mind,
to mend a heart of glass,
fractured and warped.

If you would kindly point me in the right direction,
if you would kindly tell me which way I should be going,
I’d feel a lot better,
and maybe that will stop me walking at midnight.


This poem is the product of the midnight walks I took during the darker years of having anxiety, to the dozens of nights when it stirred. I lost a lot of sleep to it.

The Stare

Two creeping canal boats
inch towards each other
in a morning mist.

One carries old women, celebrating silence
and tranquility, dabbed in sun cream,
nestled in white, plastic chairs
tucked to a table garnished
with a spotty teapot and ginger snaps.
No one has spoken since sunrise.

The other chugs Mad Lads in fluorescent t-shirts,
wacky head pieces, synchronised in an alcohol
sway, belching as they go. Their new faces
bright and clean and taut, badly burnt
on broad shoulders. Smoke billows
from their lips, trailing a wealthy
blend of lager and cannabis.

The boats meet each other at a reptilian pace.
The bows approach, the hulls close to a kiss.

The boys pour inside for breakfast
but an elderly gaze captures one.
He stares back, traces the wrinkly contours
of her pallid face, her bundled grey hair
thinned to the scalp.

The music and motor dissipate
in the moment they’re closest.

She clutches the tiller with a frail hand,
her finger weighed by a golden band,
and she shouts as loud as she can
with her sunken eyes

Hold onto it.
Hold onto it for dear life.
Don’t let it go.