a poetry-diary with a line written each morning of lockdown
When I know I have the house to myself,
my spirit expands to the size of a room.
I inhabit every corner.
I have the sensation that I crease at the joins.
I have an origami waist, Mr Tickle arms,
and a rusted girder spine.
Poems surround me like bolsters around an invalid,
some of them just as unwelcome.
Chlorine hangs in the air like a rumour,
smelling of holier-than-thou-ness.
Like other saviours, it wards off evil by being noxious.
It evaporates all the things we don’t want to think about.
My limbs tell me they remember
what folding feels like:
stiff sometimes, like laundered clothes;
unnatural sometimes, like a wrung-out washcloth.
Babies come with these creases already folded into them,
elbows, knees, palms.
We gain more creases
though we make fewer origami selves
‘Magnolia’ is an inappropriate name
for flowers more beautiful than they are excessive
(though they do splay their petals immodestly
only days after being furled umbrellas).
They don’t deserve their association with rent-seekers’
taste in paint.
You can buy-to-let but not let-to-buy.
The word ‘poetry’, mass noun, is as bad as ‘magnolia’.
Good poems tell the truth or tell stories,
You can wear a poem to bits.
Learn it off by heart so that the words melt like charred paper.
Repeat it until you no longer hear it,
a spell cast so many times that it has worn out its magic.
The pale blue light of morning turns violet behind my eyelids;
my body burbles over the buzz of its own static.
The crows are raucous, never having known solitude,
and the wood pigeon reassures them.
The metal sink cracks in the silence;
the neighbour’s gate bangs in the frantic wind.
It’s Saturday morning, but that’s unimportant now.
There are coffee grains in my teeth
and the stained negative of the windowpane behind my eyelids.
I imagine that the crackle of the heel of my hand,
sliding across the page as I write,
is a little mouse whispering these words to me.
I hear the echo of a cuckoo down the phone.
Today the light is the grey of weathered fences.
A magpie jumps sideways up the edge of a roof.
There’s another, unheeding, at the top.
With their wedge-tails, they are born silhouettes.
I’m prone to discarding the fragments
of ordinary moments
that only coalesce into a shape
when I’ve turned away.
Nostalgia is the shape of the distance.
At the age of thirty, I feel like a topiary cutter
who has just realised they made choices
before they knew they were making choices.
My empty shoes by the door
hold the promise of another me,
who could just step into them and walk out.
The rind lining the pit of my stomach
in the shape of a smile
is the reserves of sadness I can call upon,
a residue of years compacted like peat,
pain that was molten hardened into defeat.
I can sense the depth of the world
stilling my chest cavity;
I hear it humming like a fridge.
I feel my torso collapse,
like whipped cream being poured into a bowl,
when I exhale.
The pit of my stomach is comfortingly solid,
like a bell in a tower,
like a pendulum in a clock.
The rain has dyed sepia
the fence and the bricks and the slates.
Far-off conversations surround the silence;
the week has started.
I’m not able to stirrup my propeller
The faces I will see on screens
are just figments of individual dreams;
the real world is the one the cuckoo inhabits.
Humans have abstracted themselves
even quicker than they poured in
their plans, their schemes, their superstructures.
It turns out that everything can be stopped.
(though the magnolia tree now is more green than magnolia).