The Absence of Good

A brief respite from burning August heat
The freezer-section of the supermarket
I consult my list as my children weave
In and out, in and out, around my feet

Out of control, they giggle and squeal
High on life, energised by E-numbers
I focus on the four things I must find
Apples, yoghurt, bread and wine

Then I see you shuffling towards me
I suppose I had been expecting you
Misery, hopelessness, emptiness, death
But not today, amongst such normality

So real, I can reach out and touch you
Even though I suspect the flesh of my hand
Might pass through your entire body
So frighteningly devoid of life you seem

In week-old make-up sliding across
An oily, sweating, waxy face
Traces of crimson lipstick smudged
Across a whisky-scented, food-stained mouth

Dressed for winter in a heatwave
In a once-vibrant electric blue tailored coat
The sleeve now barely hanging
Onto the threadbare shoulder seam

We lock eyes for a few seconds
I hold onto my trolley for support
As an overwhelming, choking feeling
Washes over me; I struggle to stand

I search the bloodshot windows to your soul
And find nothing. Beaten
Your sole purpose; waiting to die
In a cold, lonely, wind-blown place

I close my eyes quickly before you can take me
And as I “come to”, I sense once more
My kids weaving around my legs
Giggling, so full of life, as once you were

I clutch them, unable to stop hot tears
I hold my daughter as once you were held
And as I breathe her in, I ask myself
When, where, how, did they all stop caring?

The absence of good in you, in this world
Leaves me shaken; I straighten my back
And I focus on the list of four things
Apples, yoghurt, bread and wine

Rose-tinted Dreams

Last night, amid the evil
You unexpectedly held my face
And said those things
You used to say
And I remembered
That cherished feeling

And I woke up choking
With grief
As if it was yesterday

You were larger than life
Suffocating me with joy
Dwelling on the bright side
Never truly understanding
The darkness I was in

You held out your arms
And tried with all your might
To pull me from my depths
But the black grip held fast

And even your strength
So used to fixing others
Could not fix me

So you gave up
And I left
Your indifference being
Slightly less bearable
Than your disappointment

You deserved your freedom
With honours

Remember those babies I wanted?
The ones you were never ready for?

I have them now
They are so beautiful

Turns out they could save me
No strength required
Just laughter, cuddles
Stick men and whoopee cushions

And I acknowledge daily
The price I paid for them
Losing you

It’s just not been the same
I barely remember happiness
At least within me

Or those shared sunsets we saw
In far flung corners
Backpacks rubbing on sunburnt shoulders

I hope you’re happy now
I hear the stories, you know
You found babies of your own
Or maybe they found you?

I always knew
You couldn’t run forever
Just as I knew
How amazing you’d be as a dad

And I’m glad

Like that old song
I used to play to you
The one you got sick of hearing
On the way to your mother’s house

“And in July, a lemonade
To cool you in some leafy glade…”

I wish, just sometimes
In the midst of the evil…

“But most of all, when snowflakes fall…
… I wish you love.”

…your hands clutching my face
Saying those things
Protecting me

I wish your love was still here

Seeing It From Above

On a plane again; alone.
Through torn openings in
Sunlit, cotton-wool clouds
I spy populated clusters;
Pockets of life, teeming
With questions, arguments,
Heartaches, that match
Even overpower, mine.
The universe presents
The bigger picture
It’s so easy to remain
Within my own parameters.
But I won’t, I will choose to see
That there will be joy again.
Some time away
It waits, for me alone.
Yes, I will love again.

Beautiful Life

I’ve been stripped once more
Back to basics
But beauty in life
It overwhelms me

I watch as men climb
On steel structures
Cutting themselves
Dirt under fingernails

They are creating
They have vision
I photograph it
As I travel through life

Strangers look at me
Questioningly, as I click away
Click, click, click…
But I’m not the mad one

I have learned again
That to create, to build
To dream, to love
To dance with joy

You have to get dirty
Your heart needs to break
Your fingers need to bleed
You must cry lakes of tears

Only then can you recognise
Beauty in a moment
Only then can you capture it
In your mind’s eye

And use these moments to breathe
To put one foot in front of the other
When you otherwise feel
You cannot go on

A Wishful Ending

Unseasonal cold air is blowing in

I welcome it gladly

I beckon it to caress my skin

Just so I can feel… anything. 

If I had the energy

I’d walk from my front door

Across the green, through the estate

And leave the rabble behind 

I’d walk and walk until my ears

Could only distinguish the screaming

And traffic as a distant hum

Only then would I be prepared 

To lay down in the dewy grass

To anoint my body with a substance

So pure, I’d perhaps bless

All the evil that is in me 

It could penetrate my veins

And purify the poison

I’ve allowed to flow for so long

That is my dream 

I could die in peace

With distant sounds of human life

Representing the very thing

I couldn’t manage to be part of 

A Time of Darkness

Head balanced on hands
Staring mutely at wood grain
Counting lines, comparing knots
My head motionless, eyes darting

Lines and knots develop
Into expressive imaginary faces
Welcome company at our oak table
After three months and six days of solitude

A rare phone call passes in a blur
An awkward friend stammers her apology
A million reasons for her absence
Her neatly-transferred guilt engulfs me

Unused vocal chords intensively labour
Faking upbeat sounds of reassurance
Outwardly calm, but screaming inside
My unseen eyes pleading for help

The call ends at her hurried insistence
The allotted time up; duty becomes a distraction
Her sentence hanging as the receiver clicks
Hours, once more, now merge into days

Distant happy shouts of passers-by
Shoppers returning home to get ready
For evenings of fun and company
With family, friends, lovers; people

The late afternoon sun descends
Leaving me once again with darkness
And my company of imaginary friends
Their knotted faces fading finally to black


A single ant marches purposefully
Along rivulets of moss
Like external arteries
Clinging to weathered bricks

She watches in stillness and silence
No longer a slave to time
Simply no other place to be
Nowhere to feel needed

Her place is here for eternity
An orchard of trees in September
Bearing their favourite fruit
A reminder of a shared lifetime

Leaves flutter against autumn’s breath
Wordless, papery voices that reassure
She is never to be alone
Despite not conversing for days

A withered frame to reach no more
She can only imagine the taste
The wind befriends her
And places offerings at her feet

She stoops to retrieve her prize
Her spit and apron as polish
She fetches a knife and two plates
A habit never to be broken

A few moments before bliss
She is unable to mask
Her sorrow at the apple’s sheen
Against gnarled arthritic hands

Laying the plates before her
She is still for a moment
Waiting; then a familiar presence
Her soul awakens and takes flight

She feels him steady her hand
As she cuts through the skin and flesh
She hears him whisper on the wind
And finds comfort in her tears

Worth The Wait

Cold, empty, winter days
In a house bought for two
She silently, patiently waits
Marking time with her pain

Immaculate in his absence
She makes a home for one
Whilst a smiling bride and groom
Watch her pitifully from the wall

In pursuit of a life-long Antarctic dream;
Summers with scientists beside icebergs
He pleadingly requests her blessing
Whilst sliding her easily into the cold

A trick question, a trip-wire, a trap
She ponders a choice; without choice
With only one true sacrifice; hers
As he already turns his back to leave

Alone; her love as solid as concrete
A pillar of support in the face of onlookers
Her conversation only justification
On behalf of the man who abandoned her

She sits warming herself in cosy denial
Day-dreaming of their postponed future
Plans for two, masterminded by one
The balance of equality toppling slowly

Pushing her forgotten needs into wasteland
She is deliberate in not noticing
The sorrowful elephant in the corner
That is her now part-time marriage

Two years, two months and two days;
The time it takes for her to acknowledge
The ocean of misery in which she now swims
Finally welcoming the current that takes her under

Unknowingly entering last chance saloon
He returns to her, his only gifts;
Carefully-wrapped indifference
And a magnum of bitter tastes

Summer spent in a warmer climate
Sees only uncomfortable, record lows
Three months of desperate floundering
In a relationship now dead in icy waters

Beaten; she packs her smallest belongings
Taking lightweight treasures of a decade;
Symbols of a future once promised
Now reneged, swiftly and clinically

She drives a hired vehicle alone;
Her life neatly boxed inside
To a strange city and a fresh start
As a number; devoid of history

Leaving behind furniture lovingly restored
Whilst a nameless, faceless other, calmly places
Her toothbrush and perfume in a cupboard
Stained only days before by teak oil and a wife’s tears

Promises to collect the last of her things
Are deemed unnecessary by his generosity;
Giving away to others the last evidence of her
Erasing her in seconds, no trace to remain

She scours unknown streets in need of a home
In reality, wanting only a warm bed
In which she can sleep, hoping never to awake
Having given her last; no more to spend

Bags unpacked; she stands in tourist central
Excited sightseers of the world unite
To marvel at the history and vibrancy
Invisible amongst them; she quietly dies inside