What To Say To Small People

Birthdays in November  – recording of my poem on One Stage At A Time, a poetry project for people affected by cancer.  We are currently looking for submissions.

 

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You want to bring your ninja warrior
for show and tell but ask me
if I was too shy for preschool?
Do I admit I was terrified and homeless?
That perhaps I still am?
Do I wrap you in stories of lost lands
and the contagion of homesickness?
Or do I click the rope on to your belt,
adjust your night vision, tell you
the silent scaling of tall buildings
is just what little boys do?
Will I always be here for you to come back to?

Listening

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The house is empty. The rain murmuring
against the wall, slicing down
in sheets of green grey mist.
A single bird wings through cloud.
There is a song that comes from being alone.
The percussion patter on the roof,
the drumming of the lark.
These moments of pause,
when there is little choice but to rest,
are full to the brim with distant thunder.
I am the ghost of myself and yet in this absence,
this removal of birth, there is a phoenix
curled inside a cocoon of ash.
A streak of fire that will cut the sky in two.

Waking Up

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The ghosts are cooing
in the broken arms
of their mothers.
They pour their afterlife
into bottles of sleep.

Leaves carefully labelled
as armour. Brown trousers
and a sky for a t-shirt.
Hair sculpted into a time machine,
teeth stuck to the wall.

A monster packed into a bag,
dinosaur shoes. The metal doors
of an education. Strapped in,
not sure where the routine has gone.

Kisses blown across the desert,
come home, come home, come home.
The echo of a hospital,
mornings stitched back together.

Chorus

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A wood pigeon whacks against the window,
a misjudgement of flight. My own body
balances on the edge of the bed,
moving is now a negotiation.
My throat is swollen with shock,
my insides do not feel lighter.
Four white squares are the key
to what is gone. I wake to searing heat
and a story about a medieval dungeon at 3am.
You can’t sleep. You want me to be who I was.

I can’t promise that but as we listen
to the birds breaking open the dawn,
their voices an Easter choir, a mini resurrection,
I think my skin is the shell of a brand new day.
Inside is a sky streaked with roses,
petals falling soft as rain. Feathers found,
wet with dew, in the long grass.

Fragments After Surgery

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So here I am, fragile in white stockings,
a sketch of a time lord as the rain
sweeps down. You ask me
if I was dead. On the television,
a woman is searching for her son.
There is such darkness in the world.

You snuggle in ever so carefully,
the smell of your Thomas the Tank engine PJs.
All those beautiful young boys
dancing into the night,
now blood and sirens and unanswered texts.
Such hatred, such cruelty.

You paint me frozen in time and space,
magic flowers that give birth to baby dinosaurs.
You tell me you’re waiting and waiting
and waiting for me to get better.
I kiss your cheek. We are here, we are safe.
You tell me the Doctor will save Gallifrey.

Night Night

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You in your penguin pyjamas in the garden
on a beautiful evening as the sunshine
dissolves into summer mist.
You tell me you’re scared of the sky,
it’s too big, too far away.

I carry you inside, curled into my neck,
at the end of a long day. You tell me
you want to keep the flowers forever,
never say bye bye to the grass.
I promise you it will all
still be there in the morning.

This is the promise I am fighting to keep
through phone calls to the hospital
and the cancellation of appointments,
the rebooking of surgical consultation,
plastic implants, the removal of organs.

I tuck you under your Charlie
and the Chocolate Factory duvet,
read you a story about robber dogs
who give up a life of crime
to become super bakers.
There is hope for us all.

Reprieve

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There are leaves of porcelain
strewn in a corner
of an uncommon garden.
A moth of silk and velvet,
a collection of star fish.
You draw giant flowers
and are delighted to find
a hole in the floor.
It is an evening of soft sunlight,
gin and tonics, linen that
must not be stepped on.

I could be struggling
out of a hospital bed
but for the crushed bone dice
of bureaucracy, so I may as well
enjoy the paintings blossoming
on the walls. The petals
collected to decorate sandcastles.
You clapping your heart out
for the Halloween band.
This gift of sunflower seeds.