These finite, constant minutes of mine–
he says we have to make ours count
but I just count them down
more concerned with surviving them than living them,
with tolerating them than filling them,
watching the spokes skip around the Death Counter’s dial,
studying the friendly face of my bedside clock,
knowing that the meaning of life is that it stops,
it stops
but not soon enough for me
(too soon for most though, apparently).


Our love died when I lost track of time:
we thought we had so much of it.
But while I’ve been writing this
the clock stays in my eye line,
and you’ve inched a minute closer to your death,
while I’ve leapt a minute nearer to mine.
Oh, we had the time of our lives, all that time, all of the time.
(It’s really nice knowing that neither of us will make it out of this alive).


In the hours when I cannot bear to be alive,
I just sit and watch my watch,
watch my future decreasing, watch my past growing,
knowing that I can always find comfort
in the movement of metal hands,
in the glow of green lines shapeshifting
in the corner of the darkened bedroom,
watching you sleep away your minutes,
while I think away mine.
Every minute propels us forwards,
toward a good thing, or great things,
a tragedy, an opportunity,
and our deaths, ultimately.
(It’s only a matter of time).


I stand outside the jeweller’s shop
and stop
and watch
the clocks–
High Street Hypnotherapy.
I light a cigarette and press my forehead to the glass
and watch the clocks, trying to catch one out for being too slow,
or maybe all the others are fast?
But they move like,
they move like fucking clockwork
and so I remain with my head against the pane,
killing time in the rain,
in pain, killing time,
literally watching time disappear.
You’d call this a waste of a time
but it’s not, it’s progress,
it’s necessary progress,
staying alive until the time comes to die.
Now that I’ve typed this
I’m three minutes closer to that time,
and now that you’ve read this
so are you
(closer to your time as well as mine).


Fumar mata

It’s ten minutes to 7 and mordant sunlight is pissing through the gaps in the broken curtains. I can feel the gold light on my face and understand the meaning of the term ‘sun-drenched.’ I keep my eyes closed, letting my eyelids burn under the weight of the fulgent flood. I don’t want to be alive just yet. I am somewhere else.

I am back in Spain, at the villa, with you.

The sun woke us up every day, mid-morning, dancing through the net curtains, creeping up from the bottom of the bed in which we lay tangled and naked under white sheets, dozing, until I’d get up to smoke. I’d pull on your nearest t-shirt and go out onto the balcony, stretching like a cat, inhaling, exhaling, watching the ash fall slowly to the barren valley below, spotting lizards, gauging the temperature, watching the birds fly east towards the Med.

Then I’d sneak indoors, leaving you to sleep and start on breakfast. Cereal and a cooked full-English for you plus a mug of builder’s tea and fresh juice. Black coffee and a cigarette for me. We’d take breakfast outside on the veranda by the pool. I don’t know if it was apparent then that I had bigger dreams than you, but you were hungrier.

I had exams waiting for me back home so I tried to revise. I read Confessions of an English Opium-Eater and The Italian, you watched ‘The Hunt for Red October’ and European football. We ate fresh swordfish and the biggest prawns I’ve ever seen.

We shared our first bubble bath, complete with champagne on ice. We’d only been together for 8 months and I’d been away at university for 7 of them, so this holiday cemented a lot of things for us. You and I, proving everybody wrong. The Dream Team. Us against the world. You probably don’t even remember it now.

We drove for miles along the coast following the contours of Spain’s face and everything around us was unbelievably perfect, the tiny white chapels shining against the orange cliffs and the deep aquamarine skipping alongside us. Windows down, music up, we wore smiles and suntan lotion and our faces ached.

We stopped in Benidorm, which is essentially a caricature of Britain abroad, but as we walked in the surf I was thrilled at the prospect of walking the same beach and seeing the same stretch of horizon that Sylvia did so many years ago. I told you that Plath and Hughes honeymooned in Benidorm. You didn’t know who they were. These things were warning signs at the time, for when things seem too good to be true they usually are, but I was blind to omens and had vetoed rational thought; I was young and in love and blinkered, all I could see was you and our perfect surroundings and our perfect love.

Before we left Spain I bought 200 Benson silvers as they were a quarter of the price that they were in the UK. The sign on all the packets said ‘Fumar mata.’ Smoking kills. But so does love. Love kills. God knows you almost killed me. And sadness kills, too, perhaps more often than smoking, more often than love. Falling in love should come with a government health warning. There are no billboards or pamphlets to warn us of the impending pain, the inevitable tears. Instead of printing photos of rotting lungs they should print a graphic image of a broken heart. Love kills. You always hated me smoking. You’ll kill me long before the cigarettes do, of that I am sure.

When I open my eyes I am not in Spain, at the villa, with you. I am sad, scared and alone. I hear sirens, a train, the builders working downstairs. A door slams. I am not in Spain. I realise that we were there exactly 4 years ago to the day. You won’t remember it, I’m sure. You have new important dates to carve on the walls of your skull now anyway.

But how lucky I was to be loved by you. I don’t know if the sun smothered me this morning in an attempt to mock me or save me but, wherever you are, at least we are both slaves to the same golden star. Fumar mata. Smoking kills. El amor mata. Love kills. And how lucky I was to have been loved by you, to have loved you and been loved by you in return. How lucky I was. How lucky…

poetry, prosetry


I saw a Picasso painting and it fucked me up
because it wasn’t oil on canvas, it was a mirror.

Her pain was contagious, her skin all sickly and diseased, all yellow and green, her hair in blue and purple streaks, matted, heavy, left unwashed for weeks.

She was stifling her screams and catching her tears in a tissue made of broken glass, muffling her sobs with icy crystal shards, alone, in pain, insane, confined within the edges of a 60 by 49 frame.

Those eyes held stories of the lives of every person she’d ever known yet betrayed no life of their own. Black holes filled to the brim with untold horrors, her eyelashes holding back the weight of a thousand lies, a pathetic barrier between the tsunami of torture within her and the face that she wears for the world;

but it will not hold, it will not hold, the wave breaks the boundary, spewing poison, rioting down her cheeks and into a handful of glass, the tears fall and fall;

and her lover only watches on, making her a spectacle, a beautiful and tragic sight to behold, not one to be reassured, not one to be consoled. He studied her pain because he wouldn’t face his own, just as you study mine because you will not face yours.

She and I, we are the same:
a sight to be seen,
a suffering machine,
a perfect exhibition
of devastation and depression.

I immediately recognised myself as the subject of the portrait
although I know that you’d say, “No, that’s not you, not at all,”
but I’m so certain that it is me, I am so certain.

How did Pablo know me so well so many years before I was born? It seems that the only people who ever truly knew me are two dead men who found beauty in the forlorn.

And so I’m left behind
with these tidal waves of grief
and a disintegrating heart,
wandering around empty galleries,
and wiping away my tears
with shards of broken glass.


Love, Or Whatever This Is

You call this “love” but I can’t.

Whatever this is feels like being wheeled into the operating room after years of waiting for surgery, where I’m not entirely convinced that this operation will work but I’m willing to try. It’s the final hope, the last resort after exhausting all other options and, though I am hesitant, I pray that I’ll feel different when I wake up, if I wake up. This feels like “Now, count backwards from 10 for me, slowly…”

Long before I met you a doctor told me that I’m rusting from the inside out. You can’t see my diseases: pretty on the outside, decaying on the inside. Eventually, the rust will reach the surface and you will understand why I disagree with you when you tell me that I’m beautiful. I know the devastation inside.

Last summer I received a letter informing me of a pioneering new treatment for rust-removal, a feat never before performed in its entirety but successful in parts. The surgery involved keeping me sedated, peeling back my skin and scraping out the rust, then patching me up with dissolvable stitches. It was going to be a very difficult, very painful, very time-consuming operation, with no guarantee of success. But the letter was full of optimism and hope, the hard facts and risks peppered with positivity and reassurance. Week by week I would be anaesthetised and parts of my inner workings would be revealed and cleaned, piece by piece. You are the doctor who wrote and signed this letter. You said you’d look after me, and while it would be a testing time you had faith that I would turn out brighter and better than ever before.

I’ve always been in possession of lots of unanswerable questions. (Maybe that’s why I turned out mad). One which I still cannot answer is this: is it better to feel everything or nothing at all? I’ve tried both, several times, and both ways of living simply aren’t quite right. Almost but not quite.

Whatever this is feels like you numbing me up, trying to fix me and putting me back together. When the bad parts of me present themselves, when you find the rust without even having to dig that far, when you merely scratch the surface and see the wreckage beneath, you anaesthetise me, douse me in vodka and scrape scrape scrape away. It hurts, it has always hurt. But you make it hurt less.

You keep me ticking over, alive but trying not to feel so much, with prescription drugs and drips and alcohol and class A, always keeping the edge off my pain so that I don’t crumble under its enormity.

When the rust under my skin starts to itch you keep me topped up with a steady supply of champagne, cocaine and comedy shows.

When the panic surges up from a source you thought you’d already numbed, you give me air. You make me breathe.

And when the anaesthetic on my heart wears off, when I remember the things I try so hard to forget, and the tears pool at my feet you quickly give me laughing gas. You are my steady, ever-reliable supply of nitrous oxide there to make me laugh through the tears, to make me cackle until I can’t remember what I was upset about in the first place.

But I can’t stay numb forever. Believe me, I enjoy it, I enjoy this and I try to make the most of this curious state of discomfort, of not being able to feel my legs or my face or my heart or my hands but knowing they exist, and I love the strange sensation of being there but not there. Would my life be easier if I never felt another feeling ever again? Or would the nothingness be the death of me?

One day this experiment of yours will be over. Perhaps you’ll dig too deep or you’ll unearth a level of decay which is simply more determined to stay with me than you are. Or perhaps the money will run out, or you’ll find a prettier, less challenging, more rewarding project to work on: another sad girl, another bad life.

Either way, when you leave, your faithful supply of numb-ers and uppers and laughter and vodka will leave with you. And once all of your magic tricks have worn off, the pain will hit me with a ferocity that’s impossible to anticipate. I will begin to self-anaesthetise but it won’t be the same. It’ll have an entirely opposite effect. The rust will grow through your handiwork and break the surface. My tears will only help the rust to spread, damage erupted over my skin like freckles born from darkness.

Love, or whatever this is, is anaesthesia. You are my favourite anaesthetic: they ought to bottle you and sell you in pharmacies. You can’t make me forget about the rust completely: I know that the rust is still inside me and it hurts, but you make it hurt a hell of a lot less.

We must enjoy these dreamlike days while we still have them. Keep on keepin’ numb. Because one day this, this anaesthesia, this love, whatever this is, will wear off and the pain will be unlike anything we’ve ever had the misfortune to experience before.

poetry, prosetry, Uncategorized

Empied of harm

Passion, you may feel it in obvious ways

How he leans in with his enveloping strength

Or, in the thunder of your chest, riding imaginary horses with your best friend

Forgetful of arithmetic and teachers who felt you’d end your days in borstel, because you did like running rings around them, didn’t you?

Regretting those petty rebellions later

Then in the crisp light and imagined stampede

Thrashing to the furthest point in your mind, bathed in fantasy

A place hard to reach, even splayed on cold Mexican tile, pretending your hand was his

Even, swimming underwater, until your lungs burned to surface

It was as if, once you grow up, the way back becomes harder

Like a secret language, only known to children, daunting you with reminder

The tree house of your neighbor, as you take the prescribed walk, your cardiologist insisted upon

The first rain lillies urging through Texan soil against all odds, their impossible fragility, an exquisite reprieve from cracked earth

Have you gone so far child? As to forget the combination? 

Here, where verbena and lemon grass, pummel air with magic 

Here, where you didn’t need anything, but the cupping of your hands, wonderment running through water, like you were born again and again, empied of harm 

Full of the vigor, of not knowing, the beaten path, to adulthood

poetry, prosetry, Uncategorized

Facing the fear

I don’t want to lie to you but I sure wish I could start lying to myself. Tell a different story of me, one that sits less altered in her chair, skewed by the forks laid to eat in tarmac

Truth doesn’t sit well at 2am, when the specter and the sickle crescent with the moon, to chime their heady blend of ‘what if’s’ and disturbance cavorting against imagination

I think of the quiet Christmas eve house, Tom and Jerry fooling about, seems I’ve been living long, if memory can stretch the length of night, without curling back upon itself

you’re there of course, shy and bold and beautiful

and out of the corner of my eye, I see the young me, her nylon night-dress and untrimmed straggly hair

Penguin looks with his sad eyes, Teddy tries not to cry, as knots in the wardrobe come alive, menacing faces, terror in familiar places

he said, sit on my lap child, this won’t take long and after midnight, Cinderella was never the same, she preferred cinders and dark corners

just as you, pulled me out, toward gathering morning and soon light will decide fear and tomorrow will appear slow and steady like a hand on your brow, wiping away the wait

there, there, child, sleep it off, dream the future, where you have inherited the surge and the dragon and you avenge your unseen foe

inch by inch, we reclaim in years, snatched from time, half over us, like sword of Damocles, poised to swallow whole

yes we have much to dread, feel the hook of fear and do it anyway, bury that part saying oh God, no, I can’t as the kids who jump, reaching for rope and burn

to vault into space, grabbing rubber tyre, absailing in space and time, lifted from their feet, by the impossible feat, oh God you can leap

keep on, just keep, on

facing the fear