Poetry

Because I Am Not A Duckling

Because I am not a duckling
And he’s got the wrong dictionary

I am an alien
A creature
A foreign language

And, oh god, the beauty of being read right.

One
 

When I say you
      are the thing that I want
      what I'm saying is
      you're the thing I imagine
      as if that's enough
      as if I know better
      than God and all the prophets
      than every grain of sand
      than an infinite imagination
What I picture
      isn't even a grain of sand
      if I don't leave room
      for all the ways in which
      I couldn't plan you.

I Was Ready

This
This is
This is the time you’ve been waiting for
This is where you dreamed of being when you were drowning
When you were losing your mind to monsters

This is
Terror
This is terror!
You are yourself now
Armour stripped away
Stripped away
Sounds forceful
Sounds non-consensual
Shed
The armour’s been shed

Sidenote, though, I like that “consensual” has “sensual” in it
“Con” means “with”
Incidentally, “cum” means “with”, too
“Cum”, pronounced “coom”
But still
Consensual
With sensual
Here’s my favourite game:
Determine etymology without looking anything up!
Con-sensual
Sensual
Sense
French - sentir - to feel
But also
Sentient
Latin?
I guess
Sentient
To know - to understand
Something like that
Yes, one of those words I know in context

Con-sent - with-understanding
Yes
But also
Con-sent
With-sensuality
With-feeling
With-feeling+understanding

Suddenly “shed” doesn’t seem so elegant


You have shed your armour
Most of your skin as well
And you’re bare
Con-sensual-ly

Showing yourself to the world

Here’s a specific thing:
I was standing by a pond full of tadpoles
I was in my bathing suit
Still dressed but ready to strip and wade in
And I have a fear of swimming alone
That’s a fact
Beyond the rational fear
The practical safety
I have a deeper - yes - a phobia
But in that moment here is the fear that gripped me
THE TADPOLES ARE SPERM
THE TADPOLES ARE SPERM AND THEY WILL SWIM INTO ME AND I WILL GET
PREGNANT
The tadpoles, which I rationally know are very decisively not human sperm
Are black and a hundred times
A thousand
I don’t know?
EXPONENTIALLY LARGER than a microscopic human sperm
Because they are TADPOLES
There are PRETEEN FROGS
And while swimming into their swarm might induce a primal childhood squirming instinct
The one thing it decidedly cannot do is impregnate me
But hey
I’m standing ankle-deep in a pond full of tadpoles and having a very minor panic attack
because GOOD GOD PLEASE PROTECT THE SANCTITY OF MY PRIVACY MY
ALONENESS MY PRECIOUS AND HARD-WON SELF THAT I DON’T WANT TO SHARE
WITH ANYONE
ANYONE
ANYONE
ANYONE
ANYONE


This
This
This is what you wanted
Yes
And it is
The peace of being at sea
Present with the sky
Like gold on gold
Like a smile that starts low
Like the satisfaction of search
A child for the first time in my life
Looking at you all
From above
And not afraid
I am safe. I am loved. I am cared for. I see the world like it’s made for me.
What is there to be afraid of?

This
This
This is all mine

And After We Met

It flows
It flows not a moment before
Wake up on the turning of the year
      And know this is your sacrament

I saw you in miniature
I saw you first
I saw you an angel
I saw you a child
Bandaged and powdered
      And red in the glow of old nights in the old house
Golden, though even then,
I could see the difference
And heard the words they spit away from you

Twice with a bow and arrow
Though the second
Would hit long after the fact

I saw you
And you grew
Your words carried
When others had weight you had light
When others had weight you had light

I see the ice now
Not cold like I imagined

I see it now
Warmth and fire and it’s not a chill just an edge just words I didn’t choose
Maybe a golden glow is silver now
Or platinum
I never really could tell the difference
But we’re all in the dark so it’s the warmth I feel

Listen baby you don’t have to try
Or make yourself anything
I already loved
Your eyelashes
I already loved
Your questions
I already loved
Your fire.

Delayed Gratification

All the years I was not my own
Thinking it was simple
Thinking I was wrong

Kissing girls in laughing circles
Divorced from desire
No one hit me then -
      Not like bricks or otherwise

There were things I knew in the shabby house
      In the box mirror
      In the green water
      In the plastic chair

There were things I knew only with the white door closed
When all knowledge was wired to the wall
And I was wired to my chair
Conducting electricity with my body

There were things I knew

I hid in plain sight
Swinging wild, for years
Camouflaged first, then one colour at a time
And clearing the halls
Scare away the boys with a click of my heels
Laugh and mimic the sound of their punishment
(though I still shudder at the sound of wheels)

I slip into my body twenty years too late
Right on time
Soft and sure
And bruised and scarred

The feathers were always white, you know
I see them better now
Know them for what they are
Gates and gods come crashing down
No laces and no lace
And look who I found in the rubble.

Waiting for Sunrise

I saw you clearly
Finally
Finally
As the window glowed grey and brighter

And we, entwined,
Knew ourselves
And knew we were not this mystery

You glow in the darkness
But your darkness shines through
The heart of you
That is not the sun
Not the burning heart
      And my head
      And my elbows
      And my eyes
      Spin
I spin
And I know clearly
      Finally
      Finally
That this is not my home.

In the heart of the morning
A grey, magic heart
There is not part of me lost

I soar in the space that you left
I soar for anyone
Who knows
What I know.

Strong: A Love Story

That night was a curse
And a blessing that I wore
Freedom and rebellion and a stirring storm
A blanket
Of my own making

You moved in the periphery
Cause I can’t look at your straight on
And you took my hand
And I did what I do
Too strong

Did you move in fear
Did you believe it was too
Too
Too
Too much

I was
I felt
Big in my own skin
Big and small at the same time
Caught in the shedding
And trying to crawl back in

We’re crystal now
Just like that
I’d love to make you any other way
Yes
To pick apart stitch by stitch
The bindings we wove
To make us new
And you
Too
Too
Too
Too
Too strong

When red wine made mountains
Around us
And you were in the hills
And I, swinging wild
Exploding with all the colours I didn’t know how to be

Waits For You

Look, I said.
I can’t be sure I’ve been here before.
But I can’t be sure I haven’t.

Everything has changed since the last time round
And this crossroad
The numbers bear out, sure.
Calculations I didn’t plan to do
And anyway
Neon numbers
And laughter in the woods
And
And
And

The song is the same

Play it again

You look different this time
And maybe you are.
Look, I said,
I won’t even be skeptical, see?
I see you
Not whole, perhaps, but a reflection of the angles
Not the angles perhaps
But the pictures and the story
Storytelling tells me enough
For now

So shine those shiny shoes, gorgeous
Laugh in short cruel bursts.
Look, I said
You can push that hair back all you want -
I still know you’re there.
 

A decade and a twisted path
And that gravel throat sings me to sleep with a warning
That flashes and rings and laughs
And laughs
And laughs

But I laugh too, Tommy
I’ve forgotten her name
She’s no one’s Irish rose this time
And this time, no one’s asking

The beauty of it is, gorgeous,
That this time
I saw the shape of your hands
All on my own.

Sweeping The World

The best and worst
All at once
A hard wind shaking the house
We fall like leaves
We laugh like spring
We look each other in the eye

Alone in the streets
Where it shouldn’t be possible to be alone
These lights were tigers, once
Just days ago, I’m sure
That wasn’t a cry, was it?
This wasn’t cold?

It moves beneath our feet, my love
Can you feel it?
Some will make miracles with this time
And we can’t say what our time is
We all do all we can
And fly when we can
And hold our hearts
Close
Close
Close

Not what I expected, love
Not at all
Not when we were just blooming
Not when we’d only just been reborn

We take what we get, my love
I see you there
Across a room
Up the stairs
Flowers springing from your shoulders
A smile in your eye
Like the devil I know
Like the one who knows
How to laugh the way he loves
I hold you in the dark
We laugh in the dark
And maybe it’s not everything
Maybe it’s not finished
But baby, it’s more than I ever thought to want

Nobody told me
The wanting and the peace were possible
I never thought to ask

So laugh
Laugh
Laugh
And dance with me
In the wind
In the light of the fading world
In the attic in the middle of the night.

Pavilion

Today I love the word “pavilion”

A word that smells green and warm

Humidity dripping on my tongue

 

If we were children, we’d slip in together

Skip through, holding hands

 

I’d still hold your hand 

In cold dry places.

The Bench
 

No frame is ever so bright 

As the one we sit in

Writing together not looking

Not talking yes

Talking more than we should

Than we planned to

And watching every summer sailor pass

Constructing lives

Through speckled glass

Like maps of our neighbourhood

In reverse

 

We can’t tell which side is which

When we stare at the rivers

Willing them to reveal the rainstorms that caused them

 

Observe, you said

And I caught fire

 

From the grass in our thighs to the words of the stranger

Who stands nearby

And speaks his own symphony

Traintracks

Stretch ahead and 

Stretch ahead and 

Stretch ahead and 

laugh

 

Isn’t it funny, now?

Don’t you wonder?

Look at all that sky

Look at all that light

 

Stretch ahead and

Stretch ahead and

Stretch ahead and

wonder 

Why none of this was here before?

When you tried to dream

When you saw dark

When walls collapsed

When stars shone black

When lights went out

On a bed on the floor

And time snapped back

And bled out hearts

and hands

And no silence and

No noise

Could make that story real

A mannequin came to life

And promises were made

In fire that wouldn’t burn

In fields all around

In people all around

In roots that wouldn’t grow

In beauty

In beauty

 

I tried
 

Look, here’s the thing.

On the days I wash my hair - 

On alternate thursdays  - 

I can see the greys gathering at my crown.

I can’t see them the rest of the time - 

Hidden in the everyday, in the wild thatch of my hair, 

In all this gold I can’t see the silver - 

And yeah, I know, I know how saccharine that sounds

But fuck it

They’re the literal colours I’m working with

So sue me

No, here’s the thing - 

Yes

Here’s the - 

I’m not afraid now

I see it now

All that I didn’t know how to dream of

Let me get old now

God, I pray I get old

Let me be that lucky!

I - 

For years - 

For all of it - 

Looking ahead - 

Down the wrong highway - 

Picking myself up and trying to insert myself - 

 

And look - 

It wasn’t that I thought I’d DIE before I got old

I wasn’t - 

I’m not that guy

But - 

Look - 

Anyway I say this - 

It’s not - 

Fuck it.

 

When you’re telling the wrong story, not even you can believe the ending

 

And I am not a duckling

 

Too obtuse?

 

Fuck it.

 

Stretch ahead and

Stretch ahead and

Stretch ahead

 

Into silver and gold

And every colour in between

And walk slow

To go

Where you have always been going.

Wild Horse

Wild horse fighting gently
Kind words
And whispers of fear

Call on me to rain and settle
I will whisper
I will make you moving pictures

Made-up words and feathers
And salt-water and fresh rivers

Dappled in the sun
And laughing in the dark

Wild horse with laughter in your eyes
In your eyelashes
In the fear and in the spirit
Fighting gently
Low voices in both ears
No spinning arrows
As you ride due north.

Moonlight spike
 

With the moon full

And blood on my lips

We laughed at all the songs we danced to

And danced like we’d always been this young

We were monsters in the dark

And demons in the light

And nothing could hold us back

 

Under the stairs and behind the velvet curtains

You shone new and strange

You were a beacon

You were leather and light

You were hot hands and wide eyes

 

Flying high on the night and the black of my smile

I may not have been at home - 

 

But kiss me

And I’ll tell you everything I know about moonlight.

Controlled Burn

Gold rings you circled

Late at night

That first night

The first night you held my hand

 

In all my love, and all my travels

I am tired of writing about you

 

The journey’s gone

The heart remains

But the words are dead

I’ll send you on your way to turquoise waves and a better home

 

What more is there to say?

 

On bright shining mornings

We put that corpse to rest

Washed it clean

In salt-water and honest prayer

And gave it the last of our love

 

It is a rare and precious thing, she said

Years ago

About a different fire - 

It is a rare and precious thing

To have walked every inch of the road

To have picked up every beautiful stone

Breathed in every moment

And to have walked away whole

Never sated, perhaps

But nothing left behind

 

So you, with your laughter

And your downturned smile

You with your long fingers

And an unfinished heart

We’ve said every prayer

And watched the credits roll

Fly away through the open window

Find your island

And find your home

 

Nothing binds

No story left to tell

In a well-burned forest

 

But what grows from the ashes

Is beautiful, my friend

Is strong

And fresh

And humble

And whole

 

Remember not to pick the flowers

But remember, always, that they’re yours.

Rust

 

I walked into the room

That first day

Full of fire

Ready for everything

Ready for the next door

And thinking I was ready for you

 

And slowly, slowly - 

Or if not slowly, gently - 

Or if not gently, subtly - 

You rained

You rained 

And around you everything rusted

Leaching colour

Leaching thought

 

I am in the dark

Peering round corners

Waiting for the blow

It comes

But never with the force I want

Never with proof

Never enough to make me think it’s over

 

What bargain did you make for this wide black sky?

 

I would cast a spell to bring you home

Transport you

Give you shining lights and shiny cities

I would wish it all for you

If it mean you’d fly away

 

Tethered to a map

A red wheel

And a teardrop

Your blood runs with poison

And you have no home but this curse

 

I would lift you and wish you flight

Rather than have another high-alert

And a storm-filled eye

Drag me to the bottom of your sea.

Makes Good

 

I flew in on a spaceship

Landed on cobblestones

And started looking for a life to call home

In the wild lights

And the narrow lanes

We lived

 

Perhaps not a story

Perhaps not for you

Perhaps an experience

Perhaps a summer

 

And I wanted summer too

Collecting samples

Collecting lives

Shrugging off skins, one by one, in the autumn damp

 

Up a hill and down stone steps

And filled the the brim

With potion

With poison

With possibility

It felt possible, then

To be human

To dance round pillars

And reel you in

 

But even before the book fell open

And landed on the right page

Deep knowledge from my body told me

We could peel

And peel

And peel

Back every layer

 

And never reach that core

 

But lord, we could try

Dance into corners and shapes and dark

Tell you the history of your world

Until your eyes shine

And you nearly forget

About home.