'A poem inhabits the spaces between the words'
Winner of the Zeroflash Flash Fiction competition October 2017. Read the other entries here.
Three days ago Leon ate a fly. The legs dissolved on his tongue, he savoured the wings’ dainty crunch and hint of softness in its shrivelled body. There is little chance of finding anything so substantial out here. Gangs control the few food stores in the city and there are those who will tear you limb-from-limb for the thinnest morsel.
The memory of trees still lingers in the gnarled stumps on the plain. Leon recalls the rough bark on his palms as he climbed, sunlight filtering through the leaves. There was so much green back then but now even memories are becoming grubby and faded. He clings to the sound of birdsong and his father calling from below.
The stumps are dry and rotten with not so much as a leaf or twig to chew on. One has half fallen, its tangle of roots exposed. Leon’s withered fingers probe every surface. At the base of the trunk he sees something like a knot of wood. He prods it and a blackened snail shell falls away. He inserts his finger. The shrivelled body still has a sticky softness. He scoops it out and swallows.
As he’s licking his finger he hears something. A figure is stooping a few feet away. Its eyes bulge from its malnourished face. It cowers as Leon stands. Leon looks at the two remaining shells and the skulking frame of skin and bones before him. He takes a snail and holds it out. The being looks around. Leon indicates a scooping action from the snail to his mouth. It inches forward as Leon beckons and puts its hands together in gratitude. As it reaches out Leon lunges. There is nothing more than a cloud of dust and muffled crunch of bones. Leon devours his prey.
Feeding the spacemen
I like to feed the spacemen swimming in the sky.
They smile as they dive for the morsels I throw.
There’s more and more of them these days,
with their gadgets building strange structures.
They’re larger than they used to be
and they’re running out of space.
Published in Agenda Broadsheets
Her scars are the words her hands can’t write,
Mangled stumps on a body not yet full grown.
She was searching for her father.
There had been an attack.
Her mother had vanished four months ago
And brother too, lost in the city’s torn sinews
Where her father might still be alive.
In the aftermath an explosion
Shook the neighbourhood and ripped her arms apart.
She would like them to see her,
Those who wave from the front pages of the paper.
Those who sign contracts and treaties,
who lay wreaths and salute their troops.
Those whose hands move hands around the world
But didn’t lift a finger the night she ended up in this hospital
Where her father may never find her.
Now other hands feed and tend her
But cannot repair the broken skin and shattered bones,
The flesh and blood too widely scattered to restore.
Published in Poems for Peace 2015
Letter to an unknown soldier
Do not remember me too well or your mother’s tender smile. Do not imagine our sunlit kitchen as your pile into the mess tent, or the lounge with its armchairs that embrace you and don’t let go, as you shiver in the trenches. We’ll keep a seat warm for you and your bed made. We will walk Toby every day. Do not let the memory of his pouting face and loyal affection distract you in your duty...
The pineapple’s a funny fruit. It doesn’t grow on pines,
And it’s clearly not an apple, even if you’re blind.
Its skin is thick, inedible and neither red nor green.
It’ll cause some grief and break your teeth if bobbed at Hallowe’en.
It grows on the end of a prickly stalk, a most peculiar tree.
If the serpent had offered one to Eve she’d have said: “No, not for me.”
It’s time to ditch this silly name. It really is bananas!
Let’s join the rest of Europe and rechristen it ananas.
2nd prize in Waitrose food poetry competition judged by Roger McGough 2014
I went around the neighbourhood collecting bits of string. I tied them together until I had a long enough piece then attached a tin can to either end. I gave one to my brother, who was going to India for a year. When he arrived the string just reached, and our voices travelled sharp and clear across the continents.
He said he’d forgotten his reading glasses so I hung them on the string, raised my arm and they slid down the line. He sent us packages of incense, sweets and a teapot in the shape of the Taj Mahal. We would sometimes get interference when birds perched on the line or someone walked into it. Once a knot came undone in the middle and I had to walk half way across Europe to fix it.
Published on Ink, Sweat and Tears
How to Catch an Octopus
Familiarise yourself with salt water.
Bathe and brush your teeth with it.
Use it as perfume.
Drink a little at meal times.
Keep an ice cold tank
and submerge your hand for one hour daily.
Do not clench your fist.
Let your hand float free beneath the water.
Over time your fingers will become blubbery
flex the joints so they move with any current.
When you can lift a dinner plate using only your flat palm
find a rock or take a boat out
and wait for your five-legged octopus to find a companion.
Do not grab too soon or resist the draw of the ocean.
Wait till you forget you are waiting
and your hand swims deeper.
Published in The Guardian