Poem: Outcast

First published on Patreon on 2nd July

I love this poem. I don’t know if it counts as my best work, but I love it. It’s very queer, because of course it is, and references Christianity, because of course it does. I love it because whilst it’s about love, about loving while queer, it’s not about romantic love. I love it because it’s about loneliness and loss and hope. I love it because it makes me a little uncomfortable.

My heart has slowed
Well
Stopped
Remembering to move muscle
Expand lungs
Shed skin
It’s a lot when my mind is fixed on
Xem
On the way xir breath is
Just a little too even
And xie blinks every
8.2
No
8.3 seconds
On the way xie
Stands out
Blends in
Pink painted lips and
Biker boots and
Poppy red sequins
Xir hair is grey
A perfectly imperfect buzzcut
It smells like cheap shampoo
And almond oil
So unlike Mae’s
Impossibly black
Rose scented
Corkscrew curls

It works in a city like this
It works to remind me of home
Where the winds peel you a new skin
In red or gold or copper
Where the sky is
The grey-black of wet concrete
Where rain falls but once a year
And persimmons come thick in wintertime
We knew a hundred words for dry
A thousand for hot

I start breathing again
Light and slightly asymmetric
Each exhale around
0.6 seconds different
To the last
The devil is in the details
So to speak
Xie hasn’t learned the details
I want to teach xem the details
To learn how xie was born
And died
And cast out
And born
To tell xem how they clipped my wings
Crammed my soul into a
Wattle and daub shell
And expected me to survive the cold

It has been an age since the last
Since the Trials
Since the hunt and the
Fear and the
Freezing water
Since those of us with
Perfect dark eyes
And blink quick steps
And smiles fit to steal a soul
Mae was confident
Careless
Taught me how to survive on more
Than the memory of
Basalt and sulphur
Refused to learn
How to dream of fire
Without smelling like smoke

I make myself known
In the way that we know
I hope we’re a we
I am seldom wrong about kith
But it has been so long
Xie sees me
And turns to look
Not bothering to smile
The air shimmers around xem
Tastes like acid rain and black ash
We are a we
I’m sure of it
Xir dark
Wide
Unremarkable face
Is shuttered closed
Displaying nothing
But I am older
I can see xir
Heartbeat stutter to nothing
Smell the salt spray
Suspicion and hope
And I breathe a smile
Xie is careful
Fearful
So might just survive
Live long enough that we can become
Kin
Or something like it
Xie is silent
And still
Like I am still

I hold out my hand
“Hi,
I go by Chi these days,
How long since you were left?”

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Poem: A Landmark (Inspired by LS Lowry)

First published on Patreon on February 8th 

I went to the Lowry a little while back and I was sat with my laptop looking at the artwork. Can’t say I’m a huge fan of a lot of it, but for some reason this painting in particular struck me. So, I did what any self respecting poet would do, and I wrote about it.

 

See how the hills stand before you

See your goal in the distance

See

See how well it is painted

See how vague

See how the mist seems to wrap around you

See your part in it

See

See how the landmark waits for you

See how it stands stark against the sky

See the sky

See it heavy, pregnant with tomorrow’s rain

See the blue/white/grey of it

See how the shadows part before you

See

See the stage

See it set

See the lakes and the hills and the sky

See your part in it

See your quest

See your goal

See the needle point of it

See it reach for you

See how you will reach for it

See

See how you will knock down the hills

See how you will tear apart the sky

See the forests and mountains you will craft

See the colours you will paint them

See how they will shine, mirror-like when you finish

See your part in it

See how it will change you

See your greatness

See fearlessly

See clearly,

Always see

Poem: The Train

First published on Patreon on 28th May

Here’s a poem that I have finally managed to finish…sort of. I posted the WIP for this months ago and promptly abandoned it. It’s as done as it will ever be but I’m not sure I’ll ever really like it.

Cream plastic

The seat back is made of

Cream plastic

And I think of coffee

Too pale

Too weak coffee

That tastes more of milk

And sugar

Than anything else

I want some coffee

Frothy

Rich

With hazelnut syrup

And a biscuit

But it’s about

Three hours too late for that

(And no,

I don’t drink decaf)

He has red hair

And half stands in his seat

Looking awkward in a suit

And tired of the day

He’s not handsome

His skin is too pale

And his nose is too straight

And his mouth too small for that

But in this moment

With this quick glance

I am a voyeur and

I want to know him

I want to know why

The beginnings of lines

Around his deep dark eyes

Look like joy

Why the tight corners

Of his mouth

Look like mirth

I want to know his story

And then write it

And then forget his name

And move onto my next fascination

I want a muse

I want to use a man

I want to wring him out

Take his sweat and heat and life

And fuck it to poetry

I want to not feel guilty about that

I want to not care

The dictionary of obscure sorrows

Defines sonder as

The realisation that

Everyone in life is the

Hero of their own stories

And today,

On this Cross Country service

To Manchester Picadilly,

I, the tired fat person

With too many bags

And a very beige outfit,

Am an extra in the background:

Someone they’ll forget

As soon as they look away

My pride tells me I ought to be hurt

My ego informs me I should feel small

Instead,

I ponder

What I will eat when I get in

I decide on cake

I want a light and fluffy

Vanilla sponge

Still warm

Served with whipped cream

And weak tea

I want to close my lips

Over the tines of a fork

And imagine

For a moment

I’m in a romance novel

And my eating is somehow sexy

I like to imagine

That my smile

Could be irresistible

And the curve of my thighs

Could make someone light headed

But I read too many romance novels

And my imagination

Has always been a little too strong

And the world has spent so long

Showing me my place.

So instead I write

And debate forcing this on

And entirely too indulgent audience.

I suppose this is the answer

Thank you all for your patience

Good night.

A Month in Performance

June was busy, to say the least. Alongside the onset of busy season in my day job, I had 4 performances across 2 weeks (Verbose was in May yes, but it was the end of May). Here are my thoughts on each night I did.

Verbose was a night of folklore and fairy tales, and ghosts, first loves and selkies abounded. I saw Amy Kinsman (of Riggwelter Press, 3 Drops in a Cauldron and Gorilla Poetry) for the first time and immediately bought their pamphlet ‘&’. If you get a chance to go to a Saboteur Award Winning literary night, Verbose is definitely worth checking out.

Verbose is on the 4th Monday of every month in Fallow Cafe, Manchester. 

Testify was a little stranger. Set in Hanky Panky Pancakes, I walked in (late) to the smell of some thoroughly delicious seeming pancakes and some equally delicious poetry. There were first timers, seasoned veterans, a battle rapper and some OAP almost-erotica. The stand out of the evening was Jay, a black queer writer from New York who I will most definitely be trying to see more of in future.

Testify is on the 1st Tuesday of every month in Hanky Panky Pancakes

 

I’m sad I didn’t get to do Soapbox at the Manchester Histories Festival, but sometimes sickness strikes at the worst possible moment. I did, however, perform at the launch. And that was a great deal of fun. I was supposed to perform in the foyer but it didn’t quite work out. So, there was a last minute swap. Whilst somewhat chaotic, I still had a lot of fun performing and taking in part in such a wonderful event. By the nature of the event, I didn’t get a chance to see the other performers (we were all performing simultaneously in different parts of the gallery), but I have no doubt they were all phenomenal.

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In all, June was fun, demanding and absolutely exhausting. I wouldn’t have dropped any of these nights, and I wish I could have managed Soapbox, but I am determined not to overbook myself like this again.

An Amateur Review of Sunfish, by Shelby Eileen

First published on Patreon on 14th June
I follow Shelby on twitter (@briseisbooks), and I really enjoyed her first collection Soft in the Middle so when she put out a call for anyone who wants an ARC, naturally I said yes.
I’m not a poetry reviewer and, despite writing so much of it myself, I know precious little about what makes one poem good or bad. But I do know that Sunfish is good.
It’s easy to read in that none of the poems punch you in the face (unlike Donika Kelly’s amazing collection Bestiary) but this is a good thing. It’s gentle, patient, meets you where you’re at rather than forcing to look.
When I’m reading Sunfish it’s not like talking to a friend, because I don’t know Shelby like that and it’s much too honest a book for that kind of presumed familiarity. It’s not like a conversation, because there is nothing for me to say back to her. This collection feels like sitting on a bench in an empty park in early spring and listening to a stranger talk. It feels like a moment of unearned intimacy that reminds you how important it is for humans to connect. It feels a little uncomfortable, because Shelby is all but a stranger and there’s nothing for you to say, because I’m sorry doesn’t ring true. It feels like understanding how she feels, but having no words for but that’s OK, because the only words needed are hers anyway.
Sunfish feels like silence. It’s the reminder that silence, loneliness and powerlessness aren’t the same thing. That not everything requires a response and sometimes you just need to listen. Sunfish makes you want to listen.

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