The girl in my dream is trapped in a snowstorm of chicken feathers, unable to breathe for the fine white down. She’s tied up on a bed with a small glass jar forced between her big and second toes so she can’t use her right foot to unpick the lock. Then she bathes with her lover in a sunken pool the size of a room, lit by candlelight and crowned with bubbles. They cling to her as she rises from the warmth and walks through the cold, dark house where she opens the door to another room, its harsh light. She’d forgotten all this: the mountain of dead chickens, the stink of rot.
midday: a black cat in the shade of a whitewashed wall
The curved pale plains of male and female calves. Tattoos snaking past the waistbands of jeans. Shoulders with spaghetti straps. So much skin on the streets of Antibes today. At the supermarket checkout, a blonde girl in cream shorts and flip-flops. My boots suddenly feel too heavy, too warm, my own calves resentful of their prison of lycra and suede as I head down Boulevard Albert towards the sparkling sea. So very far away, that harsh northern climate with its cold wet winds I expected to be tramping through. At the bakery door, the smell of crème anglais and caramelised apples. A woman hands me a fresh baguette wrapped in a twist of paper, brushes a wisp of hair from her damp cheek. Il fait chaud, she sighs.
I paint my toenails red heat at the back of my kneesFrench Literary Review September 2007
Waiting in line at the supermarket checkout late at night, I find myself listening to a woman at the next till who’s just paid for her groceries. She smiles at the cashier and says, ‘thank you for all your help’, still smiling as she tucks her receipt and change into her purse. And the smile remains as she pushes her trolley towards the door.
She’s still with me while I drive home. Her pale blue coat, how her shoulders were a little hunched. And the way her eyes and cheeks, not only her lips, carried her smile, how it seemed rooted below her skin.
Today, I am still thinking about her. Thinking I should smile more. Thinking about softness.
winter sun the shadow of a leaf touches my shadow Roadrunner February 2007
We were the first people at our end of Chrome Avenue to have a fridge. Preparation for it had started weeks before – the brick pantry in the corner of the kitchen was knocked down, new lino laid on the floor. When it was delivered, the neighbours came out to watch its white bulk being trolleyed through the back gate. The next day my mother made ice-lollies from orange squash and I sucked mine until my gums ached.
I was making sandcastles on the beach when I told my friend Kathryn about our new fridge and she hit me over the head with a long-handled spade and ran home crying. My mother said Kathryn didn’t like me being different from her. And we were different now. Our butter was hard. We had frozen peas.
new neighbour: secretly inspecting her washing-line Planet February 2007
sprinkling her ashes on the rocks at low tide the long walk back
Chairs are stubbornly empty of her – the wooden bench in the garden, the pine carver at the kitchen table, the small upholstered armchair that fitted her exactly, the curve of its sides mirroring the slope of her shoulders as she sat knitting, fingers tugging and twisting a length of wool. But she’s in the air every time I smell smoke from menthol cigarettes that she tried to convince me would only smell of mint, in the whispers of her hand lotion that refuses to run out, the breath of wax in a tube of Rimmel lipstick I’ve worn to a raspberry stump. And this bar of nameless amber soap I keep beside the kitchen sink, torn between wanting to save it and loving the woody lather flowering in my hands. break in the clouds a shadow runs across the lawn Planet February 2007
I dream about my mother’s house, a rush of surf where Silver Avenue used to be, waves spilling over a neighbour’s fence, gardens drowning. I hold her away from the window to protect her, the waves tremendous now, pummelling the glass, spitting through the broken seals in the window frame. The next one will crash through. I pick my mother up, her body small and pale like a baby’s, and run to another room.
welcome hug each time I come home my mother is shorter Contemporary Haibun Online, December 2006 Contemporary Haibun 8 (2007)
Each drawer slides out in silence. First the gradations of white – snow, ivory, pearl – then the browns, greens, shades of fleck, all arranged on sheepskin, named, dated, and geographically placed in a fading scrawl. Clutches of plover, ptarmigan, shrike, and here, a golden eagle’s non-identical twins – feather-weights, no albumen or yolk, just cradles of air with tiny man-made holes. While around the room a weight of books: engraved and coloured plates, breeding times, conception, birth, flight. The histories of lives they never lived.
the room darkens a scuttle of sparrows in the eaves
Simply Haiku vol 4 no 4, November 2006 big sky, Red Moon Press 2007