&

HM

Havana

Five storeys up,
in the city above the city,
two boys lean out
from the lip of a rooftop
and spit down orange pips
at men who walk
as if they’ve homes to reach
and who feel nothing
as they hurry past,
or pause to shrug,
and thank the lord
for promised rain.

CJ

Nicotine

blackened chalky stems
I poke free of clay

with a straight paperclip
and blow clear under the tap

eleven in three summers’
incidental archaeology

here in Somerset
rooting bushes out

from a lost
village underground

taste the smoke
of long dead tobacco.

HM

Leaving

I promise this is how I’ll choose to go:
my one good pathway muffled by the snow,
the fish stock-still beneath the river’s sleeve,
the white goose feathers of the leaves.
In front, a heron’s pale uncertainty
while, at my heel, my footprints barely follow me.

CJ

25 lines not about how you make me feel (about myself)

Numb on my belly in wet grass I offer six
confidences to newts at the canal edge, swear
I’ll care for them if they’ll live in my jar.
Part of me knows all about the Monday stink
of tiny bloated bodies forgotten since Friday
without food, love and air. Heart, man; love, me;
rainbow, zing; mine, be…all share  a sound
now Rufus Wainwright sings Garland sings me
(though we’ve never met) whole-hearted Broadway/
Carnegie Hall burlesque from the Palladium.
And for you I am drafting responses to send
with plain chocolate biscuits and jam.
Do I find in myself any cruelty? No.
Do I let myself care that my cat died? I do.
I wanted to take myself out for the night
to the Quaker House, get in some drumming
in the cold, make my hands sore.
Instead I get down to church papers,
wipe my shoes clean and give them a drubbing.
If you listen there’s a whizz as the palette knife scrapes
off paint from a wrong place, too thick. In itself
there’s a pattern that pleases, means more
than reflecting the glow of what’s seen. Colour strong
as the smell of the turps – regardless
if it’s door-frame or elbow or wing.

HM

The taste of water chestnuts

To come from neither north nor south.
To hold a strip of paper in your mouth.
To ride the last bus to the depot every night.
To test your signature against the light.
To wear your name sewn in the collar of your coat.
To leave the house, and leave yourself a note.
To look like a newsreader when you grin.
To rent the shoes you’re standing in.
To kick across your footprints in the dirt.
To see the stars as moth holes in the sky’s black shirt.
To cut the crusts before you eat.
To have a voice like February sleet.
To rise each morning from a borrowed bed.
To call the name of someone else instead.
To stir your coffee with a see-through spoon.
To hold your turn, then speak into an empty room.