K

June 11, 2020

In the summer, girls paid her
in cigarettes and hickeys
to shave their heads
on her front porch.

I sat behind her in poetry class
and when she wrote the naked lady
tattooed on her arm writhed.
I tried to name the shade of her hair —
so black it was blue.

She loved Bukowski. Hated herself
in the most beautiful ways — pierced
five or six holes in her face.

One day in class she stole my phone,
punched her number in and saved her name — “k”.
She owned 1/26 of the alphabet.

I read her messages over and over.
They were the first poems.
They were cave paintings.
They were my own palms.

The only time she ever called was 3AM.
I WANT TO KISS YOU RIGHT NOW said her whiskey.
Don’t worry, that’s just something
she tells new friends said her roommate, sober,
snatching the phone.

The world had never given me
the language to say Come close or Yes or I don’t know
how to touch you, let me touch you — so I danced
with a boy that night. He was tall, I think.

I slept beside him, not touching, forgot
his name. But I remembered her hair,
bruise coloured. How the dye left a spot
behind her ear. How it ruined nothing
but me.

Megan Falley

loved each other

October 9, 2019

Once, a very long time ago, he met a girl. She was his first girl. He was her first boy. Their love had been so clumsy and coy. They loved each other. Clumsily and coyly. When she left, she left behind the aroma of burnt grass and the decline of summer, a pain and the almost unbelievable feeling of being a man.

Maria Stankowa
The Black Woman and the Archer

my piano

September 1, 2018

my first love was a piano, whom I met when I was five. currently, we are separated against our wills. except, my piano doesn’t have a will. it just sinks beneath poor choices, patiently abandoned in a town I haven’t lived in for two years –

The is the green

May 27, 2018

The forest of lost souls by Toshiyuki Ueda

The is the green we grew up in – the humid blue of the blur of our adolescence; the weedy heat. The are the roads we drove into the country with whoever had sweet, cheap wine. The song of gnat and firefly and nightingale and frog. This is the sky of watery silk under which we wrecked our hearts, cried out. Wild onion in the high grass, and magnolia – cloud of blossoms – where we lay some nights till dawn beside the one, the one, the only one, and then another love. This is the place I chose exile from, sharp-hearted, sure of some brighter world. And, still, how it takes me back. How the dark trees make a leafy arch above us as we pass. How you grip the wheel and laugh, don’t say, Remember. Don’t say anything.

Cecilia Woloch

First Love

December 28, 2017

In the dreary Girona of my seven-year-old self,
where postwar shop-windows
wore the greyish hue of scarcity,
the knife-shop was a glitter
of light in small steel mirrors.
Pressing my forehead against the glass,
I gazed at a long, slender clasp-knife,
beautiful as a marble statue.
Since no one at home approved of weapons,
I bought it secretly, and, as I walked along,
I felt the heavy weight of it, inside my pocket.
From time to time I would open it slowly,
and the blade would spring out, slim and straight,
with the convent chill that a weapon has.
Hushed presence of danger:
I hid it, the first thirty years,
behind books of poetry and, later,
inside a drawer, in amongst your knickers
and amongst your stockings.
Now, almost fifty-four,
I look at it again, lying open in my palm,
just as dangerous as when I was a child.
Sensual, cold. Nearer my neck.

Joan Margarit

Burton Silverman

(for D)
Here, touch here, just beneath the ribs you kissed when you were nearly twenty-three and I was a girl knee-deep in meadow, fescue, timothy, mustard, the wild ginger I had just learned from my grandmother a few weeks before we met. Dancing in that bar, that night, I wanted to tell you how to spot wild ginger, how Carolina, where we both grew, banned spreading cornflower seeds, and I most wanted to tell that you smelled of sweet clover, and sun. In my silence, I named you shining one. Later, while you slept, I whispered secrets into your hair – how black snake root would keep you strong, rue and thistle protect you, how the plant I named as spikenard – lavender – would lead you in my direction, when our time came. In the morning, I left rosemary behind, that you might, just might, remember. Because as false at times as desire may seem, it isn’t. Nor is the humid wish for love, steaming, sweating, our second skins, those made of glass, the ones we fear the most, will shatter.

Mary Carroll-Hackett

whip

Diary 3rd – 4th March

The night turns itself inside out. Dreams come: bizarre, yes – but so vivid they seem more real than waking life. Dreams of photographs and ciphers, spies and bloody murder. And in amongst this chaotic mayhem, Madame Lamson!

See her standing tall in a black corset, tattoos twining up her left arm. No panties, just that thick bush of rusty-red curls. Another, smaller tattoo on her right side just above the groin: this a simple wreath of wild flowers. Black fishnet stockings on her legs, and a riding crop held lightly in both hands.

Madame Lamson:

Sets such impossible tasks. Then punishes failure without a hint of compassion in her hard green eyes. She is the original switch bitch!

Long, lacquered red nails. And that smile on her face, the one that follows you everywhere; metamorphosing, ultimately, into an aristocratic smirk for the men and women groveling round her spiky high heels.

Madame Lamson holds the keys to the gates of hell. Her crop on your flesh leaves red patterns of pain, and eventually you grow drunk on this pain, which is like the sun coming out and making you dizzy, so that you feel your head will just float away to another, rarer place.

Her mouth is all curves and ripeness – like her body. Faint dusting of freckles on her cheeks, and her hair when the sunlight catches it from the window glows red. She is unforgiving and relentless. And her victims feel themselves sliding into a slow-motion loss of control – unable to apply the brakes.

She told you once that she loved candyfloss and carousels. Remember that? Her favorite film was ‘Four Weddings and a Funeral’! Your head tried to followed the trail of her words, remember? She spoke so softly, so sweetly, while mercilessly inserting a thumb nail into your urethra.

You almost cried out your safeword when she did that, didn’t you? It was almost too much. Her likes, you thought, were in-feckin’-credible, considering what a bad bitch she could be.

She also told you her favorite colour was pink…!

#

Our lives together are a song in which music and poetry have become a single, beautiful harmony.

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The past is a splinter in my soul, a wound that turns slowly septic. Whatever happened, I wonder, to Gail La Mare?

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At age ten I went to the cinema (the name of the film is unimportant) and fell in love with a young actress appearing in the main feature: thirteen or fourteen years of age, she travelled on a ferry across Hong Kong harbor, and I became besotted with her – with the fall of her hair, with her large, almond-shaped eyes, and with the sound of her voice.

At the end of that film, I experienced a most dreadful sense of loss…

I went to see the film again. And again. Every day for a week, I went to see my one true love, who remained so impossibly distant from me…and yet so near.

At night I dreamt about her. In my dreams she became my ‘girl’ and we kissed each other with an innocent passion.

I spent all my pocket money on seeing that film, and then stole cash from my mother’s ‘piggy-bank’ (the only time I’ve ever done such a thing) so that I could continue to go watch my ‘love’. I was like an addict in desperate need of a fix.

And all these years later, as an adult, I can still feel that poor child’s pain…

#

Each of us, it’s true, are capable of writing various, strikingly different autobiographies, according to the viewpoint chosen and our principle of selection.

Hey, Moth, Come Eat the Flame

November 19, 2016

another-view-from-the-window

Diary 19th November

Fact is unstable by its very nature.

#

Visit to T yesterday. We spent Samhain at her enchanting home with its menagerie of dogs, cats and chickens. Trees surrounding the house were finally turning to the russet colours of autumn – and so near the end of November, too. It’s very peaceful here. And T is probably the maddest, but most contained woman I have ever met. She works such incredible magic. She is totally at one with her world and the people in it.

She points to a white feather on the ground beneath a chestnut tree. ‘That,’ she says, her voice gentle but totally sincere, ‘is an angel’s feather. It means good luck to us here today.’

And I feel she really believes this feather is fallen from an angel, not from the back of a near albino chicken clucking about in the undergrowth.

How I envy her the simplicity of her chosen lifestyle…

Two years ago her aunt was diagnosed with inoperable cancer. T concentrated single-mindedly on her aunt’s recovery day-in, day-out, for a period of four months. She said at the time, ‘I don’t know if it’ll do any good. These thing are either meant to be or not. We can only try to intervene. It’s all we can do…’

Her aunt’s doctors at Derriford hospital were astonished when a scan showed the cancer in remission. Within two months the cancer had gone and the aunt had made a full recovery. I cannot explain it, but T is convinced her “magic” worked – as it has done many other times in the past.

#

I have kept notebooks since my twelfth year. During periods of creative sterility, I look back across the years for ‘fresh’ inspiration. Like Dylan Thomas whose mature poems were plagiarised from his much younger self.

What, I wonder, would have been in Shakespeare’s notebook in the years leading up to Macbeth? It take no Oedipus to guess. Cats and toads as familiars to witches, rats without tails that gnaw holes in the bottoms of ships, mariners spell-bound for nine times nine weeks, the vaporous drop on the tip of the moon, plants the roots of which deprive us of reason, air-drawn daggers with gouts of blood, maddened horses that devour each other, charms of all sorts, from the sweltering venom of the toad to grease from a murderer’s gibbet, the strange phenomena of somnambulism, ghost-lore, the behavior of owls. And that is as nothin to the farrago of the notebook which might have preceded Lear!

#

Gillian Rogers was my first love. I remember still her kisses in the recreation ground after school, fiery things they were, that tasted incredibly of aniseed balls and chocolate, the taste of innocent sin…

School, poetry & love…

August 5, 2016

blooms

Some of my earliest memories are of school and of poetry. In particular the hours of homework spent with my copy of ‘Sound and Sense’, trying to scan various poems and to understand how the sounds of language can be used to create mood and meaning.

What, I used to ask myself, is the point?

The school I attended was private (that should be with a capital P), one of those facilities developed for people reasonably well-off, but not stinking-rich: a place for upper middle-class couples to rid themselves of the embarrassment of a potential lower-class lout or loutess, without the gut-wrenching cost of Harrow, or Eton or where-have-you.

We had to learn an awful lot of poems by rote in school. Generally an unpleasant exercise, I have to say; although I must admit Walter de la mare’s “Silver” struck a chord in me. It carried its own thrilling music within the words. That particular poem, I recall, was memorised for one of the LAMDA examinations (They took place every year).

Another poem that we all had to learn by heart was by W H Davies, aka Supertramp, titled “Leisure”:

What is this life if, full of care,
We have no time to stand and stare.

No time to stand beneath the boughs
And stare as long as sheep or cows.

No time to see, when woods we pass,
Where squirrels hide their nuts in grass.

No time to see, in broad daylight,
Streams full of stars, like skies at night.

No time to turn at Beauty’s glance,
And watch her feet, how they can dance.

No time to wait till her mouth can
Enrich that smile her eyes began.

A poor life this is if, full of care,
We have no time to stand and stare.

That poem, I believe, was published in Davies collection “Songs of Joy and Others” in 1911, though first published around 1906 in some periodical or other. But I still feel it in my…My what? My soul? I’m not certain. But I still feel it as something magical, despite my having had to learn it by rote to pass an exam and acquire another bloody certificate (Oh, how the school loved those bits of paper; certificates went some way to justify the horrendous fees they charged to educate/imprison us).

Another poem we had to learn was “The Highwayman” by Alfred Noyes. This I suspect was selected at the time to appeal to the romantic/tragic nature of the girls, and the melodramatic/ bloodthirsty nature of the boys (because, oh, yes, the school was co-educational!).

The wind was a torrent of darkness among the gusty trees,
The moon was a ghostly galleon tossed upon cloudy seas,
The road was a ribbon of moonlight, over the purple moor,
And the highwayman came riding –
Riding – riding –
The highwayman came riding, up to the old inn-door.

Later in the poem it was Tim the ostler that impressed me most. I saw him as the embodiment of Quasimodo – although lacking that individual’s unfortunate physical deformities, and, of course, the bells. But even so –

His eyes were hollows of madness, his hair like mouldy hay,
But he loved the landlord’s daughter,
The landlord’s red-lipped daughter,

But love, loving the red-lipped daughter of this publican, was something I could identify with. For I was in love then, first love, with a grey-eyed girl whose hair was ‘bound and wound about the stars and moon and sun’, and who I totally made a prat of myself with on a first date – so that the second date became, not just improbable, but an outright impossibility.

But I digress. Good ol’ Alf packed it all into his poem: alliteration; simile; metaphor; onomatopoeia; you name it, and you’ll find it there somewhere! And, as if that were not enough, the final stanzas of the poem confront us with a pair of ghosts, forever meeting at the inn window. How could that fail to capture and inspire young minds?

You’ll note the stanzas of this poem are always six lines long. It will also be obvious that the fourth and sixth line of each stanza is half the length of the other lines. The rhyming scheme is simple (AABCCB). And generally speaking there are six feet in every line (hexameter), but (have you noticed how there’s always a BUT?) not all those feet are the same: some have two syllables, others have three. Take as an example the first two lines:

The wind / was a tor / rent of dark / ness among/ the gus / ty trees,
The moon / was a ghost / ly gall / eon tossed / upon cloud / y seas,

The slashes denote each of the six feet, and the bold type shows where the stress should be placed. Short two syllable feet are called iambs and possess an unstressed syllable followed by stressed syllable. The longer three syllable feet are anapaests – two unstressed syllables followed by a stressed syllable.

Oh, how my young head ached!

But Alf’s poem is half iambic, half anapaestic, see? Simples!

The anapaestic feet, of course, suggest the galloping horse throughout the work while the iambic feet keep the poem grounded, preventing it from becoming too “jaunty”. Between the iambic feet and verbal repetitions, the poem develops a measured, suspense-generating tone.

Still with me thus far? Why is any of this important? Well, it isn’t really. You can read Alf’s poem (aloud, like me to the cats, this morning) and enjoy it immensely. However knowledge of Alf’s skill in constructing his poem, can only add to your pleasure. Although, that said, I think it was Mark Twain who said ‘the only problem with dissecting a frog is the frog dies’ or words to that effect.

Even so, today, more than at any other time, people are putting pen to paper and writing poetry. They have no idea of the technical skills or the “rules” behind the construction of good verse. So they write and call what they have written ‘free verse’, not recognising its mediocracy in the process. Or if not free, then experimental.

Consider the case of the artist Picasso. At an early age his skill and knowledge of drawing and painting was incomparable; he painted in a totally naturalistic style. But then his style changed. He began to experiment with different forms and techniques. By the time his paintings were depicting highly geometric and cubist shapes (and totally confusing many members of the general public in the process), it was only too easy to forget that he was totally grounded in the traditional, conventional methods of painting and drawing. He had developed those skills over a long period of time. He didn’t just slap paint on canvass and call it free art.

So you see, knowledge of the poets craft – metre, layout, form, rhyme, syntax, etc – is important. Especially if you want to write verse yourself. But even if you don’t, some knowledge of poetics will enhance your appreciation of a poet’s skills (or lack of same) when you encounter their verses.

Oh, well, that’s it for now. I have got to go clean the windows. Have a good day.

kissme

As far back as I can remember my interest was in girls not boys. I use to imagine kissing them, caressing them, that sort of thing. Even undressing another girl on occasion, you know? I must have been five or six when that first happened. My friend Christine and I’d play “doctors & nurses” in my bedroom. She had a little plastic doctor’s bag containing a stethoscope which we used to press against each other’s bits.

That continued to be one of my biggest fantasies, undressing other girls. At age eleven or twelve, it was undressing Liz Michelle, my bestest ever friend…But I never did do that, of course. Not in reality. Too frightened of consequences. You could do things at age six which were totally taboo come puberty.

I remember being in the back garden one afternoon with Linda, my friend from next-door-but-two. I don’t know how it came about but I kissed her on the mouth. A long sloppy kiss with my tongue darting. Then my Aunt came out and clapped her hands together. ‘Come on girls,’ she called. ‘That’s no way to behave.’

At school on Friday afternoon’s we had swimming out at Watford Swimming Baths. I used to love going – not because of the swimming, though. No, never that, it was because of the big communal changing room they had there; seeing the other girls, class mates and what have you, strip down to the buff.

God, that made me so swimmy-headed…Sometimes, I felt I’d faint away, swoon from the sight of all those bud-like breasts and the pubic hair on the fourth and fifth formers. Even now, thinking about it, I get breathless. Surrounded by twenty-or-so naked, nubile girls. What’s not to like?

Okay, at the time I felt like a pervert, but that didn’t stop me going swimming. Not ever.

One of the girl’s from the upper fifth, Caroline Rawson, I remember, had this strawberry birthmark on her left hip and I used to dream about stroking that patch of pinky-smooth skin. I used to lay in bed nights and think about touching her there, and on her breasts and between her legs. I used to touch myself while I fantasized about her. I used to image that what I was touching really belonged to Caroline. It was her sex not mine. That’s how I had my first orgasm.

My lack of connection to boys was called normal then. A phase I was going through. Bit of a tom girl, so what? On one occasion I tried talking about “girls liking girls” romantically to a friend, but she just went, ‘Yuk, that’s disgusting’. So I never mentioned my true feelings to anyone else after that. Not until I was eighteen.

I remember the odd few nights when Liz Michelle stayed round my home at the weekend. We’d share the same bed. She’d always lay behind me and would wrap her arm round my waist and hold me close. It was pure agony. I wanted to turn round and kiss her, feel her up. But I never did. Liz, unlike me, was definitely, heavily into boys. She would have been horrified by my desires.

I went to a friend’s birthday party. I let this boy dance with me and later feel me up in one of the bedrooms where the coats were stacked. Eventually, I touched his cock, my first, and got it out of his pants. He wanted to do more than that. I let him tug down my underwear and press his thing into me reclining across a heap of overcoats. He wasn’t very well-endowed and it was all over before I realised he’d begun. I was just turned sixteen.

We’d used no contraception and for a long time afterwards I was scared I’d fall pregnant. But I didn’t, luckily. I never went near the boy again. His name was Richard, I recall, and when Liz Michelle asked me about him, I told her his penise was only about four inches long once it was stiff. She thought that hilarious.

I was working at a printer’s in Uxbridge. It was a pretty shitty job to be honest, but the money was good for what I had to do. I was eighteen and going nowhere. There was another girl at the printer’s, Annabelle, she was slightly older, and we started hanging together, you know? Spending crazy amounts of time together, really. And yeah, I fancied her like mad, but as usually never let on. Then one evening, breakthrough. We’d spent maybe two hours in the Three Tuns pub after work. Belle suddenly turns to me and says, ‘Why don’t you stay over mine tonight?’

It was Friday night. We had no work in the morning. So I agreed and we went back to her flat with a bottle of white wine and some fish and chips.

‘We’ll have to share a bed,’ she said. ‘Unless you want the couch? I could make that up for you?’

‘Bed sounds fine to me,’ I said, thinking another night without sleep because I had this terrible itch I’d never have the courage to scratch.

Later, in the bedroom, she said, ‘I’ve a confession to make Tracy. I’m gay. I don’t know if you’ve ever tried it…?’

I said, ‘I’m gay too. But I’ve never tried it…’

Next thing I’m pinned against the wall and she’s kissing me, her tongue in my mouth. It was AWSOME. Honest to God, it was. Her hand went inside my knickers fingering me. Christ I was wet as hell, soaking. Finger fucking me that way I realised: This is who I am. This wild thing. This lover of women. Of pussy…Because on the bed I spread her wide and eat her pussy out like it was second nature to me!

We must have cum a dozen times that night. In the small hours of morning, near exhaustion, both a little sore between the legs, we held each other, whispered sweet, sweet nothings in each other’s ears. Promised undying love, as you do…

And since that night I’ve never looked back. I am who I am. And I’m fine with that. Often on rainy evenings I do think of my Annabelle, my liberator, see her tiny face above me again. Smell once more the musky perfume of our pussies in her bed. Clinging in those final moments of passion to the duvet – as if it were a life raft. Yes, we drew love maps across her crisp white sheets in salt, sweat and flowing honey.