It’s New Year when she finally comes out with it. They’re part of a giddy circle of uplit bodies huddled close on mismatched wooden chairs and logs in the cold clear night and oh god someone’s just got a guitar out and they’ve both had a lot to drink, but he still hears her when she says, ‘Tell her. Tell that girl about me. Just tell her you have a girlfriend’.

He knows he should, should’ve long ago, but he didn’t want to presume, for even though it’s obvious enough, there’s been comfort in the constancy of her affection. Anyway, he thinks, it’s not really the way his girlfriend is imagining it. In fact, he’s sure that if she really knew him — well, he doubts she would really want him at all.

‘Okay,’ he concedes, pushing the smoke out of his throat up to the pinprick sky–his frigid fingers quickening as he rolls what he worries could be his last cigarettes one after another before any further commitments.


sea velvet

dear you,

I’m thinking of you today when i pick stones up off the beach– soft like sea velvet. It’s funny how you sneaked into the earth of me like small concretions. Pepper flecks.

‘Sure you’ve got enough stones there?’ they tease– but the more i think about you, the heavier my pockets get. When i get home i order the stones on the windowsill like a love letter only i can understand. Erractics, syllabics, this one your laugh, this, your lips. This, the iron pyrite, the tiny flecks of gold in the blue ground of your eyes. Fool’s gold.



dear you,

i should know by now that this is what happens but somehow i was still surprised to find that you vanished overnight.  As if, by sleeping in this hotel room, i’d dropped my guard, unwittingly returned you to the world of dreams. On edge for all the sudden space, I nervously rearranged my shoes. I made the bed three times. I couldn’t find you. Just like that, my head was unoccupied again. And now it’s back to this, and that, and the nothings and the somethings to be done.

I took you with me, I’m sure, we talked on the plane–but the very first morning of my trip i woke up and your absence was immediate. you were just, gone. as though you had never existed. it didn’t even hurt. i walked down to the beach and tried to long for you, tried to claw back the pleasure of it, but the stretching sands and the flat grey sky seemed so much bigger. it all felt a bit ridiculous.

so, that’s it. you’re free, but i really miss you.  no longer a living breathing man, turned to stone by the witch.

m x





dear you,

the roses next to the path have turned to rosehips. These last weeks they’ve dropped their perfumed petals one by one. It’s seemed so careless. In the building works, the berms that were freshly bulldozed before you left are now reclaimed by weeds and tiny flowers. Nature is taking over. Dry seed heads tremble with bellies full of new life. I’m collecting tiny black poppyseeds in tidy rows in the lines on my palms.

You won’t smell summer here. You won’t see the mirror surface of the canal in this particular light on this particular day. The curved brick on the bridge is warm to the touch today like a lover’s back. You won’t touch it. And by the time you come back the beech leaves in the hedge will be fallen and the hawthorn will be black bare. Now as I walk past in short sleeves, I brush too close against its thick greenery, daring it to draw blood.

And when I get back to the space where my car is parked I feel exhausted by living.

I decide to lie down on the parched grass and wait the remaining weeks for the blackberries to ripen.

double take

dear you,

we wouldn’t have got along if we’d met years ago you say. it’s in the middle of a story you’re telling me about your mother’s house and how, as a young man,  you were left there for long periods alone. the grass would grow, you say. the grass would grow so high, it went to seed, and the tall stalks struck the windows at night and disturbed your sleep. i was stuck, you say. stuck in a kind of inertia. i wasn’t working and i would just sit on the carpet with my back against the living room wall and look up at the grass, waving in the windows.

you smoked then — but not in your mum’s house, not officially — so you would lean out of your bedroom window drawing deeply on your cigarette and looking down at the street below. sometimes, you’d see someone you knew passing and you’d turn away, and after a while you moved your bed nearer the window so you could just lie, letting the draw from the window pull the smoke out into the vastness of outside, as though you yourself were slipping away.

when she came home she’d be angry of course. dad had looked after the garden so well, you see. he took real pride in it. i think it hurt her what i did. i was burying him again.

months later, you tell me the same story. I was left on my own for months, you know — you say. you’d have fucking loved it. parties, orgies, you name it. it was a crazy time.

m x


dear you,

there was this thing that happened today. i was standing on the street waiting for someone when you arrived instead. i was looking down at my foot as the toe of my shoe nudged the slight softness of an old piece of gum on the pavement, when out of the corner of my eye i could see your sneakers next to mine. my stomach turned over with the same thrill i’d get when you would walk, cocksure, into work and the winds would change. i smiled, big, and looked up. only my reflection in the cafe windows.

i spent a lot of time looking at you in secret. although i was rather partial to the guy who borrowed a dozen jazz cd’s every Tuesday and keen on the older Irish guy who had written a book about fairies and who insisted i had ‘the sight’, i couldn’t now tell you what they looked like. but i remember the curve of your nostrils with a strange accuracy. i had ways of knowing– ways of making sure i was where you were.

and there was this thing that happened then. we were both shut in a small storage cupboard at work and told to remainder books. we’d never talked much, only vaguely been introduced (though of course i’d gathered more than a necessary amount of information about you though measured and casual enquiry)  — and now here we were in a badly lit room the size of a double bed with towers of fusty paperbacks and out of date reference books. rip– off with the cover and the first two pages. rip–off with introductions and into the thick of things. i don’t remember us speaking. but i remember you rolling a number of cigarettes. and i remember the room feeling very hot.

but then, the next thing happened.  there’s shouting for help and the door is flung open. an old man, a regular, caught shoplifting at the local store, has collapsed and i am asked to drag him into the little cupboard. you’ve gone and this is me, alone, loosening the collar and belt of a man who is blue/ turning him onto his side / oh fuck am i gonna have to do this / he’s blue! so blue! is he dead? / i’m leaning in for the kiss of life when he’s violently sick and gasps back to life. small mercies. ‘You’re the wrong man, you bastard’ i whisper to him.

That was that then. A few weeks later you moved on. I heard they moved you to a tiny branch library. I waited for someone to come and replace you. Nobody could.

Thanks for the visit

m x




dear you,

what i remembered was not a heron, but swiftlets — or swifts (i just liked the sound of swiftlets) curling in the sky like joyous swimmers. It was the high ache of summer — heat and long days. To cheat the sun, we had come to where the forest, the land of vulpes velox – the swift fox, met the water. The forest had quietened us and now, we sat side by side watching water curl round our bare feet. Our closeness was suddenly laid bare. I could only look at your feet, white under the water as though they were lit from inside.

You reminded me of a man i’d met once on a plane. He was an astronomer. On a layover at Toronto airport he’d taken me up onto the roof of the carpark and we’d sat for hours looking over the city — feet dangling into space — arms lolled over the concrete barrier which warmed us from bellybutton to armpit. It had been that same kind of heat. Inanimate things radiated rays, were hot to the touch, heaved, moaned, split. He talked of the origins of the universe and i listened, smiling. The tarmac was chewing-gum.

But now, the forest cool erased airports. You stood, and shallow dived into the water with an arrogant confidence. You knew this lake and it knew you. I watched your body moving with the freedom of experience. The water rolled but it was so incredibly quiet.

Then, drawn to follow, i dived in. The velvet warmth of the lake stroked me from head to feet. I opened my eyes underwater and followed you — your legs froglike in the greygreen murk ahead. Below us, fields of marshy grasses waved and shifted in patterns.

In the middle of the lake, I pulled myself up onto the pontoon. You’d left a towel from your morning swim and we lay there – silent. There was, simply, nothing to say. I watched the swifts.

After a while, i woke up and you watched you sleep. It was dusk now and the sky was slightly pink. The trees on the edge of the lake waved like they were underwater too. We had agreed to wait for the sunrise. I wrapped a towel round my shoulders. You were awake then too and began to tell me a fable about a heron.

Morning, we knew, would come. Then, our bellies would be growling and the spell would be broken.