The Best Position in Which to Drown

When the ground shed its paving and rose, hump-backed out of the atlantic
and we stepped into clean air
and we took it down till we shed the paving crusted around our lungs,
I skim-read horizons
for a sunrise we first met three months earlier.

I leave my phone in the house, dying next to a bust of Charlie Chaplin
and we cast days in bronze
in your grandfather’s four-by-four
while he talks us through the world’s first transatlantic telegraph cable:
its searching, lonely hand reaching under the ocean’s skirts all the way from Valentia to Newfoundland.

The world outside my window is so beautiful it’s funny. It’s relentless.
It makes me shut the fuck up
while your mum’s dad’s surprising music taste tilts the view into montage
and he tells us how many eggs you get for breakfast on a navy ship.
Flamenco dancers in the sky spread their white skirts and spin
to Kendrick Lamar and the Grand Theft Auto soundtrack.

While your grandad explains the best position in which to drown,
my eyes go heavy-lidded and slutty for the distance.
Bushes dress the view
then drop away with no warning,
the geographic peep show stealing my breath like your two fingers in the cold, crisp morning.

We spot cows.
We play word games.
We don’t mention the fact that two days earlier as our plane peeled itself from London,
I, belly full of turbulence, Guinness and paper-cup whisky,
asked you to marry me.

I have walked into oceans so warm, there’s not a second of pain as your feet, waist and even shoulders fall under the hood.
And you ask me to repeat myself but I know you heard me the first time
because there’s not a second of pain before you say yes:
not a decision but a statement of fact.
Is the sky blue?

The next day we skim stones across the surface of the unknown
with no hunger for churches or tasting menus.
It’s still our first holiday.

When the ground throws us up from another runway and London catches us,
we are not exactly engaged
but we both know the colour of the sky.




    the gospel choir

         in my head

              is a land snail

                   tucked neatly in

                        its ammonite house.


                                  it’s a lightning


                                            bursting from

                                                 my left amygdala.


There is a look

    in your eyes

         like wrought iron

              when you turn

                   my fingers

                        into bedposts.



                                       is a smile


                                                 as fear.


I sleep

    differently now,

         peel myself

              from your shadow,

                   open the fridge.

                        There is a light

                             shining down

                                  on the peppers.

                                       The bedroom door,

                                            open all night,

                                                 is winking


at the living

    room window.

         Street lamps,

              engine revs

                   pour in like

                        a glass of milk

                             from the fridge.

                                  When you wake,

                                       you will reach

                                            for me like

                                                 a glass of water.


You with your smell of yeast, of self-raising flour, of new baby scalp, of four-day pyjamas, of fingernail gunge, of spermy exhales, of my guileless cunt, of red wire chin forest, of splinters, of gum disease, of nothing strange now, of mountain lion kisses, of papa bear, of shitty finger, of crack hair, of clean sweat, of whiskey and raisins, of old coppers, of wet holy soles, of Scottish sunrise, of rough tumble love, of sleep thrashabout, of alcohol sweetening, of umami kale, of durum, of ink, of puzzle paper, of sheet rivers, of dirty sunshine, of plaid of colours of marvel, of soggy elastic, of morning tongue, of forgetful teeth, of adenoid, of spit and slam, of city eviction, of field grassy lullabies, of berries and smoke, of six men in a kitchen, of a hundred and ten covers, of wall moss, of lost pavement, of gyratory flyover, of white concrete, of brown blood, of womb lining, of splatter, of congealed, of warm, of oil, of puddles, of tree trunks, of fuck, of suck, of potato dust, of promise me, of strap, of snap, of pomelo wax, of ironic daisies, of colourless jelly, of garlic pussy, of rhubarb cock, of spread-eagle larynx, of not yet, of one more, of undrunk tea, of slanted toast, of curly child, of sly cheek, of tickle hands, of spider scratch, of cheese stretch, of sweet, of die for, of wood, of would, of lark’s head, of jute, of wrap, of span, of spoon, of oceany iris wet storm of my hunger, of this, of rock and paper, of one more, for you, for you, I would

Oscar’s song

Come on baby.

You should be here by now

but you are lazy.


Bathing in a second skin

hand-knitted by your mother’s blastocyst.

Your invisible smile reigns

over this one-eyed world in which you are king

but come on baby.

I know you don’t want to relinquish your VIP seat.

I know you have everything you need

right here.

Drinks on tap.

Food comes before you know that you’re hungry.

I mean, the service here is just heavenly.

You sleep and eat and sleep and eat

and sleep and eat

in a world made only of melody.

Perennially cradled,

your mode of transportation

is a giant avocado-shaped kiss.

I know you’re thinking

it can’t get any better than this.

And you would be right.

But the world has so many more

and other things for you to explore.

I’d like to introduce you to a concept called light.

I’d like to be there

when you first encounter space

and though you will miss the time

when you and not you was a continuous line

you will learn that absence is a place

into which you will grow.

That lack is just a placeholder

for everything you have yet to know.

And that like you,

the world is a constant smashing of cells,

a mathematical spell of potential

that starts with two

and becomes exponential.

You will also learn that potential is nothing

and that the only way to become who you are

is to fucking do something.

You will learn that the world is a mess.

At times you will regret your inevitable choice

to crawl into consciousness

as you struggle to stay balanced

on a world that spins and burns and spin and burns

and spins and burns

and typically

this would be the place where the poem turns.

Where I tell you that the human race

is a failed experiment.

That we have made such a mess of our house

you should probably stay in there,

or find another way out

but that’s chickenshit

because this world will be infinitely better

by virtue of having you in it.

I mean, not literally.

There’s a 99.9% chance you won’t change history.

Or find a cure for Boris Johnson.

Or win an Oscar.

Or a Nobel prize.

But there is a 99.9% chance that you will have eyes.

And those eyes, whether or not they work,

will look into someone else’s

and love them from the bottom

of your biological imperative.

And for as long as you live,

you will change the history

of the small group of people

who live and love in your vicinity.

You will make hideous choices

and wake up in the cracks of those choices

and miss irretrievable chances

and fall in love with complete arses

and dance like a fish on cocaine

and have at least one truly apocalyptic haircut

but you will get up

and you will find a way to balance on the knife-edge

where your desire to affect change

meets your wonder at life right now

and baby

I won’t tell you how to do that.

Because I don’t fucking know.

At minus-one-day-old

you are smarter than I will ever be

and if you are anything like your brother

then I mean that literally.

But come on baby.

Come on because it’s time to go.

I know you don’t want to give up your front row seat

at this one-person show.

I know you are about to get to the good bit.

You’ve heard this story has a twist

but like the rest of us,

you’ll have to muddle through without that knowledge

‘cause it’s time to split.

Break out of that skin and be a person.

Make a you-shaped space for the universe to rebuild itself around.

Play your first breath and get used to the sound

because this song will be spinning

a long time.

Baby let’s go. Let the crowd go wild

with the first tandemless drum of your heart.

You have reached the finish line.

It’s time to start.


I miss you like a milk tooth.

Days I held you in my mouth,

curled my speech,

and therefore thoughts,

around your ridges,

bit down on you,

tasting life through your buds.

One day you rattled:

a faint kick in the mechanics,

something loose in the bone,

the roots strung out and I couldn’t

help pressing my tongue

to those spots of broken air.

My tongue never could stop finding you.

Nights a microcosmic breeze,

a storm in a dolls’ house,

whistled through the roots.

I clamped my lips shut

so the sound wouldn’t wake you

but it didn’t keep,

and when you grew

loose enough to string up,

I door-slammed you

from my skull,

sending aftershocks

through my cheeks.

When you fell, new air

swelled into the space now free,

my face all blood and light

and I can’t place you back in,

but still I miss that thing

that was once part of me.

NaPoWriMo 2016

If you’re not familiar with NaPoWriMo, it’s National Poetry Writing Month and the idea is to write a poem every day during April. Most years I think about doing this and then don’t This year it just kind of happened, the way poems sometimes happen to you. I’m posting them here.

Basic Instinct

She parades her eyes

like long brown legs.


Spreads them wide

to flash me.


I fall up into

the event horizon


of her pupils

and dilate.

You’ll know when it’s time to evolve

You can’t get there by thinking.

You can only wait it out, fake your faith,

flop like a lung beside your other –

taking in the same air as if you had no names,

watch flowers collapse and turn soggy

feel the mulch rise up in your bronchi


You can’t think your way there

but one day you’ll wake up and know:

you’ll know it in the knot where you breathe

in the beating pattern that rules you

in forty-six strands of amino on repeat

you’ll know it without words, logic or pity


Then you’ll get up, get it done, get out,

burst out of the water and throw your hair back

mermaid slick, a mercury mistress.

Gulp down oxygen like sunrise after storm,

piss away the dirty water, rise onto land,

walk through the city on rose petals


Yes, those leaves may be soggy now

but in six months’ time you will teach them to bloom.

You will allow the air to breathe

and be that which brings life into the room.

You will be that sunlight slice in your chest,

the badass beat beat beat in your step


the nucleic pulse that is the start of all music.


This poem is my January contribution to the Being Bodies project: a creative exploration of our physicality, one body part at a time, curated by Richard Watkins and Sarah Lowe.

Play with my hair

If it was a learnable skill, I’d show you how.
That it starts from the nape, a tug from the roots out,
fingers hooked into ends of questions. That it’s not sexual.
It’s only the blood and guts of childhood.
The sweep of your mother as she puts you in bunches.
The half sun of autumn assembly. Girls lined up
like harvest festival soup cans, small hands smuggled
into the scalp of the girl in front, in the school year
me and my brother will be taken out of a week early.

Maybe somewhere, people have happy childhoods
and it feels like hooked fingers, flattening you out,
digging air into those roots so the ghost can escape,
all your smallness, exhaling from the neck, and we roll
down the hills and nothing bad has happened yet.

– I’ve recently rejoined Roddy Lumsden’s Wednesday night group – a kind of algonquin table of poets, but less well-dressed and with more scampi fries involved. We bring in poems and then tear them apart. This is what I took in last Wednesday.

Nth Entities by Anna Le & Phil Manzanera

This beautiful album is now on Spotify. It’s a collaboration between kickass poet (and my girlfriend), Anna Le and Roxy Music guitar legend, Phil Manzanera. If you didn’t get a copy when it first came out, you can listen to it right here…