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.

Fake poem

Niall O’Sullivan‘s started a blog of fake poems (as well as editing my pamphlet, hosting London’s premier open mic night, teaching at London Met University, being a full-time dad and writing a few poems).

My fake poem, The Smile, appears here.

What’s a fake poem? Here’s what it says in the blog’s About section:

when we say a poem is a “fake poem” we don’t mean that it is inferior, if anything we mean the opposite. a lot of poetry suffers from a sense of its own importance. interesting things happen when conventional and unconventional texts veer towards the poetic. interesting things happen when poems forget that they are poems. this blog is a literary version of that moment when a child tries to look at the edge of their vision but doesn’t quite get there quickly enough.

1.21 Gigawatts


Steal plutonium from Libyan terrorists.

Leave them a shoddy bomb casing

stuffed with the guts of an old pinball machine.


Take me to your bed sweats and dead end stories

that get lost and end up in Morden.


Take me back to the future we’ll never have.


Give me ornamental sheep and waterlogged teeth

so our kisses



Set the time circuits twenty years from now

and show me how you midlife crisis.

We’ll ride through your fat Elvis years,

your alarming flirtation with crystal healing.


Send cables streaming in a bruise of sky.

Wrap fingers tight round a bolt of lightning.


Show me worthless fights

and you missing my fortieth birthday

to drive Tony to the airport.


Abort the embryos of memories.

Let our thirty-something stalemates wrinkle backwards.

Shed them to powder.


Headbutt the dashboard and tell me

– I should have done you better

– I should never have bought that almanac

– this is all my fault


Now step into the DeLorean.


Catapult me out of you.


You are twenty-nine.

You make a rift in the continuum.

You erase my timeline,

my face from your photo,

with your insulting lack of infidelity,

with your slap-sharp beauty,

and I feel like a twat

in my matching yellow jumpsuit and helmet.


Take me back to that future we’ll never have.


Turn the crank of truth till I’m ready to homewreck

the marriage of cause and effect.


Return to an empty car park

in the shoulder of night,

five unmarked minutes tapping the hour


and tell me it’s over.

It’s ok.

I’m ready now.