It mostly smells of lung cancer and stale petrol fumes,
and sounds like engines or cellphones or
the clinking glass of top shelf liquor.
Outside, the windows of cars are bathed in condensation
from the words of lovers
who have no room left in their lives
so they hoard each other like commodities,
under mattresses or in the bottoms of desk drawers
or glove compartments
where something meaningful might have been.
I once knew a guy who thought that he could fold his girl
four times down the middle,
small enough to fit inside the notes pouch of his wallet,
and another who spends hours in the ‘Wife’ section of Hallmark
just so he could have something better
to whisper in his girlfriend’s ear than,
I want to fuck you so hard your mum will feel it.
I am a spectator;
I arrange the notes in my wallet according to their value
and buy gift cards with messages
that I am too lazy to write,
only I don’t call it falling in love.
More like, there is emptiness in the whites of our eyes.
Imagine if the sky unzipped itself
and leaked a wind that uprooted skyscrapers.
They would lie down in rows like supermarket aisles
and we would shop to fall in love with the ruins of our lives.
Everything will be fine,
so long as we make sure that we are too busy counting our change
to ever look anybody straight in the eye.
and it’s daylight now, and it’s beautiful -
no more stars to cram down each other’s
throats like the shining silver liars we’ve
all tried to be, at night when there’s only
pleasant waking dreams of half-imagined
lovers and the sweet soft whispers of
wanting coaxing her to curl up naked
in the jaws of the monster in her bed,
safe enough but she never won him over,
only saw his face branded over every boy
with long hair and a five-day beard, like
advertisements slapped across the city walls,
like those pictures where the eyes will
stare you down from every possible angle,
reminds her that she never could forgive
the ones who don’t know when to look away
I tried to call you on a payphone the other day
because you wouldn’t answer if you knew it was me.
Your voice came like a nightmare with no vision
and I choked on the cracking line and hung up.
I am thinking of an endless winter -
it’s January now and I can still hear the echo
of chattering teeth and wind-rattled bones.
When you refuse to speak to me I question my own
existence, question Descartes’ age old conviction,
a whole new philosophic doctrine for the heart -
I feel therefore I’m not, and a lifeless shudder
at the thought of being better off without
this troublesome hunk of aching flesh.
But life is made of tiny deaths
and you are not considered a full human being
until you’ve been broken, and if all you need
for a joke is a punchline then I’m in stitches, gasping.
I could have been something sweet,
but you fed me salt words and silence for months
until my mouth was dry as cigarette ash, kindling
flames on the flesh of a stillborn innocence.
No one could tell me where the bones were kept,
but I dreamed them buried in our old backyard,
breathing winter into dying peach trees.
Sometimes I’d plunge your hand in my chest
and have to apologize for all the feelings that poured out,
but the landlords hated us anyway, so blood on the carpet,
blood on the walls, the taste of metal in between your teeth
and the string of pretty words I left you
that you never even bothered to decipher.
You’re the false god, the winter wind in January,
do you get it now? do you see?
Breathing life into corpses is a cruel business,
and death reveals itself in the empty whites
of the eyes of the broken.
They haul themselves through the city at night,
and with no stars here to nail the sky in place,
who’s to say it hasn’t fallen?
You are the city children,
born clawing at your windowsill
as if you could imagine
what it means to escape.
At night you clutch your notepad
like a bible on the walk home
through buildings that sleep standing up,
or maybe hanging upside down
like stalactites with roots
in the ceilings of
The cold wind slaps our faces to remind us
that we are still alive,
drinking all and tasting nothing,
taste of drunken love.
In the morning they will sweep the glass
from the streets like settled dust,
and we will hold hands,
raise an empty bottle to the sky,
and fog the wreckage
with the warmth of our breath.
Winter is a place where
frost bites the faces of your lovers
one at a time until you realise
that as badly as you want to,
you can never save anyone
from the cold.
At first there was a ball of string -
nestled tightly in the belly of the first,
all bound up in mucus membrane threaded
with tiny suggestions of almost-limbs -
and each daughter the ball unfurling,
the string cut, the lives spent coasting
downhill, counting years on fingertips,
girls tumbling from each other
And of course I’d talk of birthdays,
of being shaken into growing up,
of life as anything but a fall downhill
with resignation in its effortless yeilding
but the truth is when I ran out of
fingers and toes to count on,
I looked up and found myself still
at the foot of the hill, small and feeble
as a newborn,
the faces of my mother’s mothers
crowded over mine like a spectacle
and a crowd to block the sky.
Perhaps I was always the endpoint,
whose solid and self-contained being
carried with it a suggestion of finality,
a promise of completion,
and they stand over me now
beginning to wonder why their own
child prodigy, end point of their lives,
the death of their name and their final
desperate throes at perfection
still hasn’t gotten her life together.
Why she is still writhing around
in the dirt, and I’m sorry but
it’s difficult to feel any older or wiser
or more complete when you realise that
you’ve misplaced everything valuable
you’ve ever managed to own.
Or perhaps they still expect my insides
hollowed out like a nest for something better
to grow and unfurl, something sweeter,
something improved, something that would
They are waiting with the patience of
certain reward, only everything I’ve managed
to produce has been clumsy, accidental,
or not in the form they expected -
all hot air and words dissolving
into a far-off suggestion of warmth
in the breath of the wind.
Or, more likely, I am one of those paintings
that only makes sense from far away,
and when you move closer, all unstructured,
fleeting bursts of light.
I’m sorry but I’m going to have to ask you
not to stand so close.
I dream always I am bleeding,
our bodies bullets dying with the dead.
We are spent lives with closed eyes
coasting towards something doomed,
biting our tongues.
The blood streams from our mouths hot and steaming
and sounding like a scream from the tops of roofs
on war torn streets and into the empty sky,
answered by a breath of vague dismissal -
What more did you expect?
But tell me you don’t feel the wind in your hair,
tell me you don’t feel alive heaving forwards and forwards,
the wind howling sympathy all through the streets,
at night, sleeping under canopies of devastated clouds
and feeling the Earth subdued with sounds of rivers
that sigh with the tears of gods,
of a whole world’s feigned concern.
On the night before the Earth shook
and opened up mountains in the spaces we had been,
we looked back and saw ourselves on the horizon,
far back, dancing, so close to the sky.
Carved in our newborn skins may be the wounds of history,
but in our minds still the right to dream of bliss;
of moving through a place where time stands still,
of the warm, approving breath of sunlight,
of kneeling in settled dust,
of dancing over waterfalls
bathed in moonlight and mountainwaves;
of our children’s children,
of rain healing wounds and
of the place where the Earth heaved mountains
underneath our feet so that, singing,
we could build ourselves closer to the sky.
She loves silently, stealthily;
a shadow of a longing that stared at him
from the bottoms of desk drawers or
inside undeveloped rolls of film
in which she shows up as a blur,
a cloudlike suggestion of warmth
and the cause for years’ worth of
bad horror films and paranormal fetish.
When we lived next door I would
sleepwalk through your dreams
but you were never home -
only our skeletons’ ghosts listing
lazily in the spaces where the wall
between our bedrooms should have been.
No. Should never have been.
One night I saw you, standing naked
in my doorway as though this were the
natural conclusion of every moment
of your life falling away to
I touch you and you shift; you take
the forms of all my former lovers
hungrily as if their shapes should have
been your own, hungrily as if
you knew they weren’t.
Our walls built walls around themselves
and I didn’t sleep for days.
I had to move rooms when I realised
I wasn’t sleeping because I knew
you were only inches away, had seen
our room without the wall,
clumsy extensions of each other,
and how can anyone sleep when
their bedroom is a prison?
Or their body?
I used to cling to you as if
you were a life raft, and I would not
be saved until your skin absorbed mine.
Now there are only walls and mostly
dreams of fire.
It should have been easier to burn
than build, so of course
We walk home, I hold your hand.
I hold your hand and wrap myself around your elbow
to keep me standing upright as I try to count the stars.
The moon is there, too. Look, the moon! Hello moon.
The moon is land, the moon is big and round and bright and blue.
The moon is actually Earth and we are standing on the real moon and it is cut in half.
There is a man with an axe somewhere,
he cuts the moon into pieces and he puts it all together one piece at a time
and then he takes it all apart again, one piece at a time.
There is a man with an axe and now he is coming for us, my dear,
coming to carve our waning crescent, coming to carve us new.
We hide in craters with our backs against the wall.
We hide in craters and pray for gravity.
Your elbow is touching my elbow and I can feel that you are shaking,
I can feel you are afraid, unless it’s just the poison
trying to shake itself out of your bloodstream,
or shake you out of your bloodstream or your bloodstream out of you.
We hide in craters, pushed up against the sides,
crouching down and now lying flat on our stomachs.
If you close your eyes and stay real still then maybe he will not see us.
If you close your eyes then maybe we’ll disappear.
You are in a room, lying on the bed.
He is leaning over you, but not really looking at you, more like looking through you.
His eyes are flecked with green, the colour the trees would be if there were any trees.
There aren’t, but his eyes will do.
You want to climb inside, want to bring canned food and cigarettes and a thermos of hot coffee and never come down.
What better hiding spot?
There should always be one safe place in the world, just one, that’s all you could ask for.
He snaps your ribs apart like twigs trying to get at what’s inside.
So it’s summer, so it’s Christmas, happy Christmas baby, there are lights everywhere and ribbons on the presents and a look of forced surprise on his face meant to conceal his disappointment when he does not find what he had hoped for.
You knew it had to be this way.
You are sorry.
(So this happened when my housemates were cleaning out the kitchen the other day and found a whole container full of mismatched word magnets. I prefer to think I’m not always this melodramatic, but hey let’s be honest)
You the tempest, You the storm,
Sudden devastation of my delinquent heart.
I hoard the pain of loving false gods
With heavy anchors deep in my devotion.
You dare send men like corpses to taunt me
Singing songs of love and fate -
I hear those moaning tongues curl delicate
Inside my fragile fort of skin
But still I dream of your inferno.
So come -
I’ll be your conquest.
Spare me their devil’s music and let me drown in your fire.
Tell me the dream of burning buildings.
Tell me how we were inside,
and how we were afraid, the smoke
clinging to our lungs like condensation
and me clinging to you like
condensation, and we ran
until we forgot what we were
Tell me the part where the streets
spun roads of broken glass and
torn up plaster from underneath
our feet, trucks roaring
past us like a sigh
to clear the wreckage.
Tell me how we stood in the centre
where the daylight splits in half,
and on your half the likeness of
my face carved into every surface
where you had expected to see
On my side, only darkness.
I’m sorry that you got to keep
all the light, and I’m sorry that it
doesn’t really amount to anything much.
I’m sorry about the scene I made at
the bottom of the burnt down stairwell,
my words catching fire before
you could perceive them as sound.
I’m sorry about the part where everything
we did was just another way of screaming,
like the overflowing ashtrays and the
scratches I carved into your back
just to feel as though my hands
were something more than
In the dark I can almost feel
your breath against my skin,
but when I reach my hands out,
The radio grinds out love songs
from broken wires, and tell me
that that doesn’t sound like
Tell me how we built new towers,
but this time we would build them
by the sea, so that maybe,
when the ocean swallows us whole,
we would not be surprised.
It was on the platform of a half-abandoned station,
my wine-hot face resting in the curve of your detachment
whose fingers leaked a smoke of burning green.
The end of the line was hardly the escape
that called you from the bottom of an empty glass of wine,
but it was enough for you to talk
of sometimes lovers,
of oil spills and rainbows
and street lights counting down
to the roads we built on tomorrows
because they seemed more solid than todays.
You told me that the secret was
to fuck more and care less,
but I was never very good at the not caring.
Or perhaps, too good, only choosing
to know that there is always dust
that never leaves your fingernails, and
rain that never leaves your skin,
unless that’s just the poet in me
and it really is as simple as
to run before it gets too hard.
I have always fantasised about leaving someone
with a closing line just blunt enough to slice their skin.
So here it is.
I hope it kills you.
Speaking of sunsets,
this one is particularly beautiful;
like the sky caught fire somewhere
off the west coast and pulled its blaze
in towards the city to be dismissed as
I think of you west from here,
where the heat bends lines on the horizon
until everything is smoke.
I think of you in flames,
burning with a pain that was never
your own, and people screaming in the street,
their mouths overflowing with apocalypse.
Someone once told me that if you were
to condense the entire history of Earth
into a single day, then humans would only
be alive for one minute.
So what does that leave us with,
a millisecond, maybe, if we’re lucky,
the exact moment where the clock
ticks midnight and it is neither
one day nor the next,
the moment where you drive your body
into mine like crash test dummies
in the hope that we might stick.
What would it say about my capacity for love
if I told you there is no way
I would rather spend my millisecond
than trying to merge bodies
It grips my churning insides like a hand
to force me from the folds of a stranger’s bed
and dazed into the burning sun.
It would have almost been worth it,
only we look so different in the daylight;
pale-skinned and deflated
and the spaces between our skin and clothes
the ghosts of who we might have been,
almost were, when the sun was down
just long enough to be forgotten,
the wine danced in our glasses like alchemy
and you danced on me like something
much more complicated than that,
more like your nails on my back trying to unravel me
and use the pieces to conjure something whole.
Only the touch of an arm on an arm at a bar
is less like magic and more like science,
a careful formula of slow blinks and stolen glances,
advances, calculations of cab fares and drink prices,
evidence of how want feeds on want, leaving nothing
but a heavy head and wine-stained bottom lips
and an equation whose answer means
a deeper void to fill.
Every morning the daylight,
and how it filters through the leaves outside your window
and dances on your face in a way that could almost be beautiful.
You sleep like a corpse, a patient still.
Every morning the dream of burning buildings,
how you clung to my shoulders and we ran
until we forgot what we were running from.
Every morning another chapter in which the hero delays action.
Every morning the same few words
all spelling out our lives,
you were born alone and you will die alone.
Is that really all there is, I’m sorry, darling, yes.
It’s a strange sort of paradise,
where oil spills pretend to look like rainbows and
street lights pretend to be stars, and
silence is something we pretend to remember from before we were born.
Here is the city,
and these are the streets that fold us in like origami,
only it’s much more vulgar than that;
less like a crane and more like a disease
folding itself into networks of bloodstreams
that carry it along the roads from my house to yours,
where you are in your bedroom
with the paint that peels like nail polish.
You’re clawing at your windowsill
but the last thing you want
Still this doesn’t strip you down the way you want it to.
What about the nights we lost to liquor
under street lights on empty roads
with the smell of burning greenery that filled our lungs
like a bonfire?
Once, when we still believed in solving all our problems,
we would mix them up with syllables and throw them in the fire,
but they never quite burned the way they should have
and you couldn’t help but feel betrayed by language,
its parallel reality
far enough from our own
so that something like “I love you” or “I miss you”
almost means something, but doesn’t.
I have tried to explain it all;
imagined everything the colour of an empty page
for me to pour my philosophy onto.
But fuck poetry, fuck philosophy.
My hands are an ink this world does not care for
like you did the night I carved the scratch
that rode your back for weeks,
nestled in between two rungs
on the ladder of your spine.
Only this isn’t about you,
and it isn’t about love or being happy.
This is about the shapes the daylight makes
when it filters through the leaves.
This is about delaying action and dying alone.
You are not the hero of the story and neither am I,
I am just the writer,
I write things down,
then I ruin them by saying them out loud.
So you want a better story?
Of course you do. Everybody does.
This is how it works:
I filter through my memory
and I collect the parts I like,
then I stitch them back together
into something I can live with;
or, at the very least,
something I could love.
This is the part where yesterday is different from today,
and this is the part where you don’t exist
except at night time under street lights that don’t shine anymore,
or in lines of poetry whose numbers add up to
some vague sum of sadness I’ve forgotten.
And this is the part where everyone is happy
and everyone is forgiven,
even though we don’t deserve to be.
Who do you think you are with your new plans for being happy?
In the mornings they lie in your lungs like paperweights
and you find it hard to breathe,
so you lay inside,
and try to imagine silence,
but all you can hear is the sound of wheels
trying to grind out warmth from the frostbite roads
of freezing winter mornings.
We are all alone together and if that’s not a good enough story,
then I’m sorry, it’s the only one I’ve got.
You writer, you beautiful liar.
You should be better at this by now.
I woke up sad this morning
because I realised that I could not,
as badly as I wanted to,
cure anyone’s loneliness.
2012 - 2014