She abhorred blood 

and scabs on the knees

of her children.

It was dirty

it was unrighteous,

like the toenails

of the dead

that grew

when life was gone,

like schizophrenic disorders,

it all repelled her.


She wore a bracelet

of wooden beads

in many colours,

it was her great-grandmother’s 

wedding prize.

When my mother

became matriarch,

she gave it to me

telling me 

never to remove it,

it’d keep me blest.

But I lost it

on the veldt

in a careless thunderstorm,

I still grieve. 


You had a fertile mind,

laced with gin

stained with cigarettes.

But you could not imagine

being ready for burial,

your ears plugged

with cotton wool,

wearing your favourite dress,

lain out for my nightmares.


I have burrs

on my coat

from walking 

the woods.

I’ve been 

where the trees

eschew time,

where the lilacs 

come each year

like an enchantment.

I have walked 

among these perennials 

since I was five,

they are in my mind.

I will translate them

to paper, so you can listen

to the magic sough

among the treetops.


In the sidings 

old freight trains age;

they are rust-speckled

they stink of diesel.

Weeds garland a boiler,

the rails warp,

the sleepers sleep.

What was once 

work for the town

has evaporated;

it’s been shunted into history.

There is only this shabby dignity.


The back of her hand

is tarnished with

brown age spots,

the veins are prominent

like she has been.

But who will remember 

when they see

how shrunk

she is,

and infirm.

She had vision,

now it is glaucoma

she had panache,

not stiff joints

and dementia.


A head

like a queen’s crown

magnificently thorned,

they usurp all other flowers

to rule. 

Their blooms are

a slash of red,

blood money.

If I take a machete

to them, they still

sprout up,

ugly and immortal

armoured like mediaeval knights,

primed for combat.