dominoes

everybody else fell
down like dominoes,
slick and lacquered and
all inevitably spread over the
carpet, getting lost under
the sofa. but
they were not dominoes
no, they were not dominoes.
no, pain did not exist in
that house that smelt like sweet
clean pickings of herbs and tea
and essential oils in the bath –
not to me.

there was no punishment in
the sweet house
there were no laws to break in
that clean air, there.
well, they had pain all the same,
those protectors of angels.
pain all the same and worse than most,
but they did
not turn into dominoes
or instruct me to lie face-down
and upon be placed broken
sacks of boulders.
no, they did not turn into dominoes.
I didn’t really like to
play dominoes but
it didn’t matter because there was a hundred
jokes and a hundred games of
chess and a
hundred slices of honey on
toast and a hundred discussions
of the best books on the shelf at
forty-five minutes
past bedtime.

protectors of angels don’t
have to say a magic phrase or
read a magic book or
know a magic spell or do
much more than
love unconditionally, practically,
not really.

so tell me when
you look into the eyes of children,
do you find it hard?
to be their books
honey
computer games
shit television shows
fart jokes
to be the acceptance of
their tears and joy?
I used to wonder if
I should thank the universe
for their love,
or god,
or some great beautiful uncontrollable
catastrophic cosmic power,
but why should I
thank anyone but them when
they were the ones who
chose to give it?

no,
no god or cosmos
no higher power
no luck or chance
is responsible for
soft sheets or
allowing a ten year old to
use all the hot water,
so gratitude goes
where it goes;
to them, a choice as
conscious as all of theirs.

thank you.
I love you.

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blonde

little child, blonde
eyes blue as welsh waterfalls
it is not your fault
that you were hurt
it is not your fault
that you found things hard
little boy, blonde
with clouds in one eye
they told you that you
were not innocent
you were bad
and well
you need to know
that a few broken toys
stitches in the lip and
scribbles on the wall
were not
deserving of beatings
on school mornings
you need to know
that when you cry
you do not need to be ashamed
that when you cried
because you were hurt
that it was valid
you did not deserve
to be punished
for things you
could not control
little child, blonde
showing off your missing teeth
I wish I could hold you
now and whisper strength
into your young ears

lace

god, I love you
I love you so much
I still love you from
my child’s heart
my impassioned child’s heart
that held no judgement
or fear of rejection

still the waves
of grief come,
softer now
leaving delicate seafoam lace
high on my cheekbones
instead of
throwing my body
bloodied onto the rocks

would that I could
whisper some magic to
shave a year off of my life
and hear you for five minutes
your picture is so still
it hasn’t moved in years
and I accept that
I can’t feel safe without you

but I still mourn
your love for me
and I so hope
it was as unconditional as I
remember
because hers never was

rope

he is a
wooden a-frame
an old one,
resolutely standing
at the side of
the school hall,
just waiting
to be climbed and clambered upon
by the tenth generation
of children.
you would think
time should have
weathered the pine,
should have
made it splinter and break
but still it retains
its polished surface
and strength,
somehow.

I am
not a wooden a-frame,
more a hanging rope
that burns the hands
and sways unpredictably
fun to climb
hard to
get down from.
but a treasured
piece of
school gym equipment,
nonetheless

holly

just a road like any other
suburban to the very core
full of grey paving slabs
and comfortable family cars
each house square and dignified
with just the right amount
of curtain twitching.

the shrubs are lined up
outside the short brick fences
each one alike in its nature
each front garden path,
trodden in with memories of
grown up children and
school mornings past

the holly bushes of the house
that once was ours
seem to glitter in
the dim night light,
but not looking nearly so
inviting as they did
all those years ago.

I steal a sprig from the front
a perfect thing, its points
all frosted with white
some fairytale thing,
it seems it my hand
a little piece of green is all
but dripping rich with
vibrant memories of the plainest
days

plain,
but so wonderfully pure
so wonderfully formative
so like a dream,
that I scarcely can believe
they belong to me at all.

joy hits me
heavy in the chest
with a fist
as I look through
painted green window frames,
still existing as they ever did.
and my sadness
comes off the roof
as mirror-like summer heat
or through the old brick chimney
smoking logs that we burnt
for three whole Christmases.

blood

I look down at my own
softened and
slim-fingered hands
and see my father’s,
sweetly caramel,
sallowed by dirt
and smelling of copper.

I look into my own
red brown eyes
wide and staring
and see my mother’s,
deeply set behind glass
knowing,
and crinkling with laughter.

I listen to my own
smoke-laden voice
japing and cursing
and hear my brother’s,
curling around each
sarcastic riposte
and cackle.

I examine my own
proudly defined
and delicate collarbones
and see my sister’s,
marked by graceful shoulders,
and a long neck
all straight as knives.

what a wonder,
is our blood,
all so full
of each other.

castles

as she is lowered
into
the swaying
undulating heat
of the underground cavern
she breathes deeply
the smell of hot metal
and foot soldiers,
and asks
is this
my home?

she asks
is this my home?
where is my home?
does it matter
at all?
is home some
abstract feeling
of childhood safety nets
that dissipate into
nothing, with age?
we lose our homes
and gain
weathered lines,
crow’s feet at the eyes?

she stands by
the quiet beggar
with his whispered
pleas for help
and change
perhaps
he knows where home
could be.
perhaps one so
much more lost than her,
could share the secret.

she cries
out in the night
for that great thing.
home is nowhere
for anyone
she realises,
a thought of comfort.
home is inside
their hearts,
not their things or their castles.
she knows this,
she knows this.

and so her mother says
best
get to work
on your little heart,
my girl.