At the far side of the water

At the far side of the water
shadows stretch long,
around ankles tiny angles knife through light,
the skin on the back of his hands turns silver
and when he moves his feet through the water
it is hard to see where he starts.

He thinks that he will one day become a river,
a thing called myth,
thinks he will be blue water
in two pale hands cupping flat morning calm,
creased into grey wrinkled fingertips by afternoon.

He says one day she will see him with waves raised
by fingers of wind into the outlines of ribs full
of flashing silver shapes hurling themselves to the light.

Says he will hold in his belly the bent backs of ships
haunted by mermaids and the bones of men
who leapt overboard to chase down white whales
and songs without words but found only quiet
split by strange clacks from ragged claws.

Says he will be the place where water
flows back into itself,
where she will lead wild horses
and smooth down flanks with flat stones,
where she will hold them until they are gentle.

A place where they will come
to bend their necks and drink
and he will move in their blood,
wick salt from wild eyes
and roll thunder in muscle.

She reaches her hand to his and waves rise
silver and flash in his skin.

At the far side of the river unbroken horses
move slow and heavy through shadows.

He looks down to their feet moving through water
and can no longer see where they stop.

Like anvils and axe heads

There are men now walking into the water
How thickly they come
How like tangled ribs they look

How heavy their coats must be
pockets full of fists
to weight them

Everything behind us
has turned to ash

The sky is slow falling grey

We sit like heavy stones
and dull eyed
from the dunes

we watch them

going under
coming up wet lungs and flailing
then going under again.

Shall we give o’er and drown

All lost! to prayers, to prayers! all lost!
-The Tempest

I am afraid that one day I may be left stranded inside myself
that this ocean I have carried for so long
and through such heavy years

will reach up out of itself
and into my insides
and will look for a way out

And in finding that there is no way out but up
it will move in that direction
and I will be left here
with only 
my bones
and the fish that moved too slow.

See I carry mermaids in me
their songs move quietly through me
like tsunamis in waiting 

like slow falling depth charges
I have the largest collection of sunken ships 

in the slack of my ribs
their backs broken by stormy women
and perfectly bad weather

they went down so well
such stoic noble Captains

strapped to their wheels


all rum tongues
 and wet songs

they have spilled their chests full of gold on my floor
I have such a shining floor in me

I have such a shining flaw

Above me there is such sky
when the strange fish with the dangling lights come hunting
you will see stars sparking through the dark on the roof of my skull
I have gathered them there
eyes plucked from the faces of such angelic nights
I have flung them so far into space
it would break your heart to see just the space
where they once hung
so come 

you lonely sailors

you bed sheet sails
come you travellers
you rusty swords

you rotting boards
you ragged claws
walk into the water with me
feel the sand between your toes
take two steps up my spine
and know that you
that you

can walk on water

When you stand in this light
your spine 
looks like 33 stacked sapphires
or 33 prayer beads
or 33 miracles

or the area code to Paris
where I felt so polished and gentled

along with all the other marble in the basement
a broken bottle made smooth
by all the ‘I forgive you’ in you 

In Paris 

where I loved you

where I loved you so hard 
that fuck me
I think I could have died
and everything
would have been just fine

So rise tsunami
 you sapphire spine
I will swim in you all summer
rise you holy ocean
I’ll deliver all of this to you

and promise calm waters
so rise you aching ocean
and I will load my coat with stones 

and walk into you.

Slow curl

A wave rising into the blue above us.
The arching back of a whale
breaking the surface.
The slow curl of a seahorse
holding onto a lover.
A water spout.
A sunken city.
The backward geometry
of warm honey.
A piano.
A summer peach.

All these miracles
I see in your neck
and the drums that
kick through your pulse.


He hears the door bell ring and thinks if this is all there is to it then he will be okay. Thinks of sunflowers turning slowly. He thinks of how the soil under his nails carries seeds and how those seeds carry the idea of flowers and how those flowers will one day be fucked by bees and grow out of their own centres to become strawberries. He thinks, How sweet these berries will be. How stickily they will crush between her fingers. How her hands will learn to pluck them just right. He hears the door bell ring a second time. Doesn’t bother feigning quiet. He slices a pear in two. He thinks about the two bundles of light and song that fill him with so much light and song and hopes they will be home soon. He knows that when they return home the smaller of the two will be sleepy eyed and curled inside the other. He thinks of this and unfolds his throat. He eats the pear in four bites. The door rings a third time. He holds his hands under the Water. Goes to the door. Unlocks it. The sun is so bright. The men on the other side are dark suited and stuffed with big g God. They want to talk about salvation.

They smile like saints. Hum like psalms.

He holds out his hands to theirs. Flowers bursting from his fingers. Bees buzzing in his palms.

The First Song of Barefoot and Sticky-cheeked


The desert fell out behind the branches, our daughter moving in the disappearing light, like something the scorpions would flock in awe towards.
– Anis Mojgani

We were so full of flowers then.
They bloomed from our hands
and sprung from our mouths
and orchestras of bees would swarm
around us all day in the spring.

We spent the first hours of every morning
cutting stems, cradling them
like something wounded and quivering,
carried into the house in the mouth of a cat,
our thin fingers pushing them down
through the cracks in the floor boards
to sink their spines into the earth we grew from.

Our children were called Barefoot and Sticky-cheeked.
Two blue ribbons tying our split sides together.
Two halves of one golden peach.
The smooth muscle of oceans in waiting.
Hands holding firecrackers to hurl at the quiet
and songs to gentle giants.

In the evening the wings of birds
would slow ghost their way
in through the windows,
flap themselves into the brahmanic hands
of a mango tree,
its bell tower trunk thrown up through the floor,
shoulders hunched and canopy pressing up
and out through the ceiling,
casting branches like psalms
across the hall and out the windows
to tickle the belly of a moon
held in the mouth of the sky like a quiet prayer
to the smalls gods
we had long ago become.

she ran through a shallow river that flowed
through the hall from a glacier we’d trapped
weeping in the attic,
a whale of ice we harpooned
and dragged home last winter
for an endless supply
of clear blue light
and long memory.

She ran arms out,
feet throwing ice behind
like wedding confetti.

She ran so fast.

she was in the mango tree.
A chorus of bees humming their songs around her,
knuckling herself to the trunk,
hands throwing sucked clean seeds at the slow birds
perched in its branches.

The birds flapped grey and thin winged
and leapt over themselves,
bundles of school house stern and bad suits
and Sticky-cheeked just laughed at them,
laughed like an ocean had opened inside her,
like the whole world was a preschool dance put on
to see her clap those tiny hands and smile.

She had climbed so high.

When we opened our mouths
to call her down
we found
we couldn’t make a sound.

Above us
she spread her arms like wings,
like an orchid opening,
like the morning’s first golden hours.

And when she jumped
feathers unfurling,
our throats exploded
with the most beautiful
singing flowers.