11 01 2008

I’ll keep you in a box
In the recess of my heart.
But occasionally,
I’ll take you out.
To dust you down and hold you to the light,
Like a much loved ball gown that I wore
Just once.
I’ll stroke off the dust and
Run my hands over the memory,
Hold you under my chin,,
And dance,
Around my dreams
Like a débutante.


Why some women stay

10 01 2008

To burn it all, to walk away would leave too big a scar.
He makes no excuses, gives no logic,
Nothing to fight against.
Supine; an infant.
A six foot baby with no mother.
And her breasts, still too full of love.
Swollen with maternal surplus.
But instead of cutting the apron strings
She’ll choke him with them.

Pass on the Secret of Happiness

7 05 2007

There’s a post just now over at DameWiggy that caught my eye this morning.

In particular one of the comments struck a chord with me. What things make us feel really happy? Proper genuine happiness?

So my list..ten things

1. A sea view, no matter what the weather
2. Fresh coffee first thing in the morning
3. The sound of my children laughing
4. A good book
5. My lovers shoulder under my cheek; his arms wrapped round me.
6. Those fantastic nights where you sit with good friends and feel like you really connect over some trivial conversation.
7. Painting my toenails vivid red and then taking every excuse to walk barefoot
8. Trawling through charity shops and finding the perfect dress.
9. Potting up new plants in my garden
10. Dancing like no one is watching

Go on.

I dare you.

Try it yourself and pass on a little happiness…

Same scene different points of view

25 04 2007

Limited Omniscience –

Tony watches his wife Nancy as they get ready to go out. Tonight they will celebrate their twenty-fifth wedding anniversary.

There are clothes all over the bed. Every item of women’s clothing you could imagine. And shoes all
over the floor. Why do women always take so long to get ready?

The cufflinks are irritating and his shirt collar feels too tight. He looks at his wife. She’s trying on one thing after another. When did she put on so much weight? She was a slim girl when they got married. There’s a photo of them on the dressing table and he remembers how devastatingly beautiful she was on their wedding day. That waist. Those pert breasts. He could barely keep his hands off her at the church.

He looks at himself in the mirror. Not too bad for forty-five. Could do with losing a few pounds and the hairline isn’t what it used to be but Nancy still loves him. They’ve had some good times though. Even if she put on twice as much weight he would still want to spend the next twenty five years with her.

Finally it seems she is ready. There’s something different about her tonight that he can’t quite put his finger on. She gives him a twirl.

‘How do I look?’ she asks. Her face is radiant and she is smiling.

Even after all these years he never knows what the correct response is for that question. You tell a woman they look great they either think you are lying or they start to contradict you and you end up spending the rest of the night telling them exactly why they look great. But if you say nothing they think they look ugly. And he’s hungry.

‘You look fine’ he says.

On the way to the restaurant he can’t help but notice she seems very quiet.

Omniscient –

Tom and Nancy are getting ready to go out. Nancy is pouring over the entire contents of her wardrobe. She wants to look her best tonight, of all nights, but is struggling to find something that still fits. It has been a long time since they went for dinner together with it being such a special occasion she wants make sure she looks beautiful. She has already spent a small fortune on a haircut and manicure and hopes Tony will notice the difference.

Tony is uncomfortable in his suit and tie and fiddles self consciously with his cufflinks. He has never understood why women take so long to get ready. He watches his wife as she dresses and wonders how she managed to put on so much weight. He can’t help but compare her to how slim and beautiful she was when they first married. He wonders if he should say something but thinks better of it. He would love her even if she was twice as big again. He checks himself in the mirror and realises he’s not exactly twenty any more either.

Nancy has tried on half her clothes but finally finds an outfit she is satisfied with. She smooths down her skirt and spins around on the spot to show Tony. She hopes he approves.

‘How do I look?’ she asks.

‘You look fine’ he says.

She wonders why this is not what she hoped to hear. He is smiling after all. She’s sure he loves her but in that moment she can’t help but wonder if there something going on with him and his new young secretary.

They leave the house and head for the restaurant where they will celebrate being married for twenty five years.


Tony and Nancy McVeigh are in their bedroom getting ready to go out. The bed is covered in what appears to be the entire contents of Nancy’s wardrobe. There are sparkly tops; turquoise blouses; dresses going back a decade or more. A multitude of shoes are sprawled across the floor. Tony is almost ready. He fiddles with his cufflinks and adjusts the collar on his shirt. He looks at his wife as she pulls off one top and struggles to pull on another. Her face looks all of her 44 years as she huffs and squeezes into the too small garment. She sighs; pulls it off again and standing in her bra and skirt ponders over the warbrobe-spewed contents of the bed.

He looks at the roll of fat hanging over the top of her skirt and her breasts sagging in her bra. And then looks at the photograph of them together on the dressing table. The photo is of a young, smiling couple. A nineteen year old Nancy is wearing a full length white dress and the twenty-year old version of himself has his arm tight around her nipped in waistline. He checks his reflection in the mirror; pulling in his stomach as he does so and glances down at his wedding ring.

Finally, she finds the look she was hoping for and with a flourish spins round on the spot. She is holding her breathe and pulling back her shoulders to give him the best view she can.

‘What do you think?’ she says

‘You look fine.’ he says but with a look that implies he means ‘acceptable’ rather than exquisite or elegant.

She looks in the mirror and then looks at the dressing table photo of the bride that she once was.

She sighs and her shoulders fall.

They leave for the restaurant and celebrate being married for twenty five years.

I found this exercise very tricky. I actually started with the objective (neutral fly on the wall) point of view but discovered it was very difficult to convey emotions without resorting to lots of dialogue. And even then it’s harder to get the meaning without getting into someone’s head! The objects in the room took on more significance.

I found omniscient quite tricky too as my brain found it harder to focus on each character. It would be even harder with more than a couple of characters but was useful in that you can give a deeper idea of the emotions of the scene.

My favourite was limited omniscience. It allowed me to speak through Tony and gave him more of a voice, though of course we only get his view of Nancy.

The marriage path

26 02 2007

A purpose for their life together
The moist trudging of Wellington boots
Walking towards their future
They walk along the woodland path.

The moist trudging of Wellington boots
Hand in hand they walk along
They walk along the woodland path
Bodies tilted towards each other.

Hand in had they walk along
The musty smell of autumn leaves
Bodies tilted towards each other
Shiraz and ochre; the setting sun.

The musty smell of autumn leaves
In conversations they build their future
Shiraz and ochre; the setting sun
Now that the children are grown

In conversations they build their future
Walking towards the winter
Now that the children are grown
A purpose for their life together

This is my first attempt at a Pantoum. Over the weekend I read Zadie Smith ‘On Beauty’ and in it there is a college tutor who teaches her class about this form. I had never heard of it before but I like the way it rolls back onto itself and was inspired to give it a try.

I decided to rework the short piece ‘Towards Winter‘ because I thought the subject matter fitted well; the repetition of their steps in line with the way the pantoum repeats.

The affair

16 02 2007

Tied apart but we could not stop
Taking out my heart and then just ripping it up.
Burnt my hands on your open fire.
It’s getting late and I’m all used up.
Drew your knife but you cut too deep
You’re filling up my head and now I can’t sleep.

I’m coming down now the sands run out
Fill me up with the way that this feels
This is turning me inside out
I’m coming round but I’ve broken down again

Cut too deep and I can’t escape
Bruised my head on your gentle kiss
Make me wise with your stupid talk
Cut me deeper and I’ll not breathe –you see I’m
Going under now I can’t speak
You’re opening me up and you make me weak

And if we speak does it make it real?
Tuck us into unfaithful beds
I know that buried under all the pain you feel
That underneath it all you were soft and warm
And when we fell I could feel you crack
And when we fell we could not go back.

(Jan 1998)

Towards winter

10 02 2007

The sweet, musty smell of autumn leaves. Red like Shiraz. Ochre like the low setting sun. The moist trudging of Wellington boots along the woodland path.

Hand in hand they stroll. Bodies tilting towards each other; heads almost touching. Arms gently swinging backwards and forwards.

Their new home is being built, brick by brick in their conversation. A purpose for their life together now the children have grown. Each syllable flowing out in a puff of not quite frosted breath.

They walk on towards the future winter.

Freewriting exercise. Inspired by the taste of a bottle of Shiraz drunk last night which had a pleasant rotting leaves taste. I combined this with a memory of a couple on TV who were building a new house. Strange that I should think of autumn. I changed the last line from future to winter because I thought it captured their moment within the seasons of a lifetime better. I’m wondering if I could develop this into a series of poetry of something?