email from a friend

that aside,
thanks so much
for sending me your poetry
your voice has changed—I
didn’t even recognise it anymore
just want to sit with them
for a couple of days
I’m a bit slow with poetry
and a little thrown
because they’re not at all what I expected
(love being surprised)

* first published in page seventeen, 2007


The City

He said the city was so big he didn’t know it had a harbour
She said the city ate the sky and left her gasping for breath

He said the city stole his spirit and sold it like a dealer
She said the city filled her heart with yearning and wonder

He said the city had lost its dreams under the weight of desire
She said the city offered more than a person could ever want

He said the city was deceitful and full of sharp edges
She said the city was filled with all kinds of art

He said the city was no place to spend a peaceful night
She said the city was full of beds and people to share them with

He said a city train was no place for someone to be alone
She said she wasn’t alone; she said she was with him

* first published in Offset, 2009


Three Poems, One


through the mirror
i am you
eyes eyes
nose nose
mouth mouth
head leaning
growing into me

if i knew how
would i slow this earth
and float into the sky?


i can’t read your body
when you speak in tongues
wrapping your vernacular
legs, arms and fingers
around me

language i breathe
sweating vowels
close my eyes
and read you
like braille


you stepped off the side of the world
danced into the sky
became a constellation
a meteor collector
excavator of cosmic dust
alien translator
you found beauty in being breathless
eyes wide and wayward
as if cycles, seasons and gravity
were too grounded in monotony
to still the rhythm in your feet

how i wish the world was flat
to see you dancing in the distance

* first published in BLOCK, 2008



today is chunky glass leaf
stained brown/speckled green
stem looped and threaded
plain black leather cord

yesterday was oriental amulet
flat faced characters (red dash on green)
white cranes hidden beneath black reeds

the day before was a chaplet
of blown glass pepper beads
deep cream with purple swirls
braille backbone ridges

before that was silver moon
a slip of metal crest
edges bending into themselves
sharp sleek reflections

and you think I just stand there
and brush my teeth


An Edinburgh Conversation

in a bar on the royal mile / we shared secrets / me and girl from Alice Springs / two travellers a world apart / but with enough in common / to make fast acquaintances

we didn’t share vital information / jobs or titles / married or single / instead we took turns playing the part of Dante and Guido / unburdening our souls of the unsaid / exhibiting them like shameful collectables / stacked between the ashtray and empty beers

I guess we both knew the truth of it / that that night would never see the light of day / that tomorrow I was on a south bound train / while her plans lay further north / so we talked with zero expectations / with the freedom of not wanting anything / beyond company and conversation / we became birdfeeders / hands full of crumbs

I told her of my affairs / of a lie I told my father / of a night I spent long ago with a woman for 220 dollars / she told me of her own dalliances in fidelity’s murky shallows / of her preference for older men / of an addiction to prescription medicine / she told me she once sprayed CUNT on the doorstep of a cheating boyfriend

I won’t deny that she was cute / or that her skittish mouth was alluring / or the fact that I was glad the music was too loud / and we had to sit close / and lean / and whisper / I won’t deny / that even now / I like to think / that in that bar full of strangers / we could have been mistaken / for lovers

* first published in Burley, 2012


The story of the thin red book that sits on the bookshelf

It goes like this: You were living in China at the time. With a young American student. A kind young American student who believed in God. And good manners. And the right to carry a gun. The book was his. But you loved it. You said he only bought it because a teacher had made him. He didn’t even like it. So you took it. Just like that. Last day in that place. You put it in your bag. Put your bag in a cab. Shook the kind young American’s hand and said: thanks, this has been swell. Then. You left. Got on a plane. Came home. Put that thin red book on the bookshelf. Called it your own. A book I’ve never read. But a story I know so well.

* first published in Small Wonder: an anthology of prose poems & microfiction, 2012


The Monk

He laughs when I tell him:
I’d make a terrible monk.
He says humility, above all things,
is the first step.

* first published in BLOCK, 2009


ДЫШАТЬ (breathe)

I think it’s this cold. This arctic
air. The way your hands
clam your breath. The way
your lungs warm your tongue,
your fingers, your Russian nose.
Breathe. Your chest can handle this.
Your voice stressed native lisp.
Your rosy cheeks colourless,
sucking up the frost.

If I could use this air like you
perhaps we’d speak the same.

* first published in Tattoo: FIRST 2008