Flight from 'Track Record'
The estate will not be cleaved, sheep blackened or hunting routes
halted by clattering iron – Cheshire’s ‘old money’ bellows from the library.
I was a cuckoo child, left by a consumptive widow
on the wing. My nest a tied-cottage that already housed
a pair of weaving daughters. But a boy does not need looks
to marry, I had a body that could work the land
and survive a journey on a train … though I’d yet to see one.
Paler than on her wedding night a corseted Lady, pumping gossip
into her constricted heart, learns how her womb could explode under speed.
Safe with our cows and cabbages we did not fear machinery
until the ‘top hats’ came, measured up our steepest gradients
and sang like thrushes their chorus of steam – the power
that could smash the slow way we moved within our shells
and pull us wriggling from the soil.
A Young Lord, schooled only in gambling and buggery, enters politics
and his family raise a toast ‘to the railways and their generous compensation’.
I am cursed by my past complaints:
milking at first light,
the inadequate plough,
poaching in the dank woods.
There is an uncommon mourning
for what was never your own.
Inside the mills of Manchester
we call the countryside
from its contradictions.
The overseers, like crows,
have a memory for faces.
They recognise our youngest
not from her missing fingers
but by the look she wears
since they came, as a murder,
to cut off her hair.
Behind the blanket
that divides our damp basement
dreaming of screech owls,
are woken by the first locomotive
pulling into Liverpool Road.
Watching Promise from 'Rented'
across The Square,
from under the tabby nets,
it seems a client has left her a gift.
My guess is a filthy finger nail
got married to her oily hip
and fathered some pus just out of reach
because she’s using some dirty dance-moves
to squeeze it.
Promise knows this isn’t like the hand-jobs
we give, off the kerb, ending in a heavy spurt.
This is a wound that’ll spread
and come back weeping across an angry border.
It reminds me of those new girls,
when they stray into a foreign postcode.
Promise needs to put on the slippers
that make her look free again
(though she’s formidable in heels)
and pay a visit to the prissy chemist
who will be relieved (not,) to be asked
for ‘Morning Afters’ or a cream for ‘crabs’,
though she’ll still dispense that look
she reserves for an entire continent
watching Promise, bounce her box-braids
out of there with a crash
and the door-bell pinging.
This is our healing-time.
My friend rubs antiseptic
into the wet of her back-fat as The Square
takes a communal draw to the lungs,
watching Promise unlock her milky windows
to lie with her legs wide open
and let in some air.
Baby B and the Baby Walker from 'Hush'
On release day
I will buzz around the bottom shelves
See what the ‘outside’ does for shoes
My wings are clipped
I only see Wednesday
from the waist up
Its belt has not been confiscated
I am tasting freedom on my back
as my mother did
in the Mexican heat
Queen of the conjugal visit
My father brought her street food,
lust, a promise
of life in the making
I harvest traffic fumes,
For my coloured hive,
with its maternal droning
I am learning to fly
The sky can be opened
with a single key
Honey and seasoning
are the hardest things to steal.