You are the city children,
born clawing at your windowsill
as if you could imagine
what it means to escape.
At night you clutch your notepad
like a bible on the walk home
through buildings that sleep standing up,
or maybe hanging upside down
like stalactites with roots
in the ceilings of
The cold wind slaps our faces to remind us
that we are still alive,
drinking all and tasting nothing,
taste of drunken love.
In the morning they will sweep the glass
from the streets like settled dust,
and we will hold hands,
raise an empty bottle to the sky,
and fog the wreckage
with the warmth of our breath.
Winter is a place where
frost bites the faces of your lovers
one at a time until you realise
that as badly as you want to,
you can never save anyone
from the cold.
Tell me the dream of burning buildings.
Tell me how we were inside,
and how we were afraid, the smoke
clinging to our lungs like condensation
and me clinging to you like
condensation, and we ran
until we forgot what we were
Tell me the part where the streets
spun roads of broken glass and
torn up plaster from underneath
our feet, trucks roaring
past us like a sigh
to clear the wreckage.
Tell me how we stood in the centre
where the daylight splits in half,
and on your half the likeness of
my face carved into every surface
where you had expected to see
On my side, only darkness.
I’m sorry that you got to keep
all the light, and I’m sorry that it
doesn’t really amount to anything much.
I’m sorry about the scene I made at
the bottom of the burnt down stairwell,
my words catching fire before
you could perceive them as sound.
I’m sorry about the part where everything
we did was just another way of screaming,
like the overflowing ashtrays and the
scratches I carved into your back
just to feel as though my hands
were something more than
In the dark I can almost feel
your breath against my skin,
but when I reach my hands out,
The radio grinds out love songs
from broken wires, and tell me
that that doesn’t sound like
Tell me how we built new towers,
but this time we would build them
by the sea, so that maybe,
when the ocean swallows us whole,
we would not be surprised.
It was on the platform of a half-abandoned station,
my wine-hot face resting in the curve of your detachment
whose fingers leaked a smoke of burning green.
The end of the line was hardly the escape
that called you from the bottom of an empty glass of wine,
but it was enough for you to talk
of sometimes lovers,
of oil spills and rainbows
and street lights counting down
to the roads we built on tomorrows
because they seemed more solid than todays.
You told me that the secret was
to fuck more and care less,
but I was never very good at the not caring.
Or perhaps, too good, only choosing
to know that there is always dust
that never leaves your fingernails, and
rain that never leaves your skin,
unless that’s just the poet in me
and it really is as simple as
to run before it gets too hard.
I have always fantasised about leaving someone
with a closing line just blunt enough to slice their skin.
So here it is.
I hope it kills you.
Speaking of sunsets,
this one is particularly beautiful;
like the sky caught fire somewhere
off the west coast and pulled its blaze
in towards the city to be dismissed as
I think of you west from here,
where the heat bends lines on the horizon
until everything is smoke.
I think of you in flames,
burning with a pain that was never
your own, and people screaming in the street,
their mouths overflowing with apocalypse.
Someone once told me that if you were
to condense the entire history of Earth
into a single day, then humans would only
be alive for one minute.
So what does that leave us with,
a millisecond, maybe, if we’re lucky,
the exact moment where the clock
ticks midnight and it is neither
one day nor the next,
the moment where you drive your body
into mine like crash test dummies
in the hope that we might stick.
What would it say about my capacity for love
if I told you there is no way
I would rather spend my millisecond
than trying to merge bodies
It grips my churning insides like a hand
to force me from the folds of a stranger’s bed
and dazed into the burning sun.
It would have almost been worth it,
only we look so different in the daylight;
pale-skinned and deflated
and the spaces between our skin and clothes
the ghosts of who we might have been,
almost were, when the sun was down
just long enough to be forgotten,
the wine danced in our glasses like alchemy
and you danced on me like something
much more complicated than that,
more like your nails on my back trying to unravel me
and use the pieces to conjure something whole.
Only the touch of an arm on an arm at a bar
is less like magic and more like science,
a careful formula of slow blinks and stolen glances,
advances, calculations of cab fares and drink prices,
evidence of how want feeds on want, leaving nothing
but a heavy head and wine-stained bottom lips
and an equation whose answer means
a deeper void to fill.
We walk home, I hold your hand.
I hold your hand and wrap myself around your elbow
to keep me standing upright as I try to count the stars.
The moon is there, too. Look, the moon! Hello moon.
The moon is land, the moon is big and round and bright and blue.
The moon is actually Earth and we are standing on the real moon and it is cut in half.
There is a man with an axe somewhere,
he cuts the moon into pieces and he puts it all together one piece at a time
and then he takes it all apart again, one piece at a time.
There is a man with an axe and now he is coming for us, my dear,
coming to carve our waning crescent, coming to carve us new.
We hide in craters with our backs against the wall.
We hide in craters and pray for gravity.
Your elbow is touching my elbow and I can feel that you are shaking,
I can feel you are afraid, unless it’s just the poison
trying to shake itself out of your bloodstream,
or shake you out of your bloodstream or your bloodstream out of you.
We hide in craters, pushed up against the sides,
crouching down and now lying flat on our stomachs.
If you close your eyes and stay real still then maybe he will not see us.
If you close your eyes then maybe we’ll disappear.
Every morning the daylight,
and how it filters through the leaves outside your window
and dances on your face in a way that could almost be beautiful.
You sleep like a corpse, a patient still.
Every morning the dream of burning buildings,
how you clung to my shoulders and we ran
until we forgot what we were running from.
Every morning another chapter in which the hero delays action.
Every morning the same few words
all spelling our lives,
you were born alone and you will die alone.
Is that really all there is, I’m sorry, darling, yes.
It’s a strange sort of paradise,
where oil spills pretend to look like rainbows and
street lights pretend to be stars, and
silence is something we pretend to remember from before we were born.
Here is the city,
and these are the streets that fold us in like origami,
only it’s much more vulgar than that;
less like a crane and more like a disease
folding itself into networks of bloodstreams
that carry it along the roads from my house to yours,
where you are in your bedroom
with the paint that peels like nail polish.
You’re clawing at your windowsill
but the last thing you want
Still this doesn’t strip you down the way you want it to.
What about the nights we lost to liquor
under street lights on empty roads
with the smell of burning greenery that filled our lungs
like a bonfire?
Once, when we still believed in solving all our problems,
we would mix them up with syllables and throw them in the fire,
but they never quite burned the way they should have
and you couldn’t help but feel betrayed by language,
its parallel reality
far enough from our own
so that something like “I love you” or “I miss you”
almost means something, but doesn’t.
I have tried to explain it all;
imagined everything the colour of an empty page
for me to write my philosophy onto.
But fuck poetry, fuck philosophy.
My hands are an ink this world does not care for
like you did the night I carved the scratch
that rode your back for weeks,
nestled in between two rungs
on the ladder of your spine.
Only this isn’t about you,
and it isn’t about love or being happy.
This is about the shapes the daylight makes
when it filters through the leaves.
This is about delaying action and dying alone.
You are not the hero of the story and neither am I,
I am just the writer,
I write things down,
then I ruin them by saying them out loud.
So you want a better story?
Of course you do. Everybody does.
This is how it works:
I filter through my memory
and I collect the parts I like,
then I stitch them back together
into something I can live with;
or, at the very least,
something I could love.
This is the part where yesterday is different from today,
and this is the part where you don’t exist
except at night time under street lights that don’t shine anymore,
or in lines of poetry whose numbers add up to
some vague sum of sadness I’ve forgotten.
And this is the part where everyone is happy
and everyone is forgiven,
even though we don’t deserve to be.
Who do you think you are with your new plans for being happy?
In the mornings they lie in your lungs like paperweights
and you find it hard to breathe,
so you lay inside,
and try to imagine silence,
but all you can hear is the sound of wheels
trying to grind out warmth from the frostbite roads
of freezing winter mornings.
We are all alone together and if that’s not a good enough story,
then I’m sorry, it’s the only one I’ve got.
You writer, you beautiful liar.
You should be better at this by now.
I woke up sad this morning
because I realised that I could not,
as badly as I wanted to,
cure anyone’s loneliness.
I am certain sometimes that I can feel you
writing your way through my veins like ink,
the liquid potential, the unsettling feeling of an almost-story
bleeding clumsily onto the page.
There is no way to say this exactly how I mean it.
My words are tripping over each other and
throwing themselves from the edges of cliffs,
but god knows I have tried.
Let’s start with this.
At night I gave you the moon in the surface of my skin
and in the morning you gave me bouquets of words you didn’t mean,
delivered on my bedside every Thursday with a cup of tea and a cigarette.
It was easy to read but impossible to understand.
I am thinking I should be better at this by now,
two decades of life and I still can’t decipher the meaning of the words,
I love you.
All I know is that whenever they are spoken,
I hear them in your voice and I hate you
for being empty where my mind completed you.
If I saw you now I would hardly recognise you;
a product of imagining, a wine-fuelled fever,
a cigarette in one hand and the other hand writing a poem that ends with,
perhaps the only way to fall in love is with a concept.
I used to think I carried you around like a name in half-dried concrete,
the frown lines in my forehead and the bruises
that I kept on pinching to stop them from healing.
That was how I made sure you were with me when you weren’t.
Now I know that you are one of those things that is both so clear and so vague
that you can’t decide if it was a dream or a memory, half-made up.
I still can’t write about love without feeling nauseous,
but I guess what I am trying to say is that if it were up to me
I would hide inside the curve of your spine in winter
and there would be no reason why I should ever have to leave.
Instead I brave the cold with my coat buttoned up to my neck,
counting the cracks in the pavement from your house to the station.
If I could, I would cease to exist
until you imagine me.