Them dogs won’t touch us three.
On Pendle Hill, no wind can whip us,
no brack of clouds from Chorley pall us.
Look. Dogs here are bogbounce happy,
kiddies snuffing balls and whatnot near Malkin,
families tripping from the corrugated towns.
They skirl around me, my own dog Whistler:
springer spaniels, border collies,
Sunday walkers flush-cheeked fed.
Proud marchers in their slimy wellies,
clodding soft black puddings underfoot.
We’re all white sons, Joe, my white son.
But they’re checking out my army kecks,
peering at the tail prickling stiff
and scared between Whistler’s legs –
a chastise stick pointing at me, malefick, like
it’s my fault I smack them. But both muck around.
I’ll bat painted witches when they shrink from my hands.
I’ll rag Joe’s mum till her mess washes off in Bowland drizzle.
These valleys, the shutdown towns: Nelson, Bacup,
their streetlights slag us slant like toothless whores.
Those dark moors wither when we’re near,
their split mills fallen now warp foreign
blackamoors in Burnley, Blackburn, Padiham.
I’ll flick them all: cotton grass under my thumb,
their spirits sporing across the Pennines
floating to a halt at my dog’s mangy jaws.
(first published in Poetry London, Summer 2014)
An unborn child wonders if it’s worth it
They say the seas catfight by night,
that rabbling gales scorch huddled girls?
Well, toffee, Haiti howls, that’s right.
Lizards and ladies stoned in deserts,
rows of heads popped by rocks in red little shocks?
Oh, poppet, the tongue that cocks will cop it.
And grannies and mice are vial mummies in cold countries,
mummies in others suck gun through their gums?
The choice, Lucy Locket, is yours to grace this earth.
Liver, cornea, lymph rotted from rust in water,
babies burping the expiration of suicide daddies?
Every little helps through WaterAid monthly, kiddo.
But the tremor of stars stirs furious lovers together?
Yes. Points and counterpoints horrify me.
And the migratory Brahminy kites swoon at Lake Chilika?
Pumpkin, most folk are wanting to flee.
Maybe I’ll whistle to see who picks up my tune?
Weigh it up, petal, maybe we’ll see you soon.
(first published in Magma, Issue 50, 2011)
A concise Chinese–English dictionary
for stealing love
(after Xiaolu Guo)
You, I, feel love messy thing,
so green and red like Tiananmen Square that
only think I can do is make you want my silken
hair. We have cross culture misstanding. I not know
how or why you dip biscuit in tea or
get sometimes narkey? with me.
You tease my head and
It slurp like bed and
Plant crocus in hidey-hole
Milk jets fall in hand by wall
I outsider, alienate, I make hard words and eat your cake.
My language really should be better
than immigrant rosy kiss garden, que?
I take your friend, boy, lotus spring.
We have cross culture Miss, standing.
From here I see your hope
I must take because I lonely thing.
(Winner of the Wasafiri Prize for New Writing 2013)