So willingly ours

See the dawn’s
early light 
on slate-sky borrowed 
from a fractured night

Broader stripes
brighter stars
this perilous fight
so willingly ours

And the brave
came in throngs
and talked of rockets
and of silent bombs

In the pale
poisoned air
the breeze that concealed
our flag was still there

And the free
starved of breath
struck up the gallows
and clamoured for death   

Here we stand
tribute sworn
hate is a hunger
so furtively torn

such creatures most dangerous

…and paper cups double drumming the soundtrack. Girl turns away before I can; watches the streetcleaner zigzag. Slow for show in a red, hooded coat. £21 ain’t much these days. She says. My grandma she’d gotta work all week for the same. Weird, eh? Weird. Sighs the word with a brand-new skin. Weird how the world turns. She wants redemption but it’s just another tie to the straightjacket. And the streetcleaner goes on turning the liminal. Flushes out leprosy better..

…find somewhere quiet we can talk. I say. Makes no proper sense, but she smiles anyway, more than proper sense would get. Sure. She says. And moon is caught flicking scars and bars between us. What strange teeth you have. She says. Curves up, picks up, gathers up with the red, hooded coat. Dropping crumbs along the silent hedges. Even crumbs are good for something. She says. And I am ripped with a highwayman state of thinking. Stinking…

…she leans too close for my name. Heat on. I make something up, sinister to ease the mood. Blake, that’s nice. She says. Like the 7. She’s all old school sci-fi. I take the poet. Hey, Blake, you know how much I wish I could raise a flamethrower to this place. She says. Flicks tongue on lips and tells me that most the people are mean here. Spit on you soon as look at you. But not you, you have a sweet face, Blake. Uses the name like a doorstop. Won’t stop. Smiles with her mouth closed and I forget that there is anything but poison left in my mind. Take it…

…fake it in bee stings and car crashes. She moans and blood stumbles, heavy as wet sand. It ain’t all about the money, Blake. She says. And she don’t go, won’t go, wasting no more time looking for the right name on the rescue. She moans for it, scaffolded in crisp packets and paper cups. She moans for it. Please. She says. Please. And the red, hooded coat, and the wood and the wolf and the once upon a time. And the axe. And the silence. Answers. What strange teeth you have. All the better for the human traffic…

…lights keep on with the same old, tame old routine. I sit all glass and oak and miss the nicotine days. I’ve stayed too long to remember what it was like before the circus came to town. Before the snake oil gutters and sputters. We all got it tough. They say. Gotta make the best of it. They say. Hey. Ho. What do they know? What the hell do they know? I come here to sit among the humans. It’s not their company I want, it’s the damn familiarity of their existence. Their resistance…

…always leaves some bit of spit or blood under my nails. It’s not just about the hunger, Blake. I say. It’s the. Red for remembrance. Red for old time’s sake. Red for the amber, and the green, and the go. Makes me smile. Burly with it. Five points. I draw a star in pencil so I can rub it out and start again. These are the real stars; the ones in the sky are just balls of exploding gas…

The Ides of March

Death has a strange taste. I am heavy with it and every graveyard answers. For Rome. For Rome. Ah, such a dagger to drum on this day that you would smile and call me friend. I weep your demise into the sound of my breath. Returned and recycled with the eternal devil, I am cold. I am cold. Would that I could scour your belonging from my mind with the fading of this fearful night. Exile me. Hate me, when all I want is here. Here, I fall, here. I lie, here. I am. Here. And still, in all my piteous hope, I cannot hold back the day. I watch in salted ruin as the sun breaks crimson as any king. A feathered and fraudulent heart, and I bleed with the naivety of its restless pounding. Peace is not enough, sleep is not enough, death is not enough, for those who chase extinction. The assassin stirs. A brave and valiant soul they say, when truth is such a cunning dancer. As one man, we have talked of life and death as if it can be born so easily, carried on a single kiss perhaps? And yes, I believed them. Every sigh. Every word was persuasion to my vanity. I even thought I was the protagonist for a while. There was a Brutus once. But no matter, no matter. I am cold and everything burns. Everything. In the fall.  We have run aground, my friend. Not in our stars, but in ourselves, broken on the rocks of a thousand ambitions, and I am held against the wall. For friendship brings such silent chorus to this barbed horizon, and I wonder if I will still carry your name in the corners of my mind? Already I miss your silence more than your words. So the golden-haired sons have spoken, and for all this lament I still hold steady with the inking of my shadow. Beware the Ides of March; so it is that warnings have a way of keeping score, and it was never that I loved you less, but Rome that I loved more.

Eaten alive

I’ve been long absent and treacherously slack in my visits.  Work and study are so dastardly demanding. But hey, it’s a gloriously sunny day in the backwash that is February and The Perilous Reading Society has a rebrand pending.

During the meanwhile, and to stop the site rusting over, this is a re-post from 2016. Some stories don’t have happy endings. It’s not a metaphor for anything, I’m just a not happy ending sort of moody today.



Dark spells crawl simple into the world. A seed perhaps. A look. A word. To water. A laugh to sew and grow and come to mean that eating in a dream still counts as eating.

The door to the communal lounge is unkindly heavy and she’s caught running to keep up. Anger slip-sliding on grey vinyl, boxed and peroxide, ‘Why don’t you ever listen to me!’

‘Fine.’ Mum spins, colliding the space between them, ‘Go on then, I’m listening.’

‘I hate that you’re made to feel like the enemy.  I hate the atonement for failing.  I hate that only spoiled food feels good enough. For me. I hate all of it. But unfortunately, hating isn’t the same as not needing…’ The girl backs down, stands down, eases herself down to shipwreck in the unfamiliarity of their containment. ‘If you could hear what I hear inside my head you’d understand.’

‘Don’t be so dramatic, Carla.  Everyone has that stupid little, critical voice sounding off inside their head. You just grit your teeth and choose not to listen that’s all.’

That’s all. Spell bites harder into flesh, deeper into mind. She tries to stand straight with it but the dizziness that rolls tidal won’t shift much anymore, ‘When it’s roaring inside your head 24 hours a day? When you’re too tired to fight anymore? When it’s so much easier just to listen…’

Mum softens, ‘They say that we have two fighting wolves inside of us, one good and one bad, and the one that wins is the one we feed.’

‘Wolves?’ her voice, fingers to mouth in secret, ‘The voices, they never leave me alone, Mum. They tell me that I don’t deserve food, that I never do enough, that my body is repulsive, that I take up too much room, that I don’t deserve a life… they tell me that I should never have been born.’

Mum turns to look out of the window.  A long stretch of grass down to trees, ‘Minnie sends her love, and Alex.’

‘Great.’ The girl curls her fingers around her arm, checking how much they overlap.

‘You hurt them too you know, doing this, being here.  Alex is too scared to ask how you are, he doesn’t even want to come home anymore because he says you’re still there, reminding us of how we failed.’

‘People think it’s about control, being in charge of your own death.’

Mum goes perching on the words, ‘Everyone has difficult stuff going on in their lives, what would happen to the world if we all went starving ourselves to death?’

Day scours through slatted windows, chopping the light to bars. Carla shifting smaller in her space, ‘You know, I remember the day I was born. I remember what I was wearing, where I was, who I was with. And most of all I remember what I was eating.’ She smiles but there’s not sunshine there, ‘Just three words, Mum. That’s all it took. Three words to kill me and bring me back to life as another person.’

Mum has to ask the question with her eyes. Voice snuck to tight to cry.

‘This girl, I’d seen her around school but nothing like saying hello. And she comes and sits down next to me and says she likes my lunch box. Calls her friends over. She talks about my shoes, asks where I got them. I said you’d bought them for me. It felt like I’d done something wrong when she smirked, and turned to her friends and said my words back. But then she talked about herself and, Mum,  it was okay. It was nice. We ate and talked and it was nice. Then she stood up, and she said, See ya, fatty. See ya, fatty. Just like that. And they all laughed. I guess tear is spelled the same as tear for a reason? Because I never cried but I sure got cut up that day.’

‘She was just a cruel, pathetic bully, she was only trying to hurt you because she feels bad about…’

‘Spare me the armchair psych, I know what she was doing. I know what she was. But you wanna know what the real pathetic in all this is? If she came and asked to be my friend right now, I’d feel happy, lucky to be in her company. I don’t even get to hate her for what she did, I just get to hate myself. Pretty messed up, eh?’

The tilt of her. Fingers. Uncurling, begging, ‘Tell me what to do, Carla, please tell me what to do.’

‘I wish I could tell you, Mum,’ she says, ‘because ever since the day I was born, everything tastes of  poison, and I’m sick to death of eating it.’

Dark Spells come crawling out small and black as tar. Made from mean and come to mean and all the things in-between. And bit by bit they eat their victims from the inside out until there is nothing left of them but skin and bone.



image –



Found another skull today. Bleached containment; all teeth and jaw and separation. January is the most depressing month of the year, TV told me. Folds me. In its statistics and the desire for redress. Seems the only pathway through this month is booked on line. Dark when I leave. Dark when I return. Drinks machine been making all the right noises and keeping hold of the coffee. Haven’t had any caffeine since 6am. Haven’t seen the sun since New Year’s Day. Money pulling thinner than the gossamer tripwires made again and again by spiders with no flies left to entertain them. I put the skull high up on a stone wall, makes me feel better, somehow. December called shotgun on all the blood and fire, and hey, let’s be honest here, there’s nothing scarlet about fog, and rain, and snow too weak to make it past the Tarmac. The beautiful lie is over for another year. Another month. Chin up. Skull says. No matter how bad January comes creeping, at least you still got your head attached.


Skull image by


Things sound different at night

December come preaching the language of death. Once upon a time, nuclear war was a damn thing. Even had a government pamphlet on how to poop in a bin bag and live off bath water ’till the radiation killed you. I didn’t know much about loss when I was fourteen but I sure as hell figured out that death wasn’t the worst thing that could happen to you.

So back then there were weekends when I’d stand in the town square trying to reason with anyone who’d listen. Most times people were kind in December. Most other times they wouldn’t even look at me. Most other times if they could’ve raised a gun to my head, they would. Talking treason, they said. Most times. But December don’t care none about treason, November got all that covered in the scheme. December says, It sure as hell feels like a waste of time to me. I got enough trouble keeping the darkness from joining hands.

Most times December say, Shit, you bringing the same old blood on snow worship again? Fear been flicking a slide show through the what-next catalogue? And yeah, all these years down the line nuclear war is still a damn thing, ‘cept now we have scented bin bags and showers full of bottled water. Everything ready frayed at the edges. Too much slay in the sleigh. Too much snowman in the fallout. Christmas come early, if you get your mind to that way of thinking. December say, It’s all the same to a dead tree. Most times.


November skies

Remember. Caught holding the fuses while treason is canistered and staked; 36 barrels to the gallows. Seems the rust of October is gathered in at the corners. Trees and bones laid to rest. Three steps from winter and there are those who say we should sweep this naivety of frost away to the fires. Build a Guy to blame and flame. A parliament of gunpowder and indiscretions. Remember. Except you look at me, your eyes all blue like a November sky, telling me that you got this watch covered. Telling me for just one day, it’s okay. But you know me. Can’t sit in the cinema without being on the end of the row. Can’t look for a way in ’til I’ve found a way out. Most times when I’m sleeping I’m still running. Fingers curled around the handle. Figure even my grave will have a backdoor. November rings like a herald. The exits are HERE, HERE and HERE. Remember…


Guy Fawkes image: izquotes
Fuse image:

Famous Last Words

Never could trust October. Too many savours and flavours in the pot so it just tastes of salt. And the rain it don’t give no mind to what kind of rewind we find. Just as long as it can come to the vivisection party and bring a friend. Can hold its liquor with the best of them. Better than the rest of them. Running down the fault lines. Moaning. Groaning with the floorboards in all the old, familiar places. Fencing off the faces. And on days like this the damp of it comes leaching, preaching, making all the exits tight. Slam ‘um open. Slam ‘um shut. Damned if I can figure out which side the bars are supposed to be on. Autumn always did like to pick pride as a guide. Skeleton suits. Military boots. Now and then I’m pinned open. Guts like a white rat. White coat. Turn coat. Turn around. Stand down. In October the answers are easy; it’s the questions that’ll kill you. And the rain, hey it just don’t care who it pisses on. It just likes to piss. I didn’t draw my bedroom curtains today. My 87 year old neighbour phoned to see if I was still alive. I didn’t answer. It’s October.