Poem: ‘Housekeeper’


‘This poem first appeared in Poetry Ireland Review (ed. Vona Groarke), December 2016.

Issue 120










I put eyes and tongues into every
dumb object I encounter, finding
smiles in fire-grates, laughter
tinkling in the servants’ bell.

I console the long silver spoon
as I polish her and all her daughters.
I stroke the cheeks of dusty clocks,
wipe sweat from leaky windows.

As I scrape up luncheon crumbs
he grumbles again: his women left him
out of spite. Tears mottle skin as dry
as moths entombed in wardrobes.

My cuckoo master laid his eggs
in umpteen nests: wife,
stepdaughter, chambermaid;
but never prune-fleshed me.

I used to hear his grunts then watch
them scuttle from his room. Now
I cannot shake the cat-in-the-wall
ache bricked-up in my chest.

I have stayed here too long.
I am as dried out and stuck
as rice abandoned in a pot.
I’ll never leave.


Poem: ‘The In Pin’


This poem first appeared in Scotia Extremis (ed. Andy Jackson and Brian Johnstone) 07/11/16


You brand me Very Difficult, as if I’m here
to challenge men who fritter days in stuffy

office blocks, evenings in provincial sheds
Sundays crawling up the backs of gods.

You peruse my Munro kin like bridies
on a buffet tray, but I’m the tricky bugger.

I make you strain with ropes. I don’t flinch
at your pitons. Gobs gape at my drop,

arseholes pucker tight as drawstring hoods.
I can’t be Bagged like a tin of shortie

or a bottle of scotch. I’ve felt the shifting
of tectonic plates, cracked and shuddered

through glacial drift. I’ve watched clans clash
like stags, flags indecipherable with blood.

Rain will rust your bolts, their fine red dust
tossed by the wind like ashes. You may fancy

your eroding steps superior to any other
Tommy Tourist’s, but watch your back.

I’m born of lava: my jutting jaw a blade’s edge,
my basalt skull treacherous when wet.

Poem: Matryoshka


from Arthur's Seat (451x640)

This poem first appeared in The University of Edinburgh’s From Arthur’s Seat, published by Egg Box Publishing 18/04/16.


I was red hot once, in my sarafan, with my six
pretty girls beside me. We had nothing to hide.
Our lacquered simpers graced the mantelpiece;
our bellies round with pride. Then hands split
us open, our wooden waists howling, crammed
my bean of a babe into her big sister, and she
into hers, and she into hers, and she into hers.

They made an onion of us, and we had to
eat each other’s secrets. We’d grown old.
The vintage of our curls and beauty spots,
flushed cheeks and bitten lips, had bred
contempt. We little ladies had taken up
too much space, for much too long.

My body solid with devoured kin,
they placed me in a modest place to
squat beneath a lampshade, vie for
prominence with porcelain tat, the
vacant milk-skinned shepherdess.

Now I cannot move for the heft
of my girls. I retch when they
wriggle within me. My glaze
has cracked, my paint flakes.

My lashes fall. My cheeks
blanch. The flowers of
my sarafan are fading.

My rosy smile has
shrunk to a bitter

black dot.

Poem: Photo Booth (Hamlet Cigars Advert, 1987)


This poem first appeared in Double Bill (Red Squirrel Press), 2014.


Behold the baldy man’s conceit, the way he flourishes his comb,
daintily coaxing the last, lank tendrils across his boiled-egg pate.
Watch how he flaunts his Scottish teeth, eyebrows arching coyly
as the seconds stretch. We know what surely happens next.
Just when he stoops that streaky heid FLASH goes the humbling camera.
Just when that simper slips FLASH goes the shaming lens.
Look how it chastens him even as the stool descends. But then:
the rasp of a match, a nimbus of smoke, an emanation of Bach
as if from paradise. See, it’s the wee things that help restore our pride,
and it’s us posers who parade the frailest hide.





This poem first appeared in Appletree Writers’ In On The Tide


All profits go to the Royal National Lifeboat Institution

It can be bought here: http://appletreewriters.co.uk/shop/books/in-on-the-tide/



In the night North Sea

we catch treats for beauties asleep

under flash Orion’s Belt

and Mars fuming red.


In the great mother’s paddle-pool

we net her fish, as we’re tugged and torn

between anchoring homes

and breath-pinching horizons.


Some of our tales are even true.

Here at the end of the world

there are mergirls drunk on rocks

and ship-hungry beasts.


Then there are the dry-land lovelies

snoozing in upper rooms, their tousled hair

tumbling over eiderdowns,

warm limbs and parted lips.


But we mustn’t look homewards

all the time, it’s pure backspeirin.

All we’ll catch is spray in our eyes.

Whether we’re wrapped


in soft-shawled arms or rocked

in this vast bobbing cradle,

the great mother soothing us

with the hushabye of her waves,


we mustn’t look homewards.

All we’ll catch is salt-crusted lashes

and glances black with omens.




This poem was first published in ‘The Inkwell’ Issue VI, The University of Edinburgh’s creative writing magazine (Ed. Vickie Madden)




Drunk and in the dark she slips.

She is numb but she knows

that something has gone wrong

near the base of her back.


You’ve fractured an inoperable bone,

says the nurse.  There’s no plaster cast

for this one – you’ll have to wait it out.


A month had passed since the festival.

They had sat, chin to knee,

on the dirty floor of some humid tent,

beer cups crushed beneath them,

her whole world collapsing outside.


Days passed in desperation.

Curled on the carpet, no location left

untouched by memories.

Dreams infiltrated, words cruel as bullets

lodged too deep to retract.


And now there is another fracture,

one more invisible break within her body.

A gulf quite near the start of her spine,

a hairline smarting at the end.


Not one bruise between them.




This poem first appeared in New Writing Dundee 6 (Ed. Karen Graham)


When I was a little savage,

the heather biting my calves

and my shins raw as meat,

I was myself.


When I became a lady

I bore marriage, babies,

breaking my own heart out of spite,

throwing myself into thunder claps

until my lungs packed up

and the house devoured me.


The woodworms munched my bones

clean, my tiny spirit hands

grasping at cracked glass,

wanting to get in where I

had always wanted to get out.


I wander, sleepless, in a daze,

calling his name, searching for

his broken teeth in the dark

as the moths gather round me.


There are other girls here too,

girls in many different dresses,

breasts swollen with milk,

bands heavy on their fingers.


We were all somebody’s daughter once,

and we were all terribly,

terribly civilized.