I Love You Will U Marry Me

I dreamed I was afraid to walk between the tower blocks
that stand on the hill to the west of this city…

                                -Unthinkable, Frances Leviston

 

stare up at the footbridge Clare
and let your knackered ghost
breathe yes again

your voice is spent
but your hands say the names
of your children

and if you cup them to your lips
you’ll whisper yes yes yes
the slow performance-sigh of sex

say yes the way the grass
in Norfolk Park agrees to face
the sky                  yes like a coroner

or like a woman asked
to stand               identify cold skin
the shape of her own child

yes         a girl sixteen years ago
outside the Roxy cinema               alive
with Jason pointing somewhere

just below the clouds          say yes
to other people’s memories
Clare dancing in hotpants

Clare with a panther tattoo
claws     tearing her skin
then Clare flitting             Clare

flirting      Clare followed
all the way back home
say yes to love yelling its lungs off

love a dictator with a spray can
yes         to your lost name            
to Jason’s words              

becoming            neon art
and pillow-case insignias
a t-shirt worn by Alex Turner on TV

yes         to start up companies
and flats with cheerful doors
they’d never let you through

and yes to poems             busy
with ideas of somebody like you
all whippet ribs and blitz blonde hair

oh say yes like you mean it Clare
or fuck it              climb the face
of Park Hill           teeter on the bridge

and stand alone                like the first
astronaut            all Sheffield boxed
and lit in front of you

stand there invisible        no railings
no wall                  then take a breath   
shout yourself hoarse

no           it was not like that at all
step off and out until you’re airborne
free        your own witness

Helen Mort

Jealousy

anytime someone I am dating ever mentions someone they used to love
in a semi-nostalgic or non-cynical way
I immediately want to drive my car head-first into a swamp full of battery acid
ruining Christmas for everyone!!!
it’s so unreasonable
to be afraid of so many sad and distant women
who have escaped into the future
only occasionally looking back through naturally thick eyelashes 
when I think about the possibility
the person I’m currently with has ever been remotely romantically interested
in another person ever
I felt a great self-antagonism
for being the kind of woman who came afterwards
like a bad sequel with a higher budget
O I feel sorry for the people I love and where it is I am taking them
because I don’t think I’m good enough
I think it’s okay to admit the people you love are better than you
I wouldn’t date anyone who wasn’t
imagine dating someone worse than yourself on purpose
that’s the kind of fucked up thing only everyone I’ve ever loved would do

Hera Lindsay Bird

Hera will read at Theatre Deli on 17 May with Natalie Burdett, John Fenelly and Keith Hutson.


Thank You For Driving Carefully Through Hope

Jarvis Cocker is going on about sex and disappointment
whispering Hackenthorpe through the disappointing
plastic car speakers as if he were breathing French perfume
down my neck. You told me I couldn’t go on living life
as if I were a Jarvis Cocker lyric but the first time
we slept together you hit me - you didn’t ask
because you knew I wanted it so in a way
weren’t you contributing to the problem?
The shock absorbers are drinking in the road
and it turns out being let down wasn’t just a ’90s thing.
Unfortunately we couldn’t find space for you in this issue.
So please can I ask just why we’re alive
cos all that you do seems such a waste of time
cos all that you do seems such a waste of time.

Genevieve Carver


One for the Road

How long since we parted swaying in the night,
refreshed from standing at each bar, chills warmed
by the convivial fug. Rubbing hands
at the gleaming sweep of brass pumps showcasing
guest ales. But where do we begin? The Glory’s
boarded up. The Old House at Home trendy flats.
The Jester’s now a funeral parlour.
So, we bus past The Bull: ‘Séance tonight.’
Past pubs waiting saviours, signs that promise:
‘Great opportunities! Be your own boss,’
to long-sought welcoming lights. The White Lion
still roars (though it’s an age past early doors). Casks
flowing, where something more than this night remains.

Last orders? One for the road, and back again.

Peter Burrows

The Long Grass

Shaun knew lots of things about lots of people and he knew lots of people who knew lots of things about him, which is why he never hung around in one place for too long.
But there were other reasons why he liked to keep moving on. He didn’t fit in and people generally didn’t listen to his concerns. They took one look at him and thought they could push him around, because he was small and tired looking, but if these people looked a little harder they would see that he was tired of them - 'them' being everyone he met, because no one lived like him.
A quiet, undisturbed existence. At least that is what he strived for, but quite often he was disturbed or interrupted. Usually it was the little things that got to him. Take, for instance, the length of the grass on the lawn in front of his flat, something that his landlady Christine did nothing about. No matter how many times he complained, nothing happened and now it was knee high and full of dog shit and dirty needles and old pot noodles. People just threw rubbish in there because it looked like no cared about it, which was almost true, except he cared and if he could afford a lawnmower he would do it himself.  He was quite capable. But he could barely afford to eat, even though he worked long hours in a warehouse, which in turn made him feel more miserable, because by the time he had paid his rent, there was hardly anything left.

He wanted a cat, but was scared it might starve. He wanted a radio, but he was scared he would hear of things that he knew he couldn’t afford, like chocolate and holidays. But he had to stick it out. He just had to put up with it, put up with the people walking past his window, staring right into his living room as if he was sat in a museum. He just had to put up with it. The one-by-one failure of the lightbulbs in the flat. The toaster that only toasted one side of his bread. He also had to put up with the water pressure being terribly low. It was painful to fill a kettle and a shower was out of the question. It would be like someone spitting at you, and he didn’t want that. It was as if the water didn’t want to enter his flat.
It was the same with junk mail. Most people have too much and don’t want it, but he would have quite liked some junk mail, with all those special offers and stuff, but all the junk mailers seemed to think it was a waste of time.

And then there was the banging from the upstairs flat. He had told Christine about it and she said that she would have a word with the man upstairs, but the man upstairs - who worked for the Post Office, walked several miles a day and was usually exhausted and in bed by quarter past nine - was adamant that it wasn’t him who was doing the banging. There wasn’t even a crash or a wallop. No resolution of that kind. Just bang, bang, bang! It came night after night. It was relentless. The man upstairs said it was probably the gate, which if it wasn’t latched would bang away merrily in the night. But it wasn’t the gate. He didn’t know what it was, but it kept him awake. His work was beginning to suffer. He was forgetting to go, when he did remember to go he was forgetting where it was, and even when he remembered both of those things, he sometimes couldn’t remember what he was supposed to be doing there. Several warnings and now he was on his last one. Any more of that funny business and he was out.

Even though he had invited the landlady Christine several times to spend an hour in his flat and listen to the banging, she had refused. He had written to the Council and they had told him to record it, but he had no means of recording sound. He could feel himself slipping under the waterline of health. His eyes stung and his skin felt thin and sensitive. His nerves felt shot. Last week on the bus home from work, he wet himself. Pissed his pants on the 86 via Hillsbrough. Most nights he just crouched in the corner of his room, under a sheet, ear buds stuffed into his ears, yet still he heard the banging. And more than that, he heard the man upstairs using his microwave, flushing the toilet, walking from room to room. He had become so obsessed by the noise that his ears were tuning in to the slightest creak. Spoons being put away in the kitchen drawer. The scrape of a chair on the floor. Heavy, ominous sounds. But who was doing the banging? For now, he knew it wasn’t the man upstairs, as yesterday he’d moved out.

It was the middle of the afternoon and the man from upstairs was stood on the pavement in a smart overcoat, wearing a trilby hat, a large suitcase by his side that oddly he kept patting, like a rectangular dog. He was waiting for something and then it came. A taxi. He put the suitcase in the boot and then he got in the car and the car drove away.

Shaun stood there at the window, watched a twenty-something man glide past on his mobility scooter, tossing a half-smoked fag into the long grass of the lawn. And then the banging from upstairs started again. It seemed louder than ever. It seemed louder now - now that he knew there was no one upstairs.

Steve Scott