On hearing for the first time

‘It sounds very very high’

and she sobs for the joy of it,
for the reds and blues of it,
the shock, the hullabaloo,

the kerfuffle, the Sturm und Drang,
the sudden ice cream in a shake,
the sherbet firework burst.

‘It’s just amazing’ she cries
her face in her hands.
‘I’m going to say the months of the year’

and she hears them, shaking,
‘January February March’
April overwhelms her.

lt’s like never having seen a bird,
or the sea or the stars
never tasting an orange,

like living all your life in a cave
and coming out into the light,
the sun on your face.

Afterwards she walks by the Tyne,
daren’t go alone for fear
the birdsong, the traffic, the ship’s hooter

will be too much. They are not.
It’s like falling in love.

(Prizewinner in 2015 Hippocrates Prize for Poetry and Medicine)



I’d listened at the door; they were always there,
the daddy with the voice and the enormous chair,
the mummy with the pinny, stirring the vat;
banging his spoon, their spoilt wee brat.

The chance came soon; they were humouring
the kid, swinging him hand to hand,
There there, baby bear let’s leave our bowls,
walk in the forest till the porridge cools.

All the more for me; I walked in from the yard
climbed onto daddy’s chair – far too hard.
You know the score – hard, soft, right
hot, cold, fine; big, small, mine.

Point was I had the whole place to myself,
put telly on, took a bath, rearranged a shelf.
Then it was Who’s been sitting in our chairs,
helping themselves? Beds are for bears

and this one’s bust. Yeah, yeah, fair cop.
But they chased after me and didn’t stop
till jumping out the window was the only way;
and there’s me thinking they’d ask me to stay.

But I’ll be back, you mark my words;
bears living in houses! It’s just absurd;
bears eating porridge, bears wearing frocks –
next time they’re out I’m changing the locks.

(Shortlisted for the Manchester Writing for Children Award 2014 and published in the anthology, ‘Let in the Stars’, ed. Mandy Coe)

Eleanor Marx Translates Madame Bovary

London, 1884. She’s looking up Prussic acid
her mind half on that evening and her lover,
the one her father doesn’t trust.

Emma sends the maid out yet again
to Rodolphe’s house to enquire
if there’s any reply to her message.

Eleanor’s not sure whether club foot is right
and fears she’s made the husband
less than sympathetic.

Later, there’s a meeting of the Socialist League
and she’s looking forward to the paper
from that nice Dr. Aveling.

(First prizewinner, Torbay Poetry Competition, 2014)