This book smells
of old incence dust
and pages of old books
in which I ensconced myself
in the school lending library
and here I am still
lent out for a period
of a few weeks
of escapism
hush your skepticism
leave me clutched
in the bindings
of unberinged fingers
and did I ask for your input?
Perhaps I wanted nothing but...
For someone like you 
to dip their quill
in my unctuous ink
and write a few chapters
of my story 
for me.

And now I'm here again
writing in the cemetery.
Me, a less permanent
testiment to the times
you were in my life
now you've absconded
from everywhere but my mind
to more scorching blue skies
while Etna blesses you
with the earth's 
sweet confetti dust.
Your body's scent
was of every acute
aldehyde in your perfume
into which I was subsumed
of soap and laundry
musk of sweat and skin
of something alive
in that olfactory story.
And now what remains but
to take that scent memory
clear a space for it
on the shelf in my mind
glass vial containing
an essence of time
let's call this 
olfactory delight
summer romance
twenty twenty one, july.


Let me compare thee to a spider
spinning seductive threads
to ensnare those
whose wings are torn 
by the
ravages of cruel deeds 
and the weariness of life.
And you will promise
to teach them
once more how to fly.

You will be the master
they will be in awe of how you
spin your yarns
bolder, brighter, dangerous
like that experiment when they
gave the spiders acid
and marvelled at the patterns.

And you
sometimes big, sometimes small
sometimes barely there at all
will loom large
like a distended shadow on a wall
of the mind
of those you seek to bind 
and entwine.
Actor, jester, chef and lover
thou canst even feign briefly
the tender voice of mother.

But how can you be truly
the sincere confidante
of the two or more 
of your beautiful amantes
both you claim to love the best?
And when you play the role
of tortured, beautiful, poetic soul
wrapped in your words
a liar's shroud of finest gauze
the foundations of your feelings
is the house at the back
with hollow walls.

The spider, vampiric
needs not a hall of mirrors
a more complicated narcissus
feeds from the sincere emotion
of his chéries
his dears
those suckers
don't they see he holds them
in contempt
the more they love him?
They're food for his ego
not a person, not at woman
he'll suck them dry
as the spider feeding on a fly.


He can't promise to be mine
though I dream of waking
there's beautiful sincerity
in his curious
intellectual levity
though he's trapped
in a celluline cube
stark lights
surrounded by flat-pack
student life
chained to his desk
at such heights
beholding never-completed
building site
prisoner of the mind.

and in the rosy dawn
I woke
and failed to proffer him coffee
lovingly warmed in the steel
black granules clinging there
in the wrong compartment
like the sun
failing to detach itself
from grey
chewing gum clouds.

And maybe we cannot bring each other's
dreams to life
my fantasy of being his 
sicilia wife
is the steam rising
from my cup
and never solid enough
to take in my hand.
But it's a true touch
the pressing of his hand in mine
something I can
grasp through time
and when he says
in the morning
it's the yellow yoke of
the sun
cracking into my sky
it's the light 
reflected in
this man's eyes.
Flash by Ilona Zabolotna.


Tiredness and confusion
head sore in the sun
wandering along narrow,
mediterranean-yellow streets
of my mind.
At the dead end
It's myself
I find
staring back.
But then a movement
reflected in a
courtyard fountain
and her voice echoes back.
A hundred miles away
on snowy mountain
an avalanche crunches
her rose-blood hair
and medusa's eyes
lined in kohl
she's my sister at my side
her whom I once did 
She pours out a cup
of sweet grapes
and I sleep.
I dream I'm distraught
She comes behind me 
embraces me
in her arms
and it's like the earliest 
imgained memory
of being held
as a child.
All the tears have been
flooding the well
down which she's trapped
bailing out tears
in a cup woven of 
her own anxiety and fear
In a creative symbiosis
we grow this
healing friendship
we learn through osmosis
and slowly they open
soft petals of lotus.

Reservoir of delusions

Feeling life within my limbs
in cool water
streaming and flowing
placid, still, black or dramatic
reflecting the sky
like a switched-off phone's screen
what's beneath stays unseen.
Can such pure coolness 
wash me clean
of memories
of his warm body giving me
human heat and embracing
me in sweet delusions.
Why can I no longer have the
comfort of faith?

Let him go, he's already
cast himself away
like skipping stones
on this indifferent body
of water
He watched Nobody sink
disappear beneath the surface
I watched dreams disappear
Vivid fantasy rippled asunder
no more romance and wonder,
the surface cracks
there's nothing but black.
But I'm still alive,
maybe the whole time
it was just my shadow
by my side.


Orange blossom aroma
recalls toulousan train
sliding through olive valley
suspended dreaming
sliding hands under and over
lavendar insence
stealing over our skin
attraction that makes no sense. 

I find you
bookmarked between the pages 
of forgotten novels.
Won't you read between my lines?
Can we translate your world to mine?
Reach across the divide
without pretense or tricks of the eye
failing that,
spark my senses to burning alive?

You're an electrical tempest
destined to whirl and destroy.
Get out while you can, you say
my eyes burn; I won't look away.
And in brute force collision
new forms come to be.

But in the eye of that storm
there's a most silent place
from where everything else
whirled and unfurled
a vulvic pulsar
at the beginning of time
and there, in the orgasmic quiet
there's only you and I.
And the black space between us
is the sensual obsidian fur
of our kitten child.

Like Félicette stretching
the first cat to leave the earth's bounds
velvet paws that will nevermore
land on the ground
peace is the belly of a purring cat
she purrs with no hope or desire
beneath the indifferent stars.
Must we really
live and die alone?
Can we find one thing that's ours?

Nineties babes

Even men I respect say,
that you can't say anything these days.
Gone are the times of flirty eyes
at the bus stop or across the bar
in this age of "me too".

And I did think I enjoyed
at the time
old men giving my fifteen-year-old
the eye.
But some of that culture
is ready to be crucified
and to die.

Remember that age of pre-"me too"?
when the most common porn search term
on your dial-up internet
was "teen"
and that schoolgirl photo
would take a titillatingly long time to load?

It was that time before
we were shamed if we did and shamed if we didn't
what a time to navigate budding sexuality
where expressing your own desires
was called depravity.
We grew up from polly-pocket princesses
in those my little pony years
nineties girls with scrunchie hair ties
at ten we wanted to be Britney Spears.

Don't give away too much 
innocence was so cherry pie sweet
like Leeloo in The Fifth Element
the perfect dumb sexy babe
re-born half naked
full of all the world's power.

It seems cute.
But then I recall
visceral nostalgia
that hum of the Acorn computers in the IT room
with that pervy teacher
the smell from the Home-Ec corridor
permeating thoughts.
How that loud girl
the one who later was excluded
for her lewdness
retelling how she lost her virginity
with shameless equanimity
to some much older guy.
There was a rate load of blood
she said
with yorkshire aplomb
so he stuck her in't bath
so she wouldn't stain the carpet
Leeloo wouldn't do that
such a vulgar screw
No one rang social services
That was how it was before "me too".

I still think of Britney
as the epitome of those days
queen of the nineties babes
but she was a girl interrupted
coming of age
under all those constraints
be innocent 
be sexual
submit to the gaze.
Her eyes now on her Instagram
tell of loss, tell of 
silence enforced.
Still her father has the right
to set her parameters
on what she can say 
and who she can be.
Let us nineties babes
own our own destinies
Let Britney be free.

Man Problem

I'm hearing recently
from indignant men
that it's not a question at all
of perverted masculinity.
the gaslighting giant
stomping over the chalk-outline sketch
of our map of shared experience
Watch him,
pour scorn on this flickering candle 
of feminine unity,
but it refuses to be extinguished
there's no killing
sorority, solidarity
like you can kill the female body.

It's a question of bad human beings,
he says.
Individual people.
Leave men out of it,
you sexists,
he says.

But I recall,
it wasn't a woman
whose footsteps followed me home from the club
the sweat rising from my body
exultant after a night of dancing
celebrating youth and sensuality
under the stars.
How dare I?
Feel myself sexy, for me?
He had to remind me how weak I should be.
It wasn't a woman,
who pushed me into that doorway
and octopus arms, 
hairy arms,
gorilla arms,
that wanted to show me how subservient I should be-
no, unfair to compare
to those creatures who did me no harm
It wasn't a woman's arms
It was man's arms
It was a man's strength 
that held me in place
to punish me for daring
to exist for myself
for not doing as expected
for his feeling rejected.

And of course you're not all to blame,
for when I was waiting for a midnight
underground train.
you're not all the guy who came up behind me,
reached up my skirt 
while showing me his dick
like a proud toddler
with a new magic trick.
I guess it was kind of funny,
I tried to tell myself.
But why then,
did I cry in bed for hours
like he'd taken all of my power
And left me with shame?
I wanted to rid myself of my body
which other people,
none of them women,
had been trying to help themselves to
since I was a child.

So we've been adding these feelings
to a tapestry of experience
women weaving these words that 
the dead can no longer say,
a tapestry of testimony
is a heavy shroud
to wear every day
we know it happened to her,
and it could happen to us.
but they say,
and the conviction rates show,
that it's not a big deal
and what we should consider 
is how this makes
men feel.


There's something triumphal
In penetrating forbidden space
Breaching the spiked metal barrier
Urban warrior
In this world where nothing comes free
One day some rich man will try to
sell us back the air we breathe
But just for today feel free.

The balmy, calming
first spring's breath
on the summit of this
old quarry cliff
my feet carelessly dangle
I feel myself entangle
with every rooftop the sunlight
touches below.

Desire as fire.

In this city's ancient graveyard:
"He died with the full assurance of hope"
Hope, so tentative, like
the moment the setting sun
lights raindrops up gold
what a fragile whimsy
to be etched with such
stony and grave permanence
how can one be so sure?

I know I am nothing but the
surface area
the oberfläche
of my skin
most sensitive and forgotten
of the organs
trembling, it takes in 
the nuanced tones of the breeze
the whispers of distance
between things
keeping out
the whole world.

And yet skin,
it's a barrier 
in more ways than one
You remember:
soft legs in short shorts
in Parisian sun.
He's there, I'm here
nothing to fear.
Yet the burning persistence
of lustful desire
the space you create
the shapes you create
combinations of endless legs that
angles which triangulate desire.
You remember:
how he followed you off the metro
Desired to beg, to buy, to steal
entry to your innerfläche
if that is indeed a word.

Then I'm nothing,
those eyes don't see me.
Every cell becomes deconstructed
and reconstructed as fantasy.
But isn't that the shape of desire?
Fluid and slipping through fingers
It goes au delà des choses
Like delicate fingers
stretching to caress piano keys.

This hybrid language
is how words fall to me in spring rain
but they say I'm a child of this northern town
yet I've never felt the breath 
within the belly of this earth
or metal bending to my whim
This city shapes me 
damp seeps into my hips
bending my hope
flattening it beneath its anvil.

And this love I crave.
Can it not negate or corrupt
my inner temple sanctum?
Can it be women as goddesses
chanting a mantra?
Can it be something heated to 
that I pour to fill up 
the surface area of 
my inner world
Can we use the alchemy of our bodies 
to create fire
without burning me up?
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