Wars start with words
Self-important chums
Foresight shortened
By bridges burned

Controllers long to be
Stroked by boys only
Club restricts entrance
Without a phallic trick

Wars start words
Each bruise felt by
A well drilled machine
Or terrified teen

Both too scared to defy
Orders from above
Hearts condensed
Into blood red milk

A death only felt
As a sharp intake of breath
Respawn, false player
We need someone to be killed.

Wars start with words
Sabre teeth rattle
In glass cased
Clinks of victory sips

It’s easier to say
What you think
When the flightless bird
Accepts its extinct

Wars end with words
False hope of new boys
In tailored suits
Promising to fix

The lessons of the past
Tarmacked mass graves
Infusing the taps
For an amnesiac’s sense

So we never forget
But forget to remember
Trauma on the tip
Of a tab under the tongue

When street litter limbs
Lined the roads
Marking the edge
Of the known world



I fell down today
Just a quick slip
Discs rotating off-kilter
Bent wrists halt
The southern excursion
Breath caught by
Concrete man
Floor wobbles
Like jellied physics
Large ladies warble
Ready to sing an
Operatic version
Of Julien Baker
Drink gasoline
It’s all we need
To keep the furnace
Roaring with heat
Hot discs rotate
Spring back into
Life, in the end
The burning smell
Asphyxiates the cells
Coughing for oxygen
They spread out of
Body, into an armchair
Pools of black liquid
Bubbling with relief



Carbon monoxide
Infiltrates lungs long before
The over-cooked smell of
Flesh wafts across the borough
Air fresheners only masking
The inside of every two-storey house
With affordable fragrant air
Cooling down from the heat
Under high Victorian ceilings
Jasmine pleasantly bursts
To detoxify olfactory passages
Clothes circle round and round
Still trying to wash away the scent
But the tiny weavers stick
Agonising as they stitch
The dead into the cotton



Waiting for the right
Girl to inject the ink
Drink deeply from
The well of ignorance
Setting fire to rule
Books that explicitly
Forbid arsonists
Passionate hearts
Unsteady feet
Thrilled to see
Flesh, imperfect
As my own
I get emotional
When dressing
In gowns, not
Designed by hand
Proud parents
Wave us off
Cursing us
Under their breath



I wasn’t there when the fire started. I didn’t feel the waves of burning matter on my skin. I didn’t watch the clutter disperse into smaller pieces, or see walls blackened by the process.

I received a calm phone call the morning after, one that left me several hundred pounds out of pocket. After rushing for a fast train, I was there, breathing in the fumes. It didn’t destroy everything, boxes of old junk survived untouched, memories written in pencil and ink. Memories I no longer recall, their importance no longer affecting decisions I make. I set fire to them all.

It was the first time in years I’d felt tears running down my cheeks, somewhat involuntarily. I buried a lot of the past under floorboards and in loft space, building over it until I had to bend my neck to walk through the house. It’s not that I missed my possessions and notes to myself, but watching words crumple into nothing is to mourn years of love and laughter and joy and sadness. It is as if hoarding those memories kept them alive, and actively throwing them onto the woodpile was killing them. Did I still want to read my 9th birthday card from a grandparent who’d been dead for 25 years? Or was the memory of knowing it had existed, at one time, enough to remember someone I barely knew?

A few days after my visit, I received a second phone call. The end of a cigarette rolling underneath the garage door and catching a disused mattress was the likely cause. A bit of luck that took a flick of someone’s wrist, a favourable breeze and the slight descent of the narrow driveway. It wasn’t a supernatural act, or the deliberate intent of an arsonist, but accidental damage. I felt conflicted, a character who should be liberated by the destruction, but instead flaps at the flaming pile of junk in a desperate attempt to rescue a memory. A memory I never cherished, a memory rewritten by time, a memory starved of oxygen.