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.

Fish Spells

This poem first appeared in ‘Book of Dreams’ (United Press)


These were the spells the children knew,

the ones they learnt in that place

where the sand sucks in the sea.


The heads bobbed up like seals

and drew closer, their large fish tails

of golden scales rippling,

their torsos greener than ours

and more beautiful.


They taught the little ones

to swim deeper than anyone else,

to make the fishermen’s nets

swell fat with fish,

to turn the tide to their advantage

and make sure no sea-storm

would ever harm their kin.


All this they taught the children

whose lungs filled up with salty gulps,

until they swum with webs of flesh

and gills between their ribs.