The Anatomical Venus

Thou Shalt Not Suffer a Sorceress to Live
Exodus 7:11

For her neighbour’s sickness
was more than merely unnatural;
for he sang perfectly without moving his lips.

For she is intemperate in her desires
and pilfers apples from the orchard;
for she hitches her skirts to clamber the fence.

For her womb is a wandering beast;
for she is husbandless, and at candle time
brazenly trades with the Devil.

For she spoke razors to her brother;
who has looked upon her witches pap
and the odious suckling imp.

For the corn is foul teeth.
For the horse is bedlam in its stable.

For the black cow and the white cow are dead.

Hellish Nell

Open my ears, that I may hear
        Voices of truth Thou sendest clear;
And while the wave notes fall on my ear,
        Everything false will disappear.

Spiritualist hymn: Open My Eyes, That I May See, Clara H. Scott, 1895

They plead with me to birth their dead for them –
what mother could refuse a sister-mother?
So I allow their soldier-boys to use my voice
to shape their cheery valedictions.
But the mothers, they want to see their angel-boys;
to touch their faces one last crowning time.

I must get theatrical, says my spirit guide;
then comes cheesecloth eggwhite ectoplasm
leaking from my breasts; the labour stabs;
the delivering of a shroud into the world.
And their mouths agape like greedy fish,
Is that him? my baby? oh yes they gulp it down!

In quiet times, without all eyes on me
I am forced to reconsider what is spirit;
what is nature; I am unsteady with it all.
And so I make a meal of carpet tacks
to weigh me to the floor. I deserve this pain,
for sullying the gift bestowed on me by God.

Now dim the lights if you really want a show;
see the candles burning vacancies into my meat.
Does my brashness disturb you?
You would prefer me fey?
Stand back! I might regurgitate all hell
into your choking auditorium!

Waiting for Bluebeard

The Family at Night

We were rag-dolls after school

and passed long winter evenings like this:

father in his armchair with an unlit pipe,

mother in the kitchen pretending to eat,

We saw little with our button eyes

and spoke even less with our stitched up mouths.

We played at playing till it was time for bed

when mother sewed our eyelids down

We always woke as our human selves

to find the downstairs rooms had altered too.

A chair unstuffed,  a table’s legs all wrong,

and, that one time, kittens gone from their basket;

the mother’s bone-hollow meow.

What the House Said

When the sky feeds me birds,

I cough them up

When you examine them

you’ll see even the most vivid

I do not have to pretend to like you,

we have signed no contract

The house settled back

into its graveyard of fishes and cats

and began to pick bones from its teeth.

My Grandmother and Mrs Crow

While she was dying

her dead friend

stayed with her all night.

She wore a frayed hospital gown,

She was telling her

how things are there;

how televisions don’t exist;

how you can get a decent cup of tea,

Being there, was in fact

a lot like the old days,

except she hadn’t seen

her husband,

By morning, Mrs Crow

had almost gone;

just a halo of silver hair remained,

and her geese were in flight

in a string of noisy beads across the sky.

Another 3am Call

Every night, my grandmother

rehearses her journey

into the otherworld

as her womenfolk stand by,

The air is electricity

and it’s easy to imagine

my grandmother’s travels

and how superfluous

We dress her in her wedding gown,

her auburn hair with violets.

On the walk home

night fits around us

like a freshly torn coat.

What the Bed Said

White quilt, smotherer


I have carried fish-babies

right here in my belly,

I have held a woman

in my breath

Yet how can I speak

when my tongue is cushioned

by your mother-love?

The Breakfast Machine

The Breakfast Machine

Behind a wood sliding door

the whistling and grinding

of a great machine

brings us slowly, inexorably

Even the keenest eyes

of the imagination,

will not inform you

what kind of alchemy

The chicken is the thing

that troubles me most,

as she crosses the kitchen

on squeaky tin legs

cocks her head to one side,

takes in the room

with the bead of an eye

shrieks out with a voice

Scrambled, poached, boiled,

scrambled, poached, boiled.

Office Block

The palace of windows is burning tonight

Firemen scale the impossible walls

The staircase that curls like a shell

as if this were the flaming stairway

To the very hell that turns glass

and swept again, and still again

forever through windy corridors.

Staircase Game

At the bottom, a man plays dice

Soon, he will eat his shoelaces;

At the top, after a long night of waiting,

to the sound of trumpets

A glass of honey sits untouched

Its sweetness is all

you’ll be asked to remember.

In That House

Every floorboard is a tip-off,

every door a squealer,

The people that live there

have sewn buttons to their lips

Only the cellar

holds silence like an egg