Befriending the crows
for Theresa May

She wanted to understand something of herself but she didn’t
have the answers, so she tried to befriend the crows. She liked
the way their feathers absorb the sun, the way they radiate energy.
She was friendless and needed company, even the corvid kind.
She’d read a long time ago that they could be coaxed with gifts.

She started with the mouse she found dead at the foot of the stairs,
then tried fat balls made from vegetable suet and the seeds of flowers
she’d meant to plant in the spring. When fortune cookies with secret
messages she was sure they were smart enough to decipher failed,
she tried to coax them with a replica measure from the Jewel Tower

and an iron roof plate that fell into the Thames from the Elizabeth Tower.
She tried a confusion of biddable politicians, miniaturised to pocket size,
and a brushful of her hair woven into love tokens. She would have offered up
the secret to life, the universe and everything, if she’d known it,
but suspected the crows already did and were keeping it to themselves.

She hoped the crows would be curious but worried that they would
worry about the sanity of her mind instead. Then when they came, or even
if they didn’t, she’d tell them the things that were troubling her,
that this journey isn’t worth the shoe leather, and where she’s heading
feels like hell.

first published in Handling Stolen Goods (Peepal Tree Press) 2019

Ruby, Aged 4½

She’s a roulette wheel loaded against you
A sure-fire bet when you don’t have the stake
A gun in the hands of a man with a grudge
Like a smudge of silver leaf on a blacksmith’s neck

She’s a giggle that turns into a manic episode
An intermittent broadband connection
A delivery between nine in the morning and six at night
Like a bus driver who waits when he sees you running

She’s a garden wall with loose brickwork
A ninety minute wait for a cab on your birthday
A higher than expected energy bill
Like a footballer with a doctorate in theology

She’s an argument with your boyfriend’s brother
A cobra squatting in a meerkat’s den
A hooded teen walking behind you at night
Like a coin without a date stamp

She’s a bit of a laugh that ends up in court
A train that blasts past at your station
A flag at full mast when the queen is dead
Like the difference between a common puffball
and a death cap. Like being alive

first published in Butcher’s Dog issue 1 2012


The walk along the Old Forest grounds
had done nothing to slow things down.

She pushes the front door shut,
calls out to the empty house.

She takes the key from round her neck
winds its thin cord around her fingers,

drops it into the metal dish that keeps
things in their right place. Waits.

She hears the neighbours still playing
that same Christmas song that plays

every year. She sits on the third step,
hums along as she loosens her coat,

takes off her knickers, reaches down,
feels the baby’s head.

first published in Record and Play (Red Squirrel Press) 2013

How to Avoid Giving Unwanted Advice
Hold your tongue still with your teeth.
Feel the sharp white line press down
until it threatens to draw blood.

Slip into the silences
until your head is submerged   
resist the urge to surface for air.

Place your advice in a room of mirrors,
consider it from all angles
as it puts on the finishing touches.

Swallow rhetorical questions whole,
dissolve in stomach acid without reply,
and even then, don’t wait for a pause

wait to be asked.

first published in Between the Floorboards (ID on Tyne press) 2010