Stubborn Cow

Your standoff with the boundary fence continues.
You lean your weight into it. Not your full weight
or you might topple. Just a lumbering
steady pressure. You pull back when the jolts of pain
become too much – your bullwhip tail powerless
against the low-voltage assault. Largely
you absorb the shocks. Unfetter the odd bellow
at midges furring the slurry pit. As days trudge by
you feel your opponent yield, inch-by-inch
under half-a-ton of black and white burden.
You chew on that thought – cool as a gunslinger
before the draw, barren eyes drilling into the future.
Inevitably, raw heft buckles the fence.
You tie your tongue round wire to drag it clear,
gag on mouthfuls of electricity.
But the grass on the other side is emerald green
and you ease into the long grind of breakfast.
Later, slumped and flanked by horseflies, you wait
for the gentle scratch of rain. Blink at a dry-stone wall.


First published in The Rialto


My cell had no window, no light bulb. Hallucinations:

tortured faces; a gargoyle on my chest sipping

my lungs through a straw. With a nail from my boot

I scratched help in the dirt ten thousand times – until

it clicked I was holding the key out of there. After I escaped

that first sunrise burned like acid. As the world detonated

into colour, I bit down on my tongue, tasted

freedom. Then I ran for the hills, the moors beyond,

chanting the name of everything I saw to make it

real: field… lamb… skull... crow. I hugged shadows

to begin with. By noon, I was gorging on the sun.

That first nightfall felt like loss. I swore I saw men

with torches coming through the trees to take me back.

It was mindfuckery, just insects – a miracle of fireflies.

I caught one, ate it. I needed some light on the inside.


First published in Magma


this flower

doesn’t belong

on the canal


in an airless tunnel

where no-one goes

before dark


to a thin layer

of dirt

head bowed

butter bloom

an open mouth

that faint smell

of sherbet

when someone


it brushes

a thigh

springs back

against the wall


just one touch


a scattering

of seed

into the night


First published in The Poetry Review