The SwanA woman films swans swimming serenely on the lake.
Her camera doesn't see the kicking feet beneath the surface;
nobody sees the force the dignified creature puts in to every stroke
of its huge webbed feet, propelling it across the water
in a way that seems so effortless, to the casual observer.
But while we see a gentle, carefree meander across a lake
the swan knows pain. The swan knows the battle of endeavour,
the power it must exert in order to fulfil its journey.
The swan knows struggle, it knows how to push itself
to painful limits and beyond in order to achieve its goal.
All the watcher sees is a swan gently swimming across the water.
Every person is a swan, and the world their watchers.
what wasn't saidNobody ever said, of me,
"and those eyelashes - wasted on a boy!"
but they were.
One Christmas morning I awoke
excited for a bright red bicycle
my first, red for strength and fire;
but it was pink.
The little boy I was knew pink wasn't for me
(though the man I became adores it)
and disappointment seared through me
interwoven with the guilt of the audacity
of feeling disappointment.
Of course, my parents hadn't known
I desperately wanted a red bike.
They saw their daughter and thought
she was beautiful and pink suited her.
Nobody ever said, of me,
"What a bonny wee lad! So handsome, so strong!"
but I was.
When I was ten I was so desperate
to fit in with the other boys
that I joined the school football team.
but I hated football.
I tried with every fibre of my small being
to play, and to play well, like the others.
But sport of any kind was not my forte,
perhaps an omen of the broken body
my adult self was to find himself inhabiting.
Of course, I was never one of the boys
I was the tombo
A Letter of ApologyI’m sorry that I let you believe
the bullshit binary beliefs
of cis society on sex.
I’m sorry I wouldn’t let you
speak up for yourself.
I’m sorry that a midwife
slapped your arse and declared
you were a certain type of person
based on what she saw between your legs.
I’m sorry I let you let them
dress you up like a pretty doll.
Looking back, you were beautiful
and I am sad for them
that you never existed.
I’m sorry I never told anybody
that the reason all your teddy bears
were boys, was because you felt
closer to them, that way.
I’m sorry I didn’t speak out.
I’m sorry that the boy within you
was hidden for so long
that he thought he’d disappeared
for far too many years.
I’m sorry you were so surprised
by blood between your thighs
though they’d told you to expect it
you’d prayed it would never arise.
I’m sorry for every lip gloss
in your sizeable collection
gathering dust in landfill
and I’m sorry f
BATHING AT SUNRISEThe world moves
and I move with it, a speck of dust
on a child's globe.
Silence surrounds my beating heart
except birdsong through an open window,
then broken by playful foxes
speaking in tongues.
I try to listen to the words of the universe
spoken to all but seldom heard
but all I hear is blood
rushing in my ears in gentle thuds.
Outside, the air is cool enough
to dry the sweat on my brow
and cleanse my aching lungs.
Body unbound, I feel more free
than daylight ever allows me
and the hairs on my skin rustle
in a gentle breeze.
The universe speaks, and I crane to listen
to its wisest words
but I am too imperfect
to understand them.
the author gives instructions for his deathDon't sanitise me when I'm dead.
Don't dress me in a suit, fill your heads
with notions of perfection I couldn't fulfil
in life, and never can in death.
Don't erase the parts of me that hurt you -
don't delete my dubious history.
Rip out the rings from my pin-cushion face
coat my tattoos in makeup to hide
from the world things which made me look unique
but don't hide from the world my true warts
my faults and foibles, don't
pretend I was a saint.
Don't dress me up as special when I'm gone.
Don't stand at an altar spreading lies
about what a good person I was
in life, when you know that's not the truth.
Don't forget the parts of me that made me human
made me imperfect, that you hated, that
made you want to kill me until I was already dead.
Remember the parts of me that made you cringe
or shake with anger. Remember my personhood,
remember my humanity and never
forget the sinner that I was.
The CallHe whispered down a cold telephone line
voice crackling with crisp anger
dripping threats that chilled my soul
"Why did you tell him I raped you?"
Heart beating to an out-of-time drum
hairs standing up, reaching away from me
as I wanted to get away from myself
but mostly from his voice on the line.
No words. No murmur. Barely breath, even
the world stood still and I panicked
guilt and shame rising in my throat like bile
stinging my unmoving tongue. I must
have made a noise, some involuntary sound
a death-rattle from my heaving stomach.
"Why?" he repeated, and I could barely think,
let alone speak the words. Because you did.
Because you did. Because you did.
I gathered my trembling wits and breathed out
slowly, so that he would hear that I was there.
I put down the phone, and he disappeared.
ALBERT ROAD AT NIGHTA fox skitters down the street on claws
sharpened on kerb-stones and dumping-grounds
It glances up at this two-legged stranger
as it passes, speeding up to escape perceived danger.
A man sleeps in a doorway; it is a warm night
so his possessions bundled make a resting-place
for his weary head, and he sleeps uncovered.
The fox pays him no mind, he is part of the furniture.
A drunken group sashays along the pavement, the silk-garbed
crowd parting for the casual stroller in denim and boots.
Giggling, they speak in high pitches of nothing at all.
The fox gives wide berth, fearing the noise.
Two men, loud, walking along the middle of the road
white lines providing guidance, kicking food containers
like so many footballs. The fox senses real danger,
and like the two-legs, is on full alert.
The men pass, the women long-gone, the man sleeps.
The traffic lights change from red to green, but no cars
are out at this time. Distantly, a siren wails.
The road is quiet but for the skittering of the f