Category Archives: Poetry

Dressing Up

Funny how
your disease seems beautiful to me
now
with this special foreign
language I dug up
like a treasure chest
dress-up box
of furs and silks,
old velvet, tasselled, jewelled words
made like gloves for the tongue
explaining
the way your spine
went from untouched honeycomb
white helix of bone
moulded and soldered by surgeons
scaffolding
unfolding into a brittle bike chain
metallic mixed with porcelain
then
how they found out
about the schwannoma
and you were under construction
again
the subject of manuals and meetings
the way they spoke of you in
poetry
their methodical medical rhythms
reverberating through
your lumbar vertebrae
translating what we didn’t want to know
into
over-production of abnormal cellular elements
without control or limits
spinal metastasis
destruction of peripheral fibres and nerve sheaths
corrupting the epidural
soft tissues and spaces
fluid cushioning the cord
hoarding
these little phrases
rhinestones on your tumour
black onyx flies
on dried white faeces
dressing the wounds of the word
cancer.

Rebecca Ross

No Odes for Toads

No one has written you an ode,
a love note, an unsigned valentine,
so perhaps it’s time, to pen you
a line of verse, the OED’s finest,
my bufo bufo,
to let you know
that when you waddle, clammy
as a coddled egg, my skin
wobbles to gooseflesh; so you see
we’re not so different, you and me
when I sprout the same pimples
you flaunt on your haunches,
your staunch, stippled paunch
-and may I just say,
that puffing lung tent of ventral
leather sets me a-quiver;
each croaking billow of
doughy breath blown
tickles the cockles
of my ventricles.
I expect no-one’s told you
that the dead-leaf green
of your crusty coat,
the whorls and knurls of your knees
or the albugineous bulge
of your eyes,
are simply divine;
they’ve only kissed your sticky-out
snout to see if you’ll turn
into a prince,
but since we’re being upfront
I would kiss the blunt, dank
jut of your lips,
without hope for a hunk
in bloomers or gilded
waistcoat.
I’d just be glad
to be clasped under your
nuptial pads,
on a slime-strewn
marital bed,
because I love you
– warts and all.

Rebecca Ross

Looking for Louise

I didn’t care
at first.
She was neither here nor there.
But before I knew it
she was everywhere.

I heard about her;
horse’s mouth,
and all before,
I knew it was childish,
had my ear to the floor.
I heard it was unhealthy,
habit-forming,
but I didn’t care –
wanted more.

I gorged on whispers
gluttonous ears
with adipose lobes
gobbled up scraps
feasting on fat and rind
any murmur or mutter
from the fluttering scrap book
of your memory
I could hear the shutters of your mind
flickering and stuttering
with her voice playing
over each reel
peeling through the top shelf scenes
and seeping through the sheets
the music of your wet dreams
the quickening beats
and breathing
drum of my lungs
with the thrash of the headboard
her laugh crashed and broke like a wave
and when I came
I heard her moan your name.

She lingered like garlic
on my fingertips
her scent slipped
through the darkness
as you slept
crept like the burnt up flesh
of a secret cigarette
it wouldn’t budge
from your shirt
and you must have known I could smell it there
and here
the festering rot
of the onion squirrelled away in my plant pot
the fish in my vent
the dog shit on my shoe
that unseen stench
the only person who couldn’t smell it was you.

I traced her like Braille
all over your skin
each pimple and wrinkle
imagined her cold
frigid fingers
on your prunes and your winkle
each mark I etched
on your back
only deepened the tag.

She left an acrid taste
in the purse my mouth
like bile hacked up
and swallowed
milk sallow and soured
on my citrus scoured palette
she rusted my tongue
made lemons of my words
and each crumb of mention
each titbit of tattle
was guzzled down whole
by this swollen toad nesting in my throat
kicking like a foetus to get out
the L word
I could hear, I could taste, smell, touch
I just couldn’t bring my gullet to vomit it up.

When I finally found my tormentor,
stitched together –
Frankenstein’s monster –
I was more afraid
of who had made her.

Rebecca Rosss

Surface Tension

I once spun a woman,
Rumplestiltskin-thin fingers
threading tendons to gold.
I soldered each strand of sinew
over a shining wickerwork of bronze bone;
wired her with veins of copper,
stitched a slim skin of mercury over her,
and slotted blinding eyes of silver
into the hollow crock of her skull.

When she was perfect, solid and still,
I slipped the damp poultice of my tongue
across her cold steel-clamped lips,
over the smooth grooves of her breasts,
down to the metallic between
her iron-gartered hips.
But I was foolish, hasty;
only when she bit and burned against my touch
I recalled the laws of chemistry:

She was bubbling, boiling, melt-
in-the-mouth slipping
out of the oil-silver camisole
of her skin.
I saw the waves of electricity,
the red-sweat of heat through her body,
as she danced in blood-
coloured gloves and stockings,
ligaments tight prawn-pink and white
curled on joints, barely covering
bones, whole, milk-melded and nimble
as needles.
She glistened crimson-gossamered,
cardinal, scarlet
as a meat counter,
organs draped around her,
each a pealed peach, pulsing like a vulva.
She told me everything in juicy,
carmine silence, her eyes seductive

and wide, as she sucked in her gunmetal tongue
leaving me cold, conducted.

Last Rites

I

He always got what he wanted
blut, knochen
schmerz
durchdringung
he was my first.

He wanted me brutal as the German tongue
so I bleached myself
Aryan blonde
wore arse-skimming skirts
knee-high boots and leather
let him fuck me till it hurt
he liked it best when I bled
he said I was the one
said he’d never loved anyone
like me
so I let him bleed me dry
until my soul was starched
parched and brittle as deadwood
but I wouldn’t die for him
I’d kill for him instead
and dance across the biting bones
of half-grown bodies
children we’d half-known
it wouldn’t be quick and it wouldn’t be clean
they’d pay with their scrawny little lives
to keep our romance alive.

II

Ambling, wind-bitten with trembling toes,
cold-blooded gales snatched at my skirt
and snuck into my shoes as I dragged them through the dirt.
Standing on Saddleworth,
blue-lipped as those in their thin-roofed graves,
not hearing the screams in the blank expanse,
muted in one slice of a knife
by the man of my dreams,
who came back with his spade
and bleeding blade, or string
if he was feeling exciting.
Came back inviting me to a funeral in reverse;
I’d get to know them better in death
than when they were alive in my Renault hearse.
I’d see my breath hang over their faces,
as I knelt next to the pit he’d made,
holding the hot water bottle body of my dog
and posing for a photo.

III

But I wanted more;
wanted mine to be the last face they saw
before I slashed short their life,
to see my eyes flash on the steel
as I held the hard and throbbing handle.

It was the only way
to stoke the flames
on the burning pyre
of our desire
to feel his grip on my hips
and the sharp stab
and slide of him inside
filling me to the brim
until I leaked hot thick salt
from every pore
and screamed to die.

And then,
when he pushed me aside,
I’d beg him to do it again.

IIII

Myra, Monster, Devil’s Wife –
heartless, soulless,
cold and hard as ice.
that’s what they said –
but what would they know?
And what was I supposed to do
after they threw away the key,
blub every night?
Start a children’s charity?
I wasn’t going to get out anyway.

As I lay awake that night
I knew the grey rot
cement sky
ceiling of my cell
was the lid of hell
and I writhed
imbibing the flames
sweating and moaning
his name
breathless,
as my pulsing pink
tumour of heart
shuddered and stilled
my eyes boring through
the hoary lid
I laughed my last and said:

bury me on the moors.

Rebecca Ross

Morning

In the fug of the room,
a hotbox of body fumes,
I turn to you.
Your ludicrous head
suspended alone on the pillow –
sliced at the neck
by the duvet,
smeared like a smudge
on the canvas of the bed,
dead eyes and mind,
pallid and glazed.

I want to slap and flick
your clammy cheeks
to see if you’ll wake
to hear the sound
it would make
if I clapped my hands
on a fish’s stretched sides
how they would glide in the cold
sweat streams
etched on your temples.

The lady at the fish counter
undoubtedly knows my dilemma,
watching endlessly
the unerringly dreary
expression
on the face of her companions;
the old trout,
the mackerel,
the slip of the salmon,
the black, boring eyes of the prawn –
we’ve seen them all.

I remember last night,
how I slurped you in;
the saline smack of your bream
and the way we swam between the ripples
of my sheets.
It might have been
your skin, your eyes,
your lines,
the gin…
who knows,
I was hooked –
maybe you could be more than
a casual fuck.
But now in the stench of morning
I realise my error
what a stinker
no hook, no line
just the glistening pool
of your drool
in the pitiless light of day
it crystallizes into cushion
of crushed ice
with you gutted and garnished
weighted, sell-by-dated and priced.

Rebecca Ross