Mrs. James’ Trousers

There they were:
Black and white.
On long legs.
With Mrs. James at the top of them

Mrs. James of the Elvis tracks in mock exams.
Mrs. James of the hyenas in the school Christmas play.
Mrs. James of the shrine to Tim Henman in the cupboard.

And my friend, the tallest in the class.

“Well you can play me!”
“Me, Mrs. James?!”
“Yes, you can play me
In assembly!
I’m writing a play”

Mrs. James loves to write plays.

“You can play me!”

Jenny shoots me a desperate glance.
She’s eleven.

“In fact…”

Oh no.

“In fact, Jen,
You’re so tall…”

Oh no.

“I bet you could wear my trousers!”

On the playground,

I have to wear her trousers.
They’re long!
They’re black and white

It’s next week.
I’m sitting in class
(on set).

Jenny’s front and centre.
In Mrs. James’ trousers.
Black and white,
Absolutely unmissable.


A true story. (Changed names).


In the midnight pool
A moth on wings of moonlight
Sets silver dancing.


I left the dome,
I saw the sun,
Its caramel sky
Unwhorled by glass.
I heard the sounds
Of water unbound
From a fountain.
I found the green.
I found the grass
Its roots our hands
Buried in the scarlet soil.
The path was still
But for straining leaves
The sun traced pools
That stretched away
Behind my feet.
The first rebellious prints
Pressed in Martian earth
That wasn’t paved.

What is Love-in-Idleness?

A common wild flower,
Annual or short-lived.
This name is also applied to similar species
Where it has spread.

A small plant of creeping habit
Usually found in partial shade,
The plant has no rosette.
Leaves are contrary, alternate,
Often quite developed.
The flowers are solitary.
It can most often be the most sought after.

It is common almost everywhere
Near the sea or inland
At altitudes ranging from 0
It grows.

Ornamental and medicinal
Cultivated, sweet,
The seeds and roots
Should be used with caution.

While the leaves can be used
To indicate acidity
The plant has low toxicity.
The fresh plant, and its derivatives
Have proven to be useful,
Giving rise to high stability.

According to mythology
It is often used for idleness or vileness.
What Shakespeare had in mind was not a modern garden pansy.


A wikipedia poem… Every word in this poem was taken from the wikipedia article for Love-in-Idleness; no word is out of order, although of course many have been discarded when they weren’t quite what we needed at the time.

Cinnamon Greene

I was barely twenty-one
When I met Cinnamon Greene
She was waiting at the bus stop
For the number twenty-three.

Her padded denim jacket
Was slung over her arm
The badge pinned by her elbow
Said ‘Rock and Do No Harm’.

We spent a lazy summer
Paddling in the brook,
Catching mud in fishing nets,
With a bucket, for the look.

We’d ride our bikes through mirages
Past fields of sugar beet
And pick the unripe apples
Off of feral apple trees.

We’d spent our nights on benches
Behind the parish church
Get drunk on wine from corner shops
Where our old school friends worked.

I was barely twenty-two
When I moved out of town
She said she’d come and visit
But she never made it down.


Here winds a cathedral into the earth
Here sings a voiceless choir,
Echoes indiscernible from the wind.
My words are weak against these limestone walls.

Here there once were gods; here they stand still.
A great black bull the scale of night
Unspeakable in its ageless strength
And mares the colour of blood and birth.

Here long ago the god of fire danced with that of time
And teachers spoke the never-ending tales,
Now we do not understand
And bird-headed heroes break ever on the clay.

Here hands touched their fingers to eternal stone
Smeared their prints into the breath
Of deer reaching their necks above a flood.
Not yet washed away by time, I look down at my hands.
And they look just the same.


Here be dragons
On the wild coasts, heather-strewn.
On the black rock jagged blades into the tide.

On the sea mist sands
Here be dragons
Amid the skittering creatures of the rainless night.

Wound between roots
Of mangrove trees, salt crystals on their scales,
Here be dragons.

Below the Edge

There’s only water below.
Deep water.
Cold water.
But not bottomless. Not so.

There are mountains under the water.
There are cities.
There are towns
There are great steel shipwright’s yards. And rocket fuel. Watered down

There are angry gods under the water
Down there
Beneath the ground
And we’ve told stories of them since this higher land was found.

I look down from this edge, but no further shall I go
For the roar is the flood,
All the fountains of the great deep are broken
And there is only water below.

The Missing —

A word’s gone missing.
It’s nowhere to be found.
Draw a list of suspects up
Put word about the town.

I had words with the consonants
I had words with the vowels
No ones seen the wordword
For several wordless hours.

We’ve sent word to local businesses
To send their CCTV
In case we spot the word thief
Scouting dictionaries.

There’s sombre meetings at the Globe
Shakespeare now a smith.
They’ve ordered in some anvils
And packed away the myths

The situation’s urgent,
But now we’ve got a lead!
Word is the War Museum
Had a dire password leak.

Run the tapes! As bold as brass,
The thief’s all clad in black
Packing up exhibits
Wordlessly in his sack.

But wait, the sound of sirens!
The sack is hoisted high
Swearwords on his lips
And the leather cords untied.

He makes it out the building
But leaves something behind
A trail of esses scattered
On the marble floor design.

He made off with most the rapiers
The claymores and the dirks
He meant to take the broadswords
But he only got the word.