Litter Around a Rubbish Fire is a migrant poem I wrote while thousands of people are stuck between Turkey and Greece and no one wants them.
Litter Around a Rubbish Fire – Migrant Poem
First, you take candle grease and old newspaper and then,
on the frayed inkless edge,
you etch a new you
basking in buckets of cash
stuffing some in an envelope
and bet Mother's eyes light up
she runs to the store and picks Chardonnay
for his dinner
and leans back on the settee, clear
why you're now here warming dirty hands on smouldering trash,
litter around a rubbish fire.
You hear pipes and trumpets,
bright tales of the unlived beyond the barbwire,
sons with prospects grandchildren barely born women more daughter
than mother. And you do not know why the guards won't lee you
passage, why your child gets tear-gased why no one will hand you a
form. But you do.
Then, you loosen the soil and water the seeds and after that,
in the glaring blue above,
you rub out clouds
oiling your skin
and hedge the kids lick icecream mid-glass-scaling square
for their breakfast
and hopscotch across the slabs, clear
why the stench of burning plastic is now choking the twigs inside,
a fence opposite a police cordon.
Sandwiched, we eat ballads and legends
cousin Ali is a bank manager and drives a Porsche,
decades ago, Grandfather's brother opened a food stall and
today, cousin Malala runs a chain of posh eateries. Yet the guy with
the puffer jacket says it doesn't matter if the wire cuts it,
first wage pack, he'll do better. Of course.
For weeks, the air thins and limbo narrows and on it goes
in the sunken cheeks of them and us,
you cast the last branch,
flesh gulping flames
and wager the family homes away happy to cook meat
for every meal
and twin stories from south to north, clear
why now we strip ourselves from the strip
the slither between one law and another.
From out of ashes, we run and squeeze between
spikes and wire thorns laced along the border
to keep us out, shots fired, mouthsful of gravel but
then, we slip through and run for the hills. True, the air is sweet
and the grass is long enough to bed us. Mother smiles and
Father sips what never skimmed his tongue before.
In the end, lesser beginnings and smaller balloons
above ground just,
you kick it when it begins sinking,
hatching, still hatching
hedging that one day very soon
and pledge one day we turn in
home with silver
and yield gold at the root of our tree.
This is What We Do is a care poem, a reflection on how people look after each other and a celebration of the fact that we can.
This Is What We Do – Care Poem
Your fingers are tugging the cobwebs from my eyelashes,
one by one, you herd them like mules. This is the third time in a week
you'll have to wash the glue off your fingertips. Once more, my hands
are sleeping on your thighs to the sound of your mouth moving and
your vocal cords cracking. This is what we do. Sometimes, your head
hangs low, as if the earth's asking to bed your face afresh, but your jaw
coggles until the smoke turns steam. I can stand up and square the
window now, I can make out the treetops through the frosted pane.
This is when you loop in to raise the heavy bottom sash. You fling your
left leg and I sling my right leg over the sill. In winter, the legs dangling
outside turn blue. In summer, the wind dries the leaves and reddens
the skin. Inside, our feet meet the woollen rug and in the middle, a
branch and twigs with finches and sparrows dropping by.
Our Terraced House is a beauty poem, a celebration of the imperfections surrounding us and a reflection on the stunning contradictions that exist between people.
Our Terraced House – Beauty Poem
Nature requires no facelift
Nor should you every sweep
the dusty road between
your house and the church or wipe
the sweat from your temples.
The wild, wild waves of the ocean
mirror her hands as her children board the school bus.
And the gagging, gagging gust
is as perfect as the lump in my throat
the day she passed. I’m still at the gable
hanging linen on the line on watch-out for that
one robin the next-door neighbour feeds
dinner scraps. Her husband is wheelchair-bound,
lifts his face toward the treetops.
I hear her sing airs louder than
our quarrels, louder than gale-force
squalls. Behind the garden back wall,
a bunch of toddlers screech most days
and from the right, a waft of the old man’s
Virginia tobacco. Mother and I are quiet
like squirrels with a gob full of nuts. In our house,
Father is the talker, his chattering
a dripping, dripping tap in the rain,
the walls are leaf-thin,
I heard Mrs Kavanagh from number three
call her husband an idiot
the same day they were making out outside
where the ivy travels across the window pane.
And still, they mirror our songs and prongs,
like rock faces throw, back what we’ve said
between the howls and the twittering,
the humming and the hush of people
brushing inside, dewdrops merging
in the velvet folds of a rose.
And Why Wouldn’t I? is a cow poem, a celebration of nature and a reflection on its beauty and peace, way, way beyond our comprehension.
And Why Wouldn’t I? – Cow Poem
Cows know better than
to rush around headless like us
killing each other and the planet
prancing as if we owned the place
as if our breath was more golden
than the trees’ breeze or the puff of a
starlet. Could we ever paint
restraint or birth mirth beyond
the tip of our tongues?
Last night, I had a calf delivered to
my door in a rusty trailer behind
a ditch-dented jeep. And why wouldn’t I
keep a brown-eyed, baby-fur cow
in the back garden of my
village terraced house to tilt
the keel and for once have me feel
ok? Water and grass, a few yards for
hoofing around, I can do that and
we will take her cues
on chewing the curd,
her jaw rocking. Once,
I saw a farmer’s daughter
playing the accordion at the gate,
the whole herd came trotting over
jotting hoofs a couple of feet from
the metal, all-ears soft like petals.
This Second is an Orphan is a time poem, a reflection on how moments are a patchwork of place, people, and grace.
This Second Is an Orphan – Time Poem
Let's laud the loud and quit the quiet
Let's whisper zilch and oar the roar
this second' is the crook
where red bulbs
char the shell.
a ball of fluff is fluttering.
When fledgeling us
we lumbered and fled
through the woods.
We were treading on moss,
like hens threading
a blanket of corn and chaff, the way
quills shed yellow down
when little chicks
try catching a breath.
You travel my skin, and I,
I trace your hands
as snowdrops cloud
the wintery fields,
our lips whistling
across the coop where
fat hens hem and then,
lend their wings
to the wind.
Ploughing is one of my fairy poems, a celebration of all things gentle and delicate and of how the passing time springs bursts of colour and light.
Ploughing – Fairy Poems
Overnight, he went from babyface to tree-bark skin, and I wonder why the fairies ploughed his face, his three-day stubble pencilling a thin lawn and capricious red and yellow flowers blotching, him in the midst of squawls singing and a million fairies dancing. His heart – the passing beat whisking and wheedling the light his eyes are spilling onto the ground. Flowers grow. Orchids where he’s fattened calves and Jasmine in the furrow he’s been treading softly. Fairy fingers till skin, and no one knows they’re scattering flower pods and mulching the ditch. He raises the crystal wine glass to his lips, and I see fairy wings lightly tend kisses.Ploughing, Anita Alig 2020
As littering poems go, The Flesh and Bone People is a reflection on fragmentation and the need for integration as individuals and communities.
The Flesh and Bone People – Littering Poems
On a sill at dawn,
when a flock of flesh and bone people
are bowing out still,
a bird's sharp beak beckons and
pecks a sesame seed the wind
barrelled up from the burger joint
one mile down the road. The wind
is kind like that, bowling rubbish
to places where birds can feast.
The litterers feed them, too,
ghosts anchoring in leftovers
and harking back to flesh and bones,
hunger-jerked. Once, the ghosts
plenished the shell. Now, we tan
our skin, locked out and rootless
until the wick frays and the house
comes tumbling. Jigsaw pieces
strewn, only a gloved, slow hand can
unpuzzle them now, sew, set, mend and
blend our ghost with flesh and bone,
traversing lollipops, taxes, beads,
scaffolding, and chains until, toil
and oil no longer spoil the soil,
until the hour is ours.
Hark the Angels is a Christmas tree poem, a celebration of Christ’s birth and the season of love and light and its ripples.
Hark the Angels – Christmas Tree Poem
roots, the twigs
trembling, the fat
trunk, and how its needles
cast the flickering candlelight
just right, has us lean back and hark
On Being Legless is a snowflake poem, a relationship poem, a love poem, a poem about fragility and longing.
On Being Legless – Snowflake Poem
Once in awhile, you attached them,
The legs you cut off summers ago. I
Don’t like remembering me with legs, the boots
Cladding yours now don’t hide the glare.
They blare the hanging on replay,
The crowd’s murmurs volumizing
The outline of the flesh-clad bones once
Strong like the thighs of a racehorse and
Now, I smell manure dissing your burning
Incense. Yes, the temple doors shall remain
Closed, no matter how long the dog keeps
Howling for more bones now, he’s chewed
My drumsticks. But you’re a hopeless revisionist.
I see that as I watch you walk your legs as if
It was spring, as if four foot of snow outside
Wouldn’t swallow what I gulped summers ago.
Do you not smell the violets and the sweet peas?
On my tongue the taste of gardenias and freesias
I see us racing the length of the field behind
The forest with all the squirrels and nuts,
All-day long. But those days’ light speed
Now weighs nothing to no one. On sustainability:
My mother told me some flowers blossom brightest
And wilt quickest and so did our legs,
Our feet unfit for rooting. Still,
You keep them at the back of your wardrobe
Buried but resurrectable. To you, hope is a thing
With wings spanning everywhere and everyone
Even us. That woman who made the headlines
Because she was dead for six hours
That’s you as you are now strutting and spreading
A haze of lavender and rose. They say smells bypass
Reason like when a man and woman embrace
And fall into the breadth of joint breaths. But all I see is
Snowflakes drifting, no legs there either only
Stillness and the gentlest dropping home, ground-
Bound, bound to bed and wed down on the skin of the
Earth whose longing is the length of where the sky
Meets the ocean. And all I can see is your legs
Prancing like a doe which makes me think of Christmas
Oxen, not turkey or ham and how he said it was,
It is, all about love. In the street lights, snowflakes are
Stars, meteor showers who’ll melt and still, still
They bunch into a blanket as I hear the crunch when
My boots trace what is, what has been, all the while
Shooting grains of salt and dreams up into the sky.
Somewhere between the surface and above and below,