Thursday, 21 February 2013

Once upon a time there was a pony
who was afraid to go outside. She stayed
in her stable drinking tea
in her dressing gown. The mud
in the field was deep and the mist
was too cold and the other ponies
were either mean or ignored her.
One night when everyone else was asleep
she stepped out to watch the moonlight
reflect in the puddles, and the wet trees
that looked sad as the stars. She dropped
her gown and began to gallop,
shining and forgetting
the names of all things she despaired about.
And even the mud looked silver on her
when no one else could see it.

Wednesday, 21 November 2012

Once upon a time there was a person
who kept all their secrets in a jar,
which they carried around town. The secrets
glowed so bright they made the person
beautiful, and as time passed
the jar glowed brighter and brighter.
One day the person opened it up
to try and fit more inside but
there was no room and the secrets overflowed,
expanding at the touch of air.
The person could not fit the lid back on,
and they stumbled around spilling
everything they never wanted to say
over everyone who never wanted to know.

Thursday, 13 September 2012

Once upon a time there was a young man
who liked to get lost. What an adventure
life can be, he said. Every evening
on scrap paper he drew lines to mark the roads
he had taken. The pieces would
fit together to make a beautiful map, but he
kept them loose at the bottom of his bag.
One day it seemed there were
no more places in which to get lost.
Everywhere felt familiar and all faces
were the same. Every love hurt just like the last.
He gathered his pieces quickly,
and tried so hard to arrange them somehow
to make any sense of the lines
that spread across the jumbled world.

Wednesday, 29 August 2012

Once upon a time there was a pilgrim
who walked to the end of the world.
Her journey was long and fraught with dangers
like wild dogs and thieves
and broken hearts. She followed
the old path until there was nothing
but an empty space in all directions.
But it was not for her alone. Hundreds
of other pilgrims stood a safe distance
from the edge, laughing and taking photographs.
As she walked past them
the sun was sinking lower and lower
until a beautiful evening glowed
from beneath. And it was almost dark
as she took her final step into silence.

Wednesday, 4 April 2012

Once upon a time there was a man
who built his own house in the woods.
He worked on it every day, from dawn
till he could no longer tell his
screws and nails from the grey evening.
One morning a ladder fell and left
him stuck up on the roof, with no help
to hope for. The woods were wide
and empty and loveless. He looked down
at the little tree that grew in the garden
and knew that eventually it would be tall enough
to climb down. So he waited most of his
life, drinking rainwater and trapping squirrels,
and it really was not so different at all
from what he had first dreamed of.

Friday, 9 March 2012

Once upon a time there was a girl
who fell in love with jazz. The two were
inseparable, and went out every night to
celebrate life. They danced under bridges
and lay together on famous
monuments and rode trains to busk for money,
earning just enough for food and
the next night of drinks. After many years
the girl noticed she had not aged at all
and a life spent on the streets,
washing her hair in the black river and never
seeing the sun, had not harmed her beauty.
One morning she stayed up past dawn
and saw the terrible lines on
the ancient face of jazz.
So she kissed each one then went to sleep.

Monday, 27 February 2012

Once upon a time there was a boy and a girl
who lived at opposite ends of a universe.
They called each other every day
and promised to visit. The boy
got into his spaceship and flew
into the darkness, travelling faster and faster
past planets and solar systems and whole galaxies.
But the universe kept getting
just a little bit wider, and
the girl was still so far away. Hey,
said the boy into the phone, I don't think
I'll be there on time.
And now it was even too late
to turn back and make it home. It is
so magical, said the girl, just to hear your voice.

Monday, 6 February 2012

Once upon a time there was a village
of damp grey houses, forgotten and far
away from happy cities and towns.
We need to do something, said the
villagers, Or we shall all
die young and old and miserable. They
put their money together and bought
some bright paints for the houses
so the community could shine. They
emptied the tubes onto palettes
and thickly pasted the oils
onto walls and roofs and doors. Everyone
felt like an artist that day, and city-folk
passing by on trains could not help
but stare at such a picture in the distance.

Thursday, 12 January 2012

Once upon a time there was a young boy
who liked to hurt himself. The doctors
saw his scars and threatened to lock him away
if he did it again. So he was careful, and as
he grew up they were very pleased.
Although he was quite smart, he got a low-paid job
in a small office in the town
where he was born. He got a mortgage and
let himself grow overweight. He fell
so deeply in love with many women
and dreamt of entire lifetimes with each one
before they left him. I'll never ever love you,
they always said. And he felt the cutting pain.
Thank you, he said.

Wednesday, 11 January 2012

Once upon a time there was an old town
built from beautiful pale stone.
Over the centuries many of its doors and windows
were bricked up and lost, and only
their faint shapes were visible.
One day some children thought to open
the forgotten doors. One child pushed an outline in a wall
and the bricks swung back on some magical hinge. He giggled
and entered the darkness. Another ran home to tell her
parents she was going on an adventure, then at
the same door she pushed and stepped inside.
The darkness closed behind her and she knew that
she was trapped forever and alone.
Where are the kids? said one parent that night.
Off having adventures, said another,
What magic they must know.

Sunday, 18 December 2011

Once upon a time there was a protester
who glued herself to the ground.
She was immediately arrested and accused
of terrorism. Instead of a solicitor she bought
more glue and somehow managed to
stick herself to the most annoying places,
in cells, in courts, in public.
Eventually the police gave up and said
she was too much trouble to be held.
Then the whole country heard her story and more
and more people began to glue themselves in protest.
And being stuck, they were suddenly able to feel
that the world really was turning.

Thursday, 15 December 2011

Once upon a time there was a man
who fell in love with a dog. He began
to speak in growls and little barks
though no one really knew if the dog understood.
The man grew his hair and beard and spent
most days running around the woods
with his love. At night they stayed warm
beside the fire. People in the village soon
began to talk and worry, especially when the couple
went on dates to the local pub and were seen
strolling romantically along the riverbank.
Your love is not natural, said the villagers.
They'll never understand us, said the man
in dog language. Let's go home. Come on, boy.

Wednesday, 14 December 2011

Once upon a time there was student
who was too shy to attend lectures. He stayed
in all day and watched as the speed of his illegal
downloads went up and down and
up. Unfortunately his few friends
insisted that he join them on nights out
and he often found himself stood against the wall
at clubs around town, wondering if certain files
had completed yet. One night
he was forced to meet a girl who enjoyed
the same films and shows as him. I have the
latest episodes, he said, let's leave this awful club.
And after he closed the door to his room
they were never seen again.

Tuesday, 29 November 2011

Once upon a time there was a wolf
in the forest. She had many pups
who ran and played and
sang in the darkness.
All except one, who slept through every
day and night. She knew he was precious so
did not wake him but curled and kept
him from the cold. The pups grew up fast
and soon every other wolf had left the mother
and the sleepy one behind. Still she would
not allow any creature to come near.
Even the forest's nightly howl
fell silent on the warmth of her back.

Saturday, 8 October 2011

Once upon a time there was a lonely farmer
who decided to quit. He sold his land and
machines and animals, then moved
into a little townhouse. But it was difficult
to give up completely. He bought
a table that filled the whole upstairs
and painted it green.
The toyshop employees looked at him strangely
when he asked for so many tiny plastic animals
because there was such sadness in his eyes.
As the toy farm grew, however, he found little
time to be sad, and he often shouted
and stamped and cried with stress
as he looked around for someone to blame.

Saturday, 6 August 2011

Once upon a time there was a girl
who got her heart pierced. A thick metal
ring hung elegantly across her body
and round her waist. Her boyfriend thought
this was ugly and demanded she remove it,
but to do so would be very dangerous. The
piercing is a part of me, she said, I cannot
live with a hole in my heart.
After the breakup, her sadness was such that
her pierced heart became infected
so the ring had to be removed anyway. And
every night she prepared warm salt water
and gently washed, and smiled even though
it stung more than anything she had ever known.

Monday, 1 August 2011

Once upon a time there was an astronaut
who was very afraid of heights. While training
in scary simulations
he had to be so brave it almost did not
seem worthwhile. But he had told
too many people about his plans and
did not wish to disappoint them. After years
of dizziness the launch day finally arrived.
The crew sat in their shuttle and listened
to the countdown. Then the biggest roar in the world
hid the astronaut's screams, until the silence of space.
He suddenly found there was no up and
no down, and the heights of all the chairs
he was too afraid to stand on
could never add up to this.

Tuesday, 26 July 2011

Once upon a time there was a sweet shop
that always ran away from home.
The tall jars rattled from town to town, novelty
lollies fell out of arrangement and the bell above
the door tinkled across the land. Even the most
pleasant high streets and arcades
became depressing or awkward after a while.
The shop really only enjoyed those times,
in a new place, when new faces on new
bodies would touch
its clean wide windows and enter with such
excitement. It loved each second
before boredom
when delicate fingers ran across its crazy shelves.

Monday, 13 June 2011

Once upon a time there was a cardigan
that was very nervous and shy. You
are seriously trendy these days, said its friend,
you should go out more often.
The cardigan searched online and eventually found
a nightclub intended for knitwear.
It went the very next week and was
surprised to find the vintage clothes so rude
when they were in a large group. There were
sweaters sewing buttons in toilet cubicles
and scarves pulling threads in unlit corners.
The cardigan did chat for a while
with a worn and lonely tank top but decided there was
no dignity in talking to such a loser.

Sunday, 12 June 2011

Once upon a time there was a wild animal
who fell in love with a young woman.
He carried her with ease
through treetops to see
the beauty of the forest and the green
solitude of his life. I will take you home,
she said. And they journeyed to the city.
She told the creature to take a bath and make
his hair neat, and explained that he needed a job
and money. The creature did not understand or
refused to understand, so she told him to leave.
But he could no longer recognise
his scent to follow the way back home, and
solitude now seemed crushing when
surrounded by so many people.

Monday, 30 May 2011

Once upon a time there was a girl
who liked to steal men's hats.
She took them from heads and tables
and coat hooks all across the land
and brought them home one at a time.
But it was not long before
she got bored, and the cupboard
where she kept them got very full.
One day a boy tried to give her his hat
but she would not accept the gift. He
was so upset, and turned to walk into the rain.
Then he felt a sudden lightness
on his head and heard
a disappearing giggle as the girl ran away.

Friday, 20 May 2011

Once upon a time there was a sorcerer
who fell in love very easily. And one spell
he could never work was to make others love him
back. He tried different words
and hand gestures and the biggest wand
he could find but nothing was quite right.
The spell to make them head-
over-heels only caused cracked skulls.
The spell to make them fall
for him just made a mess beside tall buildings.
The spell to make them true
to him was the most painful of all. These
are the reasons I do not like you, they would begin.
And still he could not stop loving them.

Wednesday, 18 May 2011

Once upon a time there was a man
who was bored enough to start gardening.
There was little else in his life, so one day
he began to dig. There was no plan or
purpose, only the push of the shovel
and a heavy load of soil to add to the pile.
After a long long time, the pile had
become a mountain and the hole was a valley
where very little sun fell. Still the man
kept digging, hoping to think of the ideal
place for some flowers and vegetables.
And perhaps a rockery.
But no idea came, and with each shovel load
he fell slowly into the earth.

Friday, 22 April 2011

Once upon a time there was a musician
who recorded his own songs then
ate them whole. They were so tasty.
One day he felt extravagant and went out
to enjoy a gig at an expensive venue.
The people near him complained that
they could not hear any music at all, and
he was very ashamed but
could not resist the delicious tunes.
The bartenders, however, were so happy
to have some peace they said he could come
to every gig for free. And even though he had to
stand alone at the bar every night
he was never ever hungry again.

Thursday, 17 February 2011

Once upon a time there was a tumour
that lived inside a happy person who
did not want to die. We should
make the best of our time together,
said the tumour. So they bought a camera
and began to live like tourists.
Soon they had visited every museum
and gallery and shopping centre
in the land. I shall miss you,
said the tumour as they lay in bed. They
looked through their photos one last time,
which were now of nothing more
than someone frequently smiling
and standing alone.
Then the person's eyes began to close.

Wednesday, 16 February 2011

Once upon a time there was a brother and sister
who played all summer in vast
and beautiful grounds. There were long rows
of trees between fields and huge dying
buildings. Other people wandered there too.
They would often stop and talk
for a while, and the siblings listened
at the incredibly odd sentences
their new friends spoke. They were
too young to know the words
did not make sense, and a part of their brains
was forever changed to accept nonsense.
And they would always be children, living
confused without judgement or fear.

Thursday, 10 February 2011

Once upon a time there was a girl
from a country famous for its alcohol.
She went to parties and challenged
men to competitions, drinking shots and cocktails
and beer and wine. But
she in fact had none of her nation's
legendary tolerance for poison.
She ended up sick, and fell over
every night. Her friends got used to the sight
of her underwear and the sound
of her apologies. Then
at one lucky party she met a handsome drunk
and they talked and laughed for hours.
But that's as much as she could remember.

Tuesday, 8 February 2011

Once upon a time there was a young man
with incredible general knowledge.
Every night he went to a different pub quiz
and came first, all alone.
He had a decent job and a small group
of friends. And it took a while but he somehow
found a girlfriend.
He could not imagine a better life.
Many decades later, he was famous
at the local pub and had thousands
of completed crossword puzzles. As he fell
deeper into old age he marvelled
at just how lucky someone like him was
to have ever had sex.

Monday, 7 February 2011

Once upon a time there was an alien
that crashed its spaceship in the middle
of a quiet street, where an old woman lived.
She came outside to check on the alien
who was crying next to the wreckage.
You can stay with me, she said
and helped the sad creature to settle in.
From then on it mostly stayed indoors.
But on clear nights it sat in pyjamas
on the narrow roof along the terrace.
It screamed silently and remembered
the beauty of a universe of giant stars,
terror and passion at the speed of light,
and the limitless possibilities in space.

Thursday, 27 January 2011

Once upon a time there was a little girl
who wanted to act and sing. As a child
she was taught that having a job
and a home was more important than anything,
so she set about living an ordinary life.
Years later, when the fairy godmother finally visited,
the girl had to choose between
magic or the average world she knew so well.
She could not accept such amazing promises
and thought her landlord might be angry
if she put her steady income at risk.
It was surprisingly easy to decline a life
of wonderful art and creativity. The girl
regretted nothing. She eventually bought a small house
and sometimes she sang in the shower.

Tuesday, 25 January 2011

Once upon a time there was a blackboard
that got written on and erased so often
it began to look grey. So many words and pictures
were smudged and layered upon one another
until nothing made sense
and it could no longer be used.
One day a kind person stood by it
and traced a single finger in curls
across the sad surface. Very little
of the grey muddle came away but the
gentle shapes were drawn slowly
and with care until the mess
was so beautiful it no longer mattered.

Saturday, 15 January 2011

Once upon a time there was an accident
that had a difficult year. It spent too long
in hospitals and barely slept. It worried
what disaster would happen next and if one day
things would get so bad they could never get better.
When the tragedies became less frequent
the accident tried to live
as if the worst was not about to happen.
It grew ambitious and full of love.
It took up extreme sports
like skydiving and smoking
and made so many friends in the world.
Sometimes the accident would cry for hours
but it learned to accept that such things are
inevitable as breathing or dying alone.

Thursday, 13 January 2011

Once upon a time there was a kiss
for the camera, long and lit by hot lamps.
It was displayed in a gallery and many
people stood and dreamed of being touched
in such a way. They held their wine
and told nobody what they thought.
One night when no one was looking
the kiss escaped and searched the streets
for these lonely people.
It spent years in the city
watching and spreading passion between
silent friends or beautiful strangers.
Deeper than they had dreamed,
artless and unexpected,
the kiss eventually found them all.

Wednesday, 12 January 2011

Once upon a time there was a young man
in a vehicle which was about to crash.
He realised this a few seconds before anyone else
and quickly picked out his favourite song
on his music player so that
his death would be cinematic and beautiful.
It was difficult to pick a favourite in the end.
Just at the moment of impact
he pressed Play but the song
took a few moments to begin. In the
silence that followed
the song played through tiny earphones
and was heard by no one.

Monday, 20 December 2010

Once upon a time there was a heart
on the sleeve of a dancer. It was made of bright
orange paper, and the glow made
a disco of the dark.
The dancer did not know who put it there
but it looked quite cool. Soon others
came to dance and noticed after a while
they all had paper hearts stuck to their clothes.
Everyone felt connected and beautiful
though some suspected it was perhaps the drugs
and not the hearts which made them feel this way.
They went home at the end of the night, and in
the morning in their own rooms
so far apart in the city
the hearts all lay crumpled amongst piles of clothes.

Wednesday, 15 December 2010

Once upon a time there was a porpoise
who found a man swimming far from the shore.
The sea was warm that day,
deep blue and clear at the same time.
The porpoise nudged the man to say Hello
and the man turned back to the land, gasping
and splashing wildly. Sun lit the foam bright
white around the creatures, both half
underwater. The porpoise splashed
along with his new friend, getting more and more
excited, leaping onto the man again and again.
He wanted to show just how much
beauty there was beneath the surface. It was
going to be a great day.

Tuesday, 14 December 2010

Once upon a time there was an elf
who was immortal, the last of his kind.
He lived through millennia, a lonely
and pointless eternity, and very little happened.
One day he slipped in the bathroom
and found he could not move his body.
He was so alone that no one found him. For centuries
he lay on the tiles, and stared at the ceiling breathing damp
and blinking dust. Eventually the building rotted away
so he watched forever the daily change of clouds
and the shifting constellations in space.

Monday, 13 December 2010

Once upon a time there were some friends
of an interesting girl. Each of them
although they did not mention it
loved the girl's perfume, which was strong and sweet.
She wore it for so long it became a
part of her identity.
One birthday the friends gathered to wish her
love, but she did not arrive. They looked all over
town and called the police but there was no sign.
The friends went their separate ways, like most young people,
but for the rest of their lives in other towns
they would catch her old perfume on the air
or on sofa cushions.
They would stop and look around and sometimes
see her, but usually see only a stranger
then remember some happy moment from so long ago.

Tuesday, 30 November 2010

Once upon a time there was a teenager
who wanted to be in a band. He could not sing
or play instruments but could think
of good band names. He was too shy
to practice out loud so began to play air-guitar.
He pretended to strum and watched himself in the mirror
and mimed with enthusiasm to his favourite lyrics.
Every day after school the teenager
imagined and practiced
and became more detached from reality.
One lucky day he met a beautiful singer
who played real-guitar
and was in need of a gimmick.
She let him join the band and
because he was so unstable they became stars.
Once upon a time there was a boy and a girl
whose imaginations were stronger
than they could control.
Thank goodness we have each other, they both
thought but could never say aloud.
They had strange habits like making it snow
if they were too hot, or falling into the sky
if they did not hold on, or becoming animals
if they got too close to the woods.
At meal times, plates moved across the tablecloth
like tall ships and food flew like cannonballs.
One day the boy held the girl's hand
and told her how he felt, but was unable
to convince her that it wasn't simply a dream.

Friday, 26 November 2010

Once upon a time there was a woman
who owned many cats, and told them all her problems.
She found it difficult to keep track of them
and it was not long before one went missing.
The next day she locked the doors and windows
and went to put up posters, leaving
the cats inside. She returned with a litter tray
and informed the animals that this was now
as close to outside as they were going to get.
She would never lose anyone else.
They mewed relentlessly at the back door
for the first years, but eventually gave up.
The woman had a wonderful time telling the cats
about her awful life but sometimes when she
breathed in to speak her mouth became clotted with hair.

Tuesday, 23 November 2010

Once upon a time there was a man
who believed in gods. Every day he lit
a fire and sang a song of praise and thanks
for the wood. Over time
his fires got a little larger
until at last he sang his prayer and
set light to the forest itself.
It burned for weeks, roasting animal families
and plants. And people
came to watch in fear. The man sat
warming his hands and looked to the sky.
He saw his gods smiling down
pleased that he enjoyed their generous gift.

Friday, 19 November 2010

Once upon a time there was a hero
who walked off into the sunset.
When night had fallen, he realised this
was not going to be the end. There was
always more. He found
jobs and homes and deepest loves
every day for many years,
and by nightfall always walked away.
One morning the sun did not rise
but everyone felt as if they should get on
with things as normal. This day's heroism
was so much more difficult in the dark.
And in the evening, sore and tired
and with no direction to walk in,
the hero slept.

Monday, 15 November 2010

Once upon a time there was a street light
which was given a lot of flowers.
It was used to being ignored and forgetting itself
so all the attention was quite overwhelming.
People spoke to it tearfully then
tied their bouquets to it or laid them
on the ground. The street light
was very touched but wanted to say that
it was made out of tougher materials than people
so being hit by a car was no big deal.
Also it was unable to bend down and read
the notes which were being ruined in the rain.

Wednesday, 20 October 2010

Once upon a time there was a wizard
who lived in a semi-detached house with
his wife and kids. Every day he went to work
in an office and in the evening
did spells in the garage as a hobby.
Neighbours would often stand outside
and gaze in amazement at the colours
and sounds coming from the narrow windows.
One day the wizard lost his job and that night
there was no magic to be seen. Ashamed, he looked
lovingly into the eyes of his wife
as she began to fade. He hugged the kids
as they began to dissolve into colourful sparks,
then went to watch TV to take his mind off things.

Wednesday, 13 October 2010

Once upon a time there was a princess
who was locked in a tower from birth
and grew up to be very beautiful.
Perhaps, she thought, this would be bearable
if I were ugly.
But even with no basis for comparison
she knew she was perfect.
One day a handsome prince came to save her
and they rode off to his palace.
That night the couple attended a ball.
Though very good-looking, the princess lacked
the social skills to enjoy herself. She sat
in the corner and drank quite a lot
then she told the prince she felt ill
so they left the party early.

Tuesday, 5 October 2010

Once upon a time there was a stressed man
who went to find peace. It was expensive to find.
He spoke with a travel agent who told him of a place
where no one had ever gone before and had
really good reviews. He left immediately.
Wandering alone
he arrived one day at a secret temple
and enrolled on a meditation course, ignoring
the other backpackers who studied there.
Monks taught the stressed man
how to be more relaxed and that possessions are
okay but not everything.
He travelled back home, carrying only enlightenment.
Meeting with old friends, it turned out
they no longer had much in common and
he couldn't think of anything interesting to say.

Wednesday, 29 September 2010

Once upon a time there was a runner
who could not stop. For many years she jogged
quickly from one place to another, grabbing
snacks and energy drinks from concerned onlookers.
Sometimes she would run around
the same park or forest for weeks
if she thought it looked pretty, but the run
drove her away, wild and exhausted and thrilled.
After a long time she learned
to run on the spot, and eventually did
in a way so subtle that people hardly noticed.
One day she met the love of her life.
Lying next to them at night
she had to concentrate on staying
in one place, and she trembled and sweated
as her dreams ran away in her sleep.

Monday, 13 September 2010

Once upon a time there were some stray kittens
that lived in the hearts of people in love.
They curled up and purred in time
to the blood pulsing past their ears. Life
in a heart was simple as long as there were no cracks.
But sometimes a stray would find
a fragile heart. Things might go on as normal,
warm and safe,
until one day there would be no more love
and a crack would appear. Blood
would begin to enter, a tearful drip at first
then a burst. And the stray would drown
clawing in fear and scraping at the inside
of the person's chest. And the person
would fall over and scream for the death of a kitten.

Monday, 30 August 2010

Once upon a time there was a dream
that came true. And it began
to die like anything else. For weeks
it searched for a job and a place to live
but people were very mistrustful
and did not want to be near
such a sad thing.
Besides, dreams themselves have few
employable skills and can rarely provide references.
So it slept on the streets.
In daytime it begged
for the means to carry on and never understood
why no one walking past
wanted to keep it alive.

Sunday, 29 August 2010

Once upon a time there were some kids
who found the best music in the world
and wanted to share it with everyone.
played it from phones at the backs of buses
and installed large sound systems
in their cars and homes
to make sure whole cities were overcome.
Their work was endless
and many had to drop out of school
due to stress and poverty.
When the complaints began
the kids were hurt but determined
to give back to their communities.
This is all we have, they shouted
but no one could hear them over the bass.

Friday, 27 August 2010

Once upon a time there was a man
who could fly
but took the bus to work each morning.
He got on at an early hour and was able
to pick his favourite seat, from where
he could watch certain people board and sit
down. He never looked out the window.
It was a bit distressing
for the man who could fly
when someone he expected to see missed the bus
or caught an earlier one. In his mind
there were no simple explanations. He imagined
tragic accidents befalling these strangers
before they had a chance to notice him
and make friends. Before he had a chance
to whisper his beautiful secret.

Wednesday, 25 August 2010

Once upon a time there was a dog
that got old and sick. This was quite unexpected.
Its young owners wanted
the very best for it so they paid
for drugs and operations to extend its life.
Although in great pain and generally unable to move
the dog could never die.
So many decades passed.
As technology progressed, the dog
became a lot more artificial and robotic
and intelligent.
When the owners lay aged and ready to be dead
the dog sat up at their bedside and fed them
drugs, and performed incredible surgeries
and made sure every unendurable second
of their kindness was repaid.

Tuesday, 24 August 2010

Once upon a time there was a small child
that sat in a pub
every day while the adults smoked and drank.
Be quiet, sit still, said the adults,
and the child got very good at these things.
The lights of the gambling machines were
entertaining enough. Then as the child grew older
it developed a fascination for curly cigarette smoke
and drew patterns in it with a finger,
which only occasionally annoyed anyone.
Yellow afternoon sun crept through
the grey air of many days and months.
One day the adults were no longer allowed to smoke
in the pub and while they stood outside
the child was very quiet

and sat very still.

Monday, 9 August 2010

Once upon a time there was a hiker
who camped on the highest peak
during a lightning storm. He looked out
over the valley and met the glowing clouds face-to-face.
Each spark burned and sighed in the night

and bright lines filled his eyes.
Eventually the worst of the storm
stood right above the hiker.
A thin arm
reached down and touched
his head, but did not flash and fade.
The two held one another for a very long time
as rain soaked the grass of the mountain beneath them.

Tuesday, 27 July 2010

Once upon a time there was a little boy
who was very naughty
and hurt everyone around him sooner or later.
He saw it happen and felt nothing.
As he grew up
friends came then went from his life
feeling angry and betrayed, though he eventually
persuaded them that he was too stupid or naive
to be responsible for his actions.
What amazed him was how easily people believed this
and how sometimes he even convinced himself.
But he knew exactly what he was doing every time.

Tuesday, 6 July 2010

Once upon a time there were two beautiful artists
who got trapped in a bottle.
There was grass and sky and air inside but
no memory of the outside world and
no tragedy from which they might find inspiration.
Life could never get in.
They did not know who had trapped them or why
or how they might be freed.
After centuries of careless boredom
it occurred to them that most people would
think it was paradise.
Studying the luscious surroundings
they realised their captor was not a bad person
just someone who didn't understand art.

Thursday, 27 May 2010

Once upon a time there was a couple
who could no longer afford their addiction
so decided to make their own drugs
out of each other.
He took a strand of her hair and pressed the end
to a vein on the inside of his elbow.
The hair was sucked inside and he fell asleep.
She ran her nails up and down the dry skin of his face
and piled the flakes on the kitchen table.
Dividing the pile into a few narrow lines she breathed in
every bit of him
and sat awake for the rest of her life
waiting for his eyes to open.

Friday, 21 May 2010

Once upon a time there were two sisters
who went to different schools
and became rivals long into old age.
One sister was well-read and eccentric
while the other was practical and suffered life
with stubborn patience.
Despite their different paths they were eventually
reunited in a nursing home where
they could bicker about the past.
Their memories dwindled
until they had nothing left to resolve.
They discovered a shared right-wing prejudice
which transcended class and personal history
but made some family members awkward when they visited.

Thursday, 20 May 2010

Once upon a time there was a hat
which looked quite odd and drew stares
from passers by. But it did not care.
It walked the country lanes and tipped
itself to dog-walkers and tractor-drivers.
It skipped merrily through crowded city streets.
One day the hat bumped into
some hair which also looked odd.
We are the same shape, said the hair.
How peculiar, said the hat.
It was getting late in the day.
Will you walk home with me? asked the hat
because it was easy to ask.
And they lived happily ever after
despite the uncertainty and sadness
that came with needing someone so badly.

Monday, 17 May 2010

Once upon a time there was a song
that had few happy memories
and was secretly determined to make some more.
It planned to live spontaneously.
It danced in kitchens and tried to get
all its friends on a road trip,
but they were always busy and genuinely boring anyway.
When it had sex it was so self-conscious
that even its partner felt ashamed.
Past lovers all agreed it was like watching themselves
in a terrible porno
with an amazing soundtrack.

Sunday, 16 May 2010

Once upon a time there was a soldier
who could only get annoyed about small things.
He worried that this made him shallow.
Throughout a career in the army
he was injured many times but he said
what scarred him most was
butter in the jam and inferior washing up.
When he was taken hostage
he begged and screamed to be killed because
the comrade who shared his cell was so unbearable.
This comrade thought an Espresso was pronounced Expresso
and it never seemed like the right time to correct him.

Saturday, 15 May 2010

Once upon a time there was a father
who liked to read his mail on the narrow staircase
of the family home.
I would like to go down now,
said one of his children.
I will be gone in a minute, said the father, just wait.
So the child stood on the stair
and thought about how many minutes
the average person is alive for.
After a while the child began to climb
over the bannister, a plan which would save time.
I told you to wait, said the father,
climb back over. I told you to wait.

Friday, 14 May 2010

Once upon a time there was a boyfriend
of an unfeasibly beautiful and angry girl.
He left his friends and his hobbies and spent
every day in love trying not to enrage her.
The part he liked most was being deeply in trouble
and having to make things better, piece by piece
for weeks. He knew his place.
After the inevitable breakup
he found no one as beautiful or angry.
He had plain, happy girlfriends and spent
all his time annoying them
and being crueler than he could understand
then desperately trying to apologise.

Tuesday, 30 March 2010

Once upon a time there was a gamer
who was pretty good, no better than anyone else who played
the same computer games at length.
He often found himself
alone in a big level with many corridors
and hiding spaces, having killed all the enemies,
collecting weapons and armour without much purpose.
This was long before online gaming, of course.
When that came about he said Hello
and a community said Hello back.
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