A Poem About Uncertainty for Sean

Strange to have to write about uncertainty
when this is the least uncertain I’ve been since before I was old enough to doubt.

I’ve done my share both of dipping my toes
and of diving head first
but it doesn’t matter which you do if you don’t know how to swim at all.

Water seems to show up in all of my poems
And I wonder if I’m afraid or in awe of it or both.

When I was a child, playing on the seashore
A huge wave came up behind me, towering three times my height.

I turned around and saw it, thought “this is how I’m going to die” and then just held my breath and let it happen.

I didn’t die but my eyes were red and stinging when I washed up on the shore.
I think there’s no point in being uncertain anymore.

I’ve learned to swim, and there are worse things than getting salt in your eyes.



Today I felt my soul slump from my body and land on my pillow in a tiny, trembling heap.
I’m evaporating out the window into dust.
I’ve burnt like all women do in poems, frantic and furious,
But nobody writes of the ashes left behind once the fire has burnt itself out.

You met God today and found her mortal.
Sinking teeth into my hammering mango heart I taste vinegar I taste rancid meat the flesh sticks to my teeth,
I plant my feet where they land
I always dig and always sink and when I stop the sky seems far away.
I am not the one you’re scared of.
You are not the one who’s scared.

You have never known an emperor or priest
You are unequal parts of where you come from
Today I starve that someday I may feast
on you, along with everyone you run from

Reform, repent, repair what counts.
Confess before your God or leave your church forever.

Silence is honour to a coward.


Once again I find myself

caged tight in my own arms

trying to cradle myself to death

as if I can’t even keep my own self

from running away.


I try to view myself from above,

what are you trying to prove?

Throwing a rope upwards is not generosity.

Nothing you do fools anyone but you.


“Time spent in a safety net will never teach you”

But people shouldn’t have to walk on wires at all

and I have walked, carrying the desert on my back

all my life and I am tired now.


I’m always trying to make my way

to the centre of a party

where every guest has loved me once.

I yell and scream and beg for acknowledgement

but each in turn shake their heads and look away,

Door after door clicks gently shut.


I’m running out of past to cling to.


As long as there are women in my family
we will congregate at the bottom of the stairs.
The halfway place; braving the draught for the seat with the best view,
cradled by wall and banister.

Moments that catch the heart:
A flicker of pride across his face when he looks at her now,
That wry smile of hers or the crack in her voice as she admits defeat,
All over but never finished.

Loss bites hard and leaves an aching scar,
but here we fill such wounds with love.
Soft and strong and solemn against the coming frost,
“Something there is that doesn’t love a wall,”
So we must tear ours down and let the whole world inside.

Inside, despite the urge to cry “get out,”
Despite the flames that lick at your ankles and blaze behind your eyes when your heart is fit to burst from wanting and being left hungry.
Anger and hatred are not the same,
And we have had enough of one of these.

As long as there are women in my family,
As long as there are people on this Earth who will not settle,
I will be with you and this will all be worth it.


If ever you question,
or are wanting reason,
know that you have done one thing right at least.
Indirectly you have dragged me from my dungeon.

Sometimes belief is a challenge
when sight itself hides away
and all things have their flaws I’m sure you know
but as someone told me once,
things could be much worse.

You took a brush and painted me a window
to let the light inside.
From all your sculpting you carved me an escape,
inadvertently for how could you have known?

Unwitting Euryphaessa that you are,
shone into every corner of the Earth –
Even mine.

Not Astronomy

The only thing to fear is fear itself I have been told.
Then fear lives here and will not pass the salt
without some bitter taste to add.
Two roads diverged and I took neither
for lack of destination,
what a place to end up.
It snowed in March this year and I thought
how things can happen later than you’d think.
Perhaps the trees will part and I shall see the stars
sometime soon, and choose to look away.


This time I play my cards
and I don’t want to know
if I have won. I don’t want to win.
The consolation prize is better.

I am a stormy sea.
Wave safely from the shore
or drown in me.

You can only stay asleep so long
before they turn off the machines.
One by one, switch by switch.

All your fighting got you nowhere,
your talk could rot my bones
and you will drag me there.

You will mean what you mean
reluctantly of course in every sense
that is, if you have any sense at all

And you will grow taller than any house
taller than any of us from nothing much at all
just like you wanted.

A boy walked a freezing beach
with me and got his feet wet –
that’s all.

Please don’t ever tell me that I have won.