The Huntsman

Steve tells me his business deals in gemstones,

he illegally crosses the Thai/Burmese

border on foot and goes directly to

the miners.  He tells me this is ethical

because the miners make more money without

the government taxes and customs on

the export.  He snorts a line of cocaine

and eyes up a redhead sitting opposite.

Steve hasn’t brought his Thai girlfriend Malee

with him to the UK and dismisses

her with a sneer when I ask.  She’s pretty,

he says but there’s no shortage of young girls

looking for a westerner in Thailand.

The redhead downs three shots and throws her head

back.  Steve watches.  Her left boob slips out

of her dress but she doesn’t see, just drinks.

Steve offers me a sapphire, he says he hates

the stone but has respect for those who love it.

He says he could have spotted me anywhere,

a sapphirophile.  I look at my fingers

and my wrists.  The mark up does not benefit

the miners he says, but I have resources

they don’t, that they could never hope to access.

I watch the redhead sway on her seat, smear her

lipstick with the back of her hand and hiccough.

Steve is watching her too, absentmindedly

flicking his fingers on his pint.  I want to ask

how many have died for a stone he hates but

I don’t want to know his answer.  He tells me

pure ethics are impossible in South East

Asia and that he does not feel compromised.

The redhead is sick on the floor, hanging over

her table like a master-less dance puppet. 

Steve stands and goes to her, I’ll take you home he says.

Lavender Divorce

He left his email open on her laptop

the day after they decided to divorce.

The marriage had been imploding for longer

than either admitted but there was still

this naïve trust with passwords

and secrets.

She wouldn’t have opened his mail

though she knew the access codes but it

was there, sitting on the screen, blinking,

when she logged on to view the suicide sites.

Curiosity grows stealthily, it spreads and

dominates: a plant you barely know as a seed

before the garden is consumed.

I’m not sure I ever really loved her,

not like I did you. 

She stared out of the window.

In the garden the lavender she had planted

was growing so virulent it was taking over.

He promised to cut the grass last Tuesday

but he often made promises he didn’t keep.

She had thought the lavender would be beautiful,

and she would pick it to make pot pourri

and sock drawer sachets.  She didn’t know

how straggly it would become, how the

wasps would nest in it, how unruly and unkempt

it would be.  She remembered loving it,

carefully planting it and looking ahead.

She looked back to the computer, signed him out.

She never grew lavender again.

Chemistry Lessons


She agreed to date him

because she was bored. 

And lonely.  And because

she hadn't yet learnt about

chemistry.  She kissed him

because that is what she

knew, and blithely

took his virginity like it

was a leaflet handed out

on the streets. When he got

down on one knee she

smiled and enjoyed the

attention, agreed, of

course, and played the game.

Then one day she looked at him

and saw that he was handsome. 

He took her to his Mama's

and she saw that he was doting. 

He wanted her children

and she saw that he loved her. 

So she stopped.

He was Italian, he did what

Italian men do.

He sent her a four-leaf clover.

He told her she was still the air he breathed.

He wrote her songs and

sang in husky basso profondo.

She moved on.

Ten years on and she has learnt

about chemistry – the hard way,

        with the explosions. 

She has learnt to clear the debris.

She thinks he still remembers her,

she still remembers him.


You read me as if I am a newspaper.

You flick through my pages to the parts

that interest you, the cartoons,

page three, you ignore the rest.

You don't read my article on 'Men who

don't recycle.' and my career advice

makes you turn the page.

You like the letters, other people's

comments matter to you.

You don't much care for my

response or where my bias lies.

You never think about the hands

that have written me.


Soon you will discard me as if I am

done: a newspaper you have read.

You will neatly collect my

supplements together and throw me

in the bin with your potato peel

and empty bean cans.

You will forget that that I had breath.

You will forget that there were pages you

didn't understand.


Then one day, when kindly hands

have recycled me you will look down

and find that my ink

                                   has stained you.


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