Reading the stripy pyjamas


I found the monster when I was crossing

the parking lot.  His diesel claws clicking

on sulphur.  You said you couldn’t smell it.

The tiniest lump of lemon tickled

my throat.  I was tempted to wipe the screen

sterile.  I went back to nothing, almost,

absolutely, definitely nothing.

It was the auburn anniversary

of a death I wish I had never seen.

The hospital doors were sore and bloodshot.

Eerily familiar. The sky promised

a soft summer of lemonade sherbet

sipped slowly.  She said I was lumpy.

She said she was sorry my mother died.


I knew then I was not imagining

the ghost of an x-ray. The creature aches.

Sometimes I think he’s left but he’s still there.

A fingerprint of an accusation.

Just scans.  She said best let go of Vegas,

best not to sit alone, best not to wait.

As many biopsies as you can take.

There’s a phrase I never wanted to hear.

The doctor smelt of peaches.  He nearly

apologised.  I swallowed

my bruises. I had drunk an iceberg.

We sat in the car and cried.

The beast ate the locks.  I tried to explain

we would need all of his teeth removed.


Strange that it took such savage dentistry

to taste that you love me. That the jungle

was all in my head.  Only the tiger

is real, though he sounds like the memory

of somebody else’s dream. His mouth wide.

He’s out there now, prowling along the ledge.

I wouldn’t say we were friends, I wouldn’t

say I’d invite him to tea, but there is

a puzzle to his beauty all the same.

A wildness. He has stripped us right back.

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