The moon?
Oh my darling, no,
the moon is too cold and too quiet.
I would give you a roaming brass band on
Sunday mornings, Brazilian drummers on Saturday nights, the clinking
of dishes and the chatter of terrasses.
I would give you
the place de la Bastille the night we qualified
for the final, a cacophony of horns, a snapping of flags, a roar
of savage jubilation,
and I would give you my eyes,
bright with sunshine.

The stars?
Oh my darling, no,
the stars are too far. But I would give you the smell of baking bread
floating in my windows,
the murmur of passing visitors, a light breeze
to stir the geraniums or
make the candle flame dance,
I would give you the pavement below and
the stonework above, and I would give you
my hands, curled around the stem of a
late-night glass.

The earth?
Oh my darling, no,
the earth is too big
and too troubled. But, oh, my love, I would give you
Paris in the summer,
and by that I mean,
my heart.


a proposed ranking system for injuries of the heart

How much it hurt can be gauged by
how I describe you: if you
had a lovely smile then
’twas but a scratch. If you
made great conversation then
the bruise flared but faded, but if
my mother would have liked you, then
it’s going to take a while
for the bones to set.

the other kind of love

If we were lovers, I could follow you
across the world
pack only sundresses and my
beating heart and say
I went all in for love
and sure
it might be foolish but it might also be
the entire course of my existence

If we were lovers I could fall apart
in public, run crying
from your farewell kiss and
beg you not to leave me, not even
for the adventure of your life

Because you are my friend I must say
be happier in a place where I am not
and I must do all this while continuing to
love you
via WhatsApp, if I’m lucky
and I must not tell anyone that my heart is broken because
you are my friend.


ours was a friendship that floated, a
sailboat we took out on
odd weekends, weather permitting, to
peruse the waves and
chase the sun

we bobbed above the unexplored and turned away from
sharks that roamed beneath us,
pulling up our trailing toes and never
throwing in a line although we knew
we’d make a catch.

I used to worry we were fools for
going out at all, if we never
touched the water; never tried to
find the ocean floor,
why did we go?

but when the storm blew up and cast
the sea aboard, I saw,
sunny afternoon by sunny afternoon, we had been
how to stay afloat.


The night you grabbed me in the street
Uber said,
Error. Try again later.

The night you grabbed me in the street
my friend was visiting
from Peru. As I left she clutched my face and told me
she loved me, and she was glad
I existed

The night you grabbed me in the street
there were no taxis.

The night you grabbed me in the street
I had almost not gone out because I was
sleepy, and it was
a long metro ride to find my friends, but they said
please come
so I put on a pretty skirt and some
red lipstick that made me feel
and in the end we had so much fun, I danced
until 4am

The night you grabbed me in the street
I had just got off
the night bus, where I had been thinking about
how Margaret Atwood said men are afraid women
will laugh at them, and women are afraid men will
kill them.

The night you grabbed me in the street
had been so happy

The night you grabbed me in the street
I was hurrying home thinking about
the man who just stared at me for 20 minutes at the bus stop and
the man who had run across traffic to say
mademoiselle, can I stay at your place tonight?

The night you grabbed me in the street
you spoke to me first and when I did not answer
you called me obscenities and when I kept walking
your friend shoved me and when I kept walking still
you ran after me and grabbed my arse

The night you grabbed me in the street
was only the second time it’s happened to me. That’s how I told it to my friend,
the next day:
only the second time.

The night you grabbed me in the street
I turned back to look at you in disgust but I did not
break stride, or
tell you off, or
grab you back
because flight seemed the least dangerous option

The night you grabbed me in the street
I felt sick and scared and ashamed
and then grateful
that it was only a shove and a grope
and I wondered how you felt or if you had already

The night after you grabbed me in the street I did not
or jog,
or walk
through the city I have made my home.

love in the time of read receipts

What’s in a Tinder bio? That which we call a match,
By any other name would look as hot.

I saw that you were perfect, and so I swiped right. Then I saw that you were not perfect and I went back to swiping.

‘Tis better to have Googled and found,
than never to have Googled at all.

No sooner met but she texted,
no sooner texted but seen,
no sooner seen but not replied,
no sooner not replied but she asked seven girlfriends the reason.

The course of true love never was Instagram-ready.

Shall I compare thee to a doggo meme?
Thou art more lovely and more heartwarming.

See, how she leans her cheek upon her hand!
O, that I were a filter upon that face,
That I might touch that cheek.

The best and most beautiful things in the world cannot be seen or even touched,
unless you remembered to take a screenshot.

A heart-eyes emoji is a lovely trick designed by developers to stop typing when words become superfluous.

If music be the food of love, here’s my Spotify.

We’re all a little weird, and life’s a little weird. And when we find someone whose weirdness is compatible with ours, we tag them in animal videos and fall in mutual weirdness and call it love.

Love is composed of a single soul inhabiting two Whatsapp accounts.

I’m just a girl, standing in front of a boy, asking him to go Facebook-official.

Absence makes the heart grow iPhone-dependent.

You text, I text, remember?


With sincerest apologies to William Shakespeare (repeatedly), Angelita Lim, Alfred Lord Tennyson, Helen Keller, Ingrid Bergman, Dr Seuss, Aristotle, Richard Curtis and James Cameron

good advice I have not taken

we sit vigil for the rainstorms that
dance and die
beyond the railing, leaving us
misted over with the force of their passing. I,
red wine lips and cold feet,
pick the stuffing from your mother’s sofa as we wonder
how manatees breathe, and
what it’s like inside the mind
of Donald Trump.

You drift into my lap and then
into sleep, your breath weaving through the leg hair
I forgot to remove because you showed up
carrying merlot and a promise of adventure
and I followed you into the night.

I do not close my eyes until after the sun cuts open
purple clouds to bleed light
across the sky and over the planes
of your quiet face.


She says,
your skin is tired. Are you getting
enough sleep?


The wine lingers, but we give it
no quarter. I am taking you surfing because
you’ve not yet learned how it feels
to stand and fly
at the same time. In the roar of the sea
my mind is quiet, listening only
to the taste of salt
and the slipperiness of your skin in passing.
The brown fades from my hair but it will turn up
tomorrow on my shoulders and strewn
across my nose


She says,
now’s the time to start: to prevent wrinkles
you should avoid the sun


We lie winded under palm trees and you say
promise me we’ll come back even when
our knees don’t bend but
our backs do
and we’ll eat fish and chips and ice cream
for breakfast
because we can
and I say
promise me
you’ll want to, even when
you’ve forgotten who I am


She draws a potion from the pocket
of a tie-waist coat that is just a foot of sleeve
away from a straight-jacket.
Apply this, she says,
it’s anti-ageing.
And I pay her for it because I am no better
at saying no than I am at
taking sound advice.

what if

I am undone by your curls. You were
an email signature, a conglomerate of curt responses and
inadequate explanations that I pieced together
into something safely less than human. I never considered
your hair until it manifested before me
golden as the day was grey, as though it had
sucked the sun from the sky.

Yours is a mind of lines and tables, and yet
from it grew an unkempt narrative that wanders
and sweeps
and perplexes. You are talking about rules while I am
wrapping white knuckles around my gaze to haul it down
from your lush heights.

What if we what if I
store them here plunge my fingers
assign them there sink my face
how would that work?
how would it feel?

Bayeux (fem. pl.)

I spent the 2016 D-Day commemoration weekend in Bayeux, Normandy, walking the length of the Tapestry and visiting the landing beaches and watching the parade roll past. This odd little suite of poems was the result. 

the liberators

They rode in on the backs of iron women, who
birthed their false bravado into
mud and terror, to see them again only
when they were bloodied, loud with pain or silent
beyond it.

They named the trucks after women, scrawling
Rosemary across windscreens and thinking only
that they rode them, never
that they were borne.


the embroiderers

we were three amongst 626, or more if you counted
the dogs and horses, the trees, the ships – all of those
outnumbered us resoundingly. Still, two of us had names and one
a story that survives: not bad,
you might say. We were Queen Edith, consort widowed, deathbed adjacent,
face unreadable. We were Aelfgyva, smiling?
at her certain cleric, but why she is there you do not know,
and we were a mother fleeing fire or perhaps
being devoured by it.

were we only three because those three said
all you thought to say? After all,
after 1000 years,
what would you add to
wife, mother, victim, infuriating mystery
(whore? witch? spy?)

except that you have not counted the stitches, in which we are
we are pinprick and strand, we you
cannot see, we who
wove you into history



“…we need to account for the prominent position given this woman.”
J.B. McNulty, “The Lady Aelfgyva in the Bayeux Tapestry”, Speculum, 55 (1980): p. 666

we need to account

there are almost as many theories as there are men, embroidered
through academia. You are 230 feet of
furrowed brow, earnest focus, perhaps in your weaker moments
seeing yourself in deerstalker and tweed examining clues, for
the Mystery Must Be Solved.

Three woman. The other two we know their purpose: one is flesh and
tears, written into noble books, reassuringly triangulated
between husband-king, brother-king and father-earl.

The second is a symbol, the bearer of children and of
Fear, running from the fires of war, the furious march
to victory. She is the sacrifice which
must be made; she serves her purpose.

What is your
Aelfgyva? You whose name we are forced to know but whose usefulness
we cannot define

for the prominent position given

who says we didn’t write her in? we silver-tipped magicians, heads bent
over tiny weapons making gorgeous battle on your
glorious war.

who says she received and did not take: her hands are
after all outstretched (you assumed
in supplication or benediction)? Between sinner and saint there is always

this woman.

The foolproof way to find her is to look for
the penis, you can’t miss that. There is no body
of work devoted to pinpointing his identity, the little man
with the articulate genitalia because when you’re
one of 623 it seems you get to keep your privacy even when
you’re naked in public.

Look heavenward from him to her, the jewel
around which the trinity rotates: consort-victim-mystery,
Queen-pauper-other; wife-mother-Aelfgyva.

Look carefully, does she bless or beg? Does she smile and if so
is it in welcome or placation? Does he
caress or strike?

Or is the answer
All of the above? Aelfgyva: active verb, plural noun,
infinity to the power of woman

You thought there were three and that three would be
enough and despite yourself you were


the reenactors

each year, the iron women come back to Bayeux,
still bearing, filled now with
playactors who lean out of windows,
fully committed to their roles, and invite me
to climb on board, darlin’
and I, fully committed to mine,
choose not to spit back:
I am not your spoil of war

finals season

He asks, do you follow football? And I say
a little, yes,
because it’s easier than trying to explain:
your football is a language I do not speak and yet
I want nothing more than to watch it with you, to transform
into a thing of clenched fists and screams and to
mean it; ask me along and I will commit to
your team in a way I may not ever
commit to you.

Do not ask me if I care; show me
and know that if I do not already,
I soon will.

I wonder if it is a matter of belonging, if
that rowdy partisan bunch becomes a
village where a wanderer can find a home: for 90 minutes I am
with my people simply because
I exist.

Maybe it’s just nice to care about something that does not
matter, to submit to a passion that does not threaten
to undo me, to crave, sinews stretched in longing,
an outcome that I can still
live without.

Perhaps it’s a welcome salve for the
irretrievably heterosexual
(all that muscle,
all that sweat, all those men caring
so unguardedly) but it might also be a refuge for the
genteelly alcoholic: one does not really
without also

I fear it is a steam valve for a
subterranean violence, for the obscene and the
furious within me, for the eternal ugliness that
traipses in my shadow and that threatens
, if not pacified by flesh on flesh,
(blood bin, biff)
arbitrary vehemence

but is it, at last, an arena in which to partake of
all the fearlessness I will never possess? A place of
unrepentant physicality, of feats of endurance and where pain
is embraced, digested,
and finally overpowered,
a place where to break,
is to be expected,
and where a hundred thousand voices shout the names
of the brave and the bold.

inside voice

get up, it’s late
don’t snooze
you idiot
read your emails
check your messages
no one’s answered, they all wish
you’d stop writing
get up
why’d you stay up so late?
why’d you drink so much?
you make awful decisions
do your stretches
what’s happening today?
this weekend?
what’s for breakfast?
turn on the news
you idiot, you’re uninformed
get up
make a list
you’re late
you’re an idiot

message that guy
fraidy cat
take some initiative
message him, no not like that
or that
delete that
you idiot
don’t let him know you’re keen
he’ll be repulsed
just message him, you spineless hag
he won’t reply
he was so relieved to get away from you
why’d you talk so much?
everyone knew you liked him
you made them uncomfortable
you’re an idiot

why’s she looking at you?
what’s on your face?
did you put on a shirt?
she thinks you’re foul
suck your stomach in
you should wear makeup
you need to run more
you need to eat less
you’re hideous
you’re late
they regret hiring you
they wish you weren’t here
say hello
suck your stomach in
don’t interrupt
they think you’re an idiot
what are you doing today?
what are you achieving?
what are you doing after work?
you should have done that yesterday
you’re an idiot

suck your stomach in
don’t laugh like that: hyena
teeth and desperation
they all hate you
you idiot
say something, contribute
don’t just stand there
awkward giant
suck your stomach in
tone it down, you’re making a scene
you child
you’re an idiot

what if Donald Trump wins
what then
what can you do about
how hateful the world is
you need to limit waste
you need to recycle more
the oceans are dying
the bees
you don’t care enough about the bees
you’re so narrowminded
find credible sources
read other perspectives
you’re wrong
you’re an idiot

my God, stop talking
he hates you
suck your stomach in
he can see the hairs on your face
he’s disgusted
stop trying
you’re an idiot

you’ve drunk too much
they all know
they’re judging you
you look like a f—ing idiot
you’re a f—ing idiot

why are you awake?
you will never be loved
you’re an idiot

get up, it’s late
what did you do last night?
you’re an idiot you’re an idiot you’re an idiot



Author’s note:

For as long as I can remember, this is what I’ve heard inside my head just about every waking minute of every day, except when I drown out the voice with intense physical activity, or with alcohol. It wasn’t until my late 20s that I came to understand this horrible voice didn’t come as standard; that not everyone had one, and that I could combat it. That what I was experiencing was anxiety.

This is the sound of high-functioning, manageable anxiety. I’ve had access to support – both professional and personal – when I’ve needed it. And I’ve been able to understand more about my brain’s strengths and weaknesses, and how to manage them. I believe that talking honestly and openly about mental health is the most powerful first step to ensuring everyone who needs that support – particularly those for whom mental health is much more complex and difficult – gets it.

And so, for World Mental Health Day, I’m being honest by publishing something I’ve written numerous versions of over the space of a year. It’s terrifying. But maybe in some small way it will help. 

a letter to the child inside

Oh girl.
Oh girl, you’ll make it to thirty.
You won’t die at sixteen the way you were convinced
that time
You won’t be interesting enough to die young
but you’ll be interesting enough.

Oh girl. There will come a night when you
won’t know where the nightclubs are
and won’t mind
Won’t know where the next drink is coming from
and won’t miss it
You’ll order a bottle of the house wine
and share it over dinner, and you’ll have
a conversation good enough that you’ll be happy to remember
all of it
And you’ll wander home on polished streets, deftly
negotiating history as though you had been there
and you will be in awe of your life.

Oh girl. The voice
never goes away but you’ll become
less inclined to listen to it, and even when
the panic closes your throat you’ll look around
at friends who put themselves through body scanners to be with you
Who are willing to cut you slices of their joy
and you will start to listen when you murmur to yourself,
you are loved, and
you deserve it.

Oh girl. You won’t ever find the end of the string that
tangles itself around your mind and heart but you will get so much better at
cutting through a window
where you need it, and there will be moments
, some of them piled in one after the other,
where your veins will run with molten joy, and you will look back
on every step you took to be in this place and you will
love every one.

Oh girl. He won’t ever come back and you won’t ever
quite heal over but you’ll run your fingers over the scar and marvel at its
softness, and you will be reminded of your
great capacity to patch up and
carry on. You’ll give up trying to grow new limbs but you will learn to do
so much
without them, and a lot of it

Oh girl. You’ll still lie on the floor sometimes and
sob, but oh,
what floors they’ll be
and every
you’ll get up a little wiser

oh girl. You’ll sit on a balcony that you paid for
all by yourself and you’ll gaze onto a
new sea
And you’ll write words you’ll still like
in a year’s time
And you’ll look back to see how far you’ve come and suddenly
you’ll realise
the reason you can’t quite see where the ocean
meets the sky is because
there is no edge
unless you put it there

And though you know there are monsters waiting,
oh girl,
you’ll still dive in


The day we met again, I burned the tip
off my middle finger, and spent the afternoon
with it extended to the world.

I burned it on hot sugar wax, right after saying to myself
don’t burn yourself with this.

I was waxing because I remembered how we’d made each other laugh
the night we met, and the way your laughter had
bubbled inside me
and how I wanted you to think I was the kind of girl who
always looked the way the world says a girl should look
so I sat with my finger under the tap, one armpit bare
the other hairy,
summoning up the courage to go on.

(Twenty minutes under running water is best
for a burn, although scientists
don’t yet know why.)

Did I say
don’t burn yourself
because I knew I would?

The day we met again, I came home and wished I could
take out my heart and hold it
under the tap

climbing makes no sense

choose your mountain. It helps to know a little
(not too much)
of its general aspect
its narrow passes
its hungry peaks;
peruse them at a safe distance.

Once chosen, remember
this is your mountain now.
Reject all others. There will be no
dalliances for you, with rolling hills or
seaside cliffs

Watch your mountain.
Don’t move! Keep focus.
Ignore distractions.
Are you studying your mountain? Good.
Do not stop.

If you look away, you might not
find it again.

Watch your mountain always.
You may choose to use
binoculars, or
a pirate’s eyeglass or
your own eagle-eyed gaze. That is fine;
what matters is that you have chosen a mountain
and you must watch it


Never climb your mountain.
Climbing makes no sense.
(Focus! Are you watching your mountain?)
If you climb your mountain
how will you watch it?

And once you reach the top
where will you look then?
Don’t be absurd.
Stay where you are.
Watch your mountain.

the fear

I had money when you asked me, my wallet was
weighed down with it, to the point that it
frustrated me, all that space taken up by
so little value but when you asked me madame, une pièce
c’est pour manger
I shook my head and hurried on pretending
my bag did not contain a tiny pirate’s loot. When you walked
along the metro carriage announcing that you had not eaten
in 24 hours I looked at my feet, stuffed into boots not yet worn through but that I already
had a mind to replace in les soldes because
I’m in Paris and
I want Parisian boots
and I did not look up even though I carried bread and fruit I would not eat
when I got home, deciding instead to pay double for
risotto aux cèpes and rosé at the bistrot
that faces Saint Laurent.

My friend says, people are not open here. He says,
(brows cutting deep into his genial face) no one
cares here. When he was in America, he says,
he was stranded at an airport until a stranger
offered him a bed, and a ride to it, and when he said yes what he found at the end was
a new friend. He shakes his head, remembering: people are not kind,

And I gaze up at him, mute, wondering
how it feels not to be afraid. How much more
space his brain can find for things when it is not
calculating risk and planning exit strategies, when it is not weighing up
the guilt of not fishing out some extraneous coins against the fear that
that hungry man might also be a violent one, when it is not
registering the time it takes to open-slide through-close the front door
to an apartment building,
just in case, and trying every day after work, subconsciously, to do it
just a little faster,

when it is not scanning for signs that no will translate as
once more with feeling

I have long since forgotten to resent the mental energy it takes
just to exist; maybe
it keeps me sharp. I’d be lying if I didn’t get a kick out of my
highwire freedom, balanced, muscles working,
and more beautiful because of it
but the fear has stolen my empathy and that I mourn, along with
the stories you might be able to tell me, if it would let me stop and ask you for them

But it is just me, and it takes
for me to get inside my door.

a poet is not what you think it is

I am not a poet, I have an office and
I spend a lot of days saying things like
do you have a strategic plan?
there is a bug in the database. I get paid
once a month, for saying these things
and I enjoy doing my tax and I have never
sprayed a dark bar with passionate saliva as I
retell my traumatic childhood in
compelling technicolor. I was a kid who had a pony
and a dad
and a mum
and a life where I could not see the edges because
anything was possible.

I am not a poet, my name
is Jane, for Heaven’s sake;
if I were a poet it would be

I am not a poet, my brother will tell me later
(he does it now because
my father no longer can)
because if I were a poet I would write poems
that rhyme
like I did back when I thought I was
a poet too.

I am not a poet, poets tell
inscrutable stories and know what
meter is and spend hours crafting
autumn leaves into Derrida references. Poets do not
bleed words onto pages from inconsequential cuts,
do not split lines where
their brain leaves spaces without asking
why it’s doing so and
what the spaces mean. Poets write
Poetry, they do not
narrate their mundane lives in shattered prose just because
they like the way it feels down
beneath their hearts
when the words fit together.

Don’t get me wrong,
I would like to be a poet
one day.

et vous?

In the evening, a man with a guitar sings songs in the corner of the café below my flat. Afterwards, he walks amongst the tables with his hat upturned, smiling and asking. People give. He sings well.

I sit in a different corner, writing bad poetry. I wish I had a hat.


Originally published on Feminartsy.

how we desert sprites grew into
sharks, i’ll never know:
creatures of the depths that roam
without ceasing, that cannot stop
for fear of sinking death

Does the sea envy land
its solidity? Does it tire of the
dip and crest and break, and dream
a restless dream of ancient rock?

Is it why, from time to time it
hauls back and overreaches, jealously dragging
unwitting earth away to its
fretful bed, to rest but
never settle

and is it saying, when it rattles through
the comfortable moorings of
indolent boats: if i am never to be still,
why you?

or is it us,
we little sharks still longing for the land,
that quake the ocean
with our mortal fear?

Valentine’s Day

Originally published on Feminartsy.


my heart is a nightwatchman who
still fears the dark, a warrior woken
in peacetime by phantom gunfire
crashing through his dreams

my beloved walks even when there is
nowhere to be, feet duty-bound to shake off pursuers
who have long since
lost his scent.


my heart is a child among the gravestones, skipping
over resting bones and hiding
in the shadows of stone angels
pulling with impatience on the skirts of women
who stand and murmur over lush grass:
Our Father, who art in Heaven

my love collects stray petals, blown
from other people’s vases, and does not understand
why they must be taken back.


my heart is a widow leaving roses
in the sun, to fade and die
in honour of a love that never will, a sorrow
that grows quiet but
plays on.

my sweetheart is a callused hand that still
slips into mine on
winter mornings, a laugh that still bursts out
in hushed rooms.


my heart goes on other people’s dates and
reads bedtime stories to other people’s children and
commits to other people’s weddings and beats
fastest in pursuit of things that
are not there.


my heart is you but it is not