Tiny safenesses

Start with a memory – just pick one. Cast a fishing line out into the blackness of the night and try to catch one of the little silver ripples that jingle like coins against the moon. They’re not organised into a filing cabinet like you think they ought to be. They’re not in size order, or even organised by quality. They’re floating out there like stars in distant constellations, their light bearing only a flicker of a tangential relevance to their neighbours, superimposed an infinity later. 

Cast out your line, and reel in the first thing impaled on its hook. You’re nine years old, and you’ve set up a den which you’re calling your “office” on the window sill in your bedroom, behind brightly coloured curtains, where you survey the garden through a toy telescope with your little body pressed against the radiator until it sears, safe and sound.

You don’t linger long on this catch, because holding onto its slippery tail is another memory, of another flimsy den beneath the bed. Old sofa cushions and a silk scarf obscure you from view, and it’s so very impenetrable that it feels almost worth starting a religion over. 

Suddenly, the precious tiny safenesses of years gone by are abundant – each one just a flicker of something transient and too fleeting to catch – a secluded spot on the garden wall, obscured by an overgrown Buddleia, but with enough visibility of the surrounding territories that you can see if anyone is coming; a safe space for two behind the miniature railway, where crisp packets and sweet wrappers formed the bedding of the nest; the blanket fort where a years-dimmed torch was the key to an afternoon of literary escapism...

And as the tide of tiny safenesses grows stronger, somehow they fade more quickly than ever. Are you summoning them to be destroyed? Are you remembering them correctly? Were you ever really safe? The fish laugh at you as they turn and squirm back into the moonlit waves, a trick of the light or something more transformative? You’re left with the emptiness after a question escapes your lips, and an endless night of uncertainty.

How to claw back at a fiction of safeness in a world that has been cracked open? 


An old poem

It’s national poetry day and I couldn’t pick from the hundreds of favourites I have so I thought I’d go full-narcissus and post one of my own poems, written a couple of summers ago in a fresh water lagoon near Perpignan.


The empty rock, with its hole

And its unhand smooth


Round and licked by years

Salt, sweat, tumbling

Down the mountain

The children made golden with

Two months of laziness

Gulp and scream a final weekend

Of stolen merriment

A young man and his lover

Drift along in their inflatable boat

Kept afloat with lungfuls

And the birds have nowhere to nest


The trees are elsewhere

Our fat, sundial world

A progression of shadows

That's not a fig tree there

The leaves are too jagged,

There are too many veins

A distant child plunges into the water.

This meticulous Everything

Continuing and continuing.