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some part of me still knows. Bunched lavender

breaths from white enamel jug, a window-ledge


in a front room lit by laughter that disappears

like in Bergman films the moment a door opens


and sisters and brothers I never had unlock me

lid by lid to wander from cotton-clutched sleep.


                 from Mother Tongue by Paul Waring 



















1 – BIOGRAPHY:  Paul Waring


Paul Waring is from Wirral, UK. His poems have been widely published in themed anthologies, print journals, magazines and webzines. A 2017 Pushcart Prize nominee, he was awarded second place in the 2019 Yaffle Prize and commended and short-listed in the 2019 Welshpool Poetry Competition. Recent and forthcoming publications include: Prole, Atrium, Ink Sweat & Tears, London Grip, The Blue Nib, Dear Reader, Nine Muses Poetry, Dodging The Rain (Ireland), Beautiful Dragons ‘Well, Dam’ anthology, Yaffle Press ‘An Insubstantial Universe’ anthology and Half-Moon Books ‘A View From Olympia’ anthology. His debut pamphlet, Quotidian, was published in 2019 by Yaffle Press. Paul is a part of the Wirral Poetry Festival planning team. He enjoys performing poetry and has been guest poet at a number of poetry events around the UK.







Three flights up

threadbare arthritic stairs

in damp stale air

a vase-less jumble 

of nicotined furniture 

sepia-tinted peeling walls

and clogged lungs of carpet.


Ill-fitting dentures 

of sash windows rattle 

as shivering lips

of curtain beg warmth

from a one-bar electric fire 

that eats fifty pence pieces.


Cracked elbows of PVC sofa

sprout corn-coloured foam

tangerine acrylic of seats

singed and stained by careless 

ciggies and TV dinners.


On a stripped bed a sagging

mattress reads like a DNA history

of real and imagined sex.


'Tomorrow's World' on a grainy 

black and white TV peddles 

dreams of futures 

in a language

we've yet to learn.






She comes back in slipper-step whispers

footfall, creaks on stairs that fill liminal space


the half-world before waking. Somewhere we once

called home; Beaconsfield or Dagenham, places


some part of me still knows. Bunched lavender

breaths from white enamel jug, a window-ledge


in a front room lit by laughter that disappears

like in Bergman films the moment a door opens


and sisters and brothers I never had unlock me

lid by lid to wander from cotton-clutched sleep.


This morning’s hallway speaks of something

just baked. Caterina Valente song wafts


from the garden; a pinafored back that must

be hers unpegs a line and it’s always summer


as I race after boxer pup Pedro; find the wood

we mustn’t visit, air thick with pungent wild garlic


and bird chatter; run until I fall, breathless

the gap-toothed boy in a forgotten polaroid


a Sunday picnic, his face cupped then kissed,

words she no longer finds, a lost language.







Weekends he escaped to a world away

from ours, crazy-paved corner of garden,

dad-only den; shed air incense of solder,

sawn cedar or pine, heady, glue-thick,

cigarette smoke haze punctured by metal

or wood notes from orchestra of tools.

I see him, stick-thin, still hunched

over thoughts, long after day downs

last dregs of light, intent to crack code

of a repair, design some new gadget

or eavesdrop police channel chatter

on radio scanner. I wanted to be him –

drill with dental precision, perform surgery

on circuit boards – but could only watch,

fetch cuppas and brush up. Wanted to be

his hands, hold them steady in later years,

be his eyes that lost focus, now there

in my reflection; growing reminders of him,

another world that awaits.







again, summons me from sleep with

familiar bangs and shouts in early hours.

Stands stooped, confused half-smile 

and pleads: where am I? Artist eyes 

now fixed into haunted stares. They 

say for some the brain stops knitting 

neurons, instead starts to unpick itself 

row by row, stitches and seams slowly 

disconnected from the here and now 

until all-that-matters is out of reach.

I escort her home and if, over tea, 

ask, lets say, about her wedding day 

photo in a frame shell light up again,

paint fine brushstroke detail: pearl 

white taffeta gown, fathers words 

in the car, that first dance. But next, 

another half-smile; shes certain I’m 

the son who never visits, laughs off 

any suggestion I only live next door.





I’m not sure I should be telling you

but the man opposite comes and goes

at unsocial hours. Heavy-set, head-down

in hoodie and trainers, our eyes never

meet. And I’ve yet to see him in company

of elderly mother, girl or boyfriend.


Possibly a loner who doesn’t prefer a kill

to a kiss; isnt a blood-mad butcher

on abattoir streets. For all I know

on-call electrician or night shift carer

who happens to drive a white van

one I’ve had no opportunity to inspect


for tell-tale signs: knife, rope, tape or

DNA-trace mattress. And should it turn out

he has no dark side, I’d hate to be labelled

warped Neighbourhood Watch peddler

of malicious gossip. Until I know more,

maybe best kept between ourselves.





arrives early in ’76, stays later than a pub drunk,

bakes us in brick kilns, windows no-one dare

close; Don’t Go Breaking My Heart on radios

all day, stray dog barks in revolt.


Sundays unrattled by mowers as gardens gasp

for breath, now watering lawns or plants

comes at risk of arrest; alarm of drought

pressed in reservoir and lake.


Bare arms sardine onto buses bound for park,

pool and beach; heat too intimate, clothes

clinging like sticking plaster to lobster flesh

basted in sun factor 4 or 6.


Ears always pricked for ice-cream vans,

eons before afternoons inhale barbeque smoke.

Balmy nights we map stars, sheetless waits

for sleep in sauna beds, no whisper


of breeze, owl soundtrack plays in trees,

warm-up to birdsong jukebox. Summer

we love and hate at the same time

tells everything you need to know.





Thickened with post-fry-up strollers

            the Sunday prom chokes to a shuffle

Unrushed couples, families and dogs

            all out for the salted air and stretch


disinclined to flag amongst joggers

            or lycra-skinned dome-headed cyclists

bent into roiling wind that scourges

            around this peninsula tip


watching tide drive in on duelling waves

            under smudged cloud, hued

indigo and violet, ripe as a bruise;

            air punctured by choral hum


chatter, spiked cries, high-pitched laughs

            and yaps, enough to mask

oystercatcher fine-piped notes

            on distant orange stilts, beaks


stalking molluscs locked behind

            silted eyes, as river lungs wheeze

and Mersey Tunnel caged hearts

            beat from otherworlds beneath.






Afternoon sun illuminates office block graphs

as were pulled, station by station, from the city.

He sits opposite, out of place yet unfazed, alert

among sardined, work-weary commuters,

impatient-eyed owners of devices that ding

and ping to kill time.


His face, taut-skinned, tanned like good leather,

reads a yellowed Gabriel García Márquez paperback

with Spanish title, bookmarked by LAN airline

boarding card. I recognise the story; the one

about a shipwrecked sailor.


I ponder his life and whats left of mine: an hour-

glass of days draining to retirement, and recall

the boy whose wandering eyes saw futures far

beyond small town horizons; then wonder

whatever happened to his dreams and the ship

that never set sail.





A table-top canvas  

            half-eaten dishes    

knives and forks askew      

            lip-prints on glasses

wine no longer breathing   

            a room

where silence feeds

            inhales   exhales


days when every passing train 

            might be the one

carrying you

            and elsewhere                     

is a place

            out of reach

and what’s left waits

            like Laika in space





When I said if   

                        and I only said if

                                                    we were stone   


you pictured street cobble or beach-smooth pebble

but I had in mind         mountain     giant     alpine                


first name familiar with anyweather     scarfed by

monochrome cloud     ring-side as rush-hour birds

smoke past mackerel sky    and us    tempted to gulp

flame-thrown sun or shut storms off at the mains


                        and not just that         


close enough to choose from menu of moons  

and spoon-scoop stars under umbrella of night


            (OK, maybe that’s going too far)


but if    like I said

                             if we were stone

                                                        and if one day


the world should turn in on itself    turn us into ice    

we’d stand naked    naked as newborns and    let’s

face it    watch ourselves melt    and     trickledrift

apart     because    isn’t that    how it goes?






ON BEDSITS   Published by Amaryllis 2017

MOTHER TONGUE  Published by Eunoia Review 2020

SHEDBOUND  Published by The High Window 2018 

THE LADY NEXT DOOR IS LOST Published by Prole 2018 

NEIGHBOURHOOD WATCH Published by Atrium Poetry 2018 

THE SUMMER IN QUESTION Published by The Blue Nib 2020

THERWORLDS  Published by Beautiful Dragons Well, Dam!’ Anthology 2019

MAN ON A TRAIN  Published by Prole 2017

UNFINISHED  Published by London Grip 2020

MELT Awarded second place, Yaffle Prize 2019


4 - Afterword

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We are looking for other poets to feature in this series, and are open to submissions.  Please send one poem and a short bio to - info@poetrykit.org

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