:: Article

Four Poems

By Melissa Lee-Houghton.


The cold grips our skin. We run
around the football pitch in a field
at ten pm in the middle of winter-
it’s dark, and the dark is playful with us,
giving us shape and silhouette.
Some guy parks his car on the driveway
and we shout over;
he hurries inside his house and we figure
we’d better put some clothes on.
We could be made of ice. We don’t care-
as far as we’re concerned, if aliens land
this is where they will be landing,
and in all our glory, we dance.

She lives above an old launderette.
The gorgeous steam smell of the place gets
up our sensitive noses and in our hair.
Her mum plays Rush LP’s and wears
leather skirts and takes Prozac.
In the evening we can’t go into the living room
in case she’s skinning up.
One time her dad came into her room,
sat down talking to her guitar like it was a person.
We laugh, though I know her life is tragic.
I walk by her in school and my nipples hurt;
I just want to touch her all the time.

We try on sunglasses in a department store
on a day out by the sea.
We run out of the shop wearing them
streaming with tears of laughter-
it gives us a hunger; we buy greasy doughnuts
and walk the promenade, hand in hand.
Nobody stares.
We can do no wrong. We can get stoned
in the woods and make out, and no-one
stops us. We can sleep together like release doves.
At times we feel insane,

so we drink our tinnies and smoke our cigarettes,
talk about leaving school and working in telesales.
Talk about the flat we’ll have together
and the pets, and the music we will listen to all night-
we won’t need to sleep.
We’re of the darkness, our eyes need never shut-
and her mum falls asleep in the chair
in her dressing gown, or comes in pissed
and tripping and she carries her to bed-
we have found ways of hiding from this.
Vodka does the trick, and sex.
But it’s not the way they do it in the movies.

We’ve got hard hearts.
We share t-shirts, jeans, spit.
All the lads fancy her but she never even blinks.
I have her, like only I can turn her head
and I’m mad with it.
We drink wine through straws by the woods
in the dark. We are on a higher plane.
Her eyes are blue like a husky.
Her pupils are always tiny.
Her skin is so supple and firm-
she’s a wild creature, and I won’t tame her-
her heart beats double time when sleeping;
I don’t know what I’m doing with her.

She writes me letters, I read them in bed.
She says she’s crying, says she’s lonely.
Says she had to put her mum to bed again.
Says she’s not going to school anymore,
they’ll have to make her, and all that I see
are the highlighted words in the last paragraph-
please baby always love me.

Heart and Soul
For Ian Curtis

In your wife’s tired body, strange music accumulates,
a clawing of the bed-sheets,
one foot over the side of the bed and cold;
feeling for monsters while you sleep. You can’t
hold her now, the waxwork with too much make-up on-
a broken heart from waiting in the kitchen too long,
sweeping and mopping up. Inside, your blood
was slippery, black, lacking musicality. The thud
of your heart rocked your brain in your box room
where you wrote your best lyrics. In all that dark you wore
sunglasses in winter, nobody owned you.
You wanted the growl of cheap guitars
and a bassline to hang yourself on. You wanted to screw
the audience, all of them, and so you ripped it up-
carnal hysteria like death-throes
guitar strings searing like whips. And then pie and chips for tea
at a table with a chequered cloth. And the baby wants affection
for breakfast and you don’t want to wake up again.
The one you love is a thousand miles away
putting her earrings in at the mirror and smiling,
the thought of your naked body and sex that almost hurt,
holding onto herself. Everyone believes in you.
You’re an essential component. You’re Music.
You eat your wife’s meals and spit out pound coins.
Pennies slip through your fingers and the baby needs nappies-
Where will it end? You ask yourself that question each night;
you already know. For your true love you turn up your collar
and walk in the snow, push the pram to the park
where you want the world to end. You can’t give her what you promised,
you can’t give any of them what you promised.
The red brick house on the red brick road
with the draught under the back door that used to get into your bed at night,
stop your heart. She would wake next to you, or dream of waking next to you,
put a hand on your chest, (she’s smiling
and you’re repulsed by the smell of her breath, the curve of her hip)-
you want long black hair, not dirty blonde- you want guilt and envy,
surrender, and the pure psychology of being
in her supple skin. What will they do with your music?
What will they do with your songs? Eat you alive, they’ll
eat you alive. You’ll never have grey hair or loose teeth;
your dead skin and dust will stay in that house for a decade.
She’ll breathe you in and you’ll make her sneeze.
The new guy will choke on you and you will haunt him.
He has heard all your albums. He dreamed of you of late, he dreamt that you put your fist
through the bedroom window and he had to dress the lacerations,
your eyes rolling, singing from the grave holy and old-
one will burn…
Gravity is a son-of-a-bitch. I know manic depressives
that have suffered more and survived. I’ve known schizophrenics
and I have come back from the dead with a handful of your hair.
Down there, you’re a number. You’re still epileptic, that’s your punishment
that’s what they dished out for your abandoning them,
a mouth full of chewed glass and your hands bunched in fists
and your body hanging like a block of wood being beaten
and your soul still spilling out of the front door
and rolling down the street in a panic of her screams;
lucid, ugly, piercing screams until there’s no sound,
just mouthing help me-
Love dug your grave.
Love churned the soil, loosened the worms.
Love fed your baby.
Love sold your records.
You didn’t have enough love.
You didn’t have enough.


I know the hunger will come
and it will break you. You have wet dreams
because I won’t play.
This is the fourth poem I have ever written in which I will
use the word sterile. We don’t need protection.
We just need faith,
some kind of angel.

In the room next door our children and playing with their food.
They are waiting for me to snap.
They don’t know that the real politics in this house
are going on right now
in an empty, dark room with a cold, empty bed
where poltergeists are howling noiselessly
swinging from the lampshades,
mad for us.

The hunger will come and it will
define you. It was there before, when we met,
when even forests weren’t too big for us.
I tell you I don’t care if they eat they won’t starve.
You, on the other hand, are dying in a way nobody can see,
forever. You’re losing all your best years.
It’s hard to bear witness to that, when in fact
I can’t, can’t be without you

and my soul is contemplating defeat-
I’m not worldly- I have been down on my knees for you,
I have begged.

There are no stars tonight, only rain.
I can’t tune into the way you make me feel.
I have no clue when you will tire of me holding your head at night
still as salt and mortar,
no clue when you will tire of me and
twist my arm-
and break.

Hunger Pangs

The girls try to cut into their arms with blunt knives-
Sunita is eating out of the food disposal.
They get up and run to the bathroom, scrambling
past each other to be the first.
I look at my plate and I feel guilty for my hunger pangs and
Sunita has clods of food in her soft, dumpy hands-
when they realise they have to drag her
on her behind, down the corridor, her big mammal laugh
booming. This madness in me, it is of a timbre
and a texture that leaves my emotions emaciated.
I can’t cry; these girls are beautiful and dying-
I can’t cry; nobody is going to save me. Not here.
The sunsets are like nothing else, they move me to tears-
though I watch from my reinforced window; no-one cares
about the fucking sun.
When it’s dark, no-one’s sorry-
trees lash the windows like we’re Wuthering Heights
and the gale force winds don’t mean nothing at all;
they’re no match for thirteen girls
who can handle the sight of blood
and can and will fly out into the night.


Melissa Lee-Houghton‘s first collection A Body Made of You was released in April 2011 by Penned in the Margins. Her work has been published in many literary magazines, including Tears in the Fence, Magma, Poetry Salzburg Review and Succour, and has work upcoming in La Reata and The Reader. She writes regularly for The Short Review and has contributed to a number of anthologies, most recently Starry Rhymes by Read This Press.

First published in 3:AM Magazine: Thursday, February 9th, 2012.