Speed of Exchange

Aisling Fahey, Young Poet Laureate for London 2014-2015


Maybe the quiet summers in your grandmother’s house

were there to teach you the different speeds of your body.


I know you want to go further than the women in your past

had means to go.


When you stand still for too long

you feel the silence creeping in like an unwelcome hand.


You ask for a blueprint of your body so you can leave it on a train

and have something certain to search for.


We keep going to the same shop, on neutral ground, to buy love.

Our words are the currencies of opposing countries. We know this.


The cashier holds our notes, worthless to all here but us.

Holding our notes, which might as well be origami swans,


he wants to tell us all he’s learnt of exchange.

The days he watched his father barter as the sun charred his arms.


This world will make memory of our shatterable bones.


I’ll be straight with you, I found your story down the back of the couch

and made music without asking. You don’t play your old tapes. It is not


Sunday. When the myths you convinced yourself weren’t real

reared themselves in your home – dragon at the dining table –


saviour in the bathtub – what was it you said?


Know that this week I remembered that this Earth

doesn’t let the good walk through unscathed.


I looked at my father and did not want his skull as artefact.

It is time to lay in the shadow of your mother and sleep.


We know what we meant to say –

I love you because in an x-ray of my body you would show up in my bones.


The child points at the redacted areas of his parents’ lives,

plucking organs from their body as if weeds from overgrown gardens.


Teach us something new of this old burden called time.

You move as if the answers called, said they’re on their way.


Rachel Long, London Laureate 2014-2015

Tiff’s pressing me against school railings,
doing my eyeliner. This is how we meet proper.
I whisper in class, ‘Your eyes.
Can you make mine like that?’
Like graphic novel knives.

Against make-up rules and railings – the diamonds
we chat with our fingers inside. We want
engagement rings this big, so big
we can see freedom on the other side

Her weight against me is solid and soft, a bomb
before, then after, it goes off. A weight inclusive
of the glitter on her lids, the oil spill on her lips, the sandwiches
padding her bra. Yes, the sandwiches; unbuttered, no filling
– this is their purpose, not privilege.

See, by now, the boys know the difference
between tissue and tit, a sock and a tit,
but not yet a tit and a slice of bread.
Tiff’s so smart
my new eyes weep.


Landing Lights

Clare Mulley, London Laureate 2014-2015


Outside my window, there is a tree

pregnant with horse chestnut –


shoals of tiny puffer fish

crowded against the glass.


Above them, night’s black belly

looms and rolls, sowing behind


its phosphorescent trails of craft

to will o’ wisp. I never used to watch


or wonder at the journey’s end

till now; each lone flare heralding


just one more risk, one more arrival

in the gathering dark. Against the afterglow


the netted branches bulge with promises.

Soon I will split them open,


polished, swelling to the touch

like piano keys before a note,


and in their unborn reverie

try to forget the sound of fallen leaves.

Stapleton Road

Laurie Bolger, London Laureate 2014-2015


I’m leaning at the kitchen door

of your mishmash city garden,

watching you puff and pace

and potter with the plants.

Your face is a scribble in the sun,

hands grubby, your jumper a mess

you are frayed around the edges.


I want to tell you that I think our shoelaces are tied together, that we’re falling all over each other

in a great big disaster. That whatever this is it weighs a ton, this travel and drizzle and not enough room.


The mugs in your kitchen

all have handles missing,

so you drain your tea –

half look at me – picking

at the buddleia by the wall,

stubborn little thing, familiar

with the city, pushing it’s way

through the concrete.


We make our best awkward morning conversation, wait for the kettle to click, kicking kitchen cupboards with our heels. I’ll have to get my train soon –


and I’ll walk the platform tonight

I’ll read your station on my ticket,

Waterloo will tell me to forget you

when I throw my paper coffee cup

in the bin, and I’ll try to press

that same unsteady feeling I get

every time that I pull in.


Ella Frears, London Laureate 2014-2015


An apparition of an aproned man:

the television refuses to mute.


In a dark bar Harry presses his crotch

against a girl he does not yet realise is his sister.


A bottle cracks in a canvas bag, wine

blooms under the armpit of a woman walking home.


Mary is on the sofa. Soft tick

of the heater, the shuffle of papers.


Were those bells or a belt

undone with one hand?


She sniffs –

something tearing?


His silence slips into her

ear like the air after sound.


Was that it? The tiny thud thud

repeat: fly against glass.


Or the yellow lamp-light,

was that how it sunk in?


For a moment Songs of Praise

plays only the descant,


a coin is pushed into a slot, a ring is slipped onto a finger,

the sliver of hot orange sun is nearly gone;


we’ve forgotten how to look for signs,

maybe there were none.