John Siddique (Wigan, UK): Five Poems


I worry every time I see her it may be
the last time. My mother is 74 this year,
that age when, if she doesn’t answer
the phone, my stomach backspins.

Today I massaged her hands with moisturiser,
with drops of lavender mixed in it. Her arthritis
is really bad in her left hand. The thumb
closing over the palm. Her middle finger
thick ropey gristle beneath tissue transparent skin.

This is the first time we’ve done such a thing
Mother objects at first, but begins to enjoy
my fingers pressing her fingers; the muscle-root
in her forearm, the small marbles that roll
across the muscle.

Often these days we dance to Abba or Queen,
quick two minute waltzes on her green cat-haired
rug that’s always crooked. She’s not been touched
much in her life. I die if a day goes by without a love.

She never hugged us once we’d stopped being small
My sisters and I are knotty trees in
mum’s garden. Now I try to feed and care
for her with lavender oil and hands, hoping
some of the love I taught myself will soak
into her fingers, and backflow into
her body, through the fibres she has grown
over her untouched desire.


We will work
where they will not.

We will learn
where they refuse.

They talk amongst themselves,
say we steal their jobs.

They talk,
we work.


That bed, spread with colour like a Klimt kiss.
We are wrapped in cloth, wrapped in glist.
Bound up with each other. Jigsaw pieces of arms.

You find me down the side of the couch.
You sleep hard on my chest. It only takes a minute .
Your breath in time with my heartbeat, and you sleep.

I watch & guess the light through the blind cracks.

In the steep field opposite cows are sleeping,
huddled together. A warm black and white chin
steams on another’s back.

We are wrapped in purple and gold thread
You wanted to feel royal. My chin against your forehead,
my sleeping arm quite numb & dead, holding round your back.

(2 newer pieces
‘Tree of the world’ is from the newly published anthology ‘Transparency’ (Crocus Books) which I have just edited)


There is a town north of here where I’m told
the people are all survivors of small intimate
personal disasters. A whole town of people
who for whatever reasons have all been left
behind. I went there for a while to see if
it was true, all I could tell was that no one
looked like they had had sex in a long while,
good sex that is, that glues you back together.
But they do couple and uncouple at a furious
rate, no relationship gets past five years,
and there are so many children born of these
couplings who won’t leave when they’re grown.


On nights when the sounds of the children
we should have had wake me. I sit in the yellow
of the bulb, and place my hands upon the horizon,
spin on the axis mundi which connects us,
even though at times we have no desire
to be connected. The stones on the moor,

touched by so many over the centuries,
so much so they have memories, will tell the stories
of all our confessions. If one will just stand,
and lay one’s hands and listen at the centre.

The carvings of spirals and swastikas,
concentric rings and bloodlines, added to
over millennia, will fade in eternities face.
Each year a wipe of a cloth over rough stone,
soon they’ll be polished and faceless,
soon they will be sand on the wind.

I will wait for you there, where the symbols
lose their meanings, where our attempts
at holding on are less than nothings, but still the axis,
nameless and unspeakable, is true, never out of sight.

© John Siddique 2005