My dirty fingerprints are all over my bookshelf. I didn’t know what I was doing. Maybe delirious again, looking for my life in poems, chanting, save me save me save me save me save me dammit, then falling back to bed, clutching a book to my chest.

Small Female Skull
Carol Ann Duffy

With some surprise, I balance my small female skull in my hands.
What is it like? An ocarina? Blow in its eye.
It cannot cry, holds its breath only as long as I exhale,
mildly alarmed now, into the hole where the nose was,
press my ear to its grin. A vanishing sigh.
For some time, I sit on the lavatory seat with my head
in my hands, appalled. It feels much lighter than I’d thought;
the weight of a deck of cards, a slim volume of verse,
but with something else, as though it could levitate. Disturbing.
So why do I kiss it on the brow, my warm lips to its papery bone,

and take it to the mirror to ask for a gottle of geer?
I rinse it under the tap, watch dust run away, like sand
from a swimming cap, then dry it – firstborn – gently
with a towel. I see the scar where I fell for sheer love
down treacherous stairs, and read that shattering day like braille.

Love, I murmur to my skull, then, louder, other grand words,
shouting the hollow nouns in a white-tiled room.
Downstairs they will think I have lost my mind. No. I only weep
into these two holes here, or I’m grinning back at the joke, this is
a friend of mine. See, I hold her face in trembling, passionate hands.

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Listening to Philip Glass’ Mad Rush, one of the most calming pieces I’ve ever listened to. It quiets my soul. I am sitting in your car, in the passenger seat. The evening is gentle, the breeze a caress. It ruffles my hair, kisses my nape. I lean my head, my hand out the window in the wind. We were flying on a road that never ends. Like the time when we were on a boat, along the river, my fingers grazing the water, as light as your fingers on my cheek.

Rain
Carol Ann Duffy

Not so hot as this for a hundred years.
You were where I was going. I was in tears.
I surrendered my heart to the judgement of my peers.

A century’s heat in the garden, fierce as love.
You returned on the day I had to leave.
I mimed the full, rich, busy life I had to live.

Hotter than hell. I burned for you day and night;
got bits of your body wrong, bits of it right,
in the huge mouth of the dark, in the bite of the light.

I planted a rose, burnt orange, the colour of flame,
gave it the last of the water, gave it your name.
It flared back at the sun in a perfect rhyme.

Then the rain came, like stammered kisses at first
on the back of my neck. I unfurled my fist
for the rain to caress with its lips. I turned up my face,

and water flooded my mouth, baptised my head,
and the rainclouds gathered like midnight overhead,
and the rain came down like a lover comes to a bed.

Happy birthday to me, I guess. Another year over. Another year gone. I’m twenty. I feel so new.

Here’s one of my favourite poems ever.

Valentine
Carol Ann Duffy

Not a red rose or a satin heart.

I give you an onion.
It is a moon wrapped in brown paper.
It promises light
like the careful undressing of love.

Here.
It will blind you with tears
like a lover.
It will make your reflection
a wobbling photo of grief.

I am trying to be truthful.

Not a cute card or a kissogram.

I give you an onion.
Its fierce kiss will stay on your lips,
possessive and faithful
as we are,
for as long as we are.

Take it.
Its platinum loops shrink to a wedding-ring,
if you like.

Lethal.
Its scent will cling to your fingers,
cling to your knife.