Just got back from a wonderful weekend at the Edinburgh Book Festival – after an early morning climb up Arthur’s Seat I caught sets from Catherine Smith (in the dark), Blake Morrison, Niall Campbell and the Homework crew, and managed to fit in a few pints with Tim Turnbull. I also got to take part in a fantastic Philip Larkin event – thank-you to Becky Fincham and Luke Wright of Bigmouth for inviting me. Here’s the poem I wrote for it, after Larkin’s ‘Lines on a Young Lady’s Photograph Album’
Lines on a Young Woman’s Instagram Feed
Last night I came upon your feed quite late.
Was looking for distraction, to strip-mine
some dirty chicken wings, finish the wine
already tasting of its ache:
I killed time with your little squares of time.
What full full days! Each moment is a pose —
the chair that’s been distressed, the knowing cat,
kimchi or pork-ribs from some popup pit,
the jam-jar’s tilted, pouty rose,
graffiti in the toilet: IS THIS IT?
And then the pictures of your many friends —
their T-shirts, lipstick, cartons of craft beer
or coldbrew in the park, the rigid cheer
of bearded boys whose smiles intend
by seas and fairground skies you filter bluer.
All pretext for the focus of your art:
you on the bus, made-up. Your new tattoo.
You smoulder, wink and tip your head at you:
your lips hover slightly apart –
you wait for me to press a heart, I do.
I heart your stuck-out tongue, sucked cheeks, I like
your pastel nails, fun earrings, funny face.
No moment of you is allowed to waste,
but cropped until it’s almost like
you’re perfect and live in a perfect place.
A bubble-tea, pale light in a green tree,
an aeroplane, a stage from far away –
I envy you each saturated day.
I lose so very much of me:
myself is something squandered, poured away.
A single set of memories soon breaks
or burns – I scrabble round for ones I’ve lost –
whilst yours are here, immortal, prettiest,
and every shot your iPhone takes
you know that you are watched by something vast.
Attention’s being paid though you’re alone:
the prawn penne for one you carefully make
in your small flat redeems itself, my take-
away begrimes my curtained home
whilst yours is petalled, lit upon a plate.
I do not know you, beautiful. Don’t fear.
I witness you – the loveliness you need
and almost, from an angle, do achieve,
the flash that’s shining in your tear.
I’m pressing play and watching as you breathe.