you sing like him,

notes glittery, dragged,

made-up, maquillaged 

– perfect face – like his,

fey gestures arching the air,

curving neck of the snow-falling

frozen air – twice kissed – 

your lips – your creased wrists

you left – I felt

I am somehow the snow

the desperate fall

sparking my freeze,

your sad eyes tracking me,

finding me lacking 

– too hard – unmelting – white onyx –

– rusted mirror – bitter cauldron – a ballgown – 

a man – sequinned – elegant

holding me – dancing me

I learnt pestilence long ago – 

I know which – incantations – drip the most

you are all far from me,

ghosts in the press of a hard concrete wall –

the long – flickering – night 


We had carved dark work some weeks before,

Now this love-totem was fished up from the clear sea bottom,

Pulled wet, glistening, into the boat.

I never knew the body had a memory,

Could twist like a fish longing hard for your kiss,

Catch the taste of your sweat in the back of its throat.

Did you feel that tug during your Sunday routine?

It’s like part of you is cut away with air beyond,

Channels finding a new course, two rivers in one.

I would lie upon you now, I am your driftwood

Carved from a haunted tree, sinking, now, into the sea.

And so my body lives and drowns, my mind flows away from me.

You are the North Star I glitter over,

The high-hedged lane leading down to the sea.

I tread the enamelled lane like a sailor 

Who puts out the stars, ripples all over.

My body drifts weightless, descends into black.

There is no ecstasy in your lack,

Only a pause as the great sea laps.

The Comforters

The white head comes up to me again,

Out of the river weeds it chokes

And I see you, sitting there, in all the empty chairs I own.

I ease myself

Into a dark mouth without a face,

Feel the river close,

I take the water up and swill the weeds

And you take nothing up, the world hangs

Longer than the rope you took down and knotted round your neck,

Your body swaying in a breeze you cannot feel.

Others gain grief and their release,

They shift and, mutable, grip like frogs to glistening branches,

New flowering bowls, sides of coral, shining.

Here, underneath, I feel the roots tighten

And the soft soil liquidise,

The head of the horse going down,

The waves chasing me down.

I see your body, old, lowered into the ground in oak,

And I throw soil into the pit and do not cry,

Even though I had seen you out of your own house

In a black bag, hot sun, day sparkling.

I will wait until the sea floods

My veins with salt, shears my hair to scalp,

Feeds me to the sharks whose fins I feel at night,

The only thing I can expect, tonight of all the nights.

My life is filling up with ghosts,

No treasures left.

I slide into the water, want your arms.

Bio: Thomas Houlton is an independent academic and writer based in York. He completed his PhD on monuments, psychoanalysis and queer theory at the University of Sussex, and his current research examines how landscapes in art, literature and nature can be re-imagined through a queer, non-binary lens. While at Sussex he worked for the prestigious Centre for the Study of Sexual Dissidence, and acted as chief editor of Excursions Journal, which showcases interdisciplinary postgraduate research. He has had poems and short stories published in Skive magazine and on the Quick Fictions app, and his forthcoming monograph, Monuments as Critical and Cultural Objects, will be published by Routledge in 2020.

Image: Photo by Adam Chang on Unsplash