Pick a number, any number. Between 1 and 80.

I’ve been posting a lot of poetry lately, and very little in the way of stories, or short stories, or extracts from longer stories. This is because I’ve not been writing anything but poetry. Partly it’s that I never feel like I have enough time to dedicate to story writing. This isn’t exactly true, but I’d have to be very piecemeal on my story work… and that doesn’t have to be a bad thing.

It’s also because I’ve come up with a new game. It started when staying with my brother and his housemates over the summer; I asked them to give me a number between one and eighty, and each of these would be one of my poems that I then had to go back to and try to fix up. Yes, I have about eighty “unfinished” poems on my computer these days, although even the ones that are “finished” and posted on here could be fixed up a bit.

So I’ve got a new way to drive myself to write poetry. Feel free to give me one or two numbers in the comments below. Now all I need is something to get me back on the Longer Fiction Wagon. NaNoWriMo (which I’ve failed at for several years) is going to rear it’s ugly head again soon, though I wonder how much I’ll like the idea of working on my story for an hour after a full day’s work, every day for the whole of November. Probably I won’t get very far.

Here’s a poem, alongside two very pretty photos I found online. As ever, if you click on the photos, you can get linked back to where I got them (usually photographers’ Flickr accounts where use is permitted) and see more of their photography if you choose.

Cartography (I’ll Draw A Map On My Face)


Right now it’s a plain,
blank canvas, but as I age

I’ll draw a map on my face.
Like plying, kneading dough,

each frown will form a furrow,
and plough the pock-marked clay;

Volcanoes of my teenage years
lay cracks in armour, slowly sealed.

I’ll draw up mountains in the north,
grow deltas over bone,

each happy thought shall form
a smile dent in my loping cheeks;

around my chin, dark forests grow
of sharpened knocks and knowledge.

The scents of places I have been
shall nestle in my nose,

the voices of the men I’ve known
shall echo in my ears,

and those I’ve lost shall gather
in the pools of my eyes:

so when I’m old, then you can see
who I am, and was, before I’m not.




One thought on “Cartography”

  1. This is one to savour I will definitely come back and re-read it.

    By the way – are you submitting your work?

    Bloodaxe buy and sell a mountain of poetry and they have wonderful writers on board.

    … And what exactly is wrong devoting time to poetry?

    There’s not actually that many writers who have success in both fields. I can only think of Simon Armitage and I read neither his poetry nor his novels.

    I personally find poetry quite scary to read and write sometimes. It’s more like magic – i guess that’s the appeal of the numbers.

    And the numbers, 3, and 4 or a combination of the two if you have done those.

    The best of luck,


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