The Saints are Full of Holes, by Bobby Parker

Delicate, goofy and sweet;
we must never know the truth.
The mind is pretty ruthless when it comes down to it.
This morning, first thing Katy tells me
is they caught the Golden State Killer.
I will never be a hot fireman.
Although one time
I pretended I was the sexiest dad
at the school gates,
stud to sleepy mothers,
hero to hunchbacked fathers,
my daughter’s teacher catching her breath as I adjusted
the kink in my boxer shorts.
In dreams, you’re greatly rewarded
for outstanding services
to depression. My neck of the woods.
When your future feels like
a picture of a mailbox
sinking into a river of lava
as blue flames dance
toward the power station
it might be time to reconsider
the outrageous demands you make
on your cherry-picked gods.
Many people are made of bad sex and weird soup.
Power Rangers Death Curse.
Spontaneous Human Combustion.
These are just a few examples.
Your loved ones have done bizarre and terrible things,
most of us have, why does this bother you?
We are made for screaming.
I’ve been through so many bodies,
this one doesn’t deserve a Knickerbocker Glory.
The binman says our bones
are covered with the most
god-awful jokes.
The demon in the corner of our garden
is currently disguised
as an oblong, flesh-coloured rock.
When its smooth face is shiny with rain
and the cats are burying shit
behind the daffodils, it speaks to me, telepathically,
about the problem.
What problem? I ask, and it sneers:
You know!
Trying to live
beyond the skin
is impossible.
A chilly house means glorious nipples,
I pinch them until they fizzle,
for distraction.
As a boy, I believed that to be in a relationship
or to fuck or be fucked by someone
you needed to be truly special.
How wholesome and pathetic.
I thought I saw a ghost in the public toilets
in the shopping centre the other day
but when I checked the cubicles
all I found was a skinny boy with curly hair
and hope in his big brown eyes
as a much older man at the sink
washed his hands
very slowly
despite the steaming hot water
turning his skin bright red.
Meanwhile, our kitchen sink is blocked
with cat food, teabags and cigarette butts
and instead of scooping it out
I run the taps on full power,
splashing the front of my shirt,
and use my finger
to smoosh the horrid mess
down the drain.
This is important, it happens forever: the smooshing.
When your marriage fell apart
you travelled the country with a sadness so pure
it swept through you like storm-scented rain.
The world was glitter on your arms.
The dead wore fancy hats.
Everybody’s house
was falling down
so it didn’t matter.
Sometimes we don’t laugh properly for days,
this hurts
more than I thought it would.
What have you sacrificed?
I believe you know
you made the right decision
when you feel peace.
Or is there something more sinister
at work? Tell me, is grandad still shrieking
at empty spaces on the other side?
Is he kind to nanny?
Does their part of Heaven
smell like soap and fresh carnations?
Maybe that’s ketchup on your hands
so you can stop worrying.
Unfortunately, doctors have the best shit, and they never
fully explain the cost.
It’s important to deny yourself
your favourite things
and mirrors are pure evil
I don’t care what your therapist says.
I’m chasing the perfect autumn.

Binge Watching Bad Memories by Bobby Parker

Nothing sorts out memories from ordinary moments. It is only later that they claim remembrance, when they show their scars – Chris Marker


congratulations your head didn’t explode

in the supermarket

nothing triggered us

can you believe that

no one cares

I plant fists in my hair

squint a million oranges

touch myself with caution

convinced I’m an alien

tangled like earphones

fingers pulling at the knots

the hem of my red dress

I mean your red dress

whispering through the ashtray

talking to a nurse she said

you probably won’t die tonight

we agreed

our feet were

equally disgusting

I peeled his hand off my knee

told him to go

wait for the dealer

he can remember

dancing but sometimes

he can’t remember

the year she was born

shiver in a spoon

I rarely think about God

did you really see him

in the park

bumming a dog

behind a burned-out car

dirty old bastard

I heard he worked in a factory

making fences

your mother was struggling to breathe

your dad fell off a ladder

cleaning windows

on a hot day

you could drink

a frosty pint of beer

in 1.9 seconds

but that doesn’t mean

anything to me now

it doesn’t matter

what I think

we are all in a lot of pain

your dad is mowing the lawn

even though

it will be dark soon

I’ve never seen a person

mow the lawn

in the dark

so I’m obviously

quite excited

when I’m excited

I sniff my fingers

until it makes me feel weird

then I wash my hands

tonight they smell

sort of evil

just think of the fresh cut

grass on the bottom

of your dad’s shoes

I can’t seem to write my love for you

the pharmacist always

makes a joke of us

as we stare at mouthwash

waiting for pills

if I don’t get these pills

I might have a seizure

if I have a seizure

maybe I will become a witness

if I can describe what I see

without prejudice

perhaps there will come a day

without prescriptions

organic shampoo

the colour of churches

waiting room chairs

with impressions of arses

I try on a pair of pink sunglasses

a young black woman

pleads with the pharmacist

her boyfriend beat her

with a Poundland brolly

next time he’s gonna

fucking murder me

I rest the daft glasses on my lips

pretend I’m not listening

did you know

the fair is in town

it smells of skunk

win me a teddy

oh squeeze me on the ghost train

I’m sorry but Kidderminster

is terribly white

disgusting really

her boyfriend calls her a whore

even as he takes the money

she makes off these streets

no problem

he was my best friend

in high school

we did a lot of speed together

I thought he died

he should have died

the pharmacist

has very beautiful hands

she picks up the phone

as if she’s the first person

to ever pick up a phone

my taxi waiting

between McDonald’s

and the Job-Centre

how long have I been here

I’m trying to remember

or trying to look

as though I’m trying

to remember

what happened to us

didn’t we kiss

our mouths all chocolaty

like a million years ago

under a tree or something

flashing blue lights

standing over the sink

I cup my hands

under the boiling hot tap

until my fingers feel like saints

she sacrificed London

for my anxious hands

lightning for my jealousy

sexuality for my toothbrush

I said things that hurt her breasts

I said my chest is full of scarecrows

I said our bed is a famous ghost ship

she feels the true night

when I break my neck

to kiss her out of her bones

our home town was built

on Sun newspapers and tired mothers

standing crooked in their kitchens

waiting for the bats

it seems like everyone is somehow

involved with smack

nothing works

Spring by Antonio Vivaldi

tortured into a tin-can toy phone

by the Department of Work & Pensions

she tells me clouds are gay

just to watch me try to figure out

if it’s going to rain

in my most submissive role

she sees a girl

with eyes that punish fathers

as a demon breeze

hisses through the corn

she sees a frightened boy

who in the aftermath

of childhood assaults

pulled women closer

told them everything

told them too much

made them wary

she honestly believed

I could read her mind

until the meds kicked in

now we have

repeat prescriptions

we stand around the same

mysterious body as you


death to the ice cream man

death to the post man

death to the police man

death to the fire man

death to the man who cuts the label off my shirt

death to this paltry allowance

death as my voice the same as your voice

death as her voice

disguised as my voice

disguised as strange thoughts

you’re having right now

in our joyful coming

we are your noisiest neighbours

she searched under my bed

but didn’t find a monster

perhaps you could try again later

our lines are busy

the cuts have been made

we taught our scars to flicker

our appeal is pending

through the poisoned city

I wish to make a new claim

my mouth

just like your mouth

is only the beginning

I don’t know how long

he tortured me for

I don’t remember what he did

only that I was sweaty

from screaming for mom and dad

to come home

pay him for babysitting

get rid of him

call the fucking police

help me

whenever I smell burning toast

I remember that’s what he offered

in return for silence

carefully holding the plate up

to the top bunk

where I shivered like a puppy

the pain was mine

sleep could not touch it

the victim heat

of guilt and shame was endless

I got used to it

you do

don’t you

I would stare straight at the sun

I set dead trees on fire

abandoned buildings

my own soiled underwear

in the gallery of evil penises

my childhood neighbour’s

is definitely in the top three



reeked of cheese

five years later

he became the first heroin addict I knew

vomiting his stomach-lining

outside our local newsagents

then he hanged himself

before any of this I remember

mom shouting for me

her pink fingers dripping

dish suds on the doorstep

where are you

I’m so sorry

I sleep too much

I’m not so ugly when I’m asleep

I can’t hear my ex-wife crying

or her junkie boyfriend

yelling at my daughter

I can still feel the breath

of confused boys in my ear

hot tears in the soft eye

of a sad dad’s moon

when my daughter

stays with her mother

I eat all the turkey dinosaurs

finish the blackcurrant

squash by her bed

scrape off the bright blue toothpaste

she spits on the edge of the sink

sometimes I get up

in middle of the night

to sleep in her empty pink bed

and I still dream

that I’m way up in the sky

during a terrifying storm

atop a 20 foot wooden pole

that’s been shoved up my ass

and I’m clenching

my sphincter

with all my strength

so it won’t go all the way

up through my guts

and out the top of my head

thank goodness for the tablets we take


on the inside

we must look like

candy factories

colour dissolving

blood glittering as the heart

sees its own blue ghost

and shudders.


The Haunted Cult of Walking Away by Bobby Parker

This is me holding a voodoo doll.

This is me waving the doll over the hob.

This is me being silly, doll down my pants,

shrugging like a nineties sitcom doofus.

This is also me, going a bit mad, in the garden.

Ha-ha… Look at the sky! Weird isn’t it?

That’s my dear old mum, bless her, screaming.

Without her my daughter wouldn’t have nice clothes.

There’s dad, half cut, staring at a black cloth.

We never came to blows and I’m proud of that.

They’re always asking what happened, oh

what happened, son, what happened?

The voodoo doll is not meant to represent

anyone in particular, although I’m sure

you’re sharp enough to notice it bears

a striking resemblance to the snake man

who rattles beside my wife and sells

her telly for dope; who sometimes tells

my daughter to wipe herself on a towel

because they can’t afford toilet paper;

who isn’t bothered the divorce isn’t fixed yet.

We are talking about the biggest creep in town,

living with my daughter, doing heroin

next to the bedroom where she wets herself.

I could kill him I could kill him I could.

Anyway, this is me throwing the doll

as far as I can, then running after it

on all fours with the most beautiful sunset

exploding cake and bottles of pink wine.

I mean clean powder and a holy syringe.

I mean glory, glory, my girlfriend’s smile.

Finally, this is me in my doctor’s office.

She wants to increase the medication,

thinks it will improve my quality of life.

She says perhaps it’s not that I left a home,

or that I left a wife & child, it’s because

I walked away from love, and those of us

who walk away from love are haunted

and we must learn to live again, bound

by the rules of the haunted cult of walking away.

You know, I wrote a poem about how much I hate

our abusive neighbours, just before it was published

they mysteriously moved out. Isn’t that spooky?

And my wife looks at me like I fucking murdered her.

And her boyfriend smokes it he doesn’t inject!

And my daughter kisses the freckles on my arm.

She says, ‘Why did you leave us daddy?’

She tells me their budgies die from hunger.

She says daddy is so forgetful, his brain must be

a half-crushed sandcastle, waiting for the sea.

Then there’s this doll, posing for a photograph.

This is me holding a match and a can of petrol.

The truth I beg you the truth the truth the truth.

Haunted for the haunted for the haunted forever.

I sometimes wonder if I wrote a broken family

into existence, using poems like this, and that,

someday, maybe, I could write them back.


Bobby Parker’s writing has appeared in a wide range of magazines in print and online. In 2015 he was awarded a grant from the Society of Authors. His controversial poem, Thank You for Swallowing my Cum, was included in the poetry anthology Best British Poetry 2015 (Salt). Bobby’s debut poetry collection Blue Movie is available now from Nine Arches Press.