An excerpt from

Late Night Philosophy

Iona Lee

Part-Time Alcoholic

As I wake
eyelids peeling back like paint
revealing that same old spot
on that same old ceiling
I wonder if I am an alcoholic.

I often feel the need to define myself
and have put myself on the shelf marked
Buddhist, bisexual and manic depressive before now
but somehow nothing has ever quite fit me right.

Nothing has endured and rest assured
that I am always forced regretfully to the conclusion
that I am utterly insipid.

As I make my way downstairs for a cup of tea
I decide that the key is to be an alcoholic in my spare time
so as not to let it affect my academic work.

A Nice Quiet Life

We live in a nice, quiet house
that has stairs that don’t creek.
We both go to work
and have sex once a week.

We have a nice garden
that’s green as can be,
where I sunbathe naked
so that neighbours can see.

Our home, it is homely
and beautifully clean,
with white leather sofas
and a huge TV screen.

Our cleaner’s Latino,
but I’m not a snob.
Her salsa is lovely
and she does a good job.

We’ve a handful of children,
a girl and two boys,
they do well at school
so we suffer their noise
and if they get bullied
we just buy them more toys.

We discuss them at dinners
with our nice wealthy friends,
I drink too much merlot,
then the night swiftly ends.

We live on a nice quiet street
with nice conservative folk,
there was a gay couple,
but we never spoke.

My husband’s successful,
pays to help me stay chic,
he shags his assistant
and I drink through the week.

I’ve done lots of courses,
taken holiday tours,
tried botanical painting
but nothing endures.

Upholstery’s boring,
yoga’s the worst that I’ve done,
pottery’s messy,
but wine tasting was fun.

My looks are important
and everyone knows
that you have to look stylish
when you shop at Waitrose.

So, I dress in Pashminas
and angora wool.
Though, money is tight
now the kids board at school.

I eat organic,
I’ve been doing this cleanse,
J Lo has done it,
so have all of my friends.

I’m a bit of a trophy,
so I try to stay slim,
but my husband, he hates me
and I don’t like him.

My bathroom is bursting
with pricey face creams
though the Botox works better,
‘least that’s how it seems.

You’ve not had it done?
Oh, you should give it a try!
Before I looked ancient
‘cos I smoke on the sly.

I entertain men,
just to earn extra dough
while the husband’s out working…
he need never know.
Its to pay for my Botox
and all that merlot.

We live in a nice quiet world
with no trouble or strife,
outside the world’s moving,
its filthy with life,
but, Strictly just started
and I’m a good wife.
I just want dullness and numbness
and a nice, quiet life.

Please Excuse Me

Please excuse me
for I am not myself, you see.

You should see the real me.
She is cool-legged and cruel
and drinks too much coffee
outside bars in market squares,
where sunshine rests in empty mugs
and music plays.

Oh, you should see the real me.

See her when she’s sitting there,
she does not curl fern fingers
round elbows, or wrap up in herself.
Rather she unfolds, as ivy does.

Fingertips tapping the table
searching for cigarettes,
she lets careless words trip down her tongue
to be caught and, like butterflies,
pinned to paper.

The real me is a muse, a moon,
both painter and painted,
wild-haired, wide-eyed
and tainted.
She smiles and smokes and sings

She leaves an impression, a bruise
like ink. Like footsteps in the snow I think
both cold and delicate.
Not melting, more
moving on.

So no, not white as snow.
Not innocent, more
blood-red lips and opal eyes.
More precious,
and more endless.

The better me is thinner,
and will grab your waist and whisper,
and then suddenly,
a stranger.
Moved on by the fish-hook moon
that guides her tide.
I magpie, a stealer of shine
but she’s not one for sorrow,
just a borrower of light.

So, please excuse me,
for I am not myself, you see?

You should see the real me,
she is lighter and more rhythmic.
I am pinned in place
by meat, and pain
and good intentions.

There are lies laced in to the lines around my eyes
and they are less like kaleidoscopes.

So, she is the better me.
Not so much human-shaped, more siren.
Not so much flesh, more air.
Not so much care, more
moving on through memory
as a wicked woman,
with brilliant mind and filthy mouth
that you think of fondly
from time to time.

So, please excuse me,
for I am not myself, you see?

Not quite the self I’d like to be.


I hold this poem like a cup
and pour our happiness in to it.
Let it sit.
Let me look at it.

Us pouring wet hot happiness on the bed,
teeth touching, white bum like two loaves of bread.

I say yes
to your shoulder.
We smoke and eat toast
and it tastes happy.

We could do this over and over,
each little toe holding up the blanket,
a dark tent den,
and then again and again
and over and then it’s over again.

Oh to be this safe and warm
and this happy, this pink and happy,
this naked and this nothing and everything all in one.

Oh to wake up and want to keep on living.

Love Me Not

Bones are the constant beat.

But breaking,
entangled in roots they curl.


Spinning a slow spiral up my spine.


I am sprouting sorrel,
blooming just below my collar bone.

Remind me not to pick at petals,
“Does he love me,
love me not?”

Love me,
love me not,
for my bones are the constant beat
and they will grow their own garden,
not wait for someone to bring me flowers.