I look at their faces and feel
ashamed that I use that word
so casually.

How dare I stand up here and
teach its meaning to these people,
scarred by shrapnel, wheezing from
exhaust fumes, soaked through,
sitting on these plastic chairs
under the winking lights?

When a knock at your door can
mean death, when footsteps behind you
can end up crushing your skull,
when the law means nothing
out in the hills and blood demands
blood, then why would you ever
close your eyes? Every whispered
conversation between strangers could
be the upbeat to the end of you
so you jump from bus to bus
and take two hours to get home.

They are not safe even now.

You cannot make mistakes if you
cannot pronounce the word safe,
if you understand it, but it sounds
wrong, then your toddler cannot
touch a hot iron without social
services threatening to take him.

Your tears are not British so
they are just water.

Your explanations are too
guttural so they must be

They are now less safe than ever.

There is no number you can put
on the years that will make you a
native. You cannot be friends with
the sun and also the things that shrivel
in shadows, there are bags full of
safety, neatly shredded, being
recycled right now into bleached
toilet roll.

No number of years can truly
make them safe.

Let me never speak that word again
until I too know what it is like to be
chased from my home by slavering wolves
into a radioactive wasteland.

Let me never speak that word again
until we can all be truly safe.


The Bacchae: Dionysus goes raving


Bacchanalia Theatre will be performing an immersive production of Euripides’ The Bacchae, and I have been privileged enough to write for this show. It is both a wild, magical party and a revealing insight into trust, control and gender. Come and join the maenads on the hillsides for a Bacchic 90s rave, then watch Pentheus get torn limb from limb by his mother. What’s not to love?

Two week run at COLAB Factory near London Bridge, don’t miss it!

To whet your appetite, here is a little taste:

You wanted this

You came to me
dripping with honey
unfolding before the sun
skin burning
shielding your eyes.

You wanted me

You invited me in and I came to you.

Remember this:
it was your trembling lips
that formed my name.
I came to you
because you wanted me.

Book tickets here!


I have learned nothing of love

I have learned nothing of love.

Only perhaps that it glows brighter in the dark
That neither sharp-toothed malice
Nor the slow strong push towards the edge
Can ever plunge it to its death

I have learned nothing of love.

Only that neither open skies and whipping wind
Nor the driving rain nor desperate tug,
Nor snatching thorns or twining wood,
Can ever whisk it from your gentle hold.

I have learned nothing of love.

I still find it crumpled, torn, shoved in draughty cracks
Used as kindling, lining bins, grease-stained
Smudged, mouldy, sifted, drained, congealed –
In all my years, I have learned nothing of love.

 Only that when night falls and day will never wake
And you are ground and rotting in the ground,
When promises and lies bleed and blend –

 Then still it will be forever bright.

It’s good to try new things

family pool (2)

It’s good to try new things, just

don’t let
don’t let those shoulders touch the water.

The aim is clearly stay
afloat and stay alive –
so why dive?

Like seals the other boys splash by
and calmly I
submerge my lips
but keep my brand new goggles up
so I can see.

You tell me to sink down but why?

This is not fear
just common sense.

Swimming is immense
as long as your feet touch the bottom
and your hair stays dry.



83: arrival

Serious little gentleman walks in checks in
Sits patiently through hurry hurry masks and wires


94: mask on

A comfortable in and out while we do puzzles,
put mouths where Mr Potato’s nose would like to be.


96: mask on

Pointing out the target reached and Mummy mask off
And finally some food now please and sips of drink


90: mask off

Eat and greedily eat and chat and gulp down drink while
Beep beep beep beep beep


88: mask off



86: mask off

Too long ignored, your ribcage heaves
and you talk. in bursts. of two.


97: mask on

Mask on watch TV and mask on do some sums and
mask on colour Peppa Pig in bold and violent red.


93: mask on

In sleep your peaceful resting face with green elastic tight
then sleep disturbed with slipping mask and slipping numbers


98: mask off

Unplug yourself for toilet trip slow slow wash hands
and amble back then show off your amazing score


95: mask off

The baseline and the path to home, the chart is ticked
and meds in hand you skip delighted to the door
A buzz a click and out you run to freedom and fresh air

View from the Centre


(c) P.M. Kroonenberg

Gliding on a windy summer’s day
ducking for low bridges
we sail past floating homes.
Shameless sheets of glass
look out over reeds and lily pads;
a grand piano fills most of
a bobbing living room.
Back doors on the water,
flower creeper gardens spill
from wooden jetties.
Nothing on the shore
but a post box
behind a hedge.
Here they sit in afternoon light
wave benignly as we chug
slowly by.
Fine ridged waves tease
back and forth, boat to boat,
passing rumours from house
to travellers and back.
Beyond this quiet green-black world
the city still stands firm
and solid feet move cobbles
and cathedrals are fixed
through solemn ages,
thundering important thoughts
in crashing harmonies.

Love for Intellectuals

(c) P.M. Kroonenberg

(c) P.M. Kroonenberg

We speak in code. We generalise, but we are talking about ourselves. Men means ‘our men’. People means ‘me in particular’. Our wishes for our future and the way we see our lives now are encoded in the latest book that seemed so true, or our new theory on love. That is how we talk.

“All relationships have problems that can’t be solved,” you say. “You just need to find a way of living with them.”

“I think people are always searching for grace,” I say.

We sip our peppermint tea, which makes you feel so healthy, our cranberry juice to ward off cystitis.

In the coffee bar where you spent every afternoon of your youth – or was it beside that fruit stall selling nothing but lychees? – the curtain is rent and your eyes wide with fear tell me about you and him. I have seen you speechless with love and helpless with misery. I put an awkward arm through yours. I have theories, lots of theories. But they are really about me.

I want to write your life in curves and flourishes and give it a happy ending. Instead, I buy you a chocolate croissant and we hope for the best.

For Ellie