Oxford is my mother. 

She cradles me like Moses was cradled, along the Thames’ flow, 

And as I grow I mark out the bounds of her love

With my baby-footed steps, 

Aging on her terms.

We fall out, occasionally.

Her winter harshness breathes cold into my bones.

She threatens me with long weeks, 

Late nights, and tells me 

You’re not good enough.

She pushes me to seek refuge in my room, 

Where my only view is the bins, 

And her dreaming spires force nightmares upon me: 

Her famed beauty shows me up.

– But her blues soon thaw into the coming of spring.

Her embrace thickens the air with sun;

Buildings drip with treacle-thick honey, 

And the world flocks for a taste.

She held me during my first break-up,

Smoothed a stone hollow for me in the shadows

Of the cloisters at 3am, as I paced in the dark with fear.

And as a man who I no longer knew

Left for someplace intangible,

I waltzed in her arms down the high street, 

She took the lead over cobbles and narrow passageways, 

And let me go – free.  

Artwork by Maebh Howell.

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