Sleep no longer came around so often;
it shied away like some embarassed first date,
or a cat that slinks away under a moonlit sky,
or the thief leaving the scene of the crime.
Ah, fuck it!
There are still a million words to write.
Sleep no longer came around so often;
it shied away like some embarassed first date,
or a cat that slinks away under a moonlit sky,
or the thief leaving the scene of the crime.
Ah, fuck it!
There are still a million words to write.
“It wasn’t me.”
“What do you mean, it wasn’t you; you were seen.”
“Did you do it?”
“Do you have an alibi?”
“I’m gonna have to take you down.”
The accused raised two stumps for wrists.
“But you said she was strangled.”
moving, always moving
but going nowhere
The clanking machinery of daily existence
steam hammer blows
and sharpened scythes
hacking, chopping and cutting.
The tink, tink, tink of machines cooling
and the whir of motors humming
and wind in the sails;
there she blows, boys!
and the slosh of the hull in the water
while some dancing, gyrating compass
leads us to the world’s end.
Pull back, you’ll fall off!
No captain, there’s an iceberg ahead
cliff tall and cliff white.
Don’t stop me, don’t stop me
and look, there’s land ahoy
I see smoke and fumes rising
as big business beats its big drum
and the machines a-clattering
and toxic clouds lay like quilts over everything,
and everything’s changed,
touched by the hooked finger,
a stab in the chest like a stab in the dark
and light’s reflection on steel
beaten by a hammer
as the sparks fly
and molten liquid steams in the mould
as another of man’s design pops from the die
and then lapped up by we who wait
with paper and plastic in our hands;
but clean hands at that
although our nails are chewed.
The nails, nails, nails
beaten down into submission
but don’t forget to remove your thumb.
The whites of the hospital
the whites of our eyes
always peering around the corner
because you don’t know what’s going to hit you
unless you see it coming
Like a jack hammer to the face
beating, beating, beating; pulse like
Boom! Boom! Boom!
Can you hear it?
It’s life: talking
My day is filled with verbs and tenses
clauses, phrases, words and sentences
quantifiers and determiners
My past participle participated and departed
my present continuous continues to continue
while my future simple
will be far from simple
I’m conditioned by my conditionals
and positioned by my prepositions
I’m an English teacher who wants to write
my language is my day
but when I put that pen in my hand
I’ve nothing left to say
The lines were drawn
the enemy position made clear
I was becoming surrounded
but was surrender an option?
Was I to give my all,
myself to myself
like a Pagan sacrifice to knowledge?
What did I learn?
But the enemy retreated
and I slept the sleep of a clear conscious
and I slept the sleep of an innocent soul
and I slept the sleep of a hard day’s toil
and I slept the sleep of a body and mind broken
and so, finally,
I slept the sleep.
I thought black was black
as in: the night was pitch black
but when I close the windows
and pull down the shades
I see shades
eerie black and
which is not pitch black;
the night tattooed on my mind
With my eyes closed
I see black
With my eyes open
I see black
As I wait to see
the grey of day
Counting down the small hours.
Counting out the night.
“Come to bed, baby.”
No one sleeps anymore. Have you noticed?
Curse of modern man.
Stress of modern life.
Stress? Ah yes, that new old chestnut.
It’s not exactly the same as being kept awake by the crackle and spit of the fire you need to constantly tend as you peer into the darkness looking for the reflected firelight in the eyes of a predator; a sabre-tooth tiger, for example.
The caveman knew stress.
Did the caveman sleep?
Did his weary body recover after a day traipsing across the plains, spear in hand;
looking for soul food and a place to sleep?
“Oh, I haven’t slept in years”.
It’s the arse-end of 2017.
What’s my excuse?
What’s my sabre-tooth tiger, baby?
To the hero’s end they ride,
once death by sword tip.
Now, just take your pick.
Blood, so much blood
and shed for what?
Belief, possession and gain.
Where’s your faith my son?
It’s my holy one against yours (if you have one)
I believe my belief is believable
and you’d better believe it.
(So I look him in the eye, and I say)
Show me a miracle of your faith
and I’ll show you someone out to profit
Show me the forgiveness you preach
and I’ll show you someone out to stop it
Show me your ten commandments
and I’ll show you ten twisted sinners
Ask me if I’ve sinned
and I’ll show you the world.
and walked away.
The air is filled with the symphony of a thousand broken hearts shattered into a thousand pieces while the remaining void is alive with the anonymous scream of a thousand voices, cried bloody and hoarse.
Symphony and scream
The kid was snorkelling and the sun was shining. The sun was shining on an azure sea, shining so that the tops of waves looked like the wings of a million seagulls so white it hurt the eyes.
The wind was blowing, keeping the temperature down to STILL TOO HOT, and still the orange tip of the snorkel tube drifted along, the face it connected to seeing nothing but sand.
Nothing under there but sand but still the snorkelling went on and the sun kept shining, the wind kept blowing and a million seagulls’ wings so white it hurt the eyes kept moving; always moving.
In all my years as a detective on the Kent police force where, admittedly, I wasn’t inundated with out-of-the-ordinary cases, this was probably the strangest. if I hadn’t had been there, I’d have laughed it off. I was, however, so I didn’t.
Being close to London, we had our share of dead bodies turning up, the majority of them unwillingly dead. Then we had the willingly dead, the suicides, which normally entailed jumping off something high, into something deep or into the path of something heavy and fast-moving. The story of The Seeker is none of the above.
Why The Seeker? Well, his circumstances brought to mind that old song by The Who, we named him that in the station and it stuck. When we have our pub get-togethers the case still gets referred to as The Seeker and yes, we smile about it now; certainly more than we did when we found him.
We were called to a semi-detached house on the outskirts of Tunbridge Wells one morning. It was June and the glorious English two-week summer had been and gone and had been replaced by scattered showers and lower than average temperatures. The bin men had become concerned at the lack of refuse at number 31, The Rise. Strange, they said. Not like him, they said. Never goes on holiday, they said. Would you mind checking? So Davis and I pulled up outside number 31, between downpours, and knocked on the door. Receiving no response, we circled the house, round to the back garden. The only window open was the small hopper window, impossible to get through without removing it. 10 minutes later, Leatherman multi-purpose tool in hand, the window was off its hinges and Davis was head first and arse last through the hole. I could only hear his muffled voice.
“Christ, it smells like your armpits in here.”
“Just open the door and let me in so we can confirm the man’s gone off on holiday and get back to the station for a coffee.”
The key turned in the kitchen door and it swung open. Davis was right, the place stank. I would, however, contest that my armpits smell like that. The mewing of cats came from the landing above our heads as we walked through the hallway. We looked at each other, no words needed. Something wasn’t right. The stairs creaked as we made our way up. The cats scattered as we reached the landing, at least five or six of them. The stench was almost unbearable. A reluctant room-to-room followed. We found him in the small studio room, still sat at his computer.
With the help of Martins on forensics the story was pieced together and it went like this.
The man had had an addiction. No crack, meth or needle chill for The Seeker, no. just good old Google. He’d played chicken on the information super-highway and lost. Too much information can kill you – ignorance is bliss. He should’ve listened.
Only afterwards, going through his browser history, did the full extent of his addiction come to light. He’d researched everything from an aardvark’s anal glands to a zebra’s zoonosis. During this month-long bout of browser fever, he’d starting neglecting himself then he’d started neglecting his cats. The official cause of death was dehydration; he’d sat and sat until his body was so drained of fluids he’d just collapsed. He’d even rigged up some form of hose system to an old washtub so he didn’t have to get out of his seat. No eating for The Seeker, he was nourishing himself in a Wikipedia frenzy, feeding off a You Tube drip and, slowly but surely, Googling himself to death. Somewhere during the course of this derangement his dehydrated body gave up and his heart gave out. At least we hope it did.
After all, the cats had to eat.
Crow the black
cawing in the morning
from his lofty perch;
this Summer Solstice
is his alone.
Harbinger of doom
Picker of corpses
Guide to lost souls
Friend to Pagans
Raven’s little brother
descended from Thought and Memory;
who sit upon the shoulders
of the one-eyed god.
They see all
and tell him everything.
I want to write a poem of the sea
and watch the gulls,
wind-blown and free
and feel the breeze caress my face
I want to hear the story of the sea,
to feel the sun
burn and scorch me,
in the salt spray of the breaking waves
I want to sing the song of the sea,
the siren’s call,
the fisherman’s plea,
as the storm clouds gather on the horizon.
I want to feel the anger of the sea
The pebble rattle
on the shore lee
as the waves beat upon the strand
I want to give myself to the sea
at the end of my time,
and let my body
be taken in the longship’s flames
In the dark,
a candlelight in my head
as I’m pulled from infinite dreams
Eyes closed but the mind
opened to a thousand possibilities
in the coming dawn
(at least I hope it is)
I want to hear the morning’s chatter
among the birds
and their song of the morning
in a rainbow shimmer
under a blue-black sky
announces her entrance
drum roll accompanies her
illuminates her path
ecstatic in static
strewn on the battlefield
She takes her time, and chooses
The pen remained locked between fingers which remained locked together in the shape of prayer or penance or maybe just because it was the ideal thing to do with hands that had no instruction to do anything else as the writer (Ha!) stared at the empty page and wondered in which dark back-alley his creativity had stumbled into. Gone, withered like the blackened trees of winter.
He looked outside at the pre-dawn sky, sat and wondered why.
in pain, in the dark.
Piano wire nerves scream
in a white-heat silence,
searing through me,
blazing as I lie
longing for the morning
to bathe me in light
and chase away
this tortuous night.
He couldn’t remember how long he’d been walking. he remembered coming out of the sanitary-white hospital ward, the stench almost too much to bear. The place was littered with bodies, beyond stiffening, and the buzz of flies seemed like a road-drill in the silence. As he left the building he caught a glance of himself in a shattered window. MacQuade was 28 years old. He’d had black hair when he entered the place, now an old man looked back at him, or what looked like an old man. White, fluffy hair stood up from his head and beneath it a face, as white as the hair, drawn and gaunt.
The scene in the ward was replayed outside, but on a much grander scale. Vehicles crashed in the road, bodies on sidewalks, on grass verges, on the road itself. Whatever had happened had happened with a suddenness that took everyone by surprise. Most car doors were still closed, meaning the occupants hadn’t even had time to stop and get out.
MacQuade’s voice croaked in his ears but it was the only sound he could here on the four-lane boulevard which lead past the hospital. He stopped and walked over to a grass verge, ignoring the bodies which had been walking instead of driving. He stooped to look at what else lay on the grass. Sparrows, pigeons and even a crow, its eyes open and as cruel in death as in life. Wholesale human and animal fatalities and yet, here he was, alive, here on this green verge, the grass still healthy. The Rhododendrons in the flower beds still full of colour, roaring pink and fuchsia.
That evening he’d found tins of food in a supermarket but everything else had gone over. Christ! How long had he been out? They’d operated on his wisdom tooth on a Wednesday, the 28th July. He’d gone in search of a calendar. Someone had marked off the 28th on the one in the supermarket office. He just had no idea what day it was now. The bodies were skin on bone and that didn’t happen overnight.
He’d found a bottle of whisky in the store and got right into it immediately after the can of tuna flakes. Halfway down it he remembered his wisdom tooth no longer caused him pain. He smiled until he looked out of the window.
He’d often wondered about his tether and the end of it. Until he picked up a dictionary only a week before he hadn’t known what a tether even was. Now he knew and now he thought he’d reached the end of it.
He was glad it was winter. He didn’t mind the cold and the snow and, in happier times, he’d always been an enthusiastic skier. In happier times. Yes, he thought, he didn’t mind the winter with its snowy peaks, white crystal frosted fields and the smell of mulled wine in the market square and steaming paper cups warming hands in the cold.
He looked out of a window to the outhouse. The cold. The cold was good. It killed off many of the pests that hung around in warmer climates or even down in the valley, although now other pests had found him and disturbed his peace. Footprints and a strange indent in the snow crossed the yard, as if a sack of firewood had been dragged. Yes, he’d reached the end of his tether, and the bodies mounted up in the outhouse.
An intermittent intermission
while life melts in fission.
Fused and confused.
A pause for breath,
but not so long
or so final
or so primal.
As each beginning is an end
in a cycle which contends with us
and renders us with reality bites.
Slights and fights,
while in the sand we bury our heads
and look for the treasure
Delectable and delightful…
Any place to leave the pain.
I did it again, without thinking. I went to the shop to buy something for the lesson I was about to take when I saw a new line of notebooks at a pinch of a price. Well, I’m sure many of you will understand me…I just had to.
another notebook from a noted store
of a noteworthy purveyor of notebooks.
bought with the notable intention of
making notes and taking notes.
Noting acts of notability
and of notable notoriety.
I have to take notice if I take notes,
if not; how can I note what I’ve noticed?
No words can express my…
The blank page remains blank.
Lines to be read between
have yet to be written between.
In my hand, my Waterman,
that might as well be made of, well,
It would drip faster than any words I could write.
The old man stood with a length of coiled rope around his shoulder and spat into the dust. The sky was cold and clear. He looked at the sky every day but the clouds still avoided him.
“Giovanni, what’s the latest?”
In November they said early December, then it was going to be mid-December, then Christmas.”
“No one really knows, papa.”
“No one knows?” The old man spat into the dust once again. He took a leather pouch from his jacket pocket and started to roll himself a cigarette. “My father could tell what the weather was going to do, a week before it did it.”
“You know as well, papa.”
The old man flicked a match. He scuffed his boots in the dust, kicking up a little cloud.
“I did once.” His rummy eyes looked up again at the clear blue sky. “This year is different.”
From their lofty position on the lower slopes of the mountain, where the pastures lay brown and dry, they could see the distant Monte Rosa. Even from that distance they could see its barren slopes; only its vague glaciers flickered white in the sun.
“There’s no tourism yet. Tourism’s suffering and we’re suffering with it, Giovanni.”
“The snow will come papa, it has to.”
“Do you think? When was the last time it rained, son?”
“It drizzled for a couple of hours, Giovanni. It hasn’t rained in anger since July.” He flicked his head in a backwards movement. “Those woods are a tinderbox.”
Giovanni nodded his head. “The weather channel put the area on high alert for forest fire risk.”
The old man crushed his cigarette carefully under his heel. “It’s about the only thing the weather channel has got right this year.” He lifted the rope from his shoulder and placed it on the old trunk of a walnut tree that served as a chopping block. He nodded down the slope. “I want to get that fence in the bottom field repaired. If the snow does come at least the animals will be contained.”
This last comment fell like an axe blow between the men. They’d already lost a few animals, sickened by the drought conditions; they couldn’t afford to lose any more, there dwindling finances couldn’t take it. They’d lost the annual orders from the surrounding ski resorts, whose slopes were bare and car parks were empty. In his 72 years the old man had never known anything like it. He was almost glad his wife had passed away the previous spring and didn’t have to see what the farm had become. His son brought him back to the present.
“Five months ago we were enjoying a beautiful summer and everyone said we’d pay for it, that the winter would come early and the snow would be heavy.”
“Yeah, and I was one of them, telling the same thing to anyone who’d listen. Now I’m just the foolish sheep farmer who can’t tell the direction of the wind even if I wet my finger and hold it in the air.”
“Come on papa. This year’s caught everyone out. It’s not just down to us anymore. Think of all those satellites out there and they still can’t give us an accurate forecast.”
“Any farmer worth his salt should be able to mind his own, without the need for satellites or weather channels, son; just like my father and grandfather used to do. Maybe the people are right; maybe I am just a foolish sheep farmer that prophesises ‘red sky at night’.”
“Enough papà. Come on, let’s get the fence fixed so I can go to Cristina’s with that firewood.”
Giovanni looked into his father’s face. This autumn had taken everything out of him. His face was drawn and his eyes sunken and dark-ringed. The quick smile was no longer there, replaced by a stare which admitted defeat.
“We can do the fence later, son. Take the wood over to Cristina; if her father’s down in town, you’ll have to unload yourself, it’ll take time.”
Giovanni considered this. It was true. All the while the weather held, and it looked like holding for a fair while still, the bottom field fence wasn’t a priority. The nights were cold and Cristina needed the wood. He took the pick-up keys from his jacket pocket.
“Get some rest papa. I’ll be back in a couple of hours, three at the most.”
“Give my regards to Cristina and her father, if he’s there. I guess you’re right, I could use a little rest.”
“There’s nothing more any of us can do papa, at least until this weather shows signs of breaking.” He got into the pick-up truck and the electric motor hummed as the window rolled down. “Get some rest papa. How about we go into town for a couple of beers this evening; it’s been ages since we’ve done that.”
“About the last time we saw any money coming through the door, son.”
The truck engine revved into life and Giovanni waved through the open window. His father watched as the brake lights flashed once before the car drove out onto the road.
With a final spit into the dust, the old man looked once more at the sky. With his head bowed, he heaved the coil of rope onto his shoulder and walked slowly to the still-empty barn.
“Have you seen Beebee?”
“No, where’d he go?”
“He was out of whisky, out of smokes; he went to the liquor store.”
“Where the fuck is he now?”
“He must still be there man.”
“Did he take…?”
“Did you give…?”
A siren screams in the night.
His heart sank.
It happened while she was watching. She supposed it had always been coming; in fact, she knew it had been. It was all he’d had to give. For months; ever since it had happened. They’d gone through so much together; then the accident, but he’d held on.
“My heart will always be yours,” he’d said, “until the day it sinks so completely and can never rise again. When it does, you’ll be free”.
Six months had passed since he died.
She stared at the heart at the bottom of the jar of formaldehyde.
She was free.
Give me a scythe
but make it sharp;
so I can reap what’s been sown,
so I can gather what’s been grown.
All lying in the sun,
drying in the sun,
dying in the sun.
My hands will blister
the hardest of harvests.
The Sous-chef was on the floor. I left the knife where I found it, in a red puddle beside his foot. Its blade pointed towards the door, as if indicating the escape direction of the guilty party. The stainless steel worktop dripped and I noticed more splatters up the wall, behind the sink. A saucepan had overturned, spilling its now-smoking contents over the hobs.
A constable came in. “We have him sir; he was outside the rear entrance, behind some dustbins,” his face registering shock as he looked around at the scene.
“Where is he now?”
“In the car, sir.”
“Keep him there.”
The constable backed out slowly as I turned around, taking in details. A handprint, red and smudged, hailed me from the fridge door. I felt something drip onto my left shoulder. I knew what it was even without looking up, but I looked anyway – curiosity is like that. Then I heard a muffled voice behind me.
Knee joints clicked as the Sous-chef rose to his feet, a look of triumph on his face as his arm withdrew from under the fridge with his prized wooden spoon, a gift from Keith Floyd apparently.
“So much for Hell’s Kitchen eh, officer?”
“Well, when the Maître announced Gordon Ramsay’s arrival the chef became agitated, to say the least. Then, while he was plating Mr Ramsay’s Penne al Pomodoro, I happened to mention he’d forgotten the basil and then …” He waved his spoon around the kitchen.
I got up. I couldn’t sleep, I just lay there sweating, tossing and flapping like a freshly-caught fish. Booze does that to you. You think it’ll knock you out; that you’ll sleep like a kitten for the night but then you awake on a sweat-wet pillow, and then it’s finished.
I lay in bed an hour or so, unable to shut my head up. The room was dark but in my head someone had flipped a switch. Transitory thoughts, each following the other down the fuddled highway of my mind, flickered on and off, on and off. What I had to do today. What I had to to this week. What? Whatever.
I got up, grabbed my book, made a coffee and made myself comfortable on the cold leather sofa, and lost myself in story.
I had a heavy chest and a cough that wouldn’t come, my airways blocked by too many cigarettes accompanying too many drinks throughout a drunken evening with drunker friends and a happy barman. My mouth was layered from beer, from wine, from gin, from the back shelf where no one sober goes.
The coffee steamed on the coffee-table (what if I drunk tea?) but I drank it, hoping to change the thick, stale, toothpaste-on-alcohol taste in my mouth. My throat burned but something moved. My chest moved. I coughed: it sounded like Tom Waits singing. That was an improvement.
Early morning coffee with Bukowski. I finished the first short story and stared at the page a while before closing the book and closing my eyes.
The Most Beautiful Woman in Town had just died.
A blank page will sit and wait all day: because it can; it has patience, much more patience than I have. The blank page is king and will remain so, never abdicating, until my peasant’s revolt, armed with a sharpened pencil, a dipped pen and the spreading stain of ink removes it from its throne.
This sounds easy but it isn’t. It should be easy but it isn’t. The virgin purity of the blank page reflects in my face, making me squint and cover my eyes.
One letter at a time. One word at a time. That’s both the minimum and maximum I can do. No less. No more.
A blank page will sit and taunt me, its fresh white light, as joyous as a spring morning, laughs in my face and beckons me to do my worst. A blank page shows no fear, even with a sharpened 2H pencil held above it, threatening to stab down at any moment. While its doom hangs over it like the shadow of the executioner’s noose, it laughs in the face of fear. It laughs in the face of my fear.
Now I must go and laugh in the face of that which laughs at me.
Now I must go and write.