As soon as I was born
I started living
As soon as I started living
I started dying.
Life. In a nutshell.
damp and cold January
I have a cough and I cough and I splutter.
Does it matter? Does it matter?
My cough plumbs the depth of my lungs in the night like my soul plumbs the depths of despair in winter and the clouds…
…and the clouds are pigeon shit-grey and they roll in then roll over then roll away and leave me…
bathed in monochrome
and the rain…and the rain.
It’s water and I’m dancing
I drank more water than what fell to earth last autumn
so we rain-danced for a drenching soul-cleaning and yet…
damp and cold January
let it rain, let it rain, let it rain
pour your monochrome down upon me.
That old adage about “write what you know” – I should laugh in its face and stick my fingers in its eyes.
I started this blog , as it says on the tin (well, the heading), as a pin-board for airing poems and flash-fiction first drafts and ideas. Of late, after a barren summer, I’ve hit a creative vein, with no idea why except it runs in tandem with another bout of worse-than-usual sleeplessness. I don’t want this blog to become a shrine to insomnia so things will change in 2018 (that’s two days and, possibly, two nights…).
This is this blog’s last insomniac poetic hurrah! If I couldn’t write anything else then I would stick my pen where the sun doesn’t shine. Luckily, I can and I have been (just not here, o bored and tired reader).
Have a great New Year everyone and thanks for looking in.
And still the treacherous night lingers on
and pulls me along with it
incapable of leaving me behind
in a dreaming world of slumber;
And still my words spill across the page
and takes me away for a while,
pulling me into its world
where pen and hand work in unison;
And still my eyes remain open
and my awakened mind rages
full of ideas that fall on paper
as my head wants to fall;
on my pillow.
and yet, and yet…
and yet I love these early hours;
the quiet, the still, the night sounds
– or early morning sounds – take your pick.
A slave to the whore of the morning
fresh on her rounds and as yet untouched,
the sheets still unblemished
and the rose cheeks of her sunrise.
Another year, another…well, year, I suppose.
Time doesn’t drift, it flies.
It flies in the face of life,
it flies in the face of all that we know
yet can do nothing about.
I’m older today than I ever was before
and I’m younger today than I ever will be again.
If we’re lucky we can hitch a ride,
but we can just as well walk.
The horizon is ever before us.
the road behind is barred
the road ahead is open
our worn-down heels will be our proof of our existence.
The twisting cobbled streets
slick with the damp night air
holding their sodden breath,
waiting for morning
each stone a rain-washed monument
to man’s short-lived triumph over nature:
But watch the sprouting weed
or the green shaven-headed moss
hiding in the cracks
of frost-split stones
polished by centuries of feet.
History has taken us from the humble cobbled stone
to the cloud-reaching tower
of glass and concrete
of plastic and steel
Babel now lies in every direction
praise be the money-god. Ha!
Yet even these so-called wonders of man will fail
when nature decides to reclaim her own.
We can hope.
He went out in the streets to find love
and found instead crushed cigarette ends,
oil-filled puddles swirling with colour,
yesterday’s news blowing in the gutter,
a choking fit on exhaust fumes,
a cold foot from a hole in one shoe
and discarded chewing gum stuck to the other,
as a dented Coke can drummed along the road
and shouts came from an open window:
no love there.
He looked at cards in telephone boxes;
no love there.
He watched a police car speed through the lights;
no love there.
He heard the siren of an ambulance split the night;
no love there.
His shoulders slumped and he shook his head.
Every night it was the same.
Same street. Same sights. Same sounds. Same hate.
A teenage girl helped an elderly woman across the road
and left without stealing her bag.
There it was.
In the streets there was love.
He turned for home.
Look ma, no brakes!
Just my hands in front of me.
That push over the edge
that fall from the ledge
that push down the slide.
always down; unstoppable.
No skin left on my palms,
red raw and racing to ruin,
or just racing, really,
but movement is movement, after all.
The days pass
and time is passing,
another day has passed into night.
Time ticks on. Time ticks by.
The clock strikes. The bells chime.
The sun rises. The sun sets.
Always rushing, I’m buffeted by time
like the wash of air from a speeding truck,
carving lines on my face, like sea over sand
yet what is the significance of these lines
within the grand significance of time?
Time was. Time is. Time will always be.
Time. Oh, how it passes.
Don’t talk to me about the weather
when I can see and feel the sun,
the rain, the snow and the frost.
We have weathermen for that, anyway.
Don’t talk to me about your politics
when I have ears and hear the bullshit,
the lies, the promises; mostly broken.
We have newspapers for that, anyway.
Don’t talk to me about love
and how they say it is blind. It isn’t.
We jump in with eyes wide open.
We have hearts for that, anyway.
Don’t talk to me about death
when it’s the guaranteed end of everyone.
I know I can only be at peace with myself.
We have priests and undertakers for that, anyway.
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
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
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.
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.
Marble and metal heavyweights,
like huge paperweights
Tributes to persons from another age:
except by the pigeons
and their stained reminders
as a burger wrapper takes to the air
and tumbles down the street
in a rustle
amid the bustle
of a city on the move.
In contrast to the statue:
a memory given permanence;
an old campaigner prominence.
But soon it will rain
and extricate it from the excrement
of the ignorant pigeons;
and the crapping crows.
from the bench to the bin
Brain craves for meths
as body cries “no more!”
His brain rules his body
and he rolls the remains
of dog-ends from the bin
the day’s lonely spiral
to my observation
but I observe
and offer a coin.
Each to his own end.
I woke up and Donald Trump was in his chair and Kim Jong-un was in his and it got out of hand. I don’t trust either of the bastards with their hand over the button…
In my bed, I slept
as half a world wept
at its sins and punishments.
In the dark bombs fell
a dictator laughed
and split the night, open.
Half a world sat motionless
arms raised in surrender;
to no avail.
In the dark machine guns rattled
an army laughed
and tore the night, open.
In the shower I stood, thankful
as water washed over me like tears
and half a world looked for water.
In the dark a mushroom cloud
a despot laughed
and lit the night, forever.
Imagine someone just turning out a light. One minute I was in the sunshine, strolling over the small bridge that crossed the river that tumbled between grey rocks green with moss. The next, I’m crushed under a leaden sky and grey walls closed all around me, taking my air.
I find myself in front of what remains of a Cold War-era apartment block, the same colour as the sky with glassless windows, graffitied walls and waste of every kind strewn over the broken concrete.
A cold wind blows along the street and I pin the collar of my jacket with one hand and I look to bury my head in my jacket as litter dances little waltzes around me. I stand back from the building, taking it in. My stomach knots as the wind drops and the air stops breathing, tense. A pale face appears at one of the holes that were once windows.
I start to shake. The sky mirrors my soul as I wonder, not for the first time, why I came here. I know why. Pain. Pain is why I’m here here. White shards of pain that strip and shred the nerves as vultures tear at a long-dead carcass.
The first couple of months had been fine, taken care of by concerned doctors whose hands caressed the prescription that I eyed as a spectator watches for the matador to give the bull that final thrust. Even the sight of that little A6-size slip of paper was enough to alleviate the pain I (imagined?) felt.
Then, when I started to walk without wincing, the morphine prescriptions dried up and stopped. They stopped but my body’s craving didn’t. And so here I stand, shivering, waiting for a little packet of warmth.
“I’m already in town Stephie. I’ve an hour before I have to meet Dan and Bill.”
“OK Jules, see you at Starbucks in 10 minutes.”
Julie gathered the various carrier bags and took a slow walk along the pedestrianized high street. She stopped to look at the new releases in the window of W. H. Smith then made her way to Starbucks. Her friend was already seated, looking at the coffee menu. She looked up as Julie came in then looked at the bags.
“Hello Jules. It’s not Christmas come early is it?”
Julie placed the bags around her chair, smiling.
“Bill’s birthday next week.”
“Where is he, with Dan?”
“Yeah. They’re taking a walk along the beach. Bill loves the sea.” She shivered. It didn’t go unnoticed.
“Have you tried talking to anyone Jules, apart from Dan I mean?”
She shook her head.
“I think it’s time you thought about it. You can’t go through life with this fear that stops you doing something you always liked before. Cappuccino?”
“Stephie got up and ordered two coffees, leaving Julie staring at the black plastic table. A minute or so later she returned, coffees in hand.
“Four years have passed; you’ve got to move on Jules.”
“I will. I will. I’m just not ready for that last step, to air it out in public. Not at the moment.”
“What does Dan say about it.”
“That he understands. He can’t though. How could he?”
“Well, no one apart from you can really understand, it’s impossible.”
“At least, as a woman, you can understand me more.”
Stephie stirred in the sugar slowly, contemplating this last comment. She looked up into her friend’s eyes, which were starting to glisten.
“You can see a psychologist Jules. Professional secrecy and all that.”
“The psychologist will still know though.”
“Yeah, but you won’t have to go back there. I’m sure it’ll do you good, you can start to enjoy walking with Billy again.”
“All Billy’s ever known is that I’m scared of the water, that I can’t bear the sight of it. How will explain the sudden change, if indeed I do change?”
“That you did it for him.”
“And how am I going to tell a psychologist?”
Stephie looked into her friend’s face. Her eyes were still glistening. They were more than glistening. Her eyes wrinkled around the edges. She pinched her mouth shut to control herself, but she couldn’t hold it back and sprayed coffee over her jeans. Customers looked round as Stephie howled with laughter.
“It’s like this, Doctor. I was sunbathing on a beach when a bloody big crab came along and nipped my tit.”
The cheap quartz wall clock ticked its way through the dark minutes and hours in the studio. It wasn’t loud yet he was convinced he could still hear it, even with the door closed. He turned his face from one hot side of the pillow to the other. Still sleep evaded him.
The mind plays its darkest games in those still hours, when fears are more real. The swoosh of the scythe, like a knife through silk, is only a stroke away, and death stalks those wakeful thoughts. Car crashes become unavoidable. Work-related accidents a matter of time and media-induced paranoia of acts of terrorism places packages in every hidden shadow.
He flicked on the small book-light under the duvet and read a chapter of his latest acquisition, a paperback fiction bought at the station when the tannoy announced the cancellation of the train, and the drizzle continued unabated.
Satisfied, he flicked off the light and closed his eyes. He twisted. He turned. His brain churned. Damn it. His ears strained for the faint sounds of the wall clock but this time he could hear nothing. Content, he tried the new breathing exercises he’d been shown and tried to relax. No good. His mind shifted up to fourth. He was awake. A sigh passed his parted lips and, rising slowly to avoid making noise, he got out of bed.
He sat at the desk in his studio. He opened his notebook, took a pen from its holder and listened to the clock tick its way through the dark minutes and hours.
The hand moved across the table, casting a shadow under the glare of the uncovered light bulb, now dull with dust. There was still strength in the hand, and a life of hard work and physical activity showed in the knots of vein and muscle as it moved.
A muscular forefinger which had shot and killed men in war, under orders and without hesitation, now lifted, paused then started to tap, without rhythm, on the plastic table. The window rattled as the wind picked up snow and threw it against the glass, a draught blowing past the single pane. The finger stopped while a deep, chesty cough ripped the silence and echoed in the room devoid of furniture except the table and two chairs. A car horn beeped twice outside
“It’s time,” said the voice, finding breath once again.
“Yes love, it’s time to go.”
“They’ll look after us Eve.”
The hand reached out across the table and grasped one no less young but smaller and softer and cold to the touch. A sob broke the brief silence.
“54 years in this house George. We raised children who’ve raised their children and all the while we’ve stayed here. It breaks my heart to leave it yet…”
Another gust of frigid air escaped from the rattling window pane.
“At least we’ll be warm my love, and we’ll have company our own age.”
The smaller hand gave another squeeze.
“You’re right George, I guess we have to go.”
The hand, cold and white at the fingertips, helped Eve to her feet and into her coat. It reached for the light switch, and hesitated, as it touched away a solitary tear from a wrinkled cheek. Wind tore past the loose window pane.
“At least we’ll be warm, Eve.”
The cat, bird stalking,
early morning dog walking,
the sun rises over the eastern hill
behind the fir trees.
Spring morning chill
spring sun warmth.
It is still early.
The plants, freshly watered,
drip and gleam in the light.
Geraniums, pink and red
and rosemary lifts her violet head,
the lavender flowers, purple
while bees flit, feeling Provençal.
Sarracenia, the fly catcher, lies
and dreams of catching flies.
Sliced by razor
bleached with sorrow
Hung out to dry
saw your smile,
felt your kiss
The razor’s wound
but never eternal
As the heart beats once again
The heavy, oak door slid on hinges oiled better than a Neapolitan donut-seller’s hair and Gaum heard it. Well, he sensed the liquorice black room slip into a shade of night slightly less gloomy, but still far darker than charcoal, jet or even coal. He stopped breathing. Well, he’d actually done so 14 years previously and just never got back into the habit. What a waste of energy, he thought, and carried on living his life in apnoea, oblivious to the need for ins and outs of oxygen and carbon dioxide. Ah yes, the door.
He had to hide and moved with so light a presence that the dust under his feet, which had last been swept around the time Gaum still breathed, failed to raise a speck. He heard giggles as light flooded into the room for the first time since the floor had last been cleaned. Bollocks! he thought, Kids! What are they doing in here? It had been some time since Guam last laid eyes on children, in fact probably around the last time a dim light rolled in from behind the heavy oak door which swung on an oiled hinge, but they’d never been in this room, ever.
The giggling got louder and the light lighter. Gaum kept still behind the ancient teak desk, as the giggles became murmurs. Dust kicked up, swirling and dancing in the shaft of light from the open door and a heavy scraping sound made Gaum’s heart leap. The chair, its cracked and faded burgundy leather billowed more dust.
“I thought of it first.”
“Get off; I got us in here didn’t I?”
“Yeah but I thought of it.”
“Only because I told you about it.”
The tussling continued, dust was thrown up everywhere. Gaum wanted to sneeze but then remembered he’d stopped breathing, so sneezing seemed irrelevant. A loud, metallic ringing followed by a series of taps told Gaum they had knocked a pen off the desk. Still they pushed and grunted and still the dust flew.
A heavy groaning sound was followed by a grinding crash. He looked out from behind the desk. Busted, bent keys lie about like dead soldiers, the ribbon strewn across the floor in a last bid for freedom and the carriage return lever lay twisted under the bulk of the old Remington like a broken leg.
“Look what you did.”
“It wasn’t me, you pushed it.”
“Let’s get out of here before someone comes.” Two shadows leapt through the open door.
As their footfalls faded, a light shone down on the remains of the typewriter. Gaum felt strange and light, so light in fact he could feel himself floating as he looked down on the senseless mess.
Then, with a shake of his head and something resembling a sigh, or maybe the passing of wind, or a breath of air, the ghost of the muse of the long-dead writer was finally free.
Today I left my place of employment after more than 11 years. The big hole that has been left by such an absence will be filled however, as I am now studying the Cambridge CELTA course to teach English as a foreign Language. As one door closes…
The last long day
I’m left static and still
and I must keep moving
just keep going
But now, but now
a halt has been called.
Time to take the time that’s mine,
to use, shape and mould
As a new life chapter unfolds.
I won’t be lead blindly
as I carve and scythe
and make my way
with my destiny
in my hands.
Do not step into yonder pasture,
however the grass may be greener.
Do not follow the grass-flattened footsteps
who will lead you tither.
For the fickle will change
and though you may rage
and cry against your injustice
and spill tears that are useless.
To whom will you turn
when the wild winter wind burns
your face and tears your eyes,
as you stumble and chastise
your decision taken,
your intention mistaken.
For however that distant green field
may taunt you,
do not stray across those borders,
entrapped by those hoarders,
who will suck your soul
and bleed you dry and left to lie;
choked and broken
The hours slip through time,
as time seeps through the hours;
mark the beginning
and the end of time.
Celebration of life and death;
eyes open for the first time
or close for the last,
and tears tear the heart.
A new life now grows
for time never slows
but seeps through the hours.
The old year slipped into the new
While yesterday’s pain
is swept with a broom
Hard bristle scratch
My thoughts, my face
The handle hands the hand a splinter
Through nail and skin
Deeper and deeper
Poisoning and malevolent
Burrowing and diving
I can feel it
But not enough
To pierce my heart
So it turns on me
and burns in me
But spurs me
The sunlight for a second
By my window whispered
Or did it laugh
As I felt its draught
My skin crawled,
The shadow passed
But it’ll come back
When night falls chill
For I will give it life
In black and white