Haiku State Visit

Open air carriage

Nineteen sixty three remake

Queen and Trump to star

Screenshot (11)
(photo credit: 38 Degrees)

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A Solitary Star

a solitary star once burned bright in his eyes
it was the light that had kept him alive
it was the fire that stoked his imagination
it was the little boy left behind inside him

waving from the past as if from a photograph
the one that never got picked for the team
the one that pressed flowers from the park
the one that collected old postage stamps

making his way through life as best he could
dodging the verbal bullets of school bullies
dodging the beliefs that might tie him down
dodging false accusations from those who wrongly judged

perhaps the hardest lessons he never learned
that people could be so cruel to each other
that people thought only of themselves
that people cared little for the welfare of animals

dolphins and killer whales kept captive for entertainment
he joined the ranks of the angry minorities
he spoke out against injustice and inequality
he turned and walked away from confrontation

ever, ever, ever, would the world change?
time was running out for that little boy
time was catching up with his tired bones
time was mocking him with deafening silence

until one day it would all be deadly quiet
and he would sleep the sleep of all men gone before
and he would hear only birdsong and distant waves
and he would no longer be remembered

thankful would be his prayers
warm would be the sun on his face
peace would be his at long last…

Unfurl Oh Lover Unfurl

Unfurl 
Oh lover
Unfurl

Your love letter gift
Red ribbon loosely tied
That past lipstick lips
Blessed with a sudden kiss
And blew right back to me
On rose scented clouds
Of delicately wreathed petals

Unfurl
Oh lover
Unfurl

Your scroll of love letters
Wrought in waxy words
Candle melted and drip sealed
Carved with our initials
There on the side of the casket
By brass handle glistenings
And curtain closing hymns

Unfurl
Oh lover
Unfurl

Embering flames will leap
To imprison now in this long sleep
Your sweet voice that once sang
Your bright eyes that sparkled light
Departing in a puff of smoke
To be gone forever
To be gone my lover

Unfurl
Oh lover
Unfurl

Grainy Memory

Grainy memory
Kodachrome slide boxes in boxes
Envelopes bulging with black and whites
Albums of slipped photographs askew
Letters bundled and elastic banded
Locked in a black metal box in the wardrobe
Disguised by the wedding suit that’s too small
That your son or daughter will one day dispose of
After your coffin has been lowered into the ground
And memories turned to grain

 

Larkin’s Hedgehog

The garden is such a sad place to be
Where once a creature dared to cough
Like a cancer patient impatient for tea
Scoffing down worms and shuffling off
Sloughing soil from his house of fleas

The business of mowing too is ghastly
Dust and pollen irritating oesophagus
Sneezing and wheezing under bay tree
From my attic window I hear him cuss
The hedgehog wedged. An amputee.

 

(Philip Larkin was born on this day in 1922. From 1956 to 1974 he rented a second floor flat in Hull, England. He died in 1985 of oesophageal cancer. My poem is a reimagination of these basic facts and two of his poems – ‘Home is so Sad’ and ‘The Mower’. Hope you like it)

An Amble Through An Afternoon

Today I attended the funeral of a friend. By friend I mean he was someone I knew a little. I guess you might call him an acquaintance. And by funeral I mean the wake, or after service send-off. I didn’t feel connected enough to join family and close friends at the main event but I am sure I would have been made welcome. So it was to the pub that I went and an hour late I arrived, not wishing to be seen devouring the sandwiches that others deserved more than me. Hungry work burying the dead. The quiet solemnity of the formal proceedings inevitably gives way to a sense of relief and a desire to speak loudly once more. And eat. It’s okay to eat now. And talk.

For this was no ordinary send-off. This was a farewell to a much loved local poet whose involvement with spoken word open mic events was well known and it was now the turn of his friends and family to toast with words his memory and our loss. For he will be greatly missed. There’s no doubt about that. I stood amongst the crowds and watched and listened as one after another his friends and family took turns at the mic to read something by him or something by themselves or something by someone who couldn’t be there in person.

Every once in a while a special person will enter our lives and spark a connection and we wonder how on earth that was possible. But when we begin to look around us we see the number of people that individual had touched and always in such a positive way. Such enthusiasm and encouragement also. On June 1st I had messaged him simply to say how much I had enjoyed his readings that night. Always courteous, his reply: ‘I assure you the feeling is mutual. I await your novel with interest’. If that novel ever reaches a printing press then his name will be in the list of acknowledgements at the end.

A few hours after the news of his sudden death reached me via social media I was compelled to write down some lines. The way bad news travels and creeps up on us unexpectedly, unawares and unwelcome can be unnerving too. I had been staring at the one centimetre gap between the door and the floor as if that was the route it had taken to find me. It also led me to think about the mental issues our friend had suffered with for so long and how difficult it must have been at times to have left open that one centimetre gap in which to communicate with the outside world when all inside was in such turmoil and disarray.

After the initial round of recitals an interval was called by our host. I found a seat and waited for the second half for I had come to hear the tributes, my own poem tucked in my back pocket. I had no plan to read it and I was not on the list of readers. My intention before ducking away was to pass it to the host and close friend of the deceased to read in private some time later. But as the last on the list had been up and spoken their words our host asked if anyone else, those who had arrived a little later, would like to come and say something. He looked at me and I couldn’t refuse that look. He is an exemplary host and compère and it felt an honour to be asked by name.

So here is the poem I wrote the day our friend died and which I read today amongst the good company of his family and friends. In some ways it is meant to be a celebration of all the good things that can be achieved when we share a common love of words. Rest in peace and know that you touched the hearts of so many, in big ways and in little ways. And thank you, gentle man.

A Cold Breath of Wind

A cold breath of wind blew down the street
Turned the corner, found its way below your door
That one centimetre gap was just enough
For scraps of paper with poetry and notes
To be let in, to be let out, to be I know not what

For although I knew you not at all that well, that is
Not much beyond a few polite conversations, nods
Of getting past the getting to know you awkwardness
When those around you knew you so much better than me
Past histories shared but the future not, turns out

You were, it seems, a masker of darkness, a fidget
A smoker, a kindly soul much loved and now much missed
I will rue the chance of getting to know you better
Slowly, through your eyes and mine and others
And the strange, uncommon bonds that often attract

When, when the news of your death came suddenly
It came blowing in on cold blasts of condolence wishes
As if your notebooks had been torn to shreds and tossed
Upon the gentle breath of your once spoken words, those
Which now, are merely echoes of your soft, fragile voice

current mood

current mood? not in the mood. today. to be honest. I’m sprinting out the blocks. turning anger into energy. into actions. struggling to keep within the speed limits. myself. the parts of me that are on fire. in flames. pumped like a bodybuilder on steroids. yeah it’s manly. sweaty. not very pretty. but needs must. if must you need to know. reason? well it’s not important. not really. not in the scheme of things. the bigger picture. widescreen surround sound. biopic. you know. sometimes. you have to put your foot down. speed past other people’s crash sites. or simply take the alternative route. it might be much longer. more picturesque. but wind back through the back roads. where. despite the twists and turns. occasional blind corners. peace and solitude parks itself up in lay-bys. yep. next to the don’t dump rubbish here signs. that’s where I am right now. stationary. thinking. pausing for a sweet jesus moment. then. opening up the door I step out and start to dance in the middle of this single lane country road. bend it bend it just a little bit. oh yes that’s good. bend it bend it just a little more. FUCK ‘EM I shout. volume full up. I’m at the top of my voice. FUCK ‘EM All. this feels good. a man in Lycra on impossibly thin wheels cycles past at speed. faster than necessary. i hear the sound of twisting metal. breaking bones. skin scraped from cheekbones. elbows. knees. i can’t stop laughing. i can’t stop myself dissolving into a puddle of oily water. the colourful kind. a rain shower will wash me away. down the road. into the soft verge. beware. be one with nature.

IMG_20170701_1607162

(bend it lyrics by Dave Dee, Dozy, Beaky, Mick & Tich)

Dissociation Symphony

It’s been such a pleasure
Such a bellyful of smiles
To unlike every like
And delete every comment
Every word I ever shared
Every email cut and slashed

I’ve binned and burnt them
On the bonfire of your vanities
That funeral pyre of false allegations
Every lie and misrepresentation
Warped and twisted and
Bent to your needy wishes

If background music had been played
It would surely have been a symphony
Four Movements of Dissociation
The opening Unliking Sonata
The slow Deleting Adagio
The Cut and Slash Minuet

The Big Bonfire Finale Rondo
Followed by a concert hall of clapping
Shouts of Encore! Encore!
Laughter and hats thrown in the air
And when the lights came on you found
Everyone had left via the exit doors

Two Toothbrushes in the Toothbrush Holder

Asda breaded fish in packs of two
One for her and one for the freezer
Erm, she wished she could say ‘you’
Likewise with the two fingers of Twix
Or the Kit-Kat orange, her preferred flavour

A pair of Yankee candles upon the table
She lit just one which would ultimately need replacing
Unlike the two glasses of wine, red and rosé
Plates and cutlery both clean and dirty
All in the dishwasher when the meal was over

His and hers matching bathrobes
His was pristine white, hers tinged yellow
She would replace them both together
His to Oxfam to feed the poor
Hers cut up to clean the floor

Two toothbrushes in the toothbrush holder
For as long as she could remember
There had always been a pink for her, a blue for him
Bought from Superdrug or B&M Bargains
She searched the shelves for her favoured colours

A new one of both each and every month
Her used in the bin, his unused in the cupboard
With all the rest, just in case, she told herself
Because a confident smile would attract a man
Well that’s what her Mam had said all those years ago

Now it’s mirror, mirror on the wall
You will only get to see this one sad face
With crow’s feet revealed beneath the day’s make-up
And eyes that avoid making eye contact
Goodnight sweet prince, goodnight my life