panes of glass

I divide my long day between
the panes of glass that make up
the French doors that open onto
the patio and walled garden
where once I walked
without a care in the world
for the number of years
left unknown to me

each pane measures 9 x 7
or thereabouts, wooden framed
I give each one equal time
for each one holds a different view
of sky here and tree over there
buildings, roofs, windows
lawn and plants and washing line
colours changing by the hour

which is why I repeat the process
over and over morning till night
seven days a week over and over
only taking time off for surreptitious dozing
my pillows are fluffed up by someone
my body is propped up like a subsiding home
oh look – another story unveiling itself
a raven has landed in pane number 5 . . .

 

heavenward

from out of the sky
the days fall like radioactive promises
unseen, endless, deadly
I cup my hands and drink motes of time
swallowed down by invisible dust devils
who disturb my insides
and make me want to curl up beneath a tree
the pain of solitude all consuming
the smell of mould all pervading
how tight can eyes be fastened
when tiny hands pull at my lids
and spiders weave ropes that bind me
a giant bound by arrogance and greed
nature in all its overbearing smugness
forgetting the passage of sun and moon
the arc of the day’s deceitful covenant
in swathes of earthly lamentations
everything seemingly aghast and lost
there being no stopping for breath
only disorder and irrelevance
I say just let me lie here in peace
dissolving in a fission of acceptance
unable to pray despite looking heavenward

muy bien

I tear the photographs of me into tiny pieces
sort them into colours black and white
brown and blue, green and red and orange
faded like an almost forgotten Majorcan sunset
where we went to forget about Dad
and turn our lives into something new
I wasn’t quite sure what to do
I was only a kid

I glue the pieces of photographs on large sheets
of snowy white paper that is rough to the touch
freshly fallen with no trace of footsteps
as all childhoods should remain
but we know that’s not possible
the pieces are jumbled now
I make them into different shapes
that resemble landscapes

And I am there if you look closely
amongst the rolling hills and fields
a lost boy peeking out from behind trees
you see me waving from inside a cloud
no  angel am I
only torn pieces of photographs
thrown to the wind and scattered
confetti memories strewn

promises

on this road that never ends
I’ve jettisoned so many friends
who offered me so many things
their promises like tumbleweeds
that came and went with so much ease
they piled up high and dimmed the sky
and no one knew the reason why
I chose to leave them all behind
safely parked in Promise Land
abandoned for a younger man
to take the hands of my old friends
on this road that never ends
promises like tumbleweeds

ghost town

I’m gonna rent me a ghost town
somewhere in Texas or New Mexico
next to a widescreen view of rolling nothingness
where the big sky just keeps on giving
and the I-40 steals the passing trade

It’ll be my very own drive-in movie
my flaky painted drive-thru takeaway
with authentic kitsch Route 66 memorabilia
an abandoned motel and rusting gas station
that passers-by keep passing by

I’ll sit out on someone’s old front porch
maybe read some Zane Grey cowboy tales
whilst watching the tumble weed doing its thing
and once in a while I’ll wave to a mirage
a biker riding the road that never ends

Yes I’m gonna rent me a ghost town
where even the ghosts have upped and left
and no-one can take away the big sky
or my freedom to sit and wait for when
nothing in particular happens

a rare disease

they opened Alice up
like she was a tin of sardines
or a potential can of worms
no need for surgical face masks
when dealing with the already dead

they peeled back her widow’s skin
rummaged around her used insides
examined the obviously damaged liver
and wondered at the black gases
that emanated a smell of melancholia

the coroner told his assistant that:
neurological symptoms began with
subtle changes in mental acuity,
mild memory loss, poor reasoning ability
and irritability – he went on:

these symptoms become more severe
eventually progressing to delirium,
suicidal tendencies and coma
his assistant couldn’t stop himself weeping
and noticed too the coroner shedding a tear

here, take a scalpel and grab a leg
we’ll make incisions from belly to tippy toes
then saw open the top of her head
to release the rest of those melancholic gases
that keep her spirit from resting in peace

they set to work to free her corpse
from the devilment that lurked within
and all the while they breathed the black gas
the tears ran down their starched white gowns
a rare disease mused the men in unison

when their work was finally done
Alice Mary neatly stitched back up
never to know how far her story would spread
from London to Belfast, Swansea, Scotland
syndicated for all to read

Screenshot (116)

Alice Mary Thomas was my great-grandmother. She was from a family of railway tunnel miners and had spent much of her childhood living in squalid navvy shanty huts around the country. The Thomas family would have met and known my Hill ancestors from working at one or more of these mining projects. Alice married my great-grandfather Alfred William Hill in 1888. Their first two daughters died very young, possibly as a result of the Russian flu epidemic in the 1890’s. The family finally settled in the Lambeth district of London where Alfred died in 1920 aged 53 and Alice in 1929 aged 59. I recently discovered this story about Alice’s death whilst searching the British Newspaper Archives for articles relating to my wider family history. I was previously aware that she had taken her own life but had no idea about the link to the rare Hanot’s disease or primary biliary cirrhosis as it is better known today. The poem is based on these newspaper reports with some added fictional aspects thrown in for good measure.

Some few years later in 1937, their son Ivan Arthur (my grandfather) died whilst working on the new escalator system at King’s Cross Station in London after falling down an access shaft.

Alice Mary’s sister Louise Thomas found her way out of relative poverty and hardship by becoming the governess to the de Havilland family where she met and fell in love with the aviator Geoffrey de Havilland. They married in 1909 and she shared many of his early flying exploits. They had three sons, two of which were test pilots who died carrying out their work – events which she never fully recovered from. In 1944, five years before her death, her husband was knighted and she became Lady ‘Louie’ de Havilland. But that’s another story . . .

Symptom details taken from:
https://medical-dictionary.thefreedictionary.com/Hanot%27s+disease

 

 

Peter and the banker

you’re not smiling now said Peter to the banker
as he turned him away from the gates he guarded
who do you think you are turning up here
with a champagne bottle in one hand
and a frightened young lady clutching the other?

bloody chauffeur wasn’t looking where he was going
said the banker to Peter most mournfully.
he caused the crash that killed me and the blonde
I see you let the chauffeur in ahead of us
so what’s the deal my friend?

the banker offered Peter a wad of notes
but Peter was looking over his shoulder
nodding to an elderly gent to come on through
freshly arrived from a Swiss clinic
beaming with gratitude at being accepted

Jesus Christ said the banker
this is worse than getting into a London nightclub
don’t you know who I am and how much I’m worth?
for heaven’s sake I have an OBE
for services to banking and the financial sector

yes I know who you are said Peter
removing the hospital tubes from a young girl’s arm
and opening the gate for her to go through
yes you’re the one who loaned the money
that destroyed the rainforests

that helped pollute the land and oceans
that forced the innocent poor into destitution
yes you’re the one who took advantage
of those most vulnerable across the world
like your lady friend here upon your arm

who I am pleased to say is most welcome to proceed
which she did with a smile and a wave
disappearing into the white dry ice cloud beyond
the banker tried to follow her but Peter held him back
without appearing to lay a hand upon him

if you wouldn’t mind taking the stairs over there
keep walking down and someone will meet you
I’m afraid it’s policy to only allow in those
who have overall made good with their lives
and as you can see I am very busy

the banker shuffled off mumbling under his breath
followed by a politician and a military general
Peter sighed and wondered would they ever learn
these selfish humans consumed by greed and hate
wouldn’t it be easier to just all get along?