All There Is

A poem, and it’s not about singing …

All There Is

I wasn’t old. But enough;
enough about years.
They pass to silence.
To sing. I knew;
pitch, phrase, breath.

All of it.

That day. No more or less.
A series of disasters.
I was too small.
So many other singers;
loud, laughing.  Ready.

Better.

To sing alone; the last.
Skin cold, breath tight,
failing heart shallow.
Far easier to fall.
Fear. Fear. Fear.

Fear.

From the past; a gift.
A friend’s voice; still clear.
“You’ve been okay before.”
Freedom in that
to step forward.

I sang.
I sing.

a draft thing

So here’s a thing, a draft thing.  I’m not sure who the characters are; I can probably guess their ages, but not genders as yet, but I know they’re close to each other.  It’s been a long time since I’ve written any long prose; it’s a bit like being drunk or lost; easy to fall into; harder to get out.

Hearth

The hearth is warm stone; made so by the passage of years, each autumn in its turn, every fire that we left to burn overnight.  The dog grate is new, or relatively so, pock marked only by a little rust, a year or two of spring rains falling hard through the uncapped chimney.  Its metal feet sit less than square against the mortared joints of the flags.

You’re not far away; the heart-beat irregular lick of the flames begins against charcoal embers.  Beneath the grate is clean, carefully so.  As you started the fire you stood here, leaving behind a few leaves from the dark garden, trapped now beneath the coal bucket; extra random reds against this year’s rag rug.  These scents followed you in; sunshine against October damp, pruned apple wood, thick grease from the gate.

Over the chair hangs the green camouflage jacket that we’ve both worn at different times.  In the left pocket there will be jute from the garden.  My hands remember the harsh thread; the days spent waiting for your return; my fingers busy making hard, unstructured knots.   There will be cigarettes in the inside pocket, yours, from the spring.  Half hidden in a mutual deception as to how much you still smoke.

There’s not much of my tour guide work remaining now; just the Saturday mornings.  This has left my reading to slide into an untidy heap; periodicals and books; occasional newspaper clippings.  It will wait now for the cold nights.  You’ve left the post on the chair.  Unopened.  I see a bill and some stupid circulars.

They go, where they live, on the kitchen side but avoiding a small run of condensation from the kettle.  Beads of water grow on the white metal finish.  By it the old pyrex bowl holds batter, the sugar jar sits by it, my favourite pan is shiny with melted butter.  And I know you’ve gone out for oranges.

 

Middle of Nowhere

A poem because my cat died.  My cat that saw me into an empty house of an evening for ten years of workdays and sat with me on afternoon for eight years of children.  I smashed some old teacups and it didn’t work, suspect you have to use the best ones.

 

Middle of Nowhere

Summer sky through green leaves suspended,
hammock swinging, bare foot and shoulder;
absent without leave from my own life.
Smashed pots lie quiet by the wall.

Birds sing verses of ordinary pleasures,
cars park in the street, children laugh;
the kitchen clock marks continual hunger.
A raven pours her blue eye over me.

Favoured notebook and blue pen by me,
tea cooling, the quiet house beyond;
this space too small for maps or legends.
Reason’s left me ringing empty.

Deja Vu and 1918.Une Montre

So.  I underwrite.  Not a wasted word or overstated sentiment.  Which is grand, except that sometimes it renders what I write incomprehensibly abstract, obscure, evasive.

So here are two poems that centre round the same idea of emotional return.  The shorter one I wrote first.  And then a friend remarked upon the abstract nature of what I write and I saw that, for what it sometimes is, a kind of cowardice.  So I wrote the second one.

As ever, all feedback humbly appreciated.

Deja Vu

Already I
heard the wheat rise with the sun,
flirted with your well shaped phrase.
Dreamed these pictures,
read the signs;

went away.

Already I
salted squash to watch it weep,
shared cheese, broke bread, kept the faith.
Counted the stars,
heard the song;

went away.

I can see Saturn’s oceans,
a boat house lying empty,
packed tack and stored limes,
the perfect stormy course.

 

1918
Une montre

My great grandad; short, yorkshire stone and dour, back from war.
His spoils; medals, a hatred of adventure, a gift for his youngest.
For the twelfth child of a long settled traveller; badly housed, poor;
a treasure wrapped in muslin, in a oxo tin.  A diamanté watch.

And a stew of phrases; san fairy ann, TTFN, the quality of mercy.
But une montre to wear with dark hair, blue eyes, flappers beads,
to time her batting for the county team, for dark-room work days.
Till the workings failed and it shone only in the past tense.

She told this last grandchild of that watch, of other ways and roads.
Over years we scrapped carbon from toast, watched blossom fall
and she taught me all the French she knew.  Merci beaucoup.
Ca ne fait rien.  A demain.  Je t’aime.  If it pleases you?

And it pleased me, the shape and taste of it; pictures in my head.
Hungry then to learn and for adventure.  To get beyond the 31 bus.
Her lifetime condensed to highlights, thirst and hunger. Defiance.
Added a colour animation to this shy clown; my own subtitles.

I planned and dreamed and grafted.  That working class imperative.
Ambition aimed me, set my sights on London on the way to Paris.
The south of England brought sandals in October. Freedom. Debt.
A taste for cheap wine. Love for a man with blue eyes and dark hair.

As I fell I forgot that unconditional love asks nothing and gives all.
I stayed with him because he asked it.  Gave in, gave up; got lost.
London was enough I said and used false reason to kill hope.
In others nightmares I found restless sleep and sadness.  Ennui.

An echo from a London friend brought me back through years.
“Birds and snakes. An aeroplane. It starts with an earthquake.”
Again I burn toast, listen to the radio and shop for a watch.

I stand on the shoulders of my own gods and dream in colour.

tiny

here’s a thing, a lyrical thing

tiny

broken clocks to break my fall;
first place past, a losing second;
rain drops river round me
a dusty sailing back

if time wrote our stories,
we could never be late,
only tied by fate to futures
that drowned in debt

walk home on tomorrow’s path;
this housing’s empty, carry on,
pack around you all you love,
this strength beats weight

i only know these words and have no others,
and those stupid others think me word less

with you is some part of me,
a tiny map of where we went;
mark the way with new pins,
to make light of any blood

if time wrote our stories,
we could never be late,
only tied by fate to futures
that drowned in debt

the sun begins as moon,
throws us out and upwards,
forever drunk on laughter,
as she reasons to be free

Five days holiday, five poems …

I guess this is a kind of ‘what I did on my holidays’.   Only not …  here’s five rambling, loose poems that began from thoughts connected to that time and place.

Here’s my idea of;

ROMANCE

Tea bag, in a mug, times two, set by a kettle.
Leaving the front light on for me coming in.
Wildflowers, wilting, bruised, in a milk bottle.
Voices round me as I fall asleep.

Waking under canvas whilst the world turns.
Knowing others read this book before me.
Being with you, making plans; keeping them.
A friend’s easy talk in conversation.

The black paint of a venue ceiling; bass marked.
A new blue notebook, the spine unbroken.
Finding the full strawberry in a jar of jam.
Sharing the chips I bought.

The smell of beer in a morning; my first home.
An army tyre pressure gauge; my grandad’s.
My sewing box distilled from both my gran’s.
Honesty seed pods; shape and form come to life.

How we look at things;

THE VIEW

Camping on a farm, fragranced by cows,
we graze on rhubarb and cream teas. Jam.
The gradients to town give way to views;
force sun bathed labour from our feet.

Compulsory retreat from routine; a vacation.
Lost; meaning, pattern, stress and hassle.
Work is cooking, washing, finding shoes.
The coupling with money’s gone.

Past the sunlit graveyard sorrow’s buried;
looks out onto an angry sea of adventure.
Port lights signal the risks of grounding;
a drayman offers barrels down below.

Streets and harbour fit to burst with folk;
music, fried food, signs, seagulls, shops.
Here T shirts offer quick common wisdom:
Happiness. An inside job.

SHADOW

You are always there. Waiting.
Even when I forget my name;
sewn to my toes, hoping to fly.
The better half of me, often.

That in your dark is fertile hope,
buried treasure, unnamed jewels.
An everlasting well of shade,
I tread bravely where you follow.

In bed you dream for me; fantasy.
Offer my day in spotlight, highlight,
blended with the sun’s heat
and the relief of your telling.

Where you are I am happy, ever after;
high, low and learning to be still.
To see beauty in form and shape
and sometimes in my shadow.

A literal beginning;

WHITBY

A hill, a caravan rocking, no knocking.
Then me.
Accents, down from the toon;
like warm tinned beer.
Does a right need exercise to exist?

Glacier carved moor, topped with ice cream vans.
Raw pleasure.
Radar for an old war;
now a cold foe.
What does liberty look like?

I always loved this place; chips and sand,
tar stained knees.
Unlike Alice I remembered;
knew I’d return.
To a known, gold freedom.

June. The sun reaches to the moon.
Sings of light.
Thinks in terms of warmth,
love, strength, faith.
Says use this day.

The adulting thing;

THINGS THEY NEVER WARNED YOU ABOUT

An empty hall; that stillness stirs the past.
Heartstrings that bind, by choice; hard fast.
Idle summers days, each more potent than the last.
A first hit of story. The reach of that blast.
Shared music. A spell to set this mast.

21 May 2016

There’s something perfect in waiting; an unplanned meditation.  So, Saturday night, I waited for a gig and walked in the rain.  And wrote this.

21 May 2016

The Meadows it says,
as the sparrows settle
into eaves rotten since some war.

A battle long forged
to defend this England,
from the spoil of contented plenty.

The fence leans on air
more hope, less faith,
as rusted nails colour the earth.

Above all else
our masters forbid
unfettered pleasure in all its ecstasy.

Let us breathe in
shades of warm days,
think of all places, east and west.

Be here, be enough,
be happy, take this now,
offer no other prayer but my own.

Vacation, a poem

vacation

a tiny jam jar of primroses, a trite gesture.
but i admit each flower’s soft imperfection,
is enough to demolish this tired heart,
lacking response to anything but high.
i am weary in ways i cannot name.

to escape to nostalgia, to a known ending,
would kill me dead, six feet under. usually.
but just now I see the appeal of it.
bees hum round purple heather;
reaping the last of the day.

my back’s against the wall. truly.
there’s no metaphor for this warmed stone.
a mug of tea in hand, eyes shut against the sun.
this point will exist in time forever.
i was always coming here.

sit still till i grow cold, watch the sky,
draw inwards, retreat, quieten, repair. begin.
in a grate, restart yesterday’s fire with new wood,
admit the savage satisfaction of the leaping flames.
i am done with tiredness and holding back.

Year

A poem about the shape of time; a year.

Year

June
Your day is endless. Conversation rests in dreaming nights.

July
The unexpected grief of sudden rainfall.  Growing shadows.

August
All eyes turn to your glory.   Stars burn the night.

September
The worn path on cooling earth.  Plotting futures.

October
A loud, drunken leader.  Work falls away; care is free.

November
Rest, relief and wanting.  Your growing soul.

December
A tale you told me.  The half remembered song.

January
A pencil drawing of mortality.  Your double sided hope.

February
The turning wake of months.  My escape from death.

March
Love’s birth; pregnant and swollen.  A fierce freedom.

April
My warmth makes beauty.  Your revolutionary beginning.

May
The full table and an open gate.  Hope surrounds us.

First Kiss

First draft, not sure where it goes from here.  Got talking today about being an awkward teen and this came along.  Softly sentimental – I may be coming down with something.

FIRST KISS

I’m aware of you. Just to say;
your stride is a stretch for me,
the buttons on your coat are loose,
you catch the bus to college.

You stand as tall as me. It’s a guess;
we haven’t been that close.
The ex you dated through school
was short and fat. I’m unkind.

I know you write. Sad, brittle verse.
Our first conversation’s confused;
turns around a book I never had
but then I knew I needed.

My best friend’s birthday; eighteen.
Drunken, silly, happy. Knowing.
Cleverer than we’ll ever be again
four of us watch in the dawn.

You held my hand that night,
my heart still, just a little.
My mind remains my own
but you walk me home.

And we kiss in the daylight. For ever.
By the crumbling works bus stop.
You’re warm and strong; gentle.
Complicated, like life itself.

That kiss is clumsy; perfect.
On the walk from the George,
through that heatwave summer,
we’ll have our time to practise.

Soap’s scent on your skin,
the way you say my name,
your hand on my arm.
Your smile; these remain.