Blustery November, and all I want
. Is to find a quiet corner of this burnt out city
. Where the ashes of my past whisper in the wind
Coating the street and alleys in a thin film of memory
That must be scraped back to see the stonework underneath.
. But for every brick and branch I recognise, a thousand nooks and
Crannies have appeared, breaking the lines of familiarity
. Making a tattered mosaic of my memory;
. The edges flutter in the gusts, as though any one might strip
. The whole sheet away, and leave me with a blank slate
Endless arbitrary introductions will still, most likely, be unable to plant the names of your many relations firmly in your mind. Don’t worry, most respond to intense eye contact and the seeds of conversation.
There will be a cacophony of powerful opinions, almost 60 percent of which will not align with yours, 20 percent will be physically repulsive and the other 20 you won’t hear over the din. This is okay, nobody agrees on everything; being blood does nothing to change this.
There will (most likely) be alcohol involved. Know that the man with the timid handshake and sweater vest is an entirely different beast to the ruddy, slurring abomination that weaves in front of you now, but they are still inextricably one.
There will be questions. Endless questions, assaults from multiple angles and multitudinous foes in an attempt to pierce the carefully polished armour thrown up by living away from home.
Remember: these arguments are cyclical and will wane accordingly, diminishing to slivers of irritation.
Remember: For every weaving tower of drunken aggression or insults, there are securely founded pillars to support you in your plight.
Remember: In the face of spitting machine gun mouths, launching interrogations one after another, there are those willing to bear the brunt of the fire, if it’ll take some of the heat off your shoulders.
Finally, remember this. For better, or for worse, all this can only ever be temporary. If all my family spent all their time together, I doubt there’d be anyone left.
Lamplight pools on rain spattered pavements,
Holding back winter darkness
As candles burn low, the city’s eyes closing
With every sleeping couple.
Bathed in rippling waves of jazz
Flowing from basement bunkers
To pluck at the hearts of lonely lovers
Shoulders hunched against November’s icy voice,
Eyes turned down to the floor, face hidden
In a thick woollen scarf.
Breath spirals through fibres in a fine mist
Wandering in to the chill of the night.
He turns the corner,
Emerging from the black velvet of the shadows
To bathe in the lamp’s amber glow.
Tired eyes rise from the pavement,
Fixed on the approaching figure’s face
Bright with anticipation and desire
But disappointment turns them dim,
The light seeping into the chimes of midnight
Vying for supremacy with bursts of brass
Winding from the belly of the city.
He is not coming.
A sigh escapes soft lips,
In recognition of sadness, but not surprise.
Down dingy alleys she meanders
Drawn to the drums, lights, crescendos
Of the clubs, losing herself in blaring sound,
In booze, stale cigarettes and jazz.
He’s sitting, staring, slimy gazes
Slide under the windows pane
I don’t know his intentions
Though I know his eyes are fixed on me
He oozes over discarded junk piles
Keeping carefully out the way
Watches my endeavours burn and crumble
Points and cruelly laughs.
I can hear his teeth click, chattered out chuckles
Maddening rasping wheezing breath
He retches phlegm from his poisonous mouth
It dripping sizzles on the ground
He’s waiting for me to stumble,
Tumble, grind my face on paving
So finally trapped beneath his whispers
His words are vomited over me
“You’ve always been this worthless
And you won’t be changing soon
I’ve watched you all your life
And seen you hurt with words and actions
Watched you sneer
And spit out lies
You’re the worst I’ve ever known”
There are days when I can’t see him
When his voice is barely heard
On these days the sun shines brighter
My fears all seem absurd
. But then his whispers turn up loud
. And more plainly I can see
. That terrifying as the figure is
. He looks a lot like me.
I travelled through suburbia languid
On tip tip tip toes
To preserve uneasy quiet
Of watching fishnet windows
Guarded by creaking bones
In charity shops clothes
. (Better wash the dead off)
. (Before you wear them)
Scratching sweaters armed with
Disgusted words whispered through
Remain for spite to
I ducked and weaved
Through flinty stares
Launched from domestic strongholds
Through thick-rimmed bifocal scopes
At hoods and boards and cigarettes
Targeted between meticulously tidy topiary
Over trimmed lawns
Landing with laser accuracy
. (what are their kind doing round here)
. (this is a nice, quiet neighbourhood)
. Someones Aunt sputters in to the ear of anyone
. Who’ll listen to her tirade
. Served hot and garnished with expensive shortbread
. (Waitrose darling, all butter and just divine)
I turned the corner
Carried on to town
Heard the hostile suburbs
Ripple with the chagrin of my passing
. Can’t wait to go back through tomorrow
. Make them uncomfortable do I?
. Fuck ‘em.
He sat in silence,
Stuck in the four walls of a cage
He built with trembling hands.
Curtains drawn to block the sun,
To help forget; there were years,
Where every mountain was a challenge,
Every rapid an exuberant race,
The air itself shimmered with the joy of
His passage through the world.
The bedroom door is locked.
The windows bear a weight impossible to move
With numb hands.
All that seemed safe was inside.
All that could ever be was the cage.
The next day was different.
No one saw him leave, saw
The black that spread
Like waves of mud from his bed
Through the quiet country lanes
To a stone bridge
In the county’s heart.
No one saw him, toes curling
Over the ancient rocks;
Saw how the wind ran its fingers
Through his hair,
Tried to catch him in the air
Heard the breeze wail the world’s loss.
His mother sits
By a stream’s soft bank
Watching it squirm, laughing under
Its own momentum.
There is an otter who swims there,
Dances through the water,
Smiles from the shore.
The air around it shimmers
With the very joy of living
It looks her in the eye
Holds her stare and grins
At the soft tears on her face.
Her smile returns.
Maybe the rotund gentleman
Will sit awhile and listen to her stories
Of the young man
His cigar smoke wandering on the wind.
The otter is listening
As it plays with the ashes floating downstream.
. Faces, places, doors all shift My nightsbleedintodays
I don’t know where I’m going
. For unwritten maps etched with impossible words
And I can
Feel the vice
Trying to crush
Me into a mould
That’s easy to follow
Regular and concise
That will slowly flow till
An urn on a window sill
. But I refuse
. To be compacted When I could float on the
. Flow over
. Spend my time existing
. In transit
. Always going forward
. Spreading further
At 3am the world renders itself as a
. With no clear edges
. Molasses that slows steps
. Muffles any
. Makes it
. Hard to
. Your footsteps seem distant
. As though somewhere not far back
You were being followed.
. So you speed up
. Maybe you take a headphone out
. Maybe that will settle your nerves
. Maybe for a while it does
Warm breath on the back of your neck
Whips your head around
The mist swirls and you see
. Shake it off
. You say but your steps lengthen
You hear it again
. Matching your own
Never far behind
You spin and stop
Secrets in the mist that the
. Weak lamps fail to light
. Nearly home
. You can see your house in the distance
. A hazy shape
Breathing in your ear
Can almost feels its arms
Grabbing your bag
Dragging you away from
. Fumble for keys
. Go faster Its on the path behind you
. You open the door
. Slam it shut
The mist strokes the glass, begging to be let in.
On a breezy summer day
I walked with grim purpose down an alley
Green with the leaves of the season
To the soundtrack of a small army
Of screaming children.
Despite all the energy around me
My legs seemed to move through molasses,
Protesting against the day.
Raven hair in the distance;
Hair I had seen on a hundred nights
Splaying a sable fan on the pillow,
Black strands mirroring the branches of
Oak trees that frame the road.
Couldn’t smell it from here,
The hint of lavender stayed with me
Long after the scent left my nostrils.
I could still remember its silken touch,
Tickling my face to keep me from sleeping;
The breeze whipped it into a frenzy
Covering her face. But still
I knew it was her.
It’s odd what you remember. The
Way someone sits might as well be a signature,
How they hold their head when they’re sad,
How their legs cross, and when they’re anxious
The top one bobs like a metronome,
Bouncing to a nervous tune.
Even her hands. Still too far away to really see them, but
I knew how they would be. Thumb gently stroking
The skin on the left, as it clenched the small carrier bag
With knuckles white-hot around the handle.
I hadn’t even noticed the approach.
A few feet now, her daydream lifts
As the headphones fall from her ears.
We talk. There is an echo of affection in her words,
An effort to spark the same closeness we once shared.
But the flame falls on damp kindling, sputters
Walking away I know she is
Hazel eyes like the bark
Either side of me.