Thursday, 24 December 2009

#Fridayflash - A Christmas Truce

My #fridayflash this week is also a Christmas gift for a very dear friend, whom I have to credit and thank, among countless other things, for the character of Captain Nefarious Deeds. I swore to him a long time ago that one day I would release Capt. N.D. and P.J.R on the world and make us a fortune...well, here goes nothing!

'A Christmas Truce' -
From The Chronicles of Capt. N.D. & P.J.R.

When she felt the first missile explode behind her on the deck of The Golden Cutlass, Princess Jolly-Rogered of the Isle of the Seventh Sea was truly livid. It was almost Christmas! He had promised her, faithfully, given his word! There would be a truce over the festive period, and from a man of such reputation and standing as the great Captain Nefarious Deeds, one had a right to expect that his word would be kept! There was such a thing as honour, even among pirates!

She turned on deck, a look like death in her eyes, and met his, mocking her from the balustrade of his own vessel, The Grinning Skull, as he drew it alongside The Golden Cutlass.

“Captain,” she said, feigning sweetness, as she tipped the three-cornered hat she was accustomed to wearing, politely, in his direction. “I warn you now, I will spare no effort in returning fire if you do not desist. Your actions are in clear breach of the Christmas Truce.”

The Captain threw back his head and laughed deeply at her bravado, his hands set on his narrow hips and one, booted foot resting high on the ship’s railings.

“Oh, but my dear Princess, I disagree.” He smirked, cocking his head patronizingly, as though he pitied her impending fate. “We agreed a truce, purely to allow our men below decks to make merry! I made no promise of my own engagement in such base customs.”

With that, he reached down beside himself and came up with another missile. Grunting with effort, the Captain hurled it on to the deck of the Golden Cutlass, where an explosion shattered it into a thousand pieces, several of which narrowly missed the Princess.

With a little squeal, Princess Jolly-Rogered dove behind the nearest barrel of rum, taking a moment to catch her breath. That was close! There was no denying it; the Captain had a good aim. She stretched her hand around the side of the barrel behind which she sheltered, felt for her own missile, and drew it to close to her chest. But so do I!

Squeezing the projectile in her hands, she stood swiftly and unleashed it, sending it crashing across the deck of the Grinning Skull. The Captain had to move promptly to avoid its path, but hopped away, unscathed, with all the grace of a galley cat.

Annoyed, the Princess retreated behind the barrel again, as a tirade of missiles flew back in return, smashing into her makeshift shield. They came so thick and fast that she was sure the Captain must have had hours to prepare them. Pieces exploded continuously over the top of the barrel and showered down on her head, or skittered around it, spraying at her feet. She gathered her own missiles as quickly as she could, reaching around the barrel, and stood periodically, when she dared risk unleashing them on the opposing ship!

The Princess’s strategy, she told herself, was quality, not quantity. Her missiles were bigger than the Captain’s. She only had to hit him once, squarely, and she was sure he would give up.

This in mind, she hurled another huge projectile at the Grinning Skull, with every ounce of strength she could muster, and dove back behind her barrel to listen for its heavy explosion. A yelp told her it had skimmed its target, but the Captain was undeterred, and her action was met with a second wave of frequent, smaller missiles.

Princess Jolly-Rogered felt her blood boil as the Captain’s assault showered her with shrapnel again. Mustering courage from her irritation, she lobbed a few small pellets of her own, to occupy the Captain as she prepared a gigantic missile. Should it hit him, it would surely put an end to the skirmish.

And then it stopped. There were no more missiles from the Grinning Skull for at least a minute and a half. Did I hit him? The Princess smirked wickedly at the thought. With one of those little things?! Her heart soared. Of course I bloody hit him! I’m not captain of this ship for nothing! In her excitement, she forgot herself and stood, prepared to gloat gleefully at the Captain’s fate. She scanned the deck of the Grinning Skull, but he was nowhere to be seen. Her eyes narrowed, the trick dawning on her, and she turned, panicked, but it was too late. The Captain stood up at the opposite side of her barrel-shield. She moved, but his arm shot out, grabbing a handful of the front of her shirt.

The Princess squealed as Captain Nefarious Deeds pushed her back against the tall mast of her own ship, his knuckles pressing on her collarbone, and a menacing look in his eyes.

“Captain, please!” She protested. “Our truce?! Tomorrow is Christmas Day!”

Grinning, he raised his arm with what was surely another missile in his leather-gloved hand, and poised it, just above her head. The Princess cringed, making herself small in his grip, waiting for the cold, hard force of the blow. He leaned closer, smirking. The Princess closed her eyes and…the Captain kissed her, firmly, right on the mouth!

Princess Jolly-Rogered was incensed! Her mouth fell open and she raised her chin, meaning to quip something scathing…and then she spotted what he had been holding above her head. If it was possible, her temper flared hotter. Fucking mistletoe?! The Captain smirked.

“Where, my dear,” he said, “would be the fun in a Christmas Truce?”

She shoved him hard then, raising her back off the cold rugby post, and making sure her friend landed squarely on his back in the snow. Payback! Nice and wet and cold!

He lay there a moment, and the university pals stared at one another, unsure if the game was over. She wiped the mock anger and defiance from her face, along with the remnants of countless snowballs.

“Well, at least it wasn’t mud this time?” He grinned, raising an eyebrow. She laughed.

“True,” she said. “But I’m just as cold and wet!”

“Enough pirates for today?” He asked, holding out a hand for her to help him up. She took it, pulled, and swung an arm around his waist as they began to walk across the snow-covered sports pitch.

“Enough pirates!” She agreed. “I’m not in the mood for rum! How about a pint instead?”

Happy Christmas, Captain! With love, as always, P.J.R. x x x

Sunday, 20 December 2009

Call of the Wild Inside

This poem was written for an exercise, entitled 'The Feast', for a meeting of the Leeds Writers' Group. The Muse was lacking that week and so I found myself drawing on my library for inspiration!

I had been re-reading Jack London's The Call of the Wild (1903), a story written from the point of view of Buck, a wild dog who is taken from his home and forced to become an Alaskian sled dog. The dog subsequently becomes vicious from mistreatment and is saved by the love of a human. However, upon his master's death, Buck gives in to his inner wildness and joins a wolf pack.

I had also been reminded that week, of a German fairytale I'd heard as a child. I cannot quite remember the name of the tale, but seem to think it might have been something like 'The Elfreig' or 'The Elf King'? This is a story in which young women who catch sight of elves in the woods are compelled to dance themselves to the point of exhaustion, and eventual death, in a fairy-ring. They know of the dangers, yet curiosity ensures, the girls cannot help but look!

These two influences seemingly left a mixture of thoughts and feelings behind, concerning things that try to condition us out of being who and what we really are, and the very human temptations of our inner animal...its wildness, its curiosity, and its innate penchant for knowing what is 'wrong', and wanting to do it anyway!

Call of the Wild Inside

“The hunger,” he said,
as he walked in robes beside me,
“is a thing never sated.
One may learn to abate it, or
ignore it,
but never to escape it
for want, nor war, nor lovers.
One may walk a thousand steps with others
or swim alone a thousand seas
and still, he,
will hunger,
ever after,
for the feast.”

“What feast is this?” I asked,
as we passed through trees and woods and by the gentle brooks
of the fairytales of my youth.
“Of food,” he said, “Of nourishment,
of tender flesh,
of truth,
of lips and heaven scent…
A man may spend each penny earned,
all gold over
to childhood pixies
and the elfin folk of yore,
eat of fairy-rings and sugar-lace wings a day or two or more,
and still,
he will hunger.”

We reached a pool, a clearing then,
and the elf king -
He fell to his knees.
I cowered there beside him, beneath the canopy of leaves,
and he showed to me in the mirror of the water
a chained wolf who longed for the slaughter,
who howled with the depths of ravenous pangs,
whose ribs stood out and fangs dripped,
as he cried,
with pitiful longing,
at the palest of silver moons.

“For she…”
He said, to my eyes. “For you…he
will always hunger.”

Forbidden Fruit - Born of 'The Feast'

I've been having a bit of a dry spell regarding poetry of late (the last three posts to this blog are all...*checks birth certifcate to confirm own identity* ...prose of the flash fiction variety!). I was beginning to worry...

However, my hand was finally forced last week, out of the need to compose something on the topic of 'The Feast' for a meeting of the Leeds Writers' Group. I duly sat down and composed, somewhere during the act of which, The Muse suddenly recalled he had a home in my head! And it seems now, that The Muse will be staying for Christmas, as ever since he arrived home, he has been spring-cleaning the back-log of poetry from my's what he chose to throw out this week:

Forbidden Fruit

If time could be eaten and moonlight drunk,
from the lucid waters of springs and fire,
with such lonely implements
as the lapping tongues of roe deer,
then you, and I, my love, might appear
to feast upon
many strange and wonderful fruits.

But time is not
like that at all. It halts, stalls,
as you do when you seek to lay
hands and eyes and words upon me.
And no fruit is found here, but for fear
of rot and horror and loss
of all things yet
uncovered and cast
into life’s sweet bank as payment.

So keep your hands
and eyes, my friend,
to their ready-made
and seek only to become accustomed
to the pathway lain before you.
For as much as I may want, my dear,
as you want,
and may be the fuel of your furnace,
these words will not be spoken,
nor touches exchanged,
nor kisses,
for neither you nor I, sweet coward,
are brave enough to risk this.

Friday, 18 December 2009

#Fridayflash - Night Feeds

The shrill sound pierced the night air, dragging him, reluctantly, from the kind of thick, black sleep, one could only enjoy after working a double shift. Aidan lingered a moment in twilight, before layered veils of consciousness fell away, and he awoke to find his wife’s arm still draped limply across his chest. Sarah’s breath was deep and even beside him, her body heavy and still, and he wondered, as she slept peacefully on, if perhaps he had dreamed the noise. When seconds passed without the high-pitched assault taxing his tired brain further, he willingly accepted this analysis.

Turning his head, Aidan breathed Sarah’s warm scent deep into his lungs, and was immediately soothed by it, welcoming the return of rest. His eyes closed contentedly…and bounced open again when the pitiful howls recommenced…this time, persisting. He sighed, the most animated and exasperated sigh he could muster, but despite her close proximity to him, Sarah didn’t flinch. It was no use…she hadn’t heard it. The baby was crying, and once again, she had slept right through it.

He rolled from under Sarah’s arm and the blanket of quiet and warmth offered by their bed, trying hard not to be angry. It wasn’t like they hadn’t talked about the baby before she arrived…well, mostly Sarah had talked about the baby. It had been Sarah who really wanted one, but still, they had agreed beforehand that all responsibilities would be shared. They had tried to be sensible about it; planned the baby’s arrival, timed it, been sure they were both ready… But now that Bella was here, there was no getting away from it, Sarah just wasn’t pulling her weight. Apparently, Aidan’s wife wasn’t nearly as maternal as she’d thought!

He scowled resentfully as the tiled kitchen floor chilled his bare feet, but the sound of helpless, hungry, cries emanating from the smallest bedroom, forced him to the fridge to retrieve the milk. He was cold, he realised. He’d been reluctant to leave the warmth of his bed. Perhaps the baby was cold too? On his way to the bedroom, he took a warm blanket from the shelf above the hot water tank in the airing cupboard.

Bella’s big green eyes met his as he pushed open the bedroom door, her howls immediately ceasing at the sight of him, and the sight of her melting his heart.

“Were you lonely?” he whispered, bending over and reaching to stroke the baby’s head as she trilled and cooed contentedly in her bed. “Were you cold?” Putting his fingers to the baby’s neck, just under her chin, he tested her temperature. She felt warm, but another blanket couldn’t hurt. Reaching into her bed, he retrieved the ticking clock Bella liked to sleep with and made sure it was still wrapped and padded, before tucking the extra blanket up around her shoulders. Finally, he poured a little milk into the bowl beside her bed.

Bella stretched her neck out from under her new, warm blanket and lapped at the creamy liquid. Aidan smiled ruefully and massaged the tiny kitten with the flat of his thumb, just behind her left ear.

“There’s no way Sarah and I are ever having kids,” he told her, as Bella pushed her soft head against his hand. “If you’re anything to judge by, I’d be on permanent night-feeding duty!”

Thursday, 10 December 2009

#Fridayflash - Window Shopping

“I like that one,” Jennifer said shyly, almost ashamed of herself for acknowledging it. It definitely wasn’t the sort of thing she’d normally go for. She pointed discreetly, keeping her hand close to her body, so her friend Abigail would become aware of the target, but the rest of the world wouldn’t see. Jennifer flushed just thinking about the possibility of someone else seeing her interest in it. She would be so embarrassed if a stranger noticed her pointing…what would they think?! Would they assume she’d usually be drawn to something like that? Heaven forbid!

“That one?!” Abigail squinted at it, rather too obviously. “I don’t know, Jen…it’s not your usual sort of thing, is it? It’s got a bit of a dishevelled look about it. But then again, I suppose there’s nothing wrong with something different…a bit of variety is always healthy! It is a tad untidy looking…but I think that’s kind of…well…interesting!”

“You don’t like it, do you?” Jennifer said, eyeing her friend with mock sadness and just a smidge of genuine shame. “You think I’ve got weird taste!”

“Honey, I’ve known you a long time, I’ve seen your previous choices. I saw what you finally chose for the wedding last autumn! I know you’ve got weird taste!”

“Hey!” Jennifer nudged her friend playfully. “I happen to think I chose very well for the wedding! Alright then, which one do you like?” Abigail looked around the room, narrowing her eyes again as she scouted for, then settled upon, her prey. Naturally, it was the brightest, most feral-looking thing in sight. Neatly cut, but almost offensively present, it matched her somewhat predatory personality…it was a wild-looking thing indeed!

“That one!” She declared, much too loudly and eagerly for Jennifer’s liking, bouncing up and down a couple of times on her kitten heels with excitement. “That would look so good on me!” Jennifer grabbed Abigail’s hand and yanked her friend’s pointing finger back to her side.


“What?! Oh, look Jen…I know this isn’t the sort of place we’d usually come to. But this is a special event! We’re celebrating still being who we are…despite recent…um… ‘changes of circumstance’. We can still have fun, you know?! It is allowed! Tonight we get to pick out anything we like! Any price bracket, any size, any colour combination! We’re not buying, remember? We’re just window shopping!” Abby flashed her wicked smile. “Maybe we’ll even hold a few items up against us! See how they look when we dance?” She spotted Jennifer’s worried look. “But we’re not going to try any on, I swear!”

Jennifer smiled, and felt herself succumbing to her friend’s enthusiasm. Abby was right, there was no harm in looking, even if you could no longer afford to buy. Locking eyes, the women smirked devilishly and wriggled their still-shiny wedding rings from their fingers, dropping them into tiny handbags. Abigail took a deep breath, straightened her short, black dress and grabbed Jennifer’s hand, tugging her across the bar.

“C’mon!” She encouraged, making a beeline for the group of guys containing ‘Wild Thing’. “Let’s go talk to that one!”

Friday, 4 December 2009

#Fridayflash - A Tale of the Future

I don't usually like rhyming poetry all that much, and I rarely write it, but since I'm travelling back from The Netherlands to the UK today and haven't found much time in the second week of my holiday for #fridayflash, I decided to dig this one out! I wrote this about ten years ago, whilst I was still at school, and sent it off to be considered for a publisher's anthology. I didn't expect to hear anything...but to my surprise, it was, in fact, selected! Since it tells a tale of the future, I thought it might be suitable for today's #fridayflash... enjoy!

Control Tower Broadcast: Houston; Plutonic Colony - 2340AD

"Houston, we have a problem,
Request permission to land."
"Negative, Number Thirty-two
The station is unmanned."
"Houston, this is Captain Black,
The ship was hit on the left
At the back."
"Thirty-two, this is Houston Tower,
There's a gap in the pattern in
About an hour."
"Negative, Houston! Our missiles are low
We are taking fire and can only fly slow!"
"This is Houston, Thirty-two,
There are other ships worse off than you.
For as long as you're able, hold them back
Landing permission denied, Captain Black!
Defend our planet; it's the only one left;
Our species has destroyed the rest!"
"Houston, we read you, loud and clear,
We just can't save them all -
Only those who've paid their way,
This planet is too small."
"That's the spirit, Thirty-two,
Only the best on Pluto will do,
If we are to survive this time
I'm afraid we have to draw the line."
"Affirmative, Houston,
Pluto is ours! We are using back-up power."
"Commendable bravery, Thirty-two,
See you in about an hour."

Wednesday, 2 December 2009

Nothing Important Happened Today

Below is my offering for the exercise leading up to this week's meeting of the Leeds Writers' Group. The set task was to write a character interaction without using dialogue...or any other form of speech. The characters could not make a sound, yet the audience must understand what has happened.

I decided to use the following poem as my exemplar, but wondered if writing one character's thought process as an unspoken monologue might just be cheating a little?! I concluded it probably was, but then, I didn't really care...because I wanted to write this piece!

The Inspiration

On 4th July 1776, King George III added one line to his personal diary. That line read: 'Nothing important happened today.'  This has since been quoted by many historians, novelists and screen writers, in order to illustrate how 'out of touch' the king must have been with current affairs...The 4th July 1776 was, after all, the day that the US Declaration of Independence was signed.

However, it occurred to me that King George III had not, as is often thought, failed to notice the events of that day. He had simply decided to find them unimportant... Or he had not yet received word of the development. Either way, it didn't really matter... at that stage of the American Revolution, there was little King George could do to influence its outcome... As far as he was concerned, nothing had changed that day...nothing important anyway...

The Poem

Here is my interpretation of King George III's famous diary entry; and of something akin to the helpless situation he must have found himself in when he wrote it:

Nothing Important Happened Today

I have nothing important to say.
Though I've plenty of words.
You see, I can say nothing to stop what's coming;
To halt the drowning,
Keep us running, and so,
I've nothing important to say.

You're not listening anyway,
Not really.
You're unimportantly packing a box
With CDs and socks and teacups
And no words could make you stop
So I've nothing important to say.

You're at the door now,
You...and the box...
And you don't look back.
You pause, and breathe,
But you don't stop.
You don't turn back and fix it with kisses
Or smiling, promise by tomorrow to miss me
And come home.
So there's nothing important to say.

The door closes behind you.
Nothing important happened today.

Friday, 27 November 2009

#Fridayflash - A Dangerous Race

He stared around the ruined space, knowing he would have trouble explaining what had happened. It wouldn’t do him any good to lie about it. They would surely see the truth now, and the truth would, of course, have to start with her… He shook his head in desperation, trying to clear the ringing in his ears and the black clouds that filled his consciousness. How did one go about putting this truth into words?

He dragged his fingers, still bloody from the broken glass, through the thick ash that covered the floor. His black cuff trailed in the powdery substance that used to be wood. He had come here to pray to their God; to see if He was truly listening to all living things. He had spoken to the emaciated form hanging on the cross above their altar, but had received no comfort, no answers… He hadn’t meant to get so angry at the silence, but sometimes it was just too hard to keep control...

    *                        *                        *

She rolled over in bed and stretched out her hand into the cold space beside her. Where was he? She knew she wouldn’t sleep until he got here…especially not with them lurking out there. The news reports were now saying they'd been planning this for years; long before last Tuesday’s influx…that they'd probably been here since at least the 1970s…observing, learning…plotting. The BBC had even reported deliberate spies being sent amongst them, to settle with decent people, to marry and breed and carve out lives for themselves in preparation for the mass immigration that was now taking place.

Her blood boiled when she thought about that…how her people had been watched by them. No doubt they were watching for weaknesses and vulnerabilities, so they could take over her land and run things their way! Well, there was no way she was going to succumb to it! She didn’t care how many of them there were! So what if they became the majority population?! Everyone knew they were a dangerous race…that they did evil things when angered…she could not, would not, live under a belief system, political or religious, that advocated that!

And the little half-breeds…the children of the poor families infiltrated…which way would they lean? They were probably the most dangerous of all…trusted by neither race. She shuddered, hearing the shattering of glass outside…oh God, who had upset one of them now? How many more of her kind had met a violent end to soothe the wrath of one of them? It couldn’t go on like this…the deeper their anger, the more devastating and destructive the consequences. There had already been fires, plane crashes, bombs and building collapses…and there would be a war, she could feel it. Sirens wailed in the street outside and the formation of a chattering, baying crowd could be heard. Where was he?! She definitely wouldn’t sleep until he was home.

*                            *                            *

He picked himself up off the ground, brushing the ash from his clothes and darted through a hole in the ruined wall. Perhaps he could lie after all? The fire had taken a pretty good hold after the collapse. Any evidence had surely burned, and he didn’t think anyone had seen him. Maybe it wouldn’t be necessary to explain...

The crowd had gathered quickly around the collapsed church, drawn by the noise and dust, but they had not been interested in his shadowy, fleeing form. They were too anxious, too outraged by their notion of what had taken place there.

They were digging through the rubble now; searching for a priest they were sure had been in his vestry when the building came down. They were likely right, and the thought of the possibly injured man troubled him somewhat. He considered helping them, but he barely trusted the fragile stability of his mood…he still felt agitated, volatile; helping could do more harm than good. And besides, he had to get home. She would be waiting…worrying…she could never sleep until he was there...

  *                        *                           *

She felt his warmth against her back and his arms snake around her, even before she heard him. She sighed in relief and caught his hand in hers. Drawing it to her mouth, she kissed his fingers and tasted something metallic…blood?! Brick dust clung to her lips and panic gripped her.

“I heard it…” she said, her voice wavering with worry. “What happened out there? You promised me you wouldn’t get involved.”

“I know.” He said, his voice quiet, but steady and unapologetic. “But a church came down on Parlour Street and some people thought there might be a priest inside…”

“Bastards!” She fumed. “Have they no shame? A church?! A priest, for Christ's sake?! How can they believe their gods will reward them for this?!” He sighed.

“They don’t believe that.” He told her. “Not all of them.”

“Of course they do, they’re evil.” She said, wearily. “And I’m tired of it! Why should we all have to keep them happy so they don’t try to kill us every five minutes?! There’s going to be a war anyway, so I say the sooner, the better! It’s about time someone put them in their place!”

“Attitudes like that will lead to a war, for sure.” He answered, squeezing her gently, but there was no chastisement in his tone and, she found, his rationality was more comforting than irking. “I just think we misunderstand them sometimes. They’re not all bad.” He felt her smile then.

“You see, that’s what I love about you.” She said, almost dreamily. “If you’d been closer tonight, when that church came down, you could have been hurt…or killed…but still, you want to find something redeeming in them. You want to see the good in everyone. I love that.” Her words caused a thick blanket of calm to fall over him, and he felt a sudden, fiery warmth in his chest.

“It’s not about seeing the good in everyone,” he told her. “It’s about acknowledging it in yourself. I can’t hate them, because I don’t believe most of them want to hurt us. Sure…terrible things seem to happen when they’re angry, but I think those things are mostly accidental. They’re capable of a lot of good too.”

“Such as…?” She said, sceptically.

“Well,” he whispered, teasingly. “Have you ever seen one of them in love?” She shook her head. “I wish you could…” he smiled and kissed her shoulder. “They glow…it’s amazing.”

She sighed, unconvinced, but he felt her relax into him as she settled down to sleep, and he drew her back, more tightly, against himself. Even as the bony spines protruding from his vertebrae; the remnants of his anger in the church; were still fading to rounded bumps, he was glad of her body pressed so closely against his. It dulled the light that glittered, brightly, in his chest. No matter how often he prayed, or to which gods, he knew, he would never be rid of it. Like having curly hair, it was something he’d inherited. His father had been known to glow upon sight of his mother too…

Friday, 20 November 2009

A Story in Poetry

A tale, from middle to middle, in verse. The beginnings of these tales often cannot be remembered...and their ends often cannot be seen...

The Hunted

There is safety in being the hunted,
Long hidden behind tall grass,
In knowing and expecting
to translate as
He stalks me silently,
My hunter,
From the safest place I know,
Creeping from dark corners
of our neat, suburban home.
His eyes track me
in the kitchen
and though he's wearing
different clothes;
clearly a wolf now
less the lamb I used to
know him by
his softness and his gentle, contented bleat
Now where once were cloven hooves
claws exude his feet.
And he licks his lips and follows me
My hunter, to the stairs,
Snapping at my retreating back
Holding tight, allowing slack,
He bats me back and forth,
The mouse,
The cat.
The play resumes
and culminates
in the upstairs rooms,
a final blow,
the fall,
the pounce,
the crushing pressure of every
stone, pound, ounce,
He holds me,
my captor,
and I don't struggle,
let it be.
I don't bide my time and wait
For sleeping vulnerability,
To burst forth and exploit
My opportunity,
For being so long in chains I've grown
Accustomed, admittedly,
and as much as change is welcome,
my freedom frightens me.
I lie still and breathe
until I'm sure he will not see
and sliding silently to the back door,
where I may taste the air,
I mind my leash
Lest I should yank it on the stairs.

Monday, 16 November 2009

Beautiful Dawn

There is beauty in souls subdued
in lights turned out
and the rythym of life reduced
to something so basic and true as
the sound of heartbeats
and gentle breath
and weightless minds troubled by less than life's
ordinary woes.

There is clarity in all the holes
in all our veils exposed
when the curtains are drawn
in the time between rest and morning
when our eyes see all, but still,
are closed.

We roll
and in the half-light
all at once we have better sight
through heavy lashes and blankets of sleep
than ever we might
hope to achieve
by day.

For from under our rumpled,
tangled hair,
from beneath our dream-drenched sheets,
we allow ourselves the most sacred of peeks,
a revered chance,
to peel back the covers and
catch sight of one another
in the only moment we know to be real;
to gaze upon rare beauty

First Love

My first love
will always be the thrill of it
the hunt, the chase, the kill,
the remit,
the growling and grabbing and purring
at one another
until the inevitable.

My first love
will always be
the feel of my teeth in flesh
and the blessed satisfaction
of the bloodless demise
of my
For whom I forsake my pride.

The protection of my
is less than nothing
in wild comparison
to the raw and savage passion,
that drives me across the plains
to tempt you to a watering hole
and there to hold
you down
and cut your mane.

The Grandfather Clock

I hold out my hand in the hall
And let you take it
For old time's sake
For a time when I could think of
But your skin
And mine
Our painted faces, gilt edging, our cases,
The silk of them.
But polished wood is paper now
Thin and dry - old glory...
And it makes my soul chime anew,
In anguish,
Beating a familiar story,
To-ing and fro-ing where our flesh meets,
Striking long and low
And I know
I am certain,
I'm sure,
I can find new depths of Westminster melancholy
In the lamp-light and the evenly ticking knowledge
That I don't want you anymore.
And I leave you, wound and chiming,
As I close the bevelled glass door.


I have no more been near it
For so much time than I have
drawn closer to it in hunger
And headed this way and that
In search of it much longer
And tried to lose myself, I admit,
In forests and amongst desolate dunes,
To be sure of learning every which way to forget
And forgetting every way to remember
How burned and acrid smoking embers
Have been known to reignite
To smoulder only when and if the conditions
shall be perfect, and yet
To smoulder nonetheless.
In truth, yes, I have wondered
Every which way,
How not to look back and question:
If we stoked our embers, darling,
Did we stoke them to the last
Glowing glimmer
Of charred and empty hope?
Did we break them into dust?
Or did we leave our beach-fire burning
Slightly, at the onset of our dusk?

At First Sight

From the moment morning's gentle haze
Pushes its way into the darkened depths
of me
I have no other conscious reckoning.
From the moment I turn my clouded head
And force open my cotton-hazed eyes,
I am damned if I may see,
But that which lies before me.
and yet I know when night gives way
to day.
For then, dreams
are reality; joy and frivolity,
abound in my dancing heart,
beyond the calm of tender, nightly hours
that steal away my sleep
and spirit me up, in spirals,
through the twilight,
and the softest sunbeams,
into the rabbit-snare
of your dawn.

Entirely in dialogue...

Born of another exercise for the Leeds Writers' Group. The brief stated  I could use only dialogue to convey my intended message...

"The Heart"

“It fell from the sky,
with that terrible thump we heard last night,
and it’s been lying,
in the gutter,
ever since.”

“Have you been near it?”

“Close, but not near…”

“Can you hear it?
I think it’s still breathing.”

“Still breathing,
and surely
still beating…
Should we do something for it?”

“Should we just ignore it,
and keep walking?”

“I can’t think that would be right.
It’s been there,
and struggling,
since last night.”

“Perhaps we should help it?”

“Help it how? What can we do now?
The damage has already been done.”

“It’s breath is gone now,
anyhow. It stopped,
a second since,
it’s no longer

“We were only losing it
for a moment. There wasn’t
much to be done.”

“Perhaps it will shrivel now,
in the sun.
Perhaps it’s dead.”

“Not dead, for sure, but cold,
a dormant example of a tale of old
a lonely victim of a pain well known.”

“And at what appalling cost, was this one lost?
Will there be more?”

“For sure. More will fall from the sky in the night.
But they are not lost forever.
Some day they will get up from the gutter,
beat harder,
and go on.”

The Question

I wrote this some time ago after finding my watercolour pencils lying temptingly in my desk drawer and realising, that I still have the desire to use them...I just can't seem to find the time!

A Question of Time

Stare up at me
smooth incubi of persuasion
lying prostrate on the kitchen table
drenched in water now
liquid frustration
let me damage those sleek white sheets.

Sit down and feel
sharp marks and lines,
defined curves and angles,
softened by the tender fingers
of a vandal, such as I
who wants only to mould this world
to her match her lies,
her visions
of beauty
that sabotage your mission of truth.

Look at you…
I’m starving, famished.
I’ve been that way for years…
I lick my lips as I promise myself a taste,
bitter and thick like potter’s glaze,
of red and orange and deepest blue
in my mouth
on my hands
remnants of you that I savour as I
French-kiss the air and yield
to temptation
of you
reclining there.

Coloured soldiers of fancy,
upright, then dancing,
in heavy circles
light on your points as you meet the oracle that is muse.
Shamelessly, you have been used,
as mere willing tools in a moment of lust
that cannot endure or last forsooth
for there’s no room in my days for obsession
with you.

Saturday, 14 November 2009

Unbelievable! More prose...must be the #fridayflash effect!

This idea developed from a sentence given to me in a warm-up exercise for the Leeds Writers' Group. The sentence said: 'When it went from yellow to black, she knew it had been left too long.' Here's my take on what that meant.


Her eyes squeezed tightly shut, she pressed her nose against the tank and let her hot breath exhale, misting the glass. The breath was ragged with tears and caught on the painful lump in her throat. It broke her heart to even think it this time, but she couldn’t ignore the situation any longer. It had definitely begun.

She’d first noticed the changes on Monday last week, but had chosen not to believe them. She’d already had him four years…and that was much longer than it usually took for the change to occur. She’d thought perhaps he was sterile; that he wouldn’t change at all. Of course, that would also have meant losing him, but in a way she deemed far more acceptable than his now unavoidable fate.

The sterile ones, once their condition was realised by their possessors, became the exclusive property of the government. Known as ‘The Infertiles’ and unable to breed, their pure and innocent truth-telling would forever perpetuate, becoming more proficient with time. Advice disseminated by mature Infertiles was fit only for interpretation by qualified peers, and as such, the creatures took pride of place, under lock and key in an ancient, gilded tank in the House of Lords.

Each week, the peers gathered for the Forum, and the Guardian was summoned to unlock the tank. Before the entire nation, on live television and radio, the Infertiles’ opinions were asked on current and pressing political issues. Their subsequent predictions were considered and acted upon accordingly. The creatures’ foresight determined the passing of laws, the deployment of troops, direction of wars, and economic and domestic policies on everything from pensions to education. It was a criminal offence to fail to carry out one’s patriotic duty by letting the discovery of an Infertile go unreported. Had she been sure she possessed one, she would certainly have turned him over.

But Armundo wasn’t an Infertile. She forced herself to open her wet eyes and stared through the glass at him. He waved a bright yellow tentacle slowly in her direction, as though he were stroking the tears from her cheeks, and another sob caught in her chest, burning there until she found the strength to control it. The end of the tentacle had blackened only this morning. Armundo cocked his elongated head to one side, confused at her constant staring, and blinked his three, ocean-blue eyes at her in unison. He’d already given his advice for today, and this was his signal to assure her there would be no more until tomorrow. So far, she considered, he was behaving perfectly normally, but he must surely know what was happening.

Of course, there had been others before Armundo. Six in total. The creatures received thoughts as well as transmitted them, and his predecessors had used her dreams to guide her through school and university. They’d given her advise on which courses to take in order to build the foundations of a successful future, which job applications to fill in and employment to accept. It had worked too. Before they changed she’d had a good few months of constructive advice from each of them. Almost a year from one. They’d given her a better salary, bought her a bigger house, better cars; but when they went from yellow to black, you were supposed to pay attention.

Mind reading and constructive advice quickly became mind control when the creatures blackened. In reaching reproductive maturity, they lost their innocence, and began to take pleasure in inflicting pain and destruction; disseminating advice that seemed still to make perfect sense to its recipient, but was in fact, pure evil.

She looked at Armundo and the black spots that were slowly appearing on his back and belly. Eventually, the spots would merge, and his yellow skin would be consumed entirely. She glanced at the box she’d collected from the exterminator yesterday afternoon. All she had to do was gently lift Armundo out of the tank, as she’d done thousands of times to change his sawdust, place him in the box, and painlessly close the lid. It would be over in an instant.

She sighed, her breath still shaky and a weight on her chest. She’d done it six times before, but it had never been this hard. Granted, she’d had Armundo much longer than the others – long enough to name him – but it wasn’t only the time they’d spent together that made her hesitate. Armundo’s advice to her had been the most precious counsel she’d ever received.

The exterminator’s box sat on the bedside table - at her side of the bed. Armundo’s gift to her was still sleeping - at his side of the bed - and he was everything she’d asked for. That was what made Armundo so different. He had never given her money or success. Armundo listened to her dreams more carefully than that. He had brought her love, and was the only one of her creatures who had made her truly happy.

She wiped the tears from her cheeks and stood back from the tank. Armundo chirruped his approval at the cease in her staring. He’d already spoken this morning and wanted his reward. She lifted the lid of the tank and dropped in a shiny blue beetle the size of a beer bottle top. It wriggled on its back for a moment before Armundo tore off its head with his right claw and stuffed it gratefully into his beak. She smiled, ruefully affectionate. So far, he was behaving perfectly normally.

She looked again at the box on the bedside table, and at the occupied bed. Another day couldn’t hurt. She owed it to Armundo to follow his last piece of advice. It was good advice, as usual, and made perfect sense in the circumstances. They had been struggling financially after the wedding. She smiled sadly…Armundo would have made a good Infertile. What better way to bolster your bank account than by collecting your inheritance early?

She took a last look at her sleeping husband before she stuffed the little silver revolver into her backpack. She glanced at Armundo’s tank as she slipped round the bedroom door.

“Thanks, Armundo.” She smiled and he waved a tentacle as he crunched his breakfast. Another day wouldn’t hurt…

Wednesday, 11 November 2009

Wharram Percy (DMV) & St. Martin's Parish Church

There follows a poem, written in honour of one of my favourite archaeological sites, the deserted medieval village of Wharram Percy, in North Yorkshire...but first, a little history lesson...

The settlement of Wharram Percy (mentioned in the Domesday Survey and taking its name from its manorial lords, the noble Percy family) reached the peak of its occupation in the early 14th-century. Due to the economic impact of the Black Death of 1349, later that century the village began slowly shrinking as newly-free peasant families migrated in search of higher wages.

A lack of labour after high death rates meant power had shifted to the workers and a competitive wage market forced land owners to find ways of making profits with fewer employees. Sheep rearing required less manpower and thus, quickly replaced vast swaithes of previously arable farming in the Yorkshire Dales. Starting a vicious cycle, the sheep made employment scare. This meant workers continued to migrate, even after the population recovered from the Black Death's impact...and the sheep required grazing, resulting in vacant houses being swept away.

A victim of this economic change of circumstance, Wharram Percy was finally reduced to a single farmstead in the late 16th-century. All that remains of the village today are a series of earthworks, that single farmstead's 19th-century replacement (a substantial farmhouse last occupied in the 1950s) ...and the medieval parish church of St Martin...lonely, crumbling and roofless.

St. Martin's is the only building standing at Wharram Percy today that not only saw the rise and fall of the village, but recorded the population's increase and decline in its very fabric. In the outer walls of the church can be seen remnants of early 14th-century arcades, marks left by pillared aisles that were taken down as the space required to house the congregation reduced over time. Beneath the soil are the foundations of previous 10th and 11th century buildings, demolished and replaced as the village expanded into its prime.

It is quite fitting, since it tells the story of the village so well, that St. Martin's should be the only prominent reminder of the community that once resided at Wharram Percy. Up to 1870, the last of 700 members of the parish were still being buried within and without its walls.

A final service was held at the church in 1949. Since then the building has made bold statements most infrequently, its grandest protest being the collapse of it's 14th-century tower in 1959. Weather and nature are slowly muting St. Martin's tale of riches to rags...and a sad tale it is too. But though it's voice may quiet somewhat, I don't expect the church will let fifty years of neglect silence whispers that have already survived a thousand.  

This poem is also in honour of my heroes, Prof. Maurice Beresford, Economic Historian of the University of Leeds, and John Hurst, Medieval Archaeologist and English Heritage Inspector of Ancient Monuments. They spent over 40 years (1953-90), combining the expertise of historians and archaeologists to dig and research the site of Wharram Percy village; applying an interdisciplinary approach that is the only way to truly and comprehensively understand the past.  In doing so, they assisted and inspired medievalists everywhere in their studies of the DMV phenomenon...including this one!  

Wharram Percy is approached across fields, via what was once a medieval road. St. Martin's church, now a familar old friend, slowly reveals itself as you wind over the brow of a little hill. This is what passes through my mind each time I make that journey...

Upon sight of St. Martin’s Church
(standing solitary at Wharram Percy (DMV), North Yorkshire).

How now my once majestic soul?
King of your valley? Lord of your time?
You make for a sickly sight to behold
constricted and choked
by vines of ivy and bramble fruits,
surely not a fitting suit
for a gentleman such as thee?
After all the centuries that you have seen,
they dare wind among your tracery?
Embrace your pillars and strip your lead?
Drown out your candles and send you abed with soothing lies,
hiding away their vicious assault
under a beauteous guise.

How many unions of man and wife,
were fostered in your bare stones?
How many beginnings and ends of lives,
were blessed beneath the bones of these roof trusses?
How many lie beneath the grasses
that cover your long-tiled floor?
How many entered through that door,
and fell on their knees before your altar?
Yet you struggle now, in vain, to survive,
just to stay upright.

How canst thou go to dinner tonight,
my gallant, brave old Sir,
ailing and drunken, unsteady and slurred,
and without thy pocket watch?
(Cast thine eye across its face,
for it has long since stopped.)
How couldst thou stand proudly at the table’s top,
with ragged cravat,
and what was once a four-cornered hat
now crushed and reduced
to three?
How wouldst thou explain
the stolen saints
adorning every niche?

With eyes blackened
and forcibly closed,
over-run by Guelder Rose,
my good man,
you must be glad to be alone.

From riches to rags, and tired by the weather and the years...he must be glad to be alone indeed.

Monday, 9 November 2009

Office Gossip

Most of our time
was spent in its underbelly
where we crept our way
through its pillared alleys
of darkened concrete stained with love,
and explored its dimly-lit corners of trust,
our fingers passing over
new bodies
of water
after each and every rain.
It leaked like a sieve, you see,
and there were only
rivers of land to be walked on,
like ribbons in between.

Our hands were often shaking,
hearts trembling
cores aching
for truth or soothing lies,
as we hid ourselves away
in your metal coffin
(or mine,
dependant upon the day and time),
under the strip lights with broken bulbs
and it was in their eyes;
the others, the watchers,
as they peered from the darkness
outside the dim yellow glow
yielding the power
and glory
of doctored spin
and a story they told us
was older
than time.

We filled their days
with never-ending observance -
Will they?
Won’t they?
Do they resist or don’t they?
In the copy room? No…the parking level!
My goodness, that’s despicable!
But for all their talk,
not a soul really cared
nor interested themselves
in how we bled and died
on that cold concrete floor
beneath the tower lights
and lived on
years later
in the glow of office gossip
at the annual Christmas party.

Friday, 6 November 2009

Resting Comfortably

Her first conscious thought was the pain. It was white-hot and swept through her in waves that caused her skin to prickle with endurance. The sweat didn’t break until the pain reached her toes, where it offered her a moment of relief, before returning to the back of her head and pulsing, in readiness for its next, nauseating journey.

Were it not for the pain, she considered, she actually felt rather content. Her whole body was pleasantly heavy and relaxed, like the after-effects of far too much red wine. Vaguely curious of the sensation’s origin, she half-heartedly attempted to raise her leaden right arm, but found it wouldn’t budge. The limb was definitely there, she could feel its presence, but moving it was like trying to travel upwards through a vat of golden syrup. It made the little hairs on her finger-backs bristle with a cold feeling, like the precedent of pins-and-needles. Trying again, with more conviction this time, she found that raising the arm a fraction of an inch at her side caused it to be immediately sucked back down as her strength failed her.

Clarity inching further into her consciousness, she attempted to turn her head. Ow…! The pain became really quite severe when she moved her neck. She tried instead to open her eyes, to establish her location, but found it impossible to force them beyond a fraction of a millimetre. Straining her eyelids caused a violent stab of agony and a subsequent aching behind her eyes. It was definitely more comfortable to leave them shut. In fact, the less she tried to move at all, the more comfort her condition allowed her. A wave of fatigue swept through her, but she fought the urge to sleep. No matter how tired, immobile and drunken she felt, human curiosity demanded she explored her surroundings.

She flexed her fingers beside her thigh, caressing a seemingly padded surface beneath her. It was foam of some sort, perhaps? Her fingers slid over the cold cotton that covered the…of course, a mattress! That made a lot of sense, she was obviously hurt…she must be in bed, in a hospital. Beneath her was a foam mattress covered with a sheet. Satisfaction and pride spread through her chest, warming her from the inside out. Despite her injuries, whatever they turned out to be, she was still of sound, sharp mind! A hospital explained the quiet too, and the cotton resting on the backs of her stirring fingers and tickling her chin. She was in bed, and covered by a sheet.

A hospital…? What happened? The last thing she remembered was driving. I must have had an accident. There was that other car, too close behind me. Headlights filling the mirror…

She stretched her fingers a little further now, sliding her hands across the mattress, and made contact with the bedrails. It was a long time since she’d lain in a single bed. It seemed narrow…cheap! Barely room to roll over! I’m definitely in a hospital! The surfaces beneath her fingertips were smooth and solid, cold to the touch. Full bed-guards?! I’m in the ICU?! How badly am I hurt…?

Gingerly, she moved her neck again, just a fraction. The same astounding wave of hot pain shot through her body, churning her stomach as its violent stabs overwhelmed her. She gritted her teeth and breathed it away, sucking in deep breaths of warm, stuffy air. Why are hospital wards always so damn stale?! Surely it’s healthier to open a window!

When the pain reached her feet and passed for an instant, she regained enough focus to continue methodically assessing her condition. I can feel my neck…it hurts like Hell, but I can feel it. That means it can’t be badly damaged, right? And I don’t feel a collar, so it mustn’t be serious…probably whiplash…I bet that idiot hit my bumper! …He did! I remember…ran me off the road! She tried to shrug her shoulders a little, testing her whiplash theory. Ow! It hurt enough to bring tears to her eyes, but at least her shoulders moved relatively freely. The longer she was awake, the more the heavy, drunken feeling seemed to be receding.

She wiggled her fingertips against the sheets beneath her again and found herself able to lift her hands off the bed, raising them at the wrists just long enough to graze the surface of the bed-guards with her knuckles. She thought her face might have smiled then. I can feel my arms! And they don’t hurt! …Okay,…what about my legs? She stretched her feet, extending them at the ankles until her toenails reached far enough to scratch the cold panel at the bottom of the bed. My toes! I can feel my toes! Everything’s okay…neck, arms, legs, everything works! …I must have banged my head when he made me crash, but apart from that… Oh God, how long was I asleep?! Do my family know I’m here? I need to let a nurse know I’m awake…

She tried again to open her eyes, but even with the fog in her limbs lifting, her eyelids refused to co-operate. Attempting to force them open caused yet another wave of the sickening pain that beat in her head to pass through her body, bringing bile into the back of her throat. She spun wildly inside and the nausea weakened her, dragging her ever closer to sleep. She resisted, lying perfectly still, and waited for it to pass. Okay…I need to keep my eyes shut. Maybe I can shout for a nurse instead?

“Hello…” What was intended as a word, escaped only as a dry, whispered breath. “Nurse?” she tried again, but her voice remained only a weak rush of air. My throat’s so dry! Once they know I’m awake they’ll bring me water...I’ll be able to speak then.

Finding herself with no alternative, she tested the heaviness in her limbs again, lifting her hands off the bed from the wrist. If she focused hard, they moved more easily now. I think I can do this. She rolled her shoulder. Ow! Alright then, maybe just from the elbow… Taking another deep breath of the stale air, she raised her right arm slowly off the sheets from the elbow, and tried to wave it at her side, banging her wrist bone on the bed-guard with a hollow clunk. Ouch!

She raised the arm a little higher, sliding her knuckles up the smooth, cold bed-guard, and searching for its top over which to wave. I wonder how I got here? Did the guy who hit me call an ambulance? As her hand reached the top of the solid panel, her right thumb was the first part of her to know there was a lid on the narrow box…

She opened her mouth and tried to scream, but still, no sound came out.

Tuesday, 3 November 2009

The Miracle of Boiler Poetry

It is as it says on the tin, ladies and gentlemen; I have long possessed the will, and the means, to produce poetry on the combi-boiler. The means however, are more complex than first they might appear. The semi-obsessive layering of magnetic words and letters is purely a basis for this delicate operation!

Bearing in mind the boiler is some 10 feet off the ground (I am almost 5ft 7" on a good day!) and located in the conservatory, this exercise involves heating up the little used radiator out there and hauling oneself atop a (rather tall and unstable) buffet, before waiting for one's muse to strike.

This makes the will for boiler poetry to exist all the more miraculous, I think. Although, it must be said, the boiler is above the beer cupboard, which, providing one remembers their bottle opener, is a plentiful source of...erm...inspiration.

Behold...a boiler poem...


Questions may now be asked...the most pertinent of which might be, why would you not do this on the fridge? Or more importantly, why do you not keep your beer in the fridge? I shall ease your minds...I have not lost mine. The conservatory is very cold without the radiator on...thus my beer is always cold (you may sleep easy tonight - no beer was abused in the making of boiler poetry). The fridge is one of those modern efforts that's hidden away in a kitchen cupboard... 

Friday, 23 October 2009

Accidental Fiction...'Accidental Death'...

One of my 'rarely-actually-written' pieces of fiction, born of an exercise for the Leeds Writers' Group. The exercise specified a piece entirely in dialogue. So, there's no description of anything outside speech, (between you and me, that's probably why my goldfish-like poet's attention span held long enough to write it!) and the characters have no names as their conversation never calls for them... You should feel free to name them though, if they remind you of someone!

Accidental Death

“Oh my GOD, OH MY GOD! What did you do?!”

“What?! Would you please just calm down?! I can’t change it now, can I? Just shut up! Shut up! I need to think…”

“But…oh my God! I think I’m going to be sick!…oh, yep, I’m definitely going to be sick. How could you? How could you just…keep going like that?! ”

“Would you get a grip, please?! It’s not like I set out to do this! It was him or us, alright? By the time I saw him, it was already too late to brake! You weren’t wearing your seat belt…if I’d tried to stop, I’d have thrown you straight through the windscreen! Would that have been a better outcome?!”

“No! God, no! But, oh Jesus…look at him! I don’t think he’s breathing! There’s…oh God, there’s blood…I think he’s dead.”

“Well of course he’s dead! His neck is broken. I’ve never seen a head at that angle on anything living! But I’m not sure what you expect me to do about it now! It’s happened, hasn’t it?! We just have to calm down and deal with it.”

We?! You were driving! Don’t drag me into this. I’m not taking the blame for it!”

You weren’t wearing a seatbelt! You’re the reason I hit him! I’m not dragging you into anything…you’re already in! You owe me for this! I put myself on the line for you here…in that moment, when I could’ve braked? It was him or you!”

“Oh God!”

“Will you stop saying that?!”

“I can’t help it. I think I’m in shock! What do we do now? What do you do when this happens?! Should we call an ambulance?”

“Are you crazy?! An ambulance?! What good is an ambulance? Look at him! What would they do for him? No. We’re not calling anyone.”

“What? Surely we should at least call the police? To report it? We need to explain what happened. Someone will have to move the body. We can’t just leave him here! You can’t just drive away! He might have a family…and they’ll miss him sooner or later. Come rush hour, someone will see him. I’m definitely calling the… Oi! Give me the phone!”

“You’re not calling anyone. We can’t report this. You know how my driving record looks! I’ve got points already!”

Points?! Screw your points! This is a life we’re talking about!”

“Exactly. I don’t know what they charge you with or not when something like this happens! We can’t report it. What about my life? What about our lives? I need my license for work! No work means no house, no car, no more of those weekend mini-breaks you like so much, no more fancy shoes...!”

“My God, you think I care about that right now?! That I’d be shallow enough to consider how this affects me, how it affects us, above doing the right thing?! Anyway, they’re not going to take your license. This was an accident. A pure accident! It’s dark…there aren’t any street lamps, and he wasn’t wearing anything that showed up in the headlights. I didn’t see him either. Not until…well, you know…and it’s 1.30am…what was he even doing out here on his own? People will understand. The police will understand. Please, just give me the phone…we have to tell someone! What about his family? …There could be kids expecting him home!”

“Oh great! A ‘kid’ guilt trip! Nice one! Just what I needed…because I don’t feel bad enough already! You’re really helping, aren’t you?! If you can’t make yourself useful, just go and wait in the car!”

“Useful?! I was trying to… Stop it! What are you doing?”

“Well, one of us has to be rational about this.”

“No! Don’t touch him! You can’t move anything until the police have seen it!”

“I’ve told you. There aren’t going to be any police. I’ll deal with this myself. Now either get hold of his legs at your end and help me move him, or get out of the way so I can drag him off the road.”

Drag him off the road? Do you hear yourself right now? You’re like some sort of amateur gangster! What do you think you’re going to do?”

“There’s still a spade in the boot from last weekend. I’m going to bury him in the woods back there.”

“Oh my God…you’re serious, aren’t you?! Who the hell are you? Because you’re certainly not the same man I got in the car with this morning! How can you be so cold about this? Give me the phone! I mean it. Give me that phone right now! He has a family somewhere who will look for him tomorrow, who will miss him! And it’s not a guilt trip…there really could be kids who’ll…”

“We don’t know that! You can’t know that! There could be no one who’ll ever miss him! You have no idea if he has…if he had…a family. What if he has no one to care? What if he just lives out here in these woods?”

“Don’t be stupid! Does he look like he lives in the woods?!”

“I don’t know…I didn’t see him before we hit him, and I sure as Hell can’t tell now! Just imagine it turns out that no one would ever have missed him? But you had to go and report it, so I ended up with no license, and no work, and we couldn’t pay the mortgage and…”

“And you think you’re the one being rational here?! Look at him! Just look. You killed him and you don’t even care who he is! He has a name, and people who’ll miss him, and you’re talking about dragging him off into the woods, burying him in a shallow grave, and driving away…for the sake of your license?! It was an accident! A pure accident! Everything will be okay. You’re being ridiculous!”

“Me? I’m being ridiculous? I’m not the one getting hysterical about his home life! You don’t even know if he has a family…I keep telling you, it’s impossible to know that! And if I lose my license, all those things I said before…the house, the car, the money…all that is a reality…”

“Oh, for God’s sake, would you just wake up?! Of course he has a family! Can’t you see he has an ID tag on his collar? And seriously, when was the last time someone got charged with an offence after hitting a dog? Put the shovel down, Jason Statham, and give me the damn phone!”

Thursday, 22 October 2009

New Commission...

I have a new commission to read at my friends' wedding in December...and they're giving me free rein to compose! (The trust is staggering!) So I'll be posting lots of ideas between now and then, and I could really use your help deciding which ones to show to the happy couple as potential choices. Below are four ready-composed efforts that I might consider. More will appear on the blog as I have time to add them. Please feel free to comment. Or if you like something I post elsewhere as an option, let me know...just remember, choose's a church wedding... ;-)


Fall silently now
among our clear depths of endless time.
We have forever
to do more than this.

Lean your forehead on mine
and hold my eyes,
for this moment
just let me look at you
and let us

If I did only this
for a thousand nights more;
became breathless with it;
I could not tire.
For each time my soul lays
eyes on you
I am astounded
And I need no food, no water,
only my soul's sight of you,
and to touch;
and I am sustained.

Let our souls make endless exchanges,
far removed of courteousy,
and know this,
my love;
we will have forever
for talking.


In the end
it took only you to show me
that sand allowed to slip through your fingers
doesn't always blow away on the wind.
If there is no breeze
and no will to roam
it falls calmly in a pile at your feet
and is happy to be there.
It is happier still to be swept up, scooped up,
into a bottle or an hourglass-
To be confined inside a molten, cooled,
version of itself
only to be sure that its every grain
may be carried daily in your breast pocket
as close as possible...

And even though loose sand gets everywhere
inside the folds of clothes and sticks
to your skin and hair
It took only you to show me
how content I can be that it's there.

Even though it rubs now and then
gets in my eyes
and makes my skin sore
I couldn't stand
not to be covered in sand
or to leave the house without
An hourglass
In my pocket

While We Were Dancing

There was a time
I would not have thought our ship
could sail so long and smooth
A time, long ago, I dared hope
But didn't know...
And I would have thought, if it would come
Then it would come to me after you
In a dimly-lit piano bar over
midnight Sea-Breezes and Long Island Iced Tea
And the touch of a hand still cool
As the water-crystals
On my glass...

But it passed, that time,
and as I thought it, it was not to be.

It came though, just the same
as I had always hoped it would.
But love and the precious knowledge
Came quietly to me.
No drinks, no lights, no music
Only you
And it came to me while we were dancing
In the silence, with the stars, in the garden,
Under a winter-iced moon.

Tuesday, 20 October 2009


You come home with battle-scars
Wearing shrapnel in your skin
And it is only my
humble task
to take it out again.
To scratch my nails across your back
to ooze and fill
each crack in your heart and soul.

I am the one who moulds
against you
Guards the lonely voice of night,
Sinks my teeth into your flesh and
down hard in healing waves,
that crash across your steel-eyed gaze
and turn it bluer than a summer day
burn deeper than a heated ricochet
from the weapon across your back.

You plead with me to stop,
And I answer
that I love your perfect scars,
and a curse passes your lips as the stars
burst behind your eyes.
I trail my fingers through your day
And tear off your disguise
‘Til you are nothing anymore.
but flawless,


You fall on me And shatter, like shards of exploding light
And it is far, far, from the end of the coloured slide
We wondered on
as children hungry for the princely fairytale riches
of castle-lands on high.

It is summer
and through the sliver beyond you
I make out roof-tops
And chimney pots
Against an expanse of vivid blue sky,
And I tell myself, I do not care, one way or another,
if they have eyes.

Carefully covered for me
out of a dignity I did not possess for you, I chide,
“The rainbow was watching”, and I point and smile
as a storm cloud crosses your eyes,
a dawning moment, for I am not far yet that child,
and my frivolous joy
betrays me.

I push back the black bloom
West to go with softest fingers,
and I choose then not to know,
the truth,
as happy, golden sunlight warms us
through my white viscous curtain of hope.

And I roam and play
Restless youth not yet satisfied with enough.
“Another bruise?” I whisper, and you tell me it is time for lunch.
I watch the rainbow’s inverted smile,
from a horizontal repose,
And despite myself, am struck with the honesty
Of its insistent stay -

It will rain again today
Only heavier, I suppose.

Friday, 16 October 2009

'The Letters of Abelard and Heloise'...the poetic influence of an 11th-century narcissist?

I've threatened before to start adding other things that interest me to this blog, aside from my resultant poetry, as I think it might start to explain some of my influences and inspirations (to myself as well as anyone else who decides this is worth a read!). I'm aware that a lot of what I write stems from things I've seen, done, studied or read; that a lot of it relates to experience. However, having said that, much of what I've read, studied, and continue to read on a poetic level, is late medieval or early modern, with the occassional dip into the 19th-century. I love Mallory, Chaucer and Donne, Shakespeare, Marlow and Rossetti, so it seems strange even to me, that I should begin an insight into my poetic psyche with a post about Peter Abelard and Heloise!

For those as yet unfamiliar with Abelard (you have no idea what gems of hilarity you've been missing in his autobiography!), he was born in 1079, in the village of Pallet, in Brittany. His father being a manorial lord and minor noble, Abelard, as eldest son, was intended for a career in knighthood. However, as a boy, he found book learning favourable to the lure of violent conflict, just killing, honour, and chivalry:

'I prefered the weapons of dialectic to all the other teachings of philosphy, and armed with these I chose the conflicts on disputation instead of the trophies of war...' 
(Thought a translation might be appreciated rather than the original medieval Latin! - The letters of Abelard and Heloise,  Peter Abelard, Héloïse, Betty Radice, M. T. Clanchy, 2003.)

When a little older, Abelard became a wandering scholar, which during this period, also made you a monk of sorts, as all scholarly persuits and teaching were theological in nature and under church control. Abelard spent some time at Locmenach before heading to the Cathedral School of Notre Dame, Paris, where he promptly decided (on somewhat shaky grounds!) that his intellect and powers of theological interpretation were far superior to that of his peers and teachers. As a result, he resolved to set up his own school in Melun, around 1101, where he royally irritated his contemporaries with a condescending attitude and a fondness for being right!.

Abelard returned to Paris in 1113, becoming a teacher there. Yet he was clearly not cut out for a life of piety! He began a torrid and forbidden affair with the niece of Canon Fulbert; the apparently beautiful and alluring young abbess, Heloise. The pair fell madly in love, and exchanged various amorous, pained and guilt-ridden letters describing their passions, admirations, separations and inability to resist their basest temptations. Various trysts ensued in the abbeys and convents of Europe, eventually resulting in a son and a secret marriage...all prior to the complications of vengeful castration and accusations of heresy!

The Letters of Abelard and Heloise (as should by now be obvious to even the most previously ignorant reader!) are neither late medieval to early modern or, largely poetic. However, they do, in much the same manner as Shakespeare's sonnets and tragedies or Mallory's tales of knighthood in Morte d'Arthur, tell a vivid and engaging tale of gripping desire, an impassioned and destructive affair, and the conflict between duty and love, providing a peek at the results of unchecked human emotion and weakness that is as relevant today as ever. The letters are also soaked with that over-blown and fervent language of high medieval piety, devotion, love, sorrow and guilt that fires the artist in me!

'God knows I never sought anything in you except yourself. I wanted simply you, nothing of yours.'

'I desired to keep you whom I loved beyond measure for myself alone.'

So, after having more free time this week than usual to over-indulge in all things artistic, and finding myself once again retrieving The Letters of Abelard and Heloise from a dusty shelf in the spare bedroom to thumb its well-worn pages, I think I must face the truth. I frequently write in a style very similar to that of Abelard and Heloise, utilising themes of guilt, passion, love, pain, Heaven, Hell, damnation, and futility...and I'm fascinated by the ever-surprising strengths, weaknesses, and inexplicable, unavoidable agonies of people. Somewhere along the line, Abelard and Heloise have influenced my writing.

'How can it be called repentance for sins, however great the mortification of the flesh, if the mind still retains the will to sin and is on fire with its old desires?'

The man himself, I'm certain, would have rebuffed this 'mighty revealation' with a sniffy "but of course," ...and thus, I must also admit to myself, that my inspirer was a self-indulgent narcissist, who enjoyed pedalling his own intellect and creativity for gains of fame and admiration (who me?!). However, he, and his lover Heloise, were also passionate human beings, great forward thinkers not afraid to speak their minds, and above all else, engaging writers that keep me taking that book down from its dusty shelf over and over in this context, Abelard (and Heloise), my self-appreciating friend(s), I'm more than grateful for your contribution to my muse!