Renee By A Thread [with audio]

Down the corridor, comes a scream
Was it physical pain
or the horror of finally learning
the way this game is turning
They took your clothes
gave you a gown
there was nothing to do but lay right down
Now, the machine breathes
for you
hung by a thread and leaving soon

Faint flashes behind tired eyelids
recalled moments from a busy life;
the night before your wedding
barefoot kisses by the Seine
The tentative first steps of Child Two
A shaking hand, a ‘thank you’ card
from the family of one you saved
Now, the machine breathes
for you
hung by a thread and leaving soon

The ache, it came and spread like water
the fever burned, the cough, it worsened
they hooked you up, you knew the drill
the butterfly, the slow sure drip
and then it seemed to ease a while
The bed you took, brought guilt at first
your hands no longer helping
Then suddenly; your quick decline
Now, the machine breathes
for you
hung by a thread and leaving soon

There’s a feeling in your chest
and that sixth-sense you sometimes get
the dawn tomorrow, you will not witness
Nurses come, their voices hushed
gloved hands hold, always too briefly
you don’t like the letting go
The room is quiet but for the wheeze
as the machine breathes
for you
hung by a thread and leaving soon

In the chair beside you, that loving face
waiting at end of every nightshift
You know that he will raise them right
Ah, but which patient was it
which desperate hand you gently held
which reassuring words you shared
with no fresh mask to wear
Now, the machine breathes
for you
hung by a thread and leaving soon

The family grieves
a nation grieves
for you
gone
needlessly soon…

[2020]

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The Essay (A Writer’s Discovery)

Nineteen nighty five
Nominally fourteen;
I was sitting in the sports hall
pen in hand
the desks apart
a teacher I didn’t know
patrolled the aisles
The English paper said ‘write a story
include a river
and an allegory’

The clock at the front clicks
thin hands jerk and tick
I spin my pen
study the air vents above me
there’s a dusty shuttlecock
caught up in the pipework
there’s a brown deflated football
sitting on the skylight
I need to start writing…

I wasn’t a reader, then
I knew nothing much of stories
I’d watched a lot of films
I’d heard a lot of pop songs
but I wasn’t a writer

Unimpressed by the aesthetic
the muted light inside the sports hall
I pushed my mind 
out onto the playing fields
down the long road past the waterworks
to the river on the edge of town

And I could see it there
a bend in the channel where
a tree had lost its leaves
a tree was clinging 
to the dry mud of the riverbank
being undercut by the flowing water
being ever exposed by the erosion
being deposed

And I started to write
of the tree being cut and torn
being pulled and weakened
by the hunger of the river
Hanging on with every root
and the river’s endless running

The more I wrote 
the sadder I felt for the tree
the more I wrote
the more the tree’s plight mirrored something I’d seen
the more I wrote the more I saw
my mother’s best friend’s fight with cancer 
revealed before me
The more I wrote the more I saw her face
looking back at me
and the more the story moved me

And the tree succumbed
to the river’s flow
as all things will, eventually

That essay was the first time I wrote something
with any meaning
handed my paper back 
a tear-stain just above my name
That was the first time I wrote something
and I haven’t stopped since…

[2020]

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Photo credit: http://www.midforkrocks.com/post/201611-if-a-tree-falls-in-a-river/

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Death Is The Only Song

As the sun slickly slides
through a quickly capsizing sky
you needle me for taking photographs
for wanting to record this way of things
Do you not feel that this is temporary
Do you believe there won’t be a different way

These are precious moments
these are precious moments
in our short lives

And with each day that ends 
I feel a larger ending
creeping closer
and with each dusk descending
I sense a fuller ending
edging quietly closer

Remember when you kissed me with passion
on a peeling pier by painted boats
some Grecian bay, one nameless day
I laughed a little, we both did
then we felt the twist
the sparks of our lives crackling between us
the energy of all we were; burning before us

These were precious moments
these were precious moments
in our short lives

And with each ending day I hear the tune grow
with each night that we casually let end 
I hear the chorus
and death 
death is the only song
I don’t want to sing
death! death is the only song
death is the only song
I don’t want to sing…

[2017]

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Don’t Look And It Won’t Hurt

Five years of cobweb
decorates the hallway box
the urn inside
holds more dust at rest
well, it used to be your father…

Don’t look and it won’t hurt
don’t look and it won’t hurt

Your brother’s drinking
on a fifteen year bender
so quick to lose his temper
if you ask too many questions
that snake prone upon his shoulder

Don’t look and it won’t hurt
don’t look and it won’t hurt

Your man beside you lies untouched
no communion for years now
still the love is strong between you
but something physical has broken
in desperate need of discussion

Don’t look and it won’t hurt
don’t look and it won’t hurt

I’m always here if you
want to talk it through
heaven knows, you need to
I know it’s hard to face it fully
but I’d do my best to help you

That mantra you’ve been living by
it simply isn’t true
the mantra you’ve been swearing by
quietly, it harms you

Don’t look and it won’t hurt
don’t look and it won’t hurt…

[2019]

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For Jordan

Out driving our first cars at night
snaking the blackness of North East country roads
I’d flick the headlights off
hear the girls scream
then back on and we’d crack up laughing

In our town, there wasn’t much to do
but wander looping streets
haunt the park outside of college
blow house to house, see who was home
or spend it lying in your bedroom laughing

When you and Chris split, he handled it okay
drank too much a week or two and then
got a little down but everything went on
still way too soon for Mike to tell you
so we all sat as friends and laughed

Back then, I couldn’t think of much else but Jenny
but I loved the way you’d say my family name
still hear it ringing from the depths of memory
standing with you in some sticky bar
and you collapsing into Mike laughing

They were gentle times, good times
before we were scattered wide
I don’t think I saw or thought of you that often
twenty years just paced before our eyes
how I hope you kept on laughing

With your man, your son
your life carved out somewhere…

On a Brighton beach, one weekend this summer
Mike was chatting, said ’the cancer took you’
and nothing more to add to that
just taken – that’s all he knew
there on the pebbles, I stood, winded and weeping

Just taken – nothing more to add to that

Jordan, it was laugher, laughter
of you; that will always be my memory
sweet laughter, laughter
and the way you spoke my family name…

[2018]

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The Truth Is Sadness

Decorated lives
shuffling onwards
towards inevitable darkness
we cloak ourselves
in the hood of love
cover the cage
deny the sky above
the truth is sadness

Tiny movements
helpless gestures
elliptical orbits
around the heart of happiness
an argument
with a river
convinced of our control
tilting the rudder
towards hope
the truth is sadness

Fold the patterned sheet
around your sleeping child
know they’ll close
the carved casket
someday around yours
all you’ve seen
or done or sung
is gone
the truth is sadness

Zoom out, zoom out
and it’s clear
every story is a tragedy
what came of your argument
with the river
did you learn to love
that strange beauty
the truth has always
been impermanence
ephemeral experience
an end
to all things
the truth is sadness…

[2019]

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