The Gleaning

I follow mother’s crooked
path beyond the giant privet hedge
where once I found blackbird eggs. Perfect
spheres of eau de nil slipped through careless
fingers and smashed on paving stones set by father
years before. On the hill, the shed cowers beneath the apple tree
where once I found God. Perched up top, he was singing
Bowie songs and watching the neighbours through binoculars.
Ashes to ashes; Jennifer Jones kissed the coal man.
Dust to dust; Marjorie Moony hoovered nude.
I never done good and I never done bad.
I wanna come down right now and try
mother’s apple pie
but never
say why
never say
never say
………………….

 

The Gleaning is an example of a concrete poem where the shape of the page echoes the theme.  This one is supposed to represent an apple tree.

 

 

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Image by the author

 

The Blue Lady

One winter’s night in Ashington, Tim went looking
for paradise and found her swinging
slowly to and fro in the play park. She was singing
an old tune from a Rodgers and Hammerstein musical.
At first he thought the canny moonlight made her blue
or a street lamp malfunction. On closer scrutiny

he was blown away by her truth; her hair of delphinium,
her eyes of forget-me not, her lips of cyanide,
her skin of palest sky, her fingers of summer solstice,
her kingfisher boots and hyacinth thighs. He forgot his need
to score and mounted the roundabout, sort of casual, like.
In a nervous, squeaky voice he offered her top-grade weed

but got no reply. She kicked up and swung higher,
carolling the refrain of ‘Some Enchanted Evening’
and laughing through teeth of gleaming steel.
So, how’s ‘bout coffee at mine then? he trilled.
She fell back to earth and followed him home.
Her name was Geraldine.

When dawn broke he woke to her singing
‘Oh What a Beautiful Morning’ while making breakfast.
In the bright light she was cornflower
and so was the scrambled egg, cornflakes and toast.
My touch turns the whole world blue, she said.
Looking down at his naked torso, he was amazed.

So, Tim changed the colour of his spots,
redecorated the flat, ditched drugs and shop-lifting.
He married Geraldine. Together they opened up
Blue Mood Foods, a take-away near the Crematorium.
They had two kids, Odin and Astrid
in subtle shades of ocean. They grew strange

herbs in window boxes. Their business expanded into psychedelic
biscuits on Amazon. Then the letters began; complaints
from neighbours about the changing hue of the town, concerns
about identity, concerns from Health and Safety, concerns
from the Planning Department about loss of grey.
They were served a court order forcing Geraldine to wear rubber

gloves in public places. There was an online petition
demanding her repatriation to wherever.
Odin and Astrid were bullied. They started writing poetry.
Their mother stopped singing show-tunes.
One day, she and the kids hitched a ride with the undertaker.
They were last seen on CCTV approaching the Channel Tunnel.

Tim moved to Hull and got a job slaughtering pigs.
He took pride in his work, keeping the stun gun primed
and polished by his bed, next to the blueprint family photo.

 

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The Blue Lady

Where Have All the Flowers Gone?

Picking blackberries from hedgerows, making daisy chains, collecting acorns, playing conkers, wandering the fields looking for rabbits, daydreaming under a tree on a sunny day. These are the precious memories of my childhood when my relationship with animals and the natural world became an integral part of my imagination and personality.  I was lucky enough to grow up in the late sixties before the age of parental paranoia and health and safety fanaticism.  Children were allowed personal freedom to explore the world, test their bodies and minds,  learn about risk, learn about the magic of nature.  But times have changed. We live in an age of fear, much of it unfounded.  Kids spend more time alone with their tablets than playing outdoors.  I was sad to learn that the 2008 edition of the Oxford Junior Dictionary aimed at children between the ages of 7 and 9 has omitted the following ‘nature’ words believing they are no longer relevant.

The obsolete words are catkin, brook, acorn, buttercup, blackberry, conker, holly, ivy, mistletoe.  No doubt they have been replaced by technology words like database, spreadsheet, voicemail, pixel.

Contact and knowledge of the natural world are essential to a child’s artistic and spiritual development, be it poetry, visual art, music.  How will future generations learn to cherish other living things and respect their environment if they don’t even have the right words?

 

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Photo taken by the author

 

Leeds 76

The ambulance man with striking
green eyes stroked the inside
skin of her teenage arm as she lay
strapped (for her own safety) on the reeking
canvas of another NHS.
If you’re a lucky girl you’ll meet Jimmy!

She thought he was, maybe
trying to be nice (but those alien
fingers were electric…) No comfort
blanket, suspended in L10 skeletal
traction, legs akimbo and knicker
-less (for her own hygiene), a monster pain
-ted by Hieronymus Bosch. The male charge
nurse with watery grey eyes brought gin
secrets in a Barr’s Cream Soda bottle, hot
take-away through her open
window of gritty nights.
She thought he was, maybe,
trying to be nice (but gin made her sick,
she liked Babycham).
The glass half
-full on the sunny side.
Cheer up, might never happen,
said the porter with lizard pink
eyes taking her down to a strip
-lit basement, down corridors
lined with conduits.
If you’re a lucky girl you’ll meet Jimmy!

 

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Photo by the author

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Missing

One by one they pass blind
through the living arch,
the children of loss following
Mother’s twisted path of breadcrumbs.
Blue birds peck at their bare feet.
The sun bubbles over yellow fields
where fat cats sleep away the shadows
of the deep purple wood.

One by one they stray,
broken children with tender skin;
tawny robin’s wing, freckled amber,
cuckoo spit, sun kissed pebble, raven’s
feather, morning mist and midnight pools,
following Mother’s cinder path
through the crystal orchard where apples
hang, red and flawless but out of reach.

One by one they stumble, feet bleeding
on Mother’s razor path of barbs
into the dark. Silver snakes encircle, whisper
warning but the children do not hear.
Their fingers seek between the snapping
branches but find no-one. Their tears
blossom roses no-one will ever see
in the depths of the purple wood.

The ancient hermit snips and sews silence
in her cave in the deep purple  wood.
She threads her needle with the fine hair
of a nameless girl, makes painstaking
stitches, a cloak of perfect skin; tawny
robin’s wing, freckled amber, cuckoo spit,
sun-kissed pebble, raven’s feather,
morning mist and midnight pools.

 

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Image created by the author

 

Down But Not Out

Hi Everyone,

I’ve been away for some time but I’m back, or at least for now. Apologies for my absence from Blogging World and the world in general. So far I’ve spent five weeks trapped in a small hospital room in Inverness following a fractured femur. Tragically my treatment has not gone according to plan. After the initial operations to repair the original fracture I have acquired another THREE broken bones in my legs due to careless handling and bad advice from Occupational Therapists and Physiotherapists. And the worst news is that the fresh broken bones are not fixable. Any surgery could make things worst not better.  No one seems to know what the prognosis is.

I’m trying to stay positive but it’s hard. I don’t know how much mobility or independence I will ever regain. It’s also hard not to be consumed with anger for the so-called experts in this hospital who have damaged me and are now trying to sweep their negligence under the carpet. I have not even had a proper apology or any acknowledgement that anything has gone wrong.

Anyway, when my mind is not fried by morphine, pain and exhaustion I will try to post here on The Purple Hermit and I hope my followers and supporters will understand.

 

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