Years of Living Dangerously

I
Babushka kept a pig in the bathtub
while the Red Army raided barns
and larders enforcing Holodomor.
Outside on the Kiev streets bloated
stick bodies staggered, staining snow
-drifts like squashed bluebottles.

The children named the pig Binka
against their mother’s warnings.
Come slaughter day they waited
on the balcony with scarves tight
round their ears but the screams
rang loud and their tears froze.

II
The British three day week; fish, chips
by candlelight. I strutted my hot pants
to Bowie and Bolan on Pirate Radio;
sniggered when Papa built secret shelves
inside the chimney breast to hide tins
of flour, sugar, rice, pasta and preserves.

III
The year of Covid 19; I empty bookcases,
arrange tins of beans, soup, fruit and tuna.
Lockdown. I stare out at an empty street
counting down every wavering heartbeat.

 

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Original photo of Babushka in 1960s UK taken by my grandfather and recreated by myself

 

 

Wait for Me

your roses bloom
in winter
turn to rust

your companion
is black magic
a willow tree

your sea sparks
treasure at twilight
galvanised

your wind tastes
of lavender
blows crushed glass

your watermelons
smell of sunrise
shrivel like mice

your cheeks are plump
as summer
are opium

your sins
are forgiven
lie underground

your sons sprout
high as fountains
drowned before birth

your neighbours
sweep away demons
pass me in the street

your cupboards
hold dusty memories
crammed with lace

your blue walls
fade newspaper
a crystal ball

you leave
doors open
so I will come

 

 

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Image by the author

Old Flame

so good to see you
smoke-eyed stranger in the night
with blood on your teeth

when you spark that talk
sly fruit bloom on sullen trees
starlings fall like snow

I remember you
burning sweet Ballachulish
heather by the lake

in a hotel room
shadowed by the Three Sisters
and scented orange

we hoped our extinct
volcano might come to life
in that flash of light

 

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Photo by the author

The A to Z of the Apocalypse

Atrocity is a wall of thorns artless
Bluebottles smashing against glass fall
Comatose to my window ledge making
Death their next great adventure
Escape to shit scented nirvanas
Filled with lost winged kin and divine
Garbage heaps piss-fountains free from
Human malevolence effervescent
Incandescence and decay so promising
Knowledge is an act of sabotage not
Limitless power but a weapon
Mother warned me about the elitist
Noah and his treachery for not
One soul is more holy than another
Paradise is an orange wasteland where
Quicksand and alligators devour
Revolutionaries with their fiery
Socks and fondness for the insignificant
Turtle neck sweaters may be aesthetically
Unpleasing but they conceal the frogs in
Virtuous throats destined to cause alarm on
Wet Wednesdays when there are no boats
Xpected but gin is being served at Erith
Yacht club as waves lap and lightening
Zaps the three wise monkeys at the door.

 

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Photo by the author

The A to Z of Love

Absence is the heart of Love a brutal
Board game for two or more
Capricious players intent on self
Delusion a power struggle not
Enlightenment or hope for the spiritual
Frisson of two strangers touching skin
Gestures an attempt at unexpected soul
Happiness is a voidable experiment not
Intended to last more than ninety nine
Joyful but repetitive days when ruinous
Keepsakes fall like autumn rain before
Love breakfasts lessen to burnt toast
Marmite with cold coffee because
No-one notices cloud formations or
Opens their eyes to truly see another
Person is not the perfect answer to every
Question but more questions that require
Rumination and lead to rheumatism and
Slavery but do not give up hope bitter
Times do not last and love is not worthless
Undressing in the dark nor a virtuous
Virus causing fever flush and accelerated
Weeping at weekends instead
Xpect expectations to be compromised
You will not be satisfied unless you are a
Zealot or a zombie intent on annihilation.

 

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Photo by the author

Rehab

finally                       upright
and                            braced
swinging                  dead
legs                            between
parallel                     bars
I                                  struggle
towards                    reflections
of                               myself
one                            step
after                          another
says                           physio
walk                          tall
says                           physio
good                          girl
says                           physio
visiting                     hour
enter                         mother
face                           crumpled
and                            pale
my                             baby
is                               broken
she                            says

 

 

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Chilling Out

We are living through dark and difficult times.  It’s hard to stay upbeat and positive under the constant barrage of bad news:- fires in Siberia, more mass shootings in the  U.S., flooding and the horror of Brexit in the UK, riots in Hong Kong, a possible war in Iran….its an endless list.  There are days when I avoid listening to the news. Instead I immerse myself in quotidian activities such as housework, cooking or gardening to try and regain a balanced perspective on life. I find being outdoors amongst nature and animals the best therapy for a gloomy mood.  Also I love creative art – to paint or draw or take photographs  and truly observe the world in all its wonderful detail. It’s important to take time out doing something you enjoy.  It’s important to focus on the little things that make life worth living, to stop and look at the beauty around us.

Here is my favourite mindfulness exercise.  I hope you find it helpful.

1. Acknowledge FIVE things you see around you. Maybe it is a bird, maybe it is pencil, maybe it is a spot on the ceiling, however big or small, state 5 things you see.

2.  Acknowledge FOUR things you can touch around you. Maybe this is your hair, hands, ground, grass, pillow, etc, whatever it may be, list out the 4 things you can feel.

3.  Acknowledge THREE things you hear. This needs to be external, do not focus on your thoughts; maybe you can hear a clock, a car, a dog park. or maybe you hear your tummy rumbling, internal noises that make external sounds can count, what is audible in the moment is what you list.

4.  Acknowledge TWO things you can smell: This one might be hard if you are not in a stimulating environment, if you cannot automatically sniff something out, walk nearby to find a scent. Maybe you walk to your bathroom to smell soap or outside to smell anything in nature, or even could be as simple as leaning over and smelling a pillow on the couch, or a pencil. Whatever it may be, take in the smells around you.

5. Acknowledge ONE thing you can taste. What does the inside of your mouth taste like, gum, coffee, or the sandwich from lunch? Focus on your mouth as the last step and take in what you can taste.

 

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