Open Dark



A woman can make a million
when she downs the victory drug.

I would be typewriter with self.
I would be keys without doors.
I would be hands grown powerful.
I would be least still.
I would cross wild borders,
a wagon for home.
I dream of grass in crisis
and it is blue.
I am too late to quietly slip under,
too late to bring the machine.
I decline. I can,
maybe, wheedle a stick?
I am open dark.
I am heart of embers.
I am to have the man.

 

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Cold Oatmeal

 

Storm broke orange cloves over Orkney. ‘Stop your moaning, Mother’, Dorothy scooped porridge into two porcelain bowls, poured coffee. Another morning of sobbing, droning noise flowed from Mother’s open mouth. ‘Ooh, ooh, ooh, ooh, ooh …’ Soft sounds so soothing for Mother, now mourning son Tom, so overwhelming for Dorothy. ‘Ooh, ooh, ooh, ooh, ooh’.

Tom drowned into moon shadows, one of numerous boys lost, lonely boys longing for turquoise pools who took rough roads. Our boys journeyed to consult Oracle One, Cloud Four. No-one found comfort, only old stones, confusion, sore bottoms or cold oatmeal.  Oracle One enjoyed comedy. Oracle One roared, jolly from beyond mountain tops.

Down below, smoke rose from glowing bonfires of Stroma. Hope smouldered for mothers who understood abandonment. Outside melancholy cottages on the shore, words floated unspoken.

 

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Note 1:- Cold Oatmeal is an example of a univocal poem, that is, each word contains the same vowel, in this case the letter ‘o’.

Note 2:- The small island of Stroma lies just off the north coast of Scotland. It is part of the Orkney Islands and was abandoned by most of the population in the 1960s.  The lighthouse keepers and their families were the last ones to leave in 1997.  There are nothing but sheep on the island today.  The reasons for the abandonment were mainly economic.

Are you Spartacus?

Last week was Resilience Week according to the Scottish Government.  Citizens were asked to think about how well they would deal with any emergency situation such as terrorism, pandemics or power outages.  This got me thinking about the meaning of resilience.  Is it the same as ‘strength’?

The dictionary definitions are:-

1. The capacity to recover quickly from difficulties; toughness.

2. The ability of a substance or object to spring back into shape; elasticity.

So it occurs to me that people with physical or mental disabilities are more resilient than the non-disabled.  It’s through dealing and adapting to problems that we become stronger.  Living with any Disability is a test of survival skills.  It’s strange that society tends to dismiss disabled people as weak because I think the opposite is very often the case.  Just to get through one day can be as tough as climbing a mountain or winning a war.  Many non-disabled complain about the slightest of ailments and crumble when things don’t go exactly their way.  Any disabled person has to confront obstacles every single day, not least of which is discrimination and the patronising attitudes institutionalised within society.

 

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I’ve decided to do a regular feature on this blog highlighting famous people whose achievements were due to the resilience gained from being disabled.

The first of these is Ian Dury.  He had a difficult childhood after contracting polio, being brutalised by the healthcare and education systems.  But later he channelled this rage and energy into his music.  It’s doubtful that he would have written such unique and passionate songs if not for his experience of Disability.  He was unafraid of what people might think, unafraid to be different, unafraid to speak truth about his life.  He was one tough cookie.

Here is a YouTube video of Ian Dury performing one of his most controversial songs, Spasticus Autisticus which was banned at the time by the BBC and created a public furore.  Stick around when the video is over to hear Ian Dury interviewed about why he wrote the song and how he was influenced by the film ‘Spartacus’.

 

 

I would welcome your suggestions for other famous disabled artists, musicians, writers, scientists, explorers, etc, who deserve to be featured on The Purple Hermit blog.  Please leave a comment. Thanks.

A Poem for Remembrance Day

The Fallen Oak                                                                                   

I’m dreaming of swimming to a sandy beach
where mother holds my cake with nineteen candles.
          Try harder, blow them out, she says as I fade.
I wake up when the eels hit.
A pulse beats through the ship.
She splinters like a tree in a hurricane.
The old girl begins to tilt
falling and turning upwards, arse over tit.
I’m hanging tight to my bunk when lights flicker out.
Jimmy whimpers and Bertie yells shit!
Hammocks tip, we smack the deck.
The darkness bristles, fear and amber
edging the door.
The stench of burning oil and silence
descend as engines die.
Then the screams begin.

The screams begin,
descend as engines die.
The stench of burning oil and silence
edges the door,
darkness bristling fear and amber.
Hammocks tip, we smack the deck.
Jimmy whimpers and Bertie yells shit!
I’m hanging tight to my bunk when lights flicker out,
falling and turning upwards, arse over tit.
The old girl begins to tilt.
She splinters like a tree in a hurricane.
A pulse beats through the ship
and I wake up when the eels hit.
                    Try harder, blow them out, mother says as I fade.
She’s holding my cake with nineteen candles
and I’m swimming.

 
Note 1– The battleship H.M.S. Royal Oak was sunk by torpedoes from  German Submarine, U-47 in the harbour of Scapa Flow, Britain’s naval base near the islands of Orkney on 14th October, 1939.  More than 800 men died. The wreck is now a designated war grave and a site of remembrance.

Note 2 – The Fallen Oak is an example of a specular poem, where the second stanza mirrors the first.  They are a challenge but fun to write.

 

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Note 3:-  The Italian Chapel was built during World War II by Italian prisoners of war, who were housed on the previously uninhabited island while they constructed the Churchill Barriers to the east of Scapa Flow, Orkney Islands.  Only the concrete foundations of the other buildings of the prisoner-of-war camp survive.

(Ref:- Wikipedia, photo taken by the author)

Note 4:- if you ever visit the beautiful island of Orkney, the Italian Chapel is a must see…a very emotional experience.

A Sonnet for a Saturday

Arrows

You are nothing but a clatter of bones in a tartan dressing gown
coughing up phlegm over the breakfast table.
You are nothing but a slithering of liver, lungs, kidneys, brain,
faithless heart pumping white crimson around and around.
You are nothing but a hundred billion neurons firing arrow
thoughts about yourself into a mist of grey.
You stab the butter knife in the marmalade.
I imagine stabbing it in your eye, watching your ego bleed out.

Then you look up and start describing a strange dream
you had last night about building a house from Plasticene.
As you turn your face and smile, morning sunbeams
blaze just below the curve of your cheek
bone, the place I like to kiss before we go to sleep
that tastes, so scrumptiously of tangerine.

 

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The Broken Rose

 

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Her words were twisted, her eyes bloodshot.
She froze to ice and drifted away.
I tried to follow, but the wind blew fey;

he stabbed me and I lost my way.
She vanished without looking back.
I look through glass to relieve the pain

of reflections broken by the rain.
When the old drawbridge parts in two,
the river will stop this ship of fools.