Victim

You come and go with the darkness.
I never see you leave but after snowfall

I see your footprints across the lawn.
You sleep alone at night in the shadows

under my exhaustion, a luminescence.
You keep one golden eye open

just in case I forget myself.
Your eye seeps around my raw edges

like cyanide, like a cloud of mustard gas,
like radiation in the house of the apocalypse.

I’m sealing myself in with duct tape,
pulling down blinds, wearing dark glasses;

a hermit with only a mantra
and a half-empty glass for company.

If only you were a little kinder,
I would welcome you with my blood.

 

 

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Through the Cracks of Winter

we camped in the Black Mountains
and you thought you saw a wolf. I was a stain
in the shadow of a great cliff of sturdy construction
with a hinged lid. The shoe-box of Hiroshima,
can we forget that flash? How did God shine
the light in the passing space, not minding
as lemmings dived? She had Her own intentions.

I let night over my head like cling film
on a frozen turkey, smoothing the bitter lines.
Then you looked up and described a dream,
the sun scrambled on New Year’s Day. Your words
consumed another, one for every minute.
At midnight you stood beneath the pines singing
Jerusalem. I broke free and soared
in the middle of it all, crazy laughing
as the reservoir rotted red as sunset. I was the one
who once loved you, with your yes, yes, yes until
the world shouted no, do not drive or use machines.

You were the watchman of my panopticon.
I was a clock ticking.

 

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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

 

The Cow Jumped…

Daddy, do cows eat sunshine?

Daddy, does grass taste like spaghetti?

Daddy, why are the cows lying down?

Daddy, do cows have secrets?

Daddy, is mummy a cow?

Daddy, why is she lying on the grass?

Daddy, why is her skin like cold milk?

Daddy, is she staring at the moon?

Daddy, are there cows on the moon?

Daddy, where are you going?

Daddy?

 

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Image by the author

The Vanishing

She held her breath and passed beneath the wishing trees. Their evergreen tips arched across the path to the beach. Kiss Me Quick, Squeeze Me Slow. The sea played out beyond the dunes.  The world unraveled an orgy of blues as the red kite spiraled up into the heat.  On the horizon, the mist spooled like the edge of dreams. She held her breath and waited for the wind to drop.

The kite shrank to a small dot, vanished. The sky grew dark and stormy like ruffled raven’s wings. Blue eyes and long black hair, her skin was delicate and fair. She began to run, over sharp stones, through thorns, back across the swamp until she tripped on a twisted tree root and fell, into quicksand. She held her breath.

During police interview her mother said, Aye, she was trouble alright. Born unlucky,
that girl.

 

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Image created by the author, photography, collage, ink.

Looking into the Dark

There’s a question I’m often asked about my art and poetry; why am I so interested  in dark subject matter when I could be writing and making images about ‘happy stuff’?

I’m not sure if I choose my themes or they choose me.  Inevitably my work reflects my life, my view of the world.  From early childhood I’ve experienced pain and trauma growing up within a dysfunctional family where I never felt safe and also at the hands of an uncaring medical establishment that treats disabled people as expendable.  Although I’ve been lucky enough to have love, friendship and joy in my life, it’s always been within the context of a threatening world.  I’ve spent most of my life in ‘survival mode’.

It’s important to me that my creative work tries to expose the truth as I see it.  I want to confront my reality head on, with all its flaws and sores.  I don’t want to retreat into a rose tinted bubble and pretend life is perfect which is what the State would prefer us to do.  It’s much easier to control a population that doesn’t ask difficult questions.  Of course, it’s also essential to maintain a positive attitude and a sense of humour.  To see into the dark we also need some light.  Before you descend into the subterranean depths of your pain make sure you have a torch.

 

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Original Photograph by the author

 

An attraction to the dark side of life may be a tendency among creative people. There certainly seems to be a link between poetry and pain. There’s a higher rate of depression, addiction and even suicide amongst poets.  Flick through any poetry book and you will find more poems about loss and pain than happiness.  Personally, I find cheerful ditties about love and rainbows rather tedious.  Misery is far more fascinating!  Perhaps truly happy people (if they actually exist in the real world) do not feel the need to agonise over choosing the right words in the right order on a piece of paper.  They’re probably too busy doing whatever it is that normal, happy people are supposed to do, making money, having sex and playing football or whatever (no disrespect to rich, sexy footballers intended!)

One of the reasons I write poetry and make art is the hope that sharing my experiences may help others in similar situations. It’s comforting to know you are not the only one with difficult thoughts and feelings. We can all learn from one another, we can all gain strength from one another. We don’t have to be alone. That is the beauty and power of art.

 

The Day Room

She doesn’t look up,
swaddled in pink toweling.
Dinner in the Day Room, haddock on a tray,
the old queen who lost her soldiers slumps an empty table.
Above her head the TV plays silent memories,
survival of the fittest in exotic locations.
A lioness stalks prey while another dies.
She doesn’t look up when I speak.
Lips rotate, chewing, tasting the sins of the world
cut up in pieces.  Her hand trembles as she adds salt.
My absent presence, invisible bones on the edge of her plate.
She starts on the sponge pudding with custard.
She doesn’t look up when I leave.

She doesn’t look up when I leave.
She starts on the sponge pudding with custard,
my absent presence, invisible bones on the edge of her plate.
Cut up in pieces, her hand trembles as she adds salt.
Lips rotate, chewing, tasting the sins of the world.
She doesn’t look up when I speak.
A lioness stalks prey while another dies,
survival of the fittest in exotic locations.
Above her head the TV plays silent memories.
The old queen who lost her soldiers slumps an empty table,
dinner in the Day Room, haddock on a tray.
Swaddled in pink toweling,
she doesn’t look up.

 

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Original Photographic image created by the author

The Day Room is an example of a specular poem – the second stanza mirrors the first.  Please see  a-poem-for-remembrance-day  for another example.