Zooming

Dutifully muted we wait in our bubbles, looking
at ourselves looking at ourselves smiling, looking
for clues in book shelves, potted plants, interiors.

Sid’s iPad is a shadow. Patrick props a stepladder.
Magi’s tablet belongs to a Ragdoll with blue eyes.
The third row shows bearded minimalists in grey.

The cool ones are sipping tea from chunky mugs.
The patient ones are still holding hands raised
while their rictus grins slip off screen to scream.

Three minutes to write a poem about the sea.
Try to recall how the sea looks, sounds, smells.
Time rubs out. One by one our bubbles turn black.

Photo by the author

On Visiting John O’Groats

(This poem was published in Northwords Now some time ago.)

It can take most of your life to see
the large car park at the end of the line.
There are no instructions on arrival.
You circulate widdershins and search

the large car park at the end of the line
for a space that suits your personality.
You circulate widdershins and search
a familiar face in the day-glow crowds

for a space that suits your personality.
Some of them are smiling and holding
a familiar face in the day-glow crowds.
How many coffee beans in the jar?

Some of them are smiling and holding
hands. It’s important to guess
how many coffee beans in the jar.
Green sunglasses are optional, reflective

hands. It’s important to guess
how many miles to Land’s End?
Green sunglasses are optional, reflective
blisters on the soles of your feet.

How many miles to Land’s End?
You might travel naked and grateful for
blisters on the soles of your feet.
It can take most of your life to see.

NB:- John O’Groats is a popular tourist destination in the UK. It is located on the north coast of Scotland and is wrongly believed by some people to be mainland Britain’s most northerly point.

Photo by the author

Lockdown

Beyond my kitchen window, grey skies
crumble like clinker over empty fields.
The scarlet willow bends in the easterly,
branches stripped naked like veins.
Crows smudge charcoal on the horizon.

Indoors, I inhale recycled air and open
my liquid crystal display. Your face bubbles
expectantly, cornered. Behind you double
doors slide shut, a TV grumbles. You hold
a Bugs Bunny mug, ‘What’s up Doc?’

 

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Photo by the author

The Tower

there are no birds
only the wind
and the howl of wolves
beyond the silence
we are alone

there are no clouds
only the wind
confusion spins
the crag of Lady Hill
we are alone

there is no sun
only the wind burns
the air is thin
within these walls
we are alone

we build brick upon brick
and watch the flickering walls
waiting for the storm
the Tower stands alone
in this Border land
we dance upon the battlements and hope

 

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Image created by the author

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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Dark Days

The end of the year can be a difficult time for those of us who are alone, either through circumstance or choice.  In the northern hemisphere temperatures drop, the nights grow longer and Christian communities begin their Christmas celebrations.  More than any other time of year there is an emphasis on family values and sharing which can leave single people feeling alienated.  There is a stigma attached to being alone at Christmas.  Turkey for one?  So in this post I wish to share some inspiring quotes reminding us that solitude can be a positive and healthy choice.  Being alone does not necessarily mean feeling lonely and company is often overrated.  The beaming, perfect families of television commercials rarely exist in reality.  If you find yourself alone this Festive Period use the time wisely to recharge and regenerate your energy levels, treat yourself kindly and cherish your freedom.  I’m planning to lock myself indoors with a fridge full of party food, a bottle of the local whisky liquor and a pile of wonderful books.

Ten quotes to celebrate the gift of solitude:-

1. “… the highest and most decisive experience of all, … is to be alone with his own self, or whatever else one chooses to call the objectivity of the psyche. The patient must be alone if he is to find out what it is that supports him when he can no longer support himself. Only this experience can give him an indestructible foundation.”

Carl Jung (1943)

2.  “In order to understand the world, one has to turn away from it on occasion.”

Albert Camus, The Myth of Sisyphus and Other Essays

3.  “The only antidote to fear is to go through it. Only by embracing loneliness may its tyranny be broken.”

James Hollis (1996)

4.  “I care for myself. The more solitary, the more friendless, the more unsustained I am, the more I will respect myself.”

Charlotte Brontë, Jane Eyre

5.  “My imagination functions much better when I don’t have to speak to people.”

Patricia Highsmith

6.  “Therefore, dear Sir, love your solitude and try to sing out with the pain it causes you. For those who are near you are far away… and this shows that the space around you is beginning to grow vast…. be happy about your growth, in which of course you can’t take anyone with you, and be gentle with those who stay behind; be confident and calm in front of them and don’t torment them with your doubts and don’t frighten them with your faith or joy, which they wouldn’t be able to comprehend. Seek out some simple and true feeling of what you have in common with them, which doesn’t necessarily have to alter when you yourself change again and again; when you see them, love life in a form that is not your own and be indulgent toward those who are growing old, who are afraid of the aloneness that you trust…. and don’t expect any understanding; but believe in a love that is being stored up for you like an inheritance, and have faith that in this love there is a strength and a blessing so large that you can travel as far as you wish without having to step outside it.”

Rainer Maria Rilke, Letters to a Young Poet

7.  “There is a pleasure in the pathless woods,
There is a rapture on the lonely shore,
There is society, where none intrudes,
By the deep sea, and music in its roar:
I love not man the less, but Nature more”

George Gordon Byron

8.  “The more powerful and original a mind, the more it will incline towards the religion of solitude.”

Aldous Huxley

9.  “I have to be alone very often. I’d be quite happy if I spent from Saturday night until Monday morning alone in my apartment. That’s how I refuel.”

Audrey Hepburn: Many-Sided Charmer, LIFE Magazine, December 7, 1953

10.  “Orlando naturally loved solitary places, vast views, and to feel himself for ever and ever and ever alone.”

Virginia Woolf, Orlando

 

If you need support try http://www.standalone.org.uk

 

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Titanium Dreams – a poem created by the WordPress Community

She was the only titanium woman in the village.
Her metal mettle was more than a match
for the spineless would-be oppressors
but her shell held back a tide of bitter tears.

Her metal mettle was more than a match
but hidden beneath the nearly unbreakable
exterior was a wounded heart. She was looking
for the iron man with a heart of gold

hidden beneath the nearly unbreakable.
Her smooth skin sparkled like moonlit snow
and her eyes were bold. Protected within
her circle resisting the marauding crowds,

her smooth skin sparkled like moonlit snow.
Her shiny exterior made others inferior
and her titanium cranium was full
of geraniums, no mere delirium.

Her shiny exterior made others inferior
and she dreamed of titanium forests
where birds fly upside down, with neither defects
nor qualities but simmering in secret whirls.

She dreamed of titanium forests, a path unknown,
a mysterious world, a secret of her own. Her haunting
gaze and those dazzling eyes in people’s heart created
cowardice. Little did she know the path, her life,

a mysterious world, a secret of her own, her haunting.
Deep beneath the unbreakable cover
beat a fragile feathery heart
that could be broken without a spark. They say

it takes a village but her people had hearts of stone
deep beneath the unbreakable cover,
so she, the sole courageous stood resolute, alone.
She was the only titanium woman in the village.

 

 

Here are a few final lines from Kimmagic that unfortunately arrived after the deadline but form almost a separate poem by themselves:-

“Her cogent complexion clinging onto the cries,
Her shimmering skin ignites the lies,
As she swaggers through the spiraling shame,
And kindles the agonizing flame,
Is it the metallic her to blame?”

While assembling this group poem I loosely based the structure on the Pantoum form which uses repetition to unify the lines and create alternative meanings. The second line of each stanza forms the first line of the next stanza and the final line is a repeat of the opening line so it feels circular.  I had to make a few small edits to some of the contributed lines to make this work so I hope you approve of any changes.

Thanks so much to all the talented writers who made the time and effort to participate in this project.  It was fascinating to see the different responses.  You are all amazing!

Contributors are (in no particular order):-

Steve Simpson, Stevestillstanding, Angus Adams, Dawn Gray, Alec Hyde, Justin Lee S,

Frenchc1955, PK Lily, Trappedinthewordofmyown, Meg, Lisa K, Alastair, Kim Magic

and Nikita Shackleton.

 

Perhaps it’s a little early for Festive Greetings but I wish you all health, happiness and success for the coming New Year 2020.  And keep writing!!

 

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Plot and Bash

Tackle it when thrust through the window.
Look difficult when leaving the control area,
keeping right. Drive gentle up the road.
There may be more than you.
It will contain the time and distance you.
Get to the first junction as somebody else
and set off again. Beware of blindly following.
He may know where he is going or he may not.
Keep trying to make the fit and keep an eye on.
You may end up lost off route, being baffled
on route! Alternative. Pull up, obstruct and try
the hand better than clutter. With practise
you will plot the move keeping at least two.
If you are baffled it may be your opinion
-miracles do happen and he may see. Do it
or provide the clue. As a last resort guess.
Don’t stumble on a code. Use a magnifier.
Don’t discard handouts, keep them safe.
Engineer the maps in alphabetical
to easily locate you in the night.

 

Note:- Plot and Bash is a navigation technique used within British Road Rallies during the 1980s.

 

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Image by the author

The Borrowers

We drift in the wind, nomadic, elusive,
mercurial as scraps of tinsel, we hunt
human gatherings, crossing forests, seas
and cities, passing from home to home
we reap your memories, your secrets
that doze like fish in a torpid pool.

Small, almost invisible, you mistake
us for sunbeams, for insects floating
in the sultry night, for snow melting
on your child’s face or candle light
glinting in your lover’s eyes. We are
constant as the air you breathe, entering

your nasal passages, your mouth, seeping
into your skin and every private cavity.
We grub deep into the coils of grey
where you hide. Without you we are empty
as a church without the presence of God.
We can’t love. We can’t hate. We can’t sing.

So when you reach the top of the stairs
and forget why you are there, when you fail
to recall your mother’s voice or the taste
of beer, when you forget the meal you ate
ten minutes before and your own name,
please don’t mind too much.

 

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Image created by the author

 

Reunion

They say blood is thicker than water
so I will build a bridge, a stunning

suspension of disbelief
spanning the oceans between us.

Blood will call to blood, a weaving
of broken strands. 25 is the magic

number. You will come to me, nameless
and lost but loved since always. Brother,

sister, can you hear me, can you feel me
twist in your heart, burn

in your bones, a splinter in your gut,
a memory of what might have been?

Do you dream of dark streets
in a northern city? Do you cry out

in your sleep? Are your eyes flecked
with gold like mine? Is there a gap

between your front teeth? Is your skin
smooth as avocado? Do you like cryptic

puzzles? I have a clue.  Together
we will find answers. Let us rendezvous

on the scarlet arc across the blue.
I have prepared a place and I’m waiting.

Note:- on average the amount of DNA shared between half-siblings is 25%

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Image created by the author