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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The Winter Break

The blizzard began, cherry blossom from a flame sky. The road home
vanished. Pink ice floes shape-shifted in the river, bumping
and grinding like clubbed seals. We tended the fire
and played strip poker. In bed you wore lipstick and a balaclava.

On the third day we tracked through the crystal forest. The valley
was a fandango of silence. I clawed at it with my bare hands.
You held your phone up high, immobile as the Statue of Liberty.
We returned to the cabin and played Scrabble with four letter words.

The windows became peepholes. I saw no footprints in the virgin drift,
only the farmer’s wife floating silver between the tree tops.
She was wearing a wolf jacket, her face upturned to the falling snow.
That night you thought you heard singing in the wind.

On your last day, you stopped speaking, stayed in bed, a tender huddle
of bones. I roasted meat on the log fire and drank Jack Daniels. I recited
the tale of our first New Year’s Eve, kissing in Times Square
while rockets fell. I could still remember the neon taste of your flesh.

 

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Photograph created by the author

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Gifts

The first spilled secrets in filthy school loos.
The second gave ginger cut to the chase.
The third made love, death and crime on Ward 5.
The fourth shared The Sound of Silence.
The fifth fell into a snow drift.
The sixth surrendered beautiful on the banks of the Tyne.
The seventh gave a wedding ring and split lip.
The eighth made excellent chicken soup.
The ninth gave gin massage on hot lawns.
The tenth offered midnight lifts to therapy and falling stars.
The eleventh staged punctures in motorway service stations.
The twelfth gave tarot card readings.
The thirteenth banned the Bomb and taught self-defense with a spanner, sickle and hammer.
He slept with his socks on.
The fifteenth performed impressions of Richard Gere.
The sixteenth gave empty, like Dire Straits.
The seventeenth cracked my zoom lens.
The nineteen rowed my boat to the island of woolly mammoths.
The twenty second shared Victoria Sandwich and arson.
The twenty eighth gave life drawing. He jumped off the High Level Bridge.
The thirty sixth sent crocodiles under my floor.
The one after him played a mean pianissimo and made the top forty.
The last one believed in the theory of reincarnation.

 

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Photograph by the author

Forgetting Mozart

We met the second
time in the old scarlet fever hospital.
You were pale as sea-pebbles.
We followed the beat of Arabian
drums down secret passages,
footsteps echoing on linoleum.
Rain pelted
prestissimo at the skylight.

I put Mozart on ice, played Sad
Eyed Lady of the Lowlands for you,
arpeggio style. Don’t need melody you said,
hunched in the shadows with your heroin
cheekbones and roll-ups.
You turned the lights down on your way out,
left me smeared across the ivory.
Don’t need complicated, you said.

So I learned simple chords, A major, E minor,
two of us on the piano stool, free style.
Not looking for a solo but looking
for adagio down the motorway
shooting out the window with my Lomo.
I was looking for a car crash.
I was looking for a mindless.
Don’t need money, as you took my last fiver.

We met the last time as  the sun
fell into the lake and a murder
of crows ripped from the birch.
In the twilight everything
was almost alright, alright?
There was a moment when I saw a new
moon over your shoulder, a moment
when we almost touched.

 

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Original image by the author

 

The Empty Cup

Love changes.  Love can fade, love can break.  It is not a solid and reliable commodity like a chair or a pair of slippers.  For the lucky ones it may blossom and grow like a carefully tended orchid but for many of us, love withers to indifference or even hate.  There is rarely the happily ever after ending promoted in the fairy tales of childhood.

Love is a four letter word sometimes used to camouflage abuse.

Like many survivors of childhood trauma I am accustomed to losing people who once promised to love and protect me.  They often disappear from my life very suddenly and I am left with a few random souvenirs, a few photographs.  I have become adept at dealing with loss.  On the surface at least, I appear to let go, move on, retreat within my own defences, working harder to protect myself from future pain and disappointment.  Many of my relationships end at my own choosing.  I am expert at constantly scanning and evaluating for potential cracks in the shiny glaze of love and friendship.  And the more you look for lies and betrayal the more likely you are to find them.  So perhaps my relationships are doomed from the start.  I am unable to live with the compromises and blind spots other people seem to cultivate within marriage, the smoke and mirrors of romance.  I prefer reality, even if it hurts.

I have realised I am happier with just my cat for company.  If you want true love and loyalty, get yourself a pet.  But for some strange reason I hang on to a few random souvenirs of past loves.

 

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This cup is an example.  My second husband left it behind.  I’m not sure why I keep it.  I’m usually ruthless at decluttering but for some reason I retain this piece of ethnic pottery.  My ex-husband bought it in Crete when he was on holiday with his previous wife.  I’ve never been to Crete and never likely to go in the future.   I always felt threatened by John’s continued friendship with his first wife. They had cosy dinners and trips to the cinema, just the two of them even though she had also remarried.  When I complained of their intimacy he accused me of being small-minded.  It was one of the many reasons our marriage ended.  There was no trust.

When we split up, we bickered over custody of the Art Deco sofa and the Bruce Springsteen albums.  We had several meetings on a bench in a public park to talk things through.  I was afraid to be alone with him in private.  The rustic pottery, a relic from his earlier marriage was forgotten.

The cup and saucer once resided on the slate mantlepiece of the house we shared in rural Yorkshire. Now it’s on the top shelf of a glass display cabinet in my Scottish kitchen.  It’s a chunky type of pottery with a rough, matt glaze, probably hand thrown.   Uncomfortable to hold or drink out of.  It’s a piece of tourist bric-brac, not useful, just for show.  A piece of fakery.  And perhaps that’s why I keep it, it’s a reminder that romantic love is not real, that I’m better alone.