Falling

the fall begins
at conception
a slow decline
unnoticeable
slippage seven
ages in one
arbitrary                        miscarriage
accidental
cancerous
murder                         by fire water
dis-eased
melancholy
can’t remember         faces no more
the brutality
of old age
can’t piss                  in a pot no more
or a swift
acceleration
choosing                   an open window
irresistible
gravity calling
200 mph
a dislocation                  of ghost limbs
hot wind
shape shifting                    hair aflame
till you hit
ground zero                             running
the red light

 

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Image created by the author

Notes on a Pandemic

There’s a pandemic but no one is dying. No, they are all ‘sadly dying’. The adverb ‘sadly’ is now inevitably coupled to any mention of death.  Journalists, broadcasters, politicians and other famous figures have all succumbed to this trend – feigning sympathy for the deaths of unknown people as a way of distancing themselves and their audience from the grim realities of dying. It’s particularly hypocritical when UK politicians use this phrase as their lackadaisical response to the Pandemic has caused many vulnerable people to die unnecessarily. People in care homes, health workers, essential workers, disabled people and the elderly have been thrown under the bus due to lack of Personal Protective Equipment and not enough testing for the virus.

The public are struggling,  not so much with social distancing and isolation but with this close up encounter with their own mortality. Uncomfortable, terrifying, unfamiliar. Death is one of the remaining great taboos in Western societies. Many people go their whole lives without witnessing a death.  Death is hidden away in hospices, hospitals, care homes and the third world. Even in the midst of this pandemic I’ve been surprised how many intelligent people are convinced they could not possible die of Covid 19. They think they’re too smart, too fit, too wealthy, too young or immune because they had a bit of a cough over Christmas and eat a lot of yoghurt.

’Dead is dead’ is a phrase my father used. It sounded harsh to me as a teenager but my father knew there was little room for sentiment when it comes to dying. We are all born to die. Sooner or later, one way or another. We are flesh and blood.  My father lived through Holodomor in the USSR, World War 2 and life as a refugee. He certainly knew about death.

We do not help ourselves by hiding away from the truth. The way we use language is important.

Here are some alternative phrases and colloquialisms for dying:-

pop your clogs; kick the bucket; drop dead; snuff out; expire; breathe your last; depart this life; dead as a door nail; launched into eternity; gone to Davy Jones’s locker (drowning); pushing up the daisies; one’s race being run; shuffle of this mortal coil; peg out; hop the twig; slip one’s cable; close one’s eyes; give up the ghost; pay the debt to nature; cross the Stygian ferry; to go aloft; last gasp; the swan-song…

 

Here’s the marvellous Leonard Cohen’s take on the inevitable with his powerful song Who by Fire:-

 

 

Love and Hate

You are nothing but a clatter of bones in a dressing gown
coughing up phlegm over our breakfast table.
You are nothing but a slither 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 want to stab it in your eye, see your ego bleed out.

Suddenly you look at me and describe a dream
you had about building a house from Plasticine.
As you turn your face and smile, morning sunbeams
glow just below the curve of your cheek
bone, the place I kiss before we go to sleep
that tastes so deliciously of tangerine.

 

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Photo by the author

Remember

we gather at the edge
white feathers falling
in the dark
staring into the void
we are alone
the children wave purple lightsabers
kitted out in knitted hats
adorned with pom-poms
there’s a sense of urgency
mother and child move quickly
the wrong direction
teenagers pace and stiffen into poses
words fade with the wind
the burning of wood
the Ivory Tower
the crackling of flames
taking hold the awe
exploding the shock
we gasp smoke
sparks rise shimmering bat-wings
it is beautiful
the stars weep green roses
silver snakes carved
in the perfect dark
a father thin and tired
carries his daughter
to the edge
holds tiny pink hands
in huge gloved fists
nuclear dots burn
in the emptiness
we hold the fire
and only the wind

 

HAPPY NEW YEAR 2020 to all my friends and supporters!

 

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Photo by the author

 

 

 

 

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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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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Little Things

 

A Snail’s Pace

Like God, he/she moves in mysterious ways
hidden within a pearly spiral, an apex, a beauty
or a monster depending on your point of view.

Y=0.037x-1.38

Undulating, pedalling in a wave of his/her creation,
a little bit of rhythm and a lot of soul, leaving signs
in the morning light seen only by poets and posties.

Y=0.11x-0.77

She/he is everywhere but invisible; weaving magic
in the green silken night, clinging to the mossy slabs
of country churchyards or clustered by the rowans.

Y=0.48x-6.66

Like God, the Gastropod is a loner needing no mates.
His/her locomotion conquers all, crossing every path.
You must mind each crushing step and wait.

 
Footnote1:- Lyrics quoted from Locomotion by Little Eva.
Footnote2:- y=speed of land snail, x = length of snail’s foot

 

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Photographic image by the author

 

 

And here’s Little Eva performing her 60s classic pop song…

 

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, an interweaving
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
a twist in your heart, a burning

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? Do you sport a gap

between your front teeth? Is your skin
smooth as avocado? Are you keen on cryptic

puzzles? I hold a clue and so do you, together
we will find answers. So let us rendezvous

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

 

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

 

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