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

Blue

I am one speck of dust passing through.
I am silk thread unraveling
the caterpillar inside her cocoon.

I am the blood of winter
sun beyond the horizon
and I float a murmur of starlings.

I brood a melancholy song
whispering blue into the wind.
I glide the last seeds from the sycamore.

I hunt the moon with moth-silver wings
and streak midnight skies with electricity.
I skim my love with words touching skin.

I breathe one thought between me and you.
I am one speck of dust passing through.

 

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Photograph by the author

Autograph Book

Where are U
Gerard Duvall?
2 cute 2 B
4 gotten.

Leather coat,
groovy French name,
eyes cool as mud,
auburn mane.

In teenage shade
U left your cabbage
heart 4 me,
white as paper.

27
frozen kisses,
star-crossed
in my book.

I counted
empty pages
awaiting
butterflies.

 

Note:- Before the age of Facebook and digital ‘likes’ adolescents used autograph books with pastel colored pages to collect signatures and messages from their friends.  These often included humorous rhymes.

 

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Original Photograph- The Seeds of Love, created by the author.

 

Collision

The day the waves came,
she went out looking.
Rocks, boats slashed by winter,
White Rose half-painted on the quay.
The beach swirled diamonds,
wind down-turning creels.
The Café closed tight,
shuddering on the line
where elements collide.
The Orkney Ice Cream sign
askew by the door, keening
like a gull with a broken wing.
In the bothy he burned
a fire of peat, warming
fingers, interwoven. He breathed
the secrets of seashells into her ear.
The sky splintered beyond the window pane,
words drowning as oceans swelled a crescendo
of herring-bones and the lighthouse slowly crumbled.

 

Note 1:- a bothy is the term used for a small hut or refuge in the wilderness of Scotland.

Note 2:- Collision is an attempt at a concrete poem…the shape on the page is supposed to represent a lighthouse…well, more or less!

 

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Photograph by the author

The Gambler

His eyes spin roulette wheels,
red black in desire,
odd even with gain,
gilded in guilt,
dizzy with shame.

Words skitter,
settling on zero.
Fingers explode my skin,
keen as greyhounds
out of traps.

Like a player on tilt he loses.
Cards face down,
waiting for Lady Luck.
He shuffles, I cut.
We begin another game.

 

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Photo by the author

 

 

Unbound

One day you’ll write about us,
you said on your last visit.
A starry love story, a film…
Betty Blue meets Quadrophenia,
you said. I said,
but how will it end?
As I left you at Central Station
you said, I’m missing you already.
I said, never, remembering silence
as we drove deep through Kielder forest.

There’s a bond between us
that can’t be broken,
you wrote in your last letter.
Blood, sex, magic
you said. I said,
I’m sick of bleeding
and magic’s not real
and there’s more to life than fucking.
I want to be cherished,
You said,  that’s cloying.

Sometimes, naked on star-less nights
I Google your name and wait.

 

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Photograph by the author

Whisky and Red Roses

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Photo of eighteenth century whisky bottle label taken by the author at Timespan Museum, Helmsdale.

 

On the 25th January each year Scottish people celebrate Burns Night with whisky, haggis and bagpipes. It’s a special day to honour Robert Burns, the eighteenth century romantic poet, lyricist and political commentator.  Most of Burns’ writing was in Scots dialect and he is revered in Scotland as national poet and cultural icon.  He was a man of the people, an early socialist and is sometimes referred to as ‘the ploughman poet’. As a non-Scots living in Scotland I find his poems fascinating but a little impenetrable.   His songs are more accessible and to commemorate Burns Night I’m posting a YouTube link of Eddi Reader (former lead singer of Fairground Attraction) singing a beautiful version of My Love is Like a Red, Red Rose.  I’ve seen Eddi perform several times and she has tons of charisma and a great voice.  Hope you enjoy.

And for those of you who don’t know what haggis is – it’s a traditional Scottish dish…not for the squeamish or vegetarians as the main ingredients are offal (sheep’s heart, lungs and stomach) and oatmeal.  I’m ashamed to admit I’ve never had the courage to try haggis as I’m not much of a meat eater.  Apparently it’s delicious…

 

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

 

Time Travelers

Down separate years they traveled
to meet once more in this cold
spot, strangers now, another pit
stop along a graveled road.
In this bog country, stars
cower in the grey blanket of night.
Before her, an old man, uncertain by the fire,
peat and pine logs still sparking
center stage. Shuffling feet, hands stretched
out for comfort and heat. Hard lines; won
and lost this pretty gypsy boy, no longer choosing
time in the Tempest Café.

She’s potent pink in the front row, sipping
gin fizz, icy as her fingertips. She drifts
across the borderline, remembering
wine breath slithering her skin,
the slip of red silk and the unzipping
of their youth. Oh, there was a time!
There was a time when paint flowed
unhindered across white.
Instrument against his thigh, he strokes the long, smooth
neck, notched like bone, a diminuendo encore. Strumming
her mouth, plucking her eyes, hammering her heart until
she slides, fret free, from her fucked-up life.

 

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Original image by the author