Zero to Ten

In the beginning, I count down cigarettes and orange
scorched days in the dark cocoon of Now, Voyager.
I inhale red velvet and the upbeat of your heartbeat.

In my first year you are out of reach on the marble
shelf as I ride my silver cross carriage to the Castle.
I desire a warm drink not clocks and candle sticks.

In my second year my meandering footprints are cast
in cement and the violence of passing trains.
I feel the sting of Aztec girls and foreign tongues.

In the missing year I watch electric light triangulate
as my door is wedged open by the white coats.
Beyond glass, snow falls and you wave from a distance.

In my fourth year you lug my dead weight to pointless
rotations of my left foot. “ Good girl,” says the physio.
My reward is crumbling bread for ducks in Lister Park.

In my fifth year Miss Blowers raps me over the head
with Noddy and the Magic Rubber. “Stop talking” she says.
I wet my pants. Why are the scissors always too blunt?

In the sixth year, semolina congeals but my lips are sealed.
Red-faced, father dances a vodka jig by the camp fire.
Rubbing my knees, I am told nettle stings are good for you.

In my seventh year, I hide within canoodles of trees
by the Leeds and Liverpool, stay silent when you scream
my name. Rain beads sycamore leaves like mercury.

In my eighth year, I survey the crater of an extinct volcano,
see you small and alone down below. Turning circles,
you shout my name. I hear the rush of lava flowers.

In the nothing year, I leave myself behind in a waiting room.
The quick brown fox jumps over the lazy dog. Parallel bars
and surgical scars. I watch as chrysanthemums sour in vases.

In my tenth year, legs braced for action I’m back to school.
They say they’ve missed my piano playing and mysterious
chalk drawings. I carve a car from balsa wood. My knife slips.

 

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Your Poem

The passage of one life is like a poem,
the end an echo of the start; a solitary
fight to enter this world, darkness
to light. The bloodying of white
sheets observed by strangers in a room
with thin curtains, mirrored in the final
stanza only without felicitations.
You hope you die before you get old.

The romance, the action, the clues lie
in the middle section of your poem,
an exposition on your main theme;
a search for happiness, love, money,
acceptance, fluffy cats, fame, red hair,
a good shag or prize-winning dahlias.
You hope you die before you get old.
Whatever floats your boat, baby!

By stanza seven you learn you are not
a boat but a desert island, unexplored.
You hope you die before you get old.
You sit on the shore watching the murky
tide of water and wait for the Ferry. Angel
whispers in your ear. It is the jade game,
the sky is not the same blue, the sun holds
no heat and no one will ever truly get you.

In stanza nine the diminishing begins.
Your body shrinks (except for your nose).
You shape-shift, spend more time looking
down and back. Chins multiply but hair
and friendships fall away. Downsizing.
You hope you die before you get old.
You can’t piss in a pot no more.
You can’t recall names no more.

You hope you die before you get old.
The passage of your life is like a poem
structured by repetition, rhythm, rhyme,
recurring motifs and metaphors exploring
a theme (same shit different day). The arc,
the meaning of your story remains hidden
to you (although strangers see) until
the moment God turns over your page.

 

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Photo by the author

The Honeypot

The Avon lady lived at Number 5.
She wore black stockings and a loose beehive.
On Saturday evenings she energised
weaving down the street, wiggling her behind.

Laced up in my blue book-strewn room I heard
her singing Elvis songs and swigging beer
straight from the bottle, unladylike cheer.
Her lipstick crimson, her complexion clear.

At midnight stilettos tapped a morse code
for I’m alive and in love, don’t you know?
as she zig-zagged home, teddy boy in tow
rousing me from nightmares of frogs and toads.

I watched the lovers from my curtained screen
as they kissed and smooched by the apple trees
and I wondered why she was on her knees
while he softly moaned, begging please, please, please.

The Avon lady buzzed up at our door
each month with her sample box, treats galore;
Here’s my Heart, Persian Wood, Wishing, Rapture,
To a Wild Rose – desire choked our parlour.

Mam always chose Lily of the Valley,
innocent and not for whores, she proclaimed
eyeing me down in my navy school plains
as I sniffed each little bottle and prayed.

Avon lady thought me a Topaz girl.
Her warm scented touch on my wrist burned
like the bee stings of her loosening curls
so my honeycomb heart melted and yearned.

 

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Image created by the author

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

Gravel Roads

There was fire over water that night
we met, sparks aplenty. You were more
elegant than expected, curvaceous steel

with a hint of rebellion. Your body
enclosed me like a rocket on our way
to a mysterious planet. My heartbeat

quickened as I fondled the unfamiliar
instruments swathed in your green light.
Together we claimed space, unstoppable.

We shot across the Tyne Bridge without
looking back, headed north, crossing
borders and north – north – anticipating

the friction of car wheels on gravel
roads. There were torn rainbows, strings
of pearls, demons hiding in hedgerows,

lightning bolts and blinding spider mist.
There were herring seas, twisted forests,
and languid nights of Summer Isles. Lost

in the clouds we met only talking cats.
Fairy lights beckoned from peat bogs;
temptation lurking in each red window.

We were Bonny and Clyde, a foxy
duo kicking up shit in the badlands until
we broke with a whimper not a bang.

I feel the cold without you and I doubt
the presence of soul. Scars fade in sun;
nothing remains but moss, rust and bone.

 

 

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Original photo by the author

 

 

 

The Other Side

Somewhere in the Hambleton Hills
I took a right turn down a track not
on any map and edgy with yesterday.

Like Alice I plunged down a tunnel
of yellow gorse, silver birch and rocks
that had danced in the Book of Genesis.

A large pink dog, the sort that calls
a spade a spade was waiting by a stream
where the track vanished in a tangle

of weeping willows and a warning sign
Check depth before entering. Deep water
and shadows beckoned. The dog wagged

his tail in approval and I saw beyond
the ford; a fertile valley and sheep
like ballerinas in tutus and a rainbow

house on a hill in a dazzle of sublime
clouds. I saw a smiling face and a hand
waving, an orchard and a rose garden.

I smelled strawberries, fresh bread
and wood smoke. The whispers of leaves
and birdsong drifted on the breeze.

The dog waited, his eyes wary as hope
while I considered the darkness
of the crossing and judged it too deep.

 

 

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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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Community Poetry

 

THE DECEMBER 1st DEADLINE FOR CONTRIBUTIONS TO THE COMMUNITY POEM HAS NOW EXPIRED – sorry but it’s too late to post any more lines.

The completed group poem can be viewed by clicking on this link

https://purplehermit.com/2019/12/02/titanium-dreams-a-poem-created-by-the-wordpress-community/

Thanks for your interest.

 

Please help write a group poem. You don’t need to be a writer to do this.  All you need to do is provide one line in response to the opening line. It can be funny, long, short, serious or crazy. There are no rules. Write your line in the comments box. After one week I will combine the lines the best I can to create a WordPress Group poem and post it on this site. Please join in – it’s fun and who knows what might emerge!  All the contributors will be credited.

Here is the opening line written by myself. Hope it will inspire your creativity:-

 

“She was the only titanium woman in the village.”

 

 

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Photo by the author