Winnipeg

Cry me a red, red river
A river of dust and bones
Of hearts that bleed and shiver
From broken and bruising homes

Blow me a kiss of willow
To echo a mourner’s moan
The ache of an empty pillow
Another child’s fate unknown

Cry me a red, red river
To fold me within its bed
And comfort the cares that slither
Through thoughts of unending dread

Bring me a message, finding
Too late what you had to face
My anger a knot, a binding
A coiling of thoughts that race

Cry me a red, red river
Reflecting a distant star
A chorus of souls, a quiver
That calls to me from afar

Paint me a cold moon rising
Surrounded by frozen waste
Still warmed by a hatred, blinding
For victims that leave no space

Cry me a red, red river
From words that no longer mean
An end to the dreams that linger
Its path a forgotten scream

Soothe me to sleep through Winter
To wake in the roar of Spring
With gifts that are carved to splinter
Where birds cannot bear to sing

Cry me a red, red river
And lay there upon this shore
The past where I long to wither
And hold you again, once more

This was written for the Red River Women.

Outing, The Absurd

Stuttering pickles, confounded by paint
While floral designs’ floating chaos smells quaint
Old ladies and bug spray, some mothballs to go
Enjoying their day at the end of the show

A nonsense of feelings, of sounds and of taste
Bemoaning new wrinkles, fine hair and all waste
They’re off to the seaside, to sit and slurp tea
Just Harriet, Ethel, Jemima and Fi

The driver had better keep eyes on the road
Or our Ethel has threatened he’ll turn to a toad
While Harriet’s brolly is pleasantly queer
The spiky end’s sharp when it swings past your ear

Jemima’s gone missing, been absent for years
They always invite her, despite tantrums, tears
For Fi still remembers the role Jemi’ played
In keeping her steady in service, a maid

Look out for each other, they’ve done all their lives
Through brothers and lovers, old husbands, new wives
The die has been cast, there’s a pin in the map
And the cats have been fed and the dog’s done his lap

Now the ladies are off for a whistlestop tour
To find dancing and drinks on a pier they adore
We’ll see them again, they have given their word
But they’ve gone in pursuit of amusements absurd

Numb

I am untouched by death, it seems
My brow so cool, and arid eye
No flicker at the suicide scenes
Of friend that waited, soon to die

And hastened with impatient crime
To strike a blow and choose his time.

Not I, the sobbing, shrieking wreck
That tears their clothes and hair to match
The inner maelstrom kept in check
You’d scarcely hear my voice – the catch

Unnoticed by my colleague’s grin
Unless I choose to let them in.

At reading of another act
Of violence in public space
It is not terror strikes my heart
I cannot lie to save my face

Though all around are tearing fast
I’m calm and cool – it brushes past.

On hearing tales of chemicals
That kill en-masse, so far away
Of sniping shooters winging girls
Who want to go to school today

The sum of Arab Springs and Falls
Cannot unbuild emotive walls.

I’ve known it worse, or so we say
Explosions and effects galore
I saw a film, but yesterday
I can’t be feeling any more

Of Realism, High-def blow
Paid for my ticket, saw the show.

Though broadcast pictures fill the News
I’ve seen too many other views
In my short life to be amused
By one more shot of life, abused

While Western minds are overfed
On what we’re sold, and so, misled.

What heartstrings I have left to tug
Beside ideas I fondly kept
Lie buried underneath the rug
Old fashioned views, soft-celled, inept

Far too naive to hold so late
Beyond their expiration date.

Tea and sympathy

I noticed the smell
Before seeing the man
As he first tried it on
With the girl by the sign

I kept gazing at trains
Sipping watery sludge
Barely conscious of movement
Of space, sound, or time

With my chilly feet aching
And feeling the burn
Having finished a shift
With the B.M.D. gang

And put up with the tourists
Mind set to ‘return’
In the crush and the waiting
Victoria Station

I wanted my pj’s
And something to scran
A reprieve from the knowledge
Tomorrow is Monday

A moment’s escape
From the hellish élan
That rises responding
To transport on Sunday

I sighed at his gait
As he soft-shoed along
Cursing hard-hearted kids
Under-dressed for the winter

His t-shirt encrusted
With layers of pong
That would shame to a beak
Even Marble Arch scroungers

He lurched to a halt
Far too close to my skin
And launched into his spiel
To upset and impress me

I felt little more
Than the usual pain
At the series of tricks
He employed just to press me

And tiring of lies
Moaned in flattening vowels
As he tried to appear
To be pitied before me

His simple demands
I did meet with a smile
Giving coin for some peace
That he hence might ignore me

But trotting away
The reprieve was a short one
I swayed on my feet
Craning necks to evade

In the hope they’d announce
Platform numbers for Sutton
No more on my journey
Might I be waylaid

The very same man
Rose, a vision before me
To launch the same dialogue
Over again

I tried to divert him
He strove to ignore me
“Just gave you a pound
For a tea!” I exclaimed

The man seemed offended
And told me more stories
His life had been hard
He was hardly to blame

A single commuter
Of kind disposition
Would hardly stand out
In the crowds of the day

His ‘few pints’ that evening
A hint at the blinder
Awaiting what money
I’d chosen to pay

As much as I might like
To give to the guy
Little hoping for comforts
Unknown and less useful

He steadfast, refusing
To catch at my eye
Made his bitterest mouthfuls
Taste much less than truthful

I listened again
To the tale he was spinning
Not worthy of one
Born to charity’s curse

But all I could offer
Returning the favour
More sympathy, tea
And a haven in verse

Lean on me

A mystery it is to me
Why people can’t more friendly be?
Tho’ time anon ’tis proven so
We need a friend in times of woe,
We fear to trust, we hesitate,
Until ’tis almost grown too late,
Then jealously, with scant affect,
We let our love peep out a bit.
A heart upon a sleeve do we
All mock in abject misery
Then wondering at loneliness
In modern times – we are a mess!
I wish, yet fear I wish in vain
To have my time over again.
The things I’ve done, I would undo,
That I could show more love to you
That I don’t know – we have not met,
But I would share that I might yet
Receive again that which is gone
The love I gave adieu, anon.
And so the world – less worldly might
Be given over to delight,
As gentles all we do agree
Our need for care is all you see.
If loneliness you would defeat,
Be kind to others that you meet,
For you may find greater return
In giving, ere it comes your turn.