Telling Times

Wedged into the sofa cushions

Gazing at other people’s parroted opinions

Wasting precious moments on Twitter

My daughter asleep in my lap

Waiting to hear more news

From the hospital

Wondering if grandma

Will need brain surgery

As her Googled symptoms suggest

The paramedics were not optimistic

Though they thought it was just

Concussion at the last visit

Repeating the same tests

Hoping for a better outcome

Can we allow ourselves to believe in miracles?

Or will she, like grandad

Go downhill quickly

Seduced to eternal sleep

By a mundane global nightmare

Transmitted in a hospital corridor

After a fall.

Strange these parallel lives

It is barely a week

Since the last funeral

And already I fear

There may soon be another.

Will my employer be willing

To suspend their disbelief

In the cruelty of the Fates

And lend grudging credence to the notion

One family could be the seat

Of such frequent misfortune?

I cannot say

Only Time will tell

And I continue to offend

That elderly gentleman

Numbing my senses

Scrolling past the paltry nonsense

That passes for news

A political procurer of

Public opinion is protected

By his powerful protégé

After a very public breach of policy

Big whoop. Conservative tastes

Do not lend themselves to

Common causes. He’ll not swing

Unless someone else has something

Sleazier than he can sell

To buy themselves his job

Dead men’s shoes, don’t you know?

The anxiety mounts with each beep of the phone.

We are all waiting

Sick of this virus

And the dread

And the endless grind

Working from home

Trying to focus on the Big Picture

Alongside the minutiae

While kids run amuck in the background

Leap-frogging over the broken and unwanted objects

We can’t yet take to the tip

For a decent recycling

Attempts to home-school abandoned

In the face of reality

They are creating new patterns

In the junkyard of our

Once orderly home

While the pile of dirty clothes

Mounts ever higher

Overspilling the laundry basket.

We have an excuse

We have forgotten whose turn it is

To do chores

All days blurring together

In this strange world of lock-down

At first we were industrious

To a fault

Clearing the decks of any

Half-assed DIY projects

Every evening and weekend

Buying improbable shades

Of garden paint online

Two months in

It’s a matter of sheer chance

If we remember when to put

The bin out.

The phone vibrates with news

And as the hopeful message

Trickles down the airwaves

Past the sleep deprivation

Bypassing nostalgia tinged with fear

To sink slow, clawing relief

Into my foggy brain

I am alerted to a new sensation

The damp embrace of a child

Whose nap time has now

Exceeded their bladder control.

At once I am reminded

It must be a Tuesday.

Bugger.

The bin will have to wait another week.

Loneliness of the terminally challenged

I’ve got nostalgia for the way things weren’t
Aching out of every pore
Oozing and cruising and snoozing
A way around the darkened room
Humming lonely tunes to the dusty
Second-hand curtains
Striped ambition swaying in the draught
That strips the jangling nerves
From my fingers to the fingering of keys
Old style letters locked at arms’ length
Just in and out of awkward reach
Trying to find a balance
On a dented mattress
Elbows sore from shifting weight
Dusk ’til birdsong
Gloom lingers on the brow
Leaving lines from one ear to the other
Hoping to hold my cold cup of Joe at bay
With bayou blues rockin’ ‘n’ rollin’
Across the lonely 3am airwaves
Surrounded by the gently snoring chorus
Everyday keepsakes firmly rooted in reality
Strong stock piled in corners
Well-heeled feet nailed down
To their own groove
I am adrift, tethered by a fraying string
My mind prowling through its wonder-land
Howling a song for the moon

O, Camelot, Where Art Thou?

Everything is awful
And yet, we persevere
Leaving hope to poetry
To trundle on in fear

That one toe too far over
The party’s bread-crumb line
Makes weeding out dissenters
A mere matter of time

While power speaks for no man
And landed gentry frown
To battle one another
For the puppet-master’s crown

We’re plotting for a future
Most hope never to see
Still bargaining, unseated
And without a winner’s fee

But how to hold our assets
From the treasured hoarding trust
While shoring up economies
Still reeling from the bust
 
Can you perceive horizons
That might signal Finnish line?
I’m getting more myopic
Through these passages of time

And ravaged, lost and sleepless
With no comfort to be had
I’m all but feeling helpless
To prevent what drives us mad

External shadowed forces
May be mustering to lead
The ignorant through tripery
To see how Red we bleed

For driving all before us
While historic, still untrue
No plaudits for the chorus
Of Titanic bally-hoo

I’m not to know the answer
Though I wish, it is in vain
My child must be my Reason
For I voted to Remain

Inheritance

I write now with my father’s pen
Old steel has assumed my
Ragged pencil’s place
Smooth and worn in my
Calloused fingers.
Daughter at my breast
I remember my father’s stories
As my own swirl and foment
Beneath the creased brow
That is my other inheritance.
Not a gentle man, nor a good one
But a crafter of careful lines
Who spoke limited truth
To lasting effect.
What of him remains
But my own comfortable lies
Sweeter than fact, more palatable
Harder to deny than the
Elusive verisimilitude
Of others.

Zarafa, my love

With your tiny fingers and toes
Nails so sharp to rake new lines
In your young cheeks
With the fresh sensation
Of shock and awe
We welcome you to this place
Unknowing how to tell you
But with soft touches
Gentle words and careful
Rubs to soothe your stomach
As it navigates for the first time
Those aspects of life
That are harder to swallow
If we are not perfect
Trust us when we swear
We will try ever harder
To understand and be present
For and in all things
That matter to you
Please know that
You are wanted, and needed
And best of all,
You are loved

Snake Oil, Sass and Razzamatazz

I envy those women in the magazines
It goes back to something missing from my teens

Their white trouser, silk blouse lifestyle
When pimples and bad hair were my style

Do I deserve their barefoot walks on the beach
With a dog whose perm is out of my reach?

Can I emulate their effortless charm
In a climate where thick vests are the norm?

And as advertising copy is rife
Where do I sign up for their perfect life?

With a spouse who is polite to my mum
And a car that is the envy of some…

Or is that only alive on the page
While we sigh, we buy, but bicker and rage?

What has happened to us living the dream
In a home of painted white wood and cream?

How are we supposed to manage to burn
All the endless stuff they tell us to earn?

And as pensioners smile sweetly at kids
While their offspring bust a gut on the skids

Keeping families from floating away
Working harder, longer hours each day

For an ad campaigner, trainer, shamer
Knows no namer, public blamer

Never better, next trend setter
Panty wetter, promo debtor

How is this for living the dream
We grip tighter than our miracle cream?

Giraffe

What kind of world
Will you inhabit
Once we are gone?
Will it be one
Of your own choosing?
New landscapes built
To youthful specifications,
A virtual world, or
Precarious solidity shaped
From the concentration
Of old-fashioned
Children’s toys – perhaps even
Those blue-and-red-stained
Wooden blocks
Of my infancy?
Will our groaning,
Grown-up legacy
Of piecemeal policies,
Poor housing, health,
And knee-jerk reactions
To old threats,
Half-remembered
Leave you with
Too little freedom
And too much responsibility?
However our teachings
Soak into your bones
It will be your turn
To roll the dice
And seek advancement
Or oblivion.
I hope we leave you
Prepared
And with sufficient
Tools to survive
What is
And what is yet
To come.

Feathered Misfortune

What came first, the bird, or the egg?
Well, I spotted the dead pigeon on Monday night
As I was walking down the embankment
Trying not to breathe too many fumes
Still shivering from an over-chilled office
And shocked at the sight of mangled grey feathers,
A broken neck and damaged wings
I wondered if it had been hit by a vehicle
Or disorientated, had flown beak-first
Into a mirrored tower block
Before plummeting to the pavement below.
I had no answers. Nor did anyone seem
Too interested in the fate
Of an earthbound, flying sky-rat.
I walked home, pondering
The funeral rites of a feathered pest.
The next day, passing the other way
I saw it was still there.
Must have been missed by the road sweepers
Or deliberately ignored as someone else’s problem.
That evening, Tuesday after work
I felt sure someone would have mentioned it
And had the bird disposed of
But no.
Nudged off the pavement into the gutter
At the side of the road
Still a crumpled heap. Grey feathers dirty
From the road dust and oil residue.
I walked on.
By Wednesday evening, the bird was gone.
This morning, I took a different route to work
Staying on the bus to the museum
Then walking the few blocks North to the river.
As I passed under a bridge, I saw an egg
Shell cracked, yolk scattered on the ground
Dirty down feathers floating
While trains rattled above, shaking the shadows
A lone pigeon fluttered overhead
As if mourning their loss.

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.

A Little Number

Before I was born
Just a twinkle
In the universe
Of possibilities

Reflected in eyes
Both bluest grey
And olive green
Did you know me?

Or was the I of me
And mine all one to you?
My seedling promised,
But unplanned

Was a meeting of
Hearts and minds
Foretold in song
To bardic strains

Or merely Cast
Upon the plain and
Simple lines
That sprang and pranced

This two-fold dance
Of fire and ice
Your foreign couplings
Kept apart

By Mother Earth
Who did not dream
Of feelings torn
From the widening

Womb-like walls
And shallow shores
Of an underground
Kingdom

Nuts and Colonels
Carried away
With crowns of pine,
From slender hopes

To careful, caring
Tender traps in
Wadded cotton
Whose snoring sheets

Wedded Pluto’s
Darker dreams to
Persephone’s Oblivion
Before there was me