Trade Burdens

Put your shoes to one side,
Turn around
Open your eyes
Then remove the blindfold
Really open them
What can you see?
Is it a pretty picture
One you would hang
On a bedroom wall
To gaze upon
Each broken dawn
Or one you would bury
Deep in an album
Kept in a box
Under the bed
Dusty with disuse
Only to see the light
When grandkids visit
At some idyllic future time
Of tolerance and teaching
That is yet to come
And may never happen?
Truth be told
It doesn’t matter.
Whatever your vantage point
Gender, skin tone, genetics,
You see things
As you see yourself
And feel excluded
From any grouping
You view as ‘other’.
This is life
(Or something like it)
Your experience
Will not match
That of those ‘others’
Nor theirs, yours.
We are all different
And empathy is not
Experience.
That certain knowledge
Of the unknown,
The unknowable
Could be our strength
But differences also
Divide us
One from the ‘other’.
Those who would understand
Take it further
Try to get closer
To forbidden wisdom
Fail in their attempt
For alas!
We cannot truly
Experience ‘otherness’.
Plato’s cave all over again
Nothing but shadows
Elusive and unfeeling.
We are not all filled
With benign curiosity
Hardly surprising.
For those whose world view
Does not admit equality
It only ends in tears,
Accusations,
Mimicry, farce,
Inappropriate
Cultural appropriation
Labels, stereotypes,
Profiling.
So what do we make of it
This unfathomable ‘otherness’?
Racism, misogyny, xenophobia
Fear of the unknown
Misunderstanding
Embarrassment and even
Murderous hatred.
The persistent among us
Keep picking at scabs
So old wounds fester
To the point of eruption
Irritated by irrational isolationists
Lodestone
To the bitter iron
Of bad blood
Drawing down ire like
Hera in her lousy marriage
Choreographed blame
Detracting from the culpable
To the scapegoat.
Bringing forth bolts
Of heavenly fire
Raining misery
Down upon us
All mere mortals
And still we stand divided
Our own ugliness comes to the fore
Humans racing
Competing for each burden
Losing face and patience
Fraying, unhappy peace
As we ignore our ignorance
Setting aside compassion
For righteous bigotry
Small-minded acts of defiance
Banner waving, street fighting.
Fail Army?
Too bloody right!

 

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.

Brain, baby! Brain!

Curse these hormones
They make me cry
More for the plight
Of others – for kindness
At joy, or pain,
Or seemingly nothing
Than any worst of mine
Experience of life to date
How can I tell my eyes
To shed no tears
For those who die by fire
For those who risk
Both life and limb
To save another’s child
I cannot make myself
Immune to the suffering
Of animals, women, children
Nor even violent, middle-aged,
Mercenary misogynists
Whose words belie their actions
What are these thoughts?
These feeling of unexpected
And even unwelcome
Compassion for all things
All creatures, living and dead
Even mosquitoes, crushed
For being as they are
My bleeding heart would nurse
What good is such weakness
Am I now infirm of purpose
So blind to the darker side
Of human nature
That I would embrace it
Heedless of my own
And others’ safety?

Musings on a bus

Are the lions drinking or drowning today?
And what sort of whimsy may come into play?
If I skip the long walk and get carried away
By a piper whose horn touts – fat ladies, wahey?!
Do I find inside mercy, or terrible pride?
Am I fearful of friends from whose habits I hide?
Is there just cause to question the ways we go wild?
Or conceal what we feel to keep on in our stride?
With a pace at once terrible, tortuous, slow
We make progress an inch at a time, so we grow
And though others may ask us – do they want to know?
How we got where we’re planning to stay when they go?
I cannot give an answer – my answer is no
Guarantee of it working for anyone, so
Do not plead my response – I don’t do it to show
To the world: mine – the best
Way to reap what you sow.

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

Counter Culture Cafe

The place where the antisocial
Gather to be alone
Each claiming a four-seat table
As space they can call their own.

We read, write and sip in silence
Observing our counterparts
Affronted by vocal violence
Where chattering children pass

I’m nearing the end of one cup
But pause while another stands
It wouldn’t be fair to counter
The pull of their drink demands

So queueing for table service
I duck to avoid the eye
Of waitress who makes me nervous
By bussing a bench nearby

We know those we see here often
But only on nodding terms
Some barriers never soften
And hand-shaking passes germs

Anxiety takes no notice
With all interactions dear
We pass out our days in closeness
And try to ignore our fear

We’re hardly inventing lonely
Though solitude equals peace
And we are our one and only
Unlikely to breed – we’ll cease

It isn’t a cause for wonder
That our generation stalls
When clearing one’s throat is thunder
Too sensitive for applause

And here in our counter culture
We’re safe from the fond embrace
We run from our awkward feelings
Too late to be in the race.

We three kings

What can I give you
But words from my lips
A breath for your lungs
The breadth of my hips

To feed you and clothe you
And shelter you there
Our hope for the future
Small star that we share

In misunderstandings
All foster more strife
Too coy for the joy
Of a conflict-free life

No formal pronouncements
Of greatness to be
We limit announcements
To those we can see

In feeble concealment
Until you are grown
We’d raise you for strength
A mind of your own

And watching your progress
Will whisper as one
The charms that may comfort
Your sorrows to come

With hands in my pockets
Concealing all pain
I’d walk through the desert
To find you again

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

Dieu et mon droit

La marche de l’extrème
Droit-gauche, droit-gauche
Chaque pas frappe le terre
Agaçant l’Europe

En train de convaincre
Les gens de leur peur
À fin de rappeler
À la foule la Terreur

Qu’il saurait ce soir
S’armer, dirigée
Persuader l’armée
De se reveiller

Et cracher par terre
La voie retrouver
Droit-gauche, droit-gauche
Vers le pouvoir du Pays

Attendant Needs

The man who cleans the ladies’ toilet
Tries to stay invisible
Knowing he’s unwelcome, and
His job is somehow risible

An overflowing bin too ripe
With gravid, bloody stink
The stains that form behind the pipe
The vomit in the sink

The woman who mops out the gents’
Is handy with her fists
As banging on the cubicles
Helps lovers to resist

Temptations of a toilet dweller
Keen to wet their beak
With sins of flesh on offer
Even seasoned will’s too weak

Where users of facilities
One tries hard to forget
Don’t pass too close, as ill at ease
Our bladders we regret

And silent in our tinklings
Groans and grunts are magnified
Graffiti grows in sprinklings
Where we defecate inside