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

Shy at retirement

The happy ex-executive
Is finished with their woes –
May quaff another malt
When curling up with slippered toes
Can sit and read the papers
Take his breakfast pipe in bed
And when the press come calling, say
‘Ask someone else, instead!’

The happy ex-executive
Has set his suits aside
To walk the dog in comfort
With no other plans to hide
The boardroom doesn’t matter
As he mutters through his day
No longer forced to listen
To the nonsense some might say

The happy ex-executive
Has time to count his chicks
Now grown and flown and flapping hard
For mortar board and bricks
He sits and sips his coffee
That no secretary bears
And wonders why the future
Hangs so often round his ears

The happy ex-executive
Now pastured and put out
The boredom that keeps looming
Moulds his frown into a pout
At four a.m. deciding
That enough’s enough, ‘tis done
It’s time to join a panel;
Find some new oblivion

The happy ex-executive
No longer sees himself
As more than the reflection
Over mantle, mirrored wealth
And what was it he wanted
When he first took on the role
But to see himself rewarded
For team efforts, on the whole

The happy ex-executive
Is feeling somewhat lost
Unsure that it was worth it
Pensioned off as ‘managed cost’
The marks of market forces
Take a little time to fade
But happy ex-executive’s
Already got it made

Whatever

Whatever gives us closure
Whatever sets it right
Whatever helps to soothe the fear
Or make it through the night
Whatever little gesture
However small or shy
Is what provokes the beast in you
And pacifies the “Why?”
Whatever covers hunger
When anger slakes our thirst
Whatever makes us wonder
Who came up with it first
Whatever files the edges
Not sanding us too raw
But reinforcing boundaries
Well-tested from before
Whatever is an answer
Whatever doesn’t hurt
Whatever leaves us calmer
A sprinkling of dirt
Whatever takes you over
With every nasty prod
Until whatever’s left to see’s
Between yourself and sod.

Literacy

It’s been a while
Since I felt the pull
Of an empty page
My callous has softened
The ink-stain dulled
To a faded bruise
As if this were not
A tattoo
Of my own design
The leaking pen
And over-tight grip
Leftovers from childhood training
As emotions spill out
Between the lines
To blur their way
Toward the clarity of words
Where thoughts begin to take shape
And letters form
Exposing my inner turmoil
With the cool logic
Of too many cups of coffee
Too little sleep
And an over-abundance of sugared memory
I return to the paper and pen
A criminal haunting
The same scenes
Scribbled by heart
Until I am cleansed
And nothing
Not the rain in August
Nor my endless nostalgia
Can keep me down.

Insomniac

I stayed up hanging on the line last night
My eyeballs were putting up a terrible fight
With my lids defiant and the screen too bright
Skin so itchy in pyjamas, something wasn’t right

With the tablet scrolling, tapping black on grey
Skimming lousy fan fiction ‘til the break of day
Guilty pleasures to distract me from this state of play
Knowing all too well what he would have to say

I’ve been lounging round in bubble baths to help me snooze
With late night meditating, self-hypnosis, pills and booze
Relaxation seems an ever more elusive muse
Necking Nytol, chugging camomile but no good news

Been a long time now since I couldn’t sleep
Keeping busy, feeling dizzy ‘til the clock goes beep
Waking dreams so crammed with thoughts that slither dark and deep
Just keep walking through the daylight feeling ready to weep

When your brain won’t slow and your ears won’t close
And you’re feeling sort of coldy from your head to your toes
No hot toddy makes you noddy, as the restless grows
Squirming prone beneath the duvet in your sleeping clothes

But the minute you stretch to find your feet again
He starts complaining in his sleep and clutching at your hem
As his snoring fills your senses and you pray for REM
You’re still stuck playing teddy while you count to ten

Sick of sheep that wander wooly through your neural net
As you lie caught between ‘it’s bed-time’ and ‘not-breakfast-yet’
Swearing blue streaks in the curtains trying to forget
It’s been an hour since you last visited the cabinet

Essential oils to make you sleepy getting in your face
With the stink of lavender all over the place
Singing whales offend the cat but buy you no more grace
He steals the pillow, sprawling fur in every inch of space

When the sun comes sneaking through the soggy dawn
You’ve given up on any rest; just put your knickers on
Stumble downstairs grumbling looking pale and wan
Bag grabbed, you’re lurching to the bus stop with the zombie throng

Vocational Draining

Hereditary traits
Insomnia, for one
With poor examples set
By siblings, dad and mum

A workaholic way
As conscience trips and taunts
The child that cannot play
At unproductive sports

The tendency to take
On tasks as yet unbid
Anxiety to shake
With tired limbs and head

It dulls the senses well
Self-medicated, thus
Until few feelings spill
To interrupt her thoughts

Her duties, she won’t shirk
It marks her one of us
She drags herself to work
Eyes closed upon the bus

The Insomniac

I leave the light on, late at night,
I don’t quite dare to face the night.
Leaping from the floor to bed
In case some creature grabs a leg.
For who can tell what lies beneath
Childhood terrors cause much grief
And only morning brings relief from
Witches, Goblins, Vampire teeth.
I close the curtains, windows, door,
Yet leave a light on down the hall.
I cross my fingers, sneak a peep,
Hold my breath and pray for sleep.
The windows rattle, floorboards creak,
The wardrobe holds demonic sheep
Whose glowing eyes are keeping watch,
Counting seconds, ‘mid my socks.
I’ve hated bedtime all my life.
I rarely sleep, but feel the knife,
The cold sweat trickling down my spine,
My sister’s snoring – sleeping fine.
And yet I daren’t drift myself,
Fearful of some vile elf.
Reading, writing, all night long,
Drawing pictures, whispering songs,
Anything I can devise
To keep from closing these tired eyes
Until at last the morning’s come, and,
Gentle saviour, brought the sun.
Then at last my watch will end,
Trusting in my faithful friend
Who watches me from day to day
And holds my demons all at bay:
Light will keep my dreams quite pure,
So I may fall to sleep once more.