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.

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Flounce, Fluff and Flattery

There is a world of difference
Between those who seek the
Company of women
To bask in it
Hanging on their every thought
As one transported
By the beauty
Of a strange and fantastical mind
And those who fancy
A quick in-and-out
Ego-boost before
Zipping their feelings,
Upping sticks and moving on
To the next conquest.

The difference is obvious
Even to the most casual observer:
One is the stuff of
Fantasy and freedom
Of late-night talks
And deep discussions
Long philosophising over
Personal projections
Maybe with a bit of
Barefoot dancing
And a casual pinch of laughter
Thrown in for good measure.

On encountering the other,
I will take the lonely
High road to nowhere
Hiking in stupid, pretty,
Too-tight shoes
Risking my own skin
To preserve sanity
Rather than share transportation,
Food or drink
In exchange for temporary
Flat-footed flattery
With bondage-grade
Strings attached.

I enjoy womanisers
Who enjoy women
In all their complexity,
But have no time
For bed-notch chasing
Egotists with
Straw for brains
And cloth for ears.

Battle of the Bands

‘What does music mean?’ I asked
The day you demanded to know
Which bands I liked,
What songs I knew by heart
What right I had to hold you?
The darker tones you rationed me
Those reserved for seduction
Sent delicious spinal shivers
As you so righteously accused
Me of musical treachery.
Standing in the rain by the bus stop
People looking us up and down
We stood like strangers, past-less
Wild hair blowing across your glasses
Peering into my face to try to
See how I might fit into your
Careful constructed fantasy
Defiant in your metal tee and boots
I smiled at your adherence to these
Uptight social conventions.
Unblinking, I considered my response
As if there were a wrong answer
Forming on my tongue.
I knew your little lover’s heart
Was restless, wanting to trade bedfellows
You were so obvious, waiting
For my careless chosen gift
Lovingly bestowed by
Another doting devotee of
Bad boys in black jeans;
A perfect excuse for you
To end whatever strange
Fantasy we were living.
I could see the angry words
Taking final form in your
Deep brown eyes, watch you
Later, sat in the comfort
Of your local haunt, The Bush
Surrounded by bandmates
And potential conquests
Younger and dumber than I.
‘She just didn’t get me, man’
You would say, accompanied by
An obligatory eye-roll,
Well-rehearsed, and all
Would sympathise
Pouring cheap words and
Libations. ‘Drink of us’
While First Year Goths
Bat heavy lashes and
Casually bounce off the beat,
Showing their interest.
Alas, the musician’s daughter saw
All this and still felt minded to foil
Your planned escape with a trick.
Ignoring her eidetic recall
You didn’t know how to respond
To cry or to laugh
As I sang all your favourite tunes
Word-perfect, as always.

Parting Shots

Time stands still for none of us
And we were no exception
To make the best of fading lust
Ignoring your deception

Pretending things were perfect
We continued as before
As friends asked ‘is he worth it?’
Buddies set you up to score

That holiday near did for us;
Your family’s reception
On meeting me with much distrust
And little circumspection

Our boundaries were shifting
As I fought to keep my poise
My blinkers slowly lifting
To expose what truly was

With eyes that winced on meeting
Other women by the score
Full knowing that a greeting
Would uncover even more

We cursed each others’ choices
In the misery of loss
Until no amount of voices
Arguing the bloody toss

Could persuade me that I wanted
To accept the proffered shaft:
Wait the rest of life, undaunted,
Sat there, dreaming of the past

Thus a truce of sorts was drawn up
By the time we’d caught our breath
Though both of us were torn up
Crushed by every little death

Come the end, I felt responsible
For any pain you brought me
While accepting as inevitable
All the things you’d taught me

Daydreamer

Not for me
Such Heathcliff tales
No bodice-ripper
Do I crave

I’ll not succumb
To doe-eyed slave
I thirst for more
Than hero-brave

An aspiration
Of romance
In modern times
Has not much chance

Of blossoming
To fruitful lust
Amid this dance
Of little trust

We feel our way
From bed to desk
And sleep en route
Deprived of rest

So few our moments
And well-spaced
No thunderbolt
Mid rat-filled race

But gaze at fellows
As we pass
Their eyes as cold
And hard as glass

Where nothing tender
Is betrayed
We human souls
Are yet afraid

The loneliness
That seeps through cracks
Means even couples
Can’t relax

For mated, settled
Set-up well
We miss what first attracts;
The smell

And nostrils flaring
Leave the nest
Searching for
More fun, less rest

What is exotic
Fuels our dreams
Thus life unravels
At the seams

The Balancing Act

We cram them in
All sorts and types
And show them ‘sin’
Dressed up in tights

A high wire tale
Of bird and bee
The truth is veiled
For all to see

She tiptoes out
Along the line
With parasol
Come rain or shine

And does her pretty
Pantomime
To show the world
She’s doing fine

The rose she throws
To rows of seats
A thorny trick
For kids whose sweets

Still stain the hands
The cheek, the lip
That pales to see
This vision slip

As feathers flutter
To the floor
The wire dips
The girl no more

Is perched upon
Her roosting place
But safe below
And in disgrace

J-Epic

Jennifer made such a pact with her John,
swore that their love would live on and anon
together they’d dwell, in some cottage on high
but little she knew that her pact was a lie.

For John had another, a charming young gel,
with whom, as it happened, he too’d vowed to dwell:
Poor sweet Josephine was barely out of school
but well-versed in the art of turning men to fools.

She’d wrapped John around like a bandage on thumb.
Jenny could do nothing, but feel rather glum,
as of this attachment, her John had stayed mum;
so being a bright girl, she chose to have fun.

Jen went to a party, dressed all in her best.
The music was loud, and so were all the guests.
Such boisterous antics you never did see
as what passed for dancing at Jenny’s party.

Now Jo was frustrated, she’d heard of this soiree,
but John wouldn’t take her, she swore he’d be sorry.
As she raved and she ranted, dear John got an inkling
that Jo wasn’t quite the sweet flow’r he’d been thinking.

So John took a leaf from a book known to all
womankind whose minds turn as from summer to fall,
and he called up his Jenny, but got quite a fright
when a deep voice responded – and after midnight!

Now Jake was a boxer – quite muscled and mean.
He looked fierce, but treated our Jen like a queen.
He revelled in taking her out on the town,
and showing her off in her best evening gown.

It happened one night that the foursome did meet
and awkwardly stood for a while in the street,
while Jo sized up Jenny, and John stared at Jake,
until Jake whispered low – now that runt I could take!

Just give me the word, Jenny dear, and ’tis done.
This fool should have kept you as his number one,
but he preferred flat-chested chit over there –
the one still in pigtails, who waxes her hair.

But Jenny said shush with a smile and a laugh.
What’s done is now done, no need for a bloodbath.
He’s seen what he’s missing – and for the last time.
Now let us move on – weren’t we going to dine?

The couple swept off in their silks and their furs,
and John saw his Jen finally had got hers.
He turned to see Jo with her face turning pink
clearly about to let fly with some stink.

But instead of attempting to stem her mid-flow,
John just gave a sigh as he turned round to go,
and Jo stood astounded to see that her fit
was being ignored by dear John – what a git!

So put out was our young miss by male restraint
that she flagged down a taxi and left John to paint
the town red on his own, for she cared not a bit
that her leaving was dumping him right in the shit.

For Jo’s mother had taught her, while still in the cot,
that while young, there’d be more fish to catch with a yacht.
So Jo set to fishing, and this with a will,
and John was left high, dry, and feeling quite ill.

A portrait of the artist from memory

The langorous lids, drooping softly over his twinkling, tired eyes, and that mischievous grin, wryly twisting the lips as his tongue darts out to enter the silent debate.

How did I ever stand a chance? With one plaintive eyebrow I had lost the argument, all thoughts of resistance winging their way to hardier climes.

He looks up, and I feel my heart leap into my mouth, ready to fall at his feet. What a world I find in that face, one glance and I am forever undone.

Oh how I both bless and rue the day I ever laid eyes on you.

Song of the mistress

I wait by the phone for your ring.
It’s foolish, but here is the thing.
Although you have her and life isn’t so tough
It seems even perfect girls aren’t enough.

Why lie to yourself on your wedding day’s eve?
If you truly loved me, it’s her you would leave.
But somehow you’ve woven this web to suit you –
Get to marry the cake, but you still eat me too!

I love you too much to demand that we wed.
So it’s her with the ring, but me in your bed.
Just how did things go so surprisingly wrong?
I gave you my heart to be trampled upon.

You love me, admit it! I see that you do.
In hiding the truth, who’re you fooling? Guess who!
She’ll hate you for lying and leading her on.
But she’ll win in the end: If you love me, be strong!

The honeymoon’s over, she’s pregnant, you say?
Well my deepest condolences. Now, go away!
You have quite some nerve waltzing back here to me
After three weeks of sun, sand and sex by the sea.

What am I doing? How did we get here?
In love and adultery nothing is fair!
Now three children later you’re out on your ear
And trying to crawl back to me now, I fear.

True love lasts a lifetime, yes, this much I know.
Or I would have shown you the door long ago.
So my hands are tied, why, what else could I do?
I’m finally getting to grow old with you!