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.

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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.

Bobbing for pips

I am approaching the threshold of my grief
That dismal dawn where words break –
Fast over stale feelings
Like waves on a rock-ridden shore.
This stilled tongue tunes no trills for sorrow,
Sigh-chapped lips, no plosive feasts
But my ragged pen thirsts
For consonants, vowels
Forming words, eyes closed,
Half-asleep, I drift,
Tossed upon the foam
As one who drowns for air
And breathes only memory.

Can’t you hear the melody?

Taste the words to hear it play
They’ll teach you how to hum
Feel the sound that waves its way
To ears from tip of tongue
Balance rhythm on your nib
And flick the blues away
Scrawling rhyme to rock the crib
With beats that pulse and sway
Baby in her daddy’s arms
Can only coo and squeal
Taking in all worldly forms
She’s learning fast by feel
We watch her tiny fingers, toes
Exploring as we speak
And note her mastery that grows
Progressing with each week
Accelerate articulation
Let her tell us soon
What kick-starts mad coordination
Of her stars and moon

Musical Chères

Searching for my roots
Through old records
I pause, ears cocked
For my muscle memory
Awaiting the right decade
Simon and Garfunkel
Soothe my silences
Leonard Cohen for my
Loneliest of nights
Lucio Dalla nostalgia
Juliette Greco and Piaf
For flights of fancy
Childhood Winters in Paris
With a pianist thumping
Square-toed rhythms
Ballet port-de-bras
Watery arpeggios to mock
High arches, pale faces
Pink noses and blue lips
With Tchaikovsky diluted
We shivered on the parquet
In a sea of legs and faces
Sprung floors and tall mirrors
Threw our joint grimace
To the feeble footwork
Of the adults at the barre
Then Fleetwood Mac’s
Rhiannon echoes past
The jazz records listing
To the left of the top shelf
And as the sound swells
I raise my hands, start to turn
Eyes closed, I dance
Delighted that for once,
Nobody is watching

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.

Losing my mind

I’m sure I left it somewhere
Underneath the bush we planted
Sweet smell of lavender
To cover the gap in the fence

Back before I met you
In a dim-lit bar in Manchester
Dripping with adventure
Now a lifetime ago

Perhaps it’s just hidden
Down behind the sofa cushions
Huddled between the gathered dust
And your key to the Peugeot

On top of the wardrobe
Sleeping in a hatbox
Full of moth-eaten gloves
With my wedding handkerchief

Beneath the kitchen cabinets
Disguised by its companions
A wandering teaspoon and
Some pea-escapees

It’ll turn up again
You say with that
Bad-penny certitude
I have come to expect

Until then I have you
Who lie to my face
In an attempt at conviction
Of my undiscovered brilliance

Belonging

Le déjeuner prêt dans ma tête
Je sors, l’éstomac toujours vide.
Le mémoire m’aide plus à m’en
Souvenir des choses dont j’ai été
béni de connaître pendant la vie.
Ce vie, ma vie.
J’ai perdu le fil, et d’un coup
Tout la toile s’etouffe.
Les ficelles étant autant confusés
Que tout l’histoire est ruiné.
Mon histoire en ruines!
Je ne sais plus comment y’en croire.
Il me manquent les preuves,
les petits aides-memoires
Où sont-les?  Je me sens seule.
Le monde m’entourne avec ses
Médecins, ses hôpitaux, ses maris,
Ses enfants, ses routines…
Et je le reconnais de moins en moins.
Chaque jour, à chaque pas,
Il est nouveau, le tout.
Et j’y appartiens plus.

Tea for one

I hum a mournful tune, sat amid my geranium pots, on a European balcony, years ago. The beauty of the minor key, sweet in its infinite sadness, pleases me, and I feel somehow included in its nocturnal fumblings. I too have known loss, felt pain, loved where none was to be had in return, and in my imperfect cadences, I taste of the sublime. I swing my arms and legs in the warm breeze, perched on the high-backed kitchen chair, its wicker seat creaking under my shifting weight. The sound, as if on a small boat, gently rising and falling with the swell of my melody, prompts me to look up at the stars. Their twinkling pinpricks wink back at me in turn. The cooling tea I slurp and the chink of the mug as it chips against the concrete balustrade remind me that we are fragile, yet fluid. An ever-changing puzzle, shifting from time to time to keep up with the pace of this universal dance. I am in rhythm, and yet out of it. Touched by visions of truth and forms lacking in substance, I drift through my lazy daily routine, pausing to concentrate on such mentally taxing activities as shaving my legs and to admire the fleeting brilliance of newly applied toenail polish.