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.

Biting baby blues

We’re rocking teeth
More shocking news
Our shoes won’t fit
Our socks we lose

We climb as high
As we can reach
And make the most
Unholy screech

We don’t sit still
May throw our food
And roll around
When in a mood

With grabby hands
And strong-willed walk
The vulnerable
We now stalk

That thing you smell…
Our butt don’t lie
Some nose-to-mattress
Lullaby

If you want sleep
You’d best be dead
Small half-moons mark
The path ahead

And will we tire
Or do as told?
Hell no! We’re just
As good as gold!

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.

The one man band

Drums his heels on carpet tiles
And sucks his teeth in rictus smiles
While stirring soup with clinking spoon
And slurping tea all afternoon

He hums and taps upon the desk
And clears his throat, his sinus, chest
Expectorating ’til he’s blue
And colleagues ask if he’s quite through

But no, the show is scarce begun
He cocks a cheek and fires a gun
And squealing gases fill the room
To signal choral coughing soon

As he counts in one last encore
The yawning stretch with gaping maw
He dons his coat and hurries hence
Oblivious to audience

Five to five

They’re dropping like flies
As the plague sweeps the ranks
Rows of workstations empty
While telephone banks

Ring loud through the silence
And gathering gloom
As Thursday-night callers
Take turns round the room

One lone operator
Soon pales at the noise
And grasps at the handset
With grimace in place

For over-mic’d trawlers
That given the choice
She’d give neither date
Time, directions, nor voice

It’s almost the hour
That her shift’s at an end
But one final nuisance
Is waiting to rend

The last of her sanity
Ripped down the wire
Complaining injustices
Crude, uninspire

No longer the patience
To handle such groans
She’s wanting her bed
And an end to all ‘phones

Noisy neighbour

Bang! The childish adult kicks the ball
It Bang! shakes the fence Bang! and
Scatters the Bang! birds from their
Treetop nests. Bang! He is bored, this
Bang! boy child whose body out Bang!
Grew his mind un Bang! til he was
Shut inside Bang! with the other misfits.
Bang! The rose petals fall Bang! covering
The Bang! grass with their Bang! broken
Blossoms. Bang! The nurse calls to
Bang! shake him from where Bang! ever
It is he Bang! goes when the mood to
Bang! kick has over Bang! taken his
Desire to bounce Bang! on the squeaky trampoline
Or Bang! to pee on the syca Bang! more
Tree asserting his Bang! dominance over
Bang! deceitful foliage that Bang!
Whispers secrets Bang! for only his
Bang! ears. Twenty seven. A
Magic square. I wonder if he knows…

Bang!

A Dedication

To those who flirt in quiet carriage
Never realizing the marriage
Witless, stupid, sally forth
Stumbling like pigs in trough
Blind to what we watchers know.
Deaf to sense and subtext-slow,
They chatter on, they fail to hear
The silent screams of these two ears.