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.

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

We Try To Tame The Earth

Plough it, plant it, pile it up
This element we base life on
And shape to shelter what in fact
Was never ours to build upon

And yet we seek to stake our claim
Invent new names for landscaping
To show we’re clever and we’re staying
More important under heaven

Though making mud-pies said enough
We add our words – legitimise
Earth Mother sounds a lot less rough
Than bitch, doe, hen or dam. The prize

For overcoming nature’s raw
And unassuming cycled year
Producing rare fruits more and more
In ways our kids may learn to fear

Is profit for the prudent man
With arms outstretched to grab the loot
We pillage what were gifts from land
We’ve learned to grind beneath our boot

But Earth’s enduring, will remain
In spite of all we hope to do
Our efforts futile, all in vain
Compared with when the Earth was new

Mere upstarts, mayflies, we shall prove
And soon enough we will be gone
As forestry reclaims the roof
Civilisation built upon

The surface Adam barely trod
If we believe the word of Man
Whose hand was guided not by God
But greed for what he would attain

What lessons learned at Mother’s knee
Of how much plenty may procure
As Earth comes after currency
We set our hearts on more and more
Originally posted on Poem Pigeon 30th October 2013

Rediscovering myself

I am looking for the joy that sang in the world
When I wore out my hand-me-down shoes
Saving my fare and walking home
Through Portuguese neighbourhoods
Listening for conversations
Whose words tasted foreign on my tongue

I can almost remember
Watching the sky grow dark with cloud
Anticipating lightening playing
Across high Victorian windows
As voices droned at the edge of hearing
From my seat on the mat

I am sure it may be found somewhere
This sense of wonder, just out of sight
Perhaps around the next corner
If I can hold to optimism
Grit my teeth in a rictus grin
And let tired bones carry me onward

I may see myself reflected in memory
Surely I am stood there waiting
Perched on a doorstep, just out of sight
Down a dusk-dusted alley
Outside the daily grind-you-down
Of this commuter-belt world we inhabit

Where yesterday’s news is recycled, repurposed,
Shrunk to fit the typeface and house style
Even opinions can be retrofitted
For safety’s sake, toned down to win arguments
Bland, dulled to match our senses
Sleepwalking through middle age

While violence echoes around the chambers
Of our video games, our online escape
The falsehood in which we lurk, concealing our true faces
With old images, carefully posed
Retouched for personal vanity and public use
Long before fine lines trailed roadmaps across our skin

Meaningless arguments abound across the Twittersphere
While the atmosphere of the living room
Takes second place and we sit, heads in our screens
Commuting our sentence, communing with contemporaries
To the whine of an air conditioning unit
And the slow, but certain death of adulthood

Who are these selfie-prone, entitled shadows?
I bite down on their tales
Squaring the circle, trend-bucking
In this year’s Melancholy
Today I will be wearing blue once again
Practising mindlessness, in search of me

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

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!

Cue to Queue

What is the proper etiquette
For declining to bypass security
Measures by walking through
Perspex barriers two-by-two?
I don’t recall, but forcing the issue
By swiping your card made me
Choose – to hesitate and lock
Us both out, or to cheat
And leave you too little time
To cross the line and make it
To the toilet. In my defence
The cat woke me at 4am
Breaking through the bedroom
Door, my lunch leaked in my
Handbag, forcing me to alter
My commute, omitting the exercise
Portion of the early part of my day
So I was barely awake
And very keen to pee
Somewhere other than the
Carpeted corridor. In short, true
Gallantry’s all very well, but
Don’t do it again.
My bladder may not support
The dilemma.

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.