Zarafa, my love

With your tiny fingers and toes
Nails so sharp to rake new lines
In your young cheeks
With the fresh sensation
Of shock and awe
We welcome you to this place
Unknowing how to tell you
But with soft touches
Gentle words and careful
Rubs to soothe your stomach
As it navigates for the first time
Those aspects of life
That are harder to swallow
If we are not perfect
Trust us when we swear
We will try ever harder
To understand and be present
For and in all things
That matter to you
Please know that
You are wanted, and needed
And best of all,
You are loved

Feathered Misfortune

What came first, the bird, or the egg?
Well, I spotted the dead pigeon on Monday night
As I was walking down the embankment
Trying not to breathe too many fumes
Still shivering from an over-chilled office
And shocked at the sight of mangled grey feathers,
A broken neck and damaged wings
I wondered if it had been hit by a vehicle
Or disorientated, had flown beak-first
Into a mirrored tower block
Before plummeting to the pavement below.
I had no answers. Nor did anyone seem
Too interested in the fate
Of an earthbound, flying sky-rat.
I walked home, pondering
The funeral rites of a feathered pest.
The next day, passing the other way
I saw it was still there.
Must have been missed by the road sweepers
Or deliberately ignored as someone else’s problem.
That evening, Tuesday after work
I felt sure someone would have mentioned it
And had the bird disposed of
But no.
Nudged off the pavement into the gutter
At the side of the road
Still a crumpled heap. Grey feathers dirty
From the road dust and oil residue.
I walked on.
By Wednesday evening, the bird was gone.
This morning, I took a different route to work
Staying on the bus to the museum
Then walking the few blocks North to the river.
As I passed under a bridge, I saw an egg
Shell cracked, yolk scattered on the ground
Dirty down feathers floating
While trains rattled above, shaking the shadows
A lone pigeon fluttered overhead
As if mourning their loss.

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.

A Little Number

Before I was born
Just a twinkle
In the universe
Of possibilities

Reflected in eyes
Both bluest grey
And olive green
Did you know me?

Or was the I of me
And mine all one to you?
My seedling promised,
But unplanned

Was a meeting of
Hearts and minds
Foretold in song
To bardic strains

Or merely Cast
Upon the plain and
Simple lines
That sprang and pranced

This two-fold dance
Of fire and ice
Your foreign couplings
Kept apart

By Mother Earth
Who did not dream
Of feelings torn
From the widening

Womb-like walls
And shallow shores
Of an underground
Kingdom

Nuts and Colonels
Carried away
With crowns of pine,
From slender hopes

To careful, caring
Tender traps in
Wadded cotton
Whose snoring sheets

Wedded Pluto’s
Darker dreams to
Persephone’s Oblivion
Before there was me

Last one standing

When they came by
For a cupful of sugar
Took my old man
And waltzed over the hill

I was still standing
Polishing silver
Gonna be standing
Forever, until…

Next time a caller
I’d hoped would be smaller
Tripped on her doorstep
Got carried away

I was still standing
To see to a Mother
Gonna keep standing
Another long day

One time you told me
That things never mattered
Half the amount I
Pretended to say

I was still standing
Alone with no lover
Not understanding
Which words made you stay

Then they came by
With a warrant for searching
Hoping to find
What I’d hidden away

I was still standing
In need of your comfort
No one to hear me
And nothing to say

Turn from the shadows
If you fear to follow
All those who greet us
And pass on their way

I am still standing
Myself and no other
One day I’ll falter
But never today

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.

HarMonica

Why is it the ‘other’ woman
Brings us out in rash hysterics
Howling at the moral failings
Of our politicians? Clerics,

Parents, teachers, doctors, shrinks
All united in their hatred
Of a figure that still stinks
Clad in pot pourri de tabloid

That blue dress, evocative:
Events that should be long forgotten
(Youthful indiscretions hid)
Provocative, with gains ill-gotten

We suspect and we accuse –
Cynical, the cuckold’s friend
And tap out mindless platitudes.
While vain, her struggles to defend

What shreds of reputation, scorched
And tattered to her yet remain;
We gather up our pitch and forks
And stoke the pyre once again

Anticipating further fun
Rough justice for another’s slight
We gather at suggestion
She might escape unhappy flight

Delighted at the sacrifice
Of one more soul to unjust mob
Let he without sin cast the first
(So many more the crowd will lob)

In brave hypocrisy at what
No doubt too many may have done
Themselves and not been hotly caught
Entrapment by ambition

Pilloried or harried hence
Built to take a desperate dive
Fashioned into common, dense
Unfit for consort, Saints alive!

The very thought a woman wronged
Who made a choice that haunts her still
Might be allowed to face the throng
And live down public shaming? Ill

At ease with those she counted on
Whose turncoat ways still cause distress;
We won’t allow her to move on
And rake old muck to make new mess.

What is it we hope to gain
Constructing walls to keep her caged
When influence she held through fame
Is long dissolved and disengaged?

A public life, her sentence stands
With little room for private grief
Unhappy Recognition’s hands
Control where she may find relief.

Now with a cause she would promote
To shame the bullies that still flaunt
A woman’s infamous deep throat
For speaking up for truth not taunt.

I wish our morals stretched as far
Restraining tongues at twitter time
Realpolitiks remain sub par
We’ve little else to do online

Slut-shaming is our dearest trend
As one more hussy kicks herself
For lending hands and more to end
All dignity, career and wealth.

This altar calls for fresher blood
I fear the next will pay a price
The mob is in an ugly mood
With barely-legal sacrifice

Lined up for entertainment here
Soon rubber-necking, righteous louts
Will crowd around to shove and leer
At those who try to tough it out

We’ll see them crawl and cry and squirm
Extracting vengeance from each one
With twerking fervour: all must burn
Up goes the cry – the hunt’s begun.

The boy who didn’t believe

His eyes told him tales of the truth on the page
As he gazed on in wonder at what lay before him

His ears let him hear all that came from the sage
While faithful companions took care to inform him

His hands brushed the wisdom both carved out and clear
And his touch held reminders of tangible reason

While tongue on his teeth flicked out, tasting the air
For a hint of the wind lends direction and season

But all was in vain, all fine senses quite useless
He wrinkled his nose and refused to be swayed

Afeared that his fellows might mean him abuses
He shut his mind tight and ignored all good faith

In place of his conscience mistook for conviction
The volume of ignorance over all proof

Provoking confusion and much needless friction
For stubborn and wilful his painful excuse

Respect slowly dwindled to fall by the wayside
While fatuous rhetoric ruled in its place

Contempt for authority lacking in substance
All those his compatriots filled with dismay

No lessons were learned by the boy in the bubble
Preferring his policy of Simon says

He polished the rod that he’d careful constructed
Preparing to swing to the end of his days