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

The Reckoning

In these fractions I seek solace
That infarction is no menace
To my own unknown condition
Though my colleague lies on trollies
As they fill her veins with serum
Hoping vasos are dilated
I’m surrounded by the vision
Such careers are overrated
In my secretary’s costume
I must take on further duties
Try to prop up one more rostrum
And ignore last rites for loot. He’s
Working from his home computer
While I ride the bus to nowhere
In the misty morning chatter
That’s conceived to make me go there
How much more am I allotted?
This existence, mere survival
Will I too go out, garotted
By a heart attack unrivalled?
As my logic fails, convince me;
I’ve decisions that are burning
Every inch would rather lynch me
Than continue painful earning.

Although I rarely explain my scribblings, as I prefer to let the reader interpret them at will, this poem, and the one that follows are written in response to a recent event. The woman with whom I share a desk at my day job suffered a heart attack this week. The events on that occasion and which have followed have caused me to question our place in the universe with perhaps more focused ferocity than usual.

Untitled

This is the place we come to die
We secretaries, in our rows
Two frozen stiffs, a living lie
Few care to note, and no one knows.

While patient, we sit out our time
In managing capricious men
Whose fruitless whims, though not malign
Wear lines on brows and fray each hem.

One more may chew on dust this hour
No more to block electric space
In diary; a heart lacks power
To beat a path through empty wastes.

We are not dumb, and yet, we wait
Preparing meeting rooms, hot drinks
Awaiting proof; appreciate
A mind, unheeded, soul that shrinks

And though the autopsy infers
What killed her was nobody’s fault
That one can prove, (except for hers)
With such a sedentary vault

Of memories of closet, desk,
A filing cabinet to store
The means of murder – this slow death
Made up of tedium and chore.

Nanoo Nanoo to Neverland

Where have all the grown-ups gone?
The ones I looked to all my life
To show me what’s been going on
To make me laugh and keep me safe

Their reassurance slips away
As if they’d someplace else to be
We stand here at the break of day
And count each loss as one set free

I wish they wouldn’t shuffle off
So many games we never played
But some by self and some by health
They one-by-one all leave this stage

And whether one is hopping mad
Or feeling blue, or sad, or bad
It’s curtains for the fun we had
Now Mork has gone to follow Dad

A secular paradigm

Let me not feel more than may be borne
For others’ troubles, cares and strife.
I am too young to be thus forlorn,
Too old to hope; to love; to wife.

Give me but coin, my span on Earth
And lend me not another’s fear;
(I’ve precious little left of worth
Still less to broker bargains here).

I promise, but to do my best
And nothing more may take from me
Those greedy souls, whose “Fie!” on rest
Would wrest what time I, false, term ‘free’.

I cannot speak, but as I find
All else would be as empty air
What use, my hand, my heart, or mind
When weighed against such meaty fare?

And fair or foul as all may be
At moments suited to their mood
I can no more deceive than see
Through blackest darkness; I’ll be good.

Two cigarettes

17:23

Fingers shaking, she fumbles to light it
Lips quivering, cornflower eyes over-large
Underlined, ringed in runny mascara
Bronzer and orange paint

Long blonde hair fashionably streaked
Hanging down like a dingy waterfall
She clamps her clutch beside her
With a slender elbow, shivers

At unseasonal weather in a short skirt
Trying not to cry, this nymph
Ankles wobble on the too-high heels
Waiting for a bus in the rain

Sucking in gasping lungfuls
She smokes her sadness
Twisting suffering to submission
In a single cigarette

18:02

His rumbling growl is subsiding now
The stream of curse words unbroken
Since he staggered down the aisle
Pushing past each passenger

Heading for the back bench
Of the almost empty upper deck
Something inside him is angry
It cannot keep still or quiet

A familiar double click precedes
The billowing clouds of calm
He thunks a window shut
Clad in a cloak of smoke

That may obscure the world
Of see-through stickers
With their pious proclamation
‘No Smoking’, red ring, slash

Saturday Sadness

You wanted to come here to show me off
Your symbol of success, transition
Working class no longer, toff
In all opinion, loud derision

So I sit and watch the bald patch
Slow expanding on your head
Your eyes both glued to latest gadget
Showing off your wealth instead

I sip my coffee, not as silent
As the trophy WAGs should stay
While strangers’ pallid faces highlight
All you do and all I say

There was a time, almost forgotten
By the one who paid today
I’d make you think and laughing rotten,
Lift your moodiness away.

When shining eyes met laughter lines
Two grins curved freely over cake
And sugar seemed less of a crime
With more forgive and much less take

Impious, I once held your gaze
Without the need for sabotage
Of smart phone: screen of lesser rays
Replaced your smile with time on charge

We sit and comment on our drinks
You read the news in silent thought
I wonder at these forty winks
That hold our lives to what we’ve bought

Loneliness of the long distance lover

Try to put into words
The hole in back of your soul
When fish ain’t talking to birds
No love to patch it up whole

Our feelings sleepy with time
The distant land lies between
Though we both claim things are fine
They’re not as cool as we seem

Sure, it’s a lonely old world
Nights on the couch with the cat
Re-watching boy meeting girl
Romantic comedy’d out

A TV dinner for one
Served on a tray with a spoon
Sat picking every last crumb
Until you’re sick of the room

Midnight brings tea and a book
The cat asleep in your arms
Nobody coming to look
At what remains of our charms

And there’s no note to demand
No ransom number to call
The roll of tissue on hand
For when the tears start to fall

Prière

Mon père, qui m’a donné de vie
Je vous demande plus rien
Mais la possibilité de le vivre
Sans interruption, sans me plaindre.
Je manquerai des choses –
La détresse, la douleur –
Ce sont des dons particuliers
– gardez-les pour toujours
Et je garderai ma joie
Ma félicité, mes sourires
Contre ceux qui me voudront
Faire pleurer – gardez mes larmes
Pour vous.
Tout va déjà si bien
Je n’ai pas d’envie de changements.

A Haunting Spot

I smiled at the man who had turned up to tea,
Though out of the blue he’d appeared.
He seemed wistful and sad when he sat beside me,
When I spoke to him, he turned and stared.
So I plucked up my courage, began to relate
All the funny events of my day.
And as he braved a smile, so the breeze did pick up
‘Til the willows were starting to sway.
Then how we both laughed, at the ways of the world.
I was pleased that my tales made him grin.
And we stayed sitting there, on a bench in the cold
As the evening was drawing in.
Then he turned with a sigh and his primary air
And remarked at how sorry he felt
That I soon would be leaving him lonely out there
As he spoke such words, my heart did melt.
For he looked in my eyes and the fondness I saw there
Did take all my breath quite away.
And he thanked me for letting him share in my life
For he’d had a most pleas’rable day.
And as it grew dark and we walked hand in hand,
He turned one last time and we kissed.
Then I opened my eyes to the streetlamps aglow
As my handsome young man turned to mist.
I was terrified, sure, as I ran for the door
For my beau had dissolved in my arms.
And I never, not once, had expected to find
Him a phantom, of such mortal charms.
Now I often do sit by myself for a bit
On the bench we shared, down by the stream.
But never again has he come for a chat
And I wonder now, was it a dream?