Do you hear what I hear?

When I speak the words aloud

Are you listening to each pause?

The whispers between the sounds

Sibilant sighs, plosive pops and

Friction reflected in fricatives?

The more clipped and precise my

Consonants and vowels

The angrier I am.

Do not mistake my veneer

For truth, I will remain

Icily polite.  Strangers may not

Understand the depth of rage

Concealed beneath these dulcet

Tones. But trust me

When you listen

To what I do not say

You will hear my thoughts

And then, if you are wise

Turn tail and flee

Before my temper

Gains its head

The girl I wanted to be

I envied you your freedom

To wear short hair

Pierce things

I had only seen

On TV

Fall off your motorino

Breaking a wrist

With such impunity

Unafraid of the

Consequences

Approaching exams

Short skirts

Body paint

Cool for days

I didn’t see

The things that

Frightened you

Kept you acting

The social butterfly

To avoid authority

Running from those

Who demanded things

You could not bear to give

How could I?

With my own demons

To manage

In my long skirts

Flat shoes, subtle

Silent screams

Haunting adolescence

Like a will-o-the-wisp

We are similar now

Grown treading different

Yet parallel paths

Outlasting our pursuers

Ignoring our denigrators

Fiercely seeking our own truth

In a sea of snake oil salesmen

We were never friends

Yet hardly enemies

Mere acquaintances

Each wrapped up in

Our own, private concerns

On nodding terms

Barely aware the other

Existed, but rivals

For all the wrong reasons

I wish you well

Perhaps one day

Our minds may form

A greeting longer

Than the casual nod

We spare one another

From across the room

At some ghastly

Virtual reunion

Organised by those

Who peaked in high school

And want to compare

Their declining ambitions

In a club house

After dark

Like giggling teens

While the next generation

Smokes round the back

Of the toilets

Hoping a mint

Will disguise the smell

As parents pretend

Not to recognise

Their own poor choices

In their offspring

Still single?

Deserted?

Divorced?

Half dead?

Any rugrats?

Really?

Same. Or nearly.

Deep scars from wounds

Old and new

Here’s to us

And all those like us

How about it, Fay?

We happy few

Still standing here

Upon this day

Vigil on Mothers Day

What are we waiting for, mum?

Shh, darling.  People are paying their respects.

To the old lady?

She wasn’t old, my love.

So why did she die?

An accident.  No, not an accident… She was unlucky.

What do you mean, mum?

She was on her way home and then…

Yes, mum?

She met someone who wasn’t nice.

Not nice?

Not all people are nice, sweetheart.  Some of them are nasty and like to hurt other people.

She met a bad man?

It seems that way, yes.

How did she die?

We don’t know yet, baby.

But how?

We might know one day.  The police are investigating, trying to find out.

But she wasn’t old?

No, beautiful girl.  She was young.  That is why people are sad.

Why did they bring flowers?

That is what people do when they are sad.

But we didn’t.

No.  We didn’t know the lady.

But I want to bring flowers.

It is better for the people who did know her to bring them.  It will help them to feel better.  We are not bringing flowers so that there is space for theirs.

Oh.  When can we bring flowers?

When it is someone we know.

Like grandad? 

Yes.

I don’t like it when people die.

I know, sweetheart.  Nobody does.

Why do people die?

It is part of life.

So she died because it is part of life?

Not exactly.

Then why?

I don’t know, my love.  I don’t know.

Try to remain calm (trigger warning for abduction)

The girl who didn’t come home
Did everything right
Exercised
Worked hard
Graduated
Had friends
Kept to a well-lit path
Talking to loved ones
On her phone
Headphones in
Music off
Covered head to toe
In muted, age-appropriate
Weather-suitable
Clothing
It made no difference
Someone snatched her
Took all her well-made
Choices away
For no good reason
Wiping her light
From the face of the earth
Before returning her
To the soil from whence
We all come.
Now what do we
The troubled audience
Make of this story?
Was the snatcher
An aberration?
Can we find some way
To blame the girl
For transforming
From a positive
To a negative
Statistic?
Her victimhood
Plunging property prices
In the area
Where the monster
Did not live or work
But chose to hunt.
The narrative
Of a week-long-wait
Haunts us.
Forensics teams
Combing through
Ill-kept shrubbery
Blocking the usual
Criminal activities.
A small bonus, perhaps.
We bite our nails
Reading tabloid
Speculation.
Hoping for innocent
Explanation
Car crash?  Coma?
Jane Doe?  Dunno.
Checking phones
And feeds
For well-raked muck
Old and new leads.
Hiding our nerves
Measuring risk
Wondering when the
Anti-climatic
But by now
Anticipated
Charge is to be
Read out by
Cringing colleagues
Whose work lives
Just got more complicated:
Having to justify
How one of their own
A bodyguard
Trusted to bear arms
Pissed in the pool
In spite of safeguards
Psych profiling
Developed vetting
In such a public
Press-lined
Arena.
What do we learn
Boys and girls?
How can we reconcile
The role of protector
With predator?
Are they two sides
Of the same coin?
Symptomatic of
Toxic masculinity
Or some sort of
Mid-life crisis
Prompting a
Psychotic break?
Would we be as shocked
To read the story
Coming from overseas
Wearing foreign faces
Living lives that bore
Less resemblance
To our own?
How can we
Protect ourselves
From further selection
By opportunistic
Solipsistic
Middle-aged parents
Abusing the family car?
Was the position
Of authority
Incidental
Or did it go
To the head
Of the perpetrator
Tipping the scale
From potential aggressor
To active threat?
Can we trust that
This was an
Isolated incident
An anomaly?
Or will there be
Further reckoning
Of countless
Cold cases?
Must we walk home
In packs of ten?
Keys clutched in
Sweaty fists
Ready to go
For the eyes?
Armed to the teeth
With pepper spray?
Trained in martial arts
Aiming roundhouse kicks
At fellow commuters
All jumping at shadows?
Avoid crossing the road
Unless covered by
CCTV from all
Possible angles?
Spurn all contact
With strangers?
Take vitamins?
Go vegan?
Eat, love, pray?
The situation
Remains hopeless.
Life continues.
We work, eat, sleep,
Exercise, dress down,
Carry a personal alarm
(Until it causes us
Too many problems),
Practice defensive
Manoeuvres.
Try to remain calm.
Family and friends
Mourn her passing.
Strangers gawk at
Sensational headlines
Turn the page
Scroll to the next story.
The senseless
Will now be
Minutely analysed
By future victims.
A crime has taken place
We all try to understand
How to ensure
It never happens
To us.

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?

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.

Ah, Palmyra

We care more for ancient ruins
And destruction wrought on tombs
By whatever means they may
Than for lives that end today

While the blood and flesh and bone
Leaving everything they own
To escape the latest purge
Travel desert, sea and gorge

Those who voyage only land
On their uppers, close at hand
To the help they sorely need
Yet the politicians plead

Not to have to break their word
To the xenophobic horde
Those whose votes they barely won
From the hardened right, anon

Thus with bottle-necks and fence
We corral and harry hence
Workers that we sure could use
Grateful, welcome, unabused

Skilled and keen to integrate
To prop up our ageing State
In permissive company
Knowing just who let them be

As the fight takes to the skies
And the waves fill up with lies
We would throw away resource
Inconvenient and coarse

With no tally of the cost
Nor of what support is lost
Though our leaders might feel tall
While our borders stand, we fall

Loop-de-wholesale

Made in the land of make-believe
Where lawyers play ‘who’d you believe?’
And corporations patent hints
Before they’ve read the finer print
Safety testing doesn’t sell
As competitive ne’er do wells
Are underestimating time
To roll their products off the line
So what’s to do when local law
Prohibits what has gone before?
But legislate your private loop
To keep them jumping through the hoop
‘Domestic’ laws will not apply
While we want foreign states to buy
Substandard, globocentric tat
‘Til ecosystem must fall flat
So here’s to Canada’s defeat
This business model works a treat
We’ll make our fortune and then some
Just looking out for number one

A symphony in beige

The girl has faded from our view
As softly coloured, her disguise
Dilutes what mood from hat to shoe
She wore, before our very eyes
Until her person has took cover
In a shell of sticking gauze
And we no longer may uncover
Beauty swathed to match her pores
Almost naked she appears
And yet false modesty we see
She chose her palette – from her fears
Made two dimensions out of three