Inheritance

I write now with my father’s pen
Old steel has assumed my
Ragged pencil’s place
Smooth and worn in my
Calloused fingers.
Daughter at my breast
I remember my father’s stories
As my own swirl and foment
Beneath the creased brow
That is my other inheritance.
Not a gentle man, nor a good one
But a crafter of careful lines
Who spoke limited truth
To lasting effect.
What of him remains
But my own comfortable lies
Sweeter than fact, more palatable
Harder to deny than the
Elusive verisimilitude
Of others.

Literacy

It’s been a while
Since I felt the pull
Of an empty page
My callous has softened
The ink-stain dulled
To a faded bruise
As if this were not
A tattoo
Of my own design
The leaking pen
And over-tight grip
Leftovers from childhood training
As emotions spill out
Between the lines
To blur their way
Toward the clarity of words
Where thoughts begin to take shape
And letters form
Exposing my inner turmoil
With the cool logic
Of too many cups of coffee
Too little sleep
And an over-abundance of sugared memory
I return to the paper and pen
A criminal haunting
The same scenes
Scribbled by heart
Until I am cleansed
And nothing
Not the rain in August
Nor my endless nostalgia
Can keep me down.

Bobbing for pips

I am approaching the threshold of my grief
That dismal dawn where words break –
Fast over stale feelings
Like waves on a rock-ridden shore.
This stilled tongue tunes no trills for sorrow,
Sigh-chapped lips, no plosive feasts
But my ragged pen thirsts
For consonants, vowels
Forming words, eyes closed,
Half-asleep, I drift,
Tossed upon the foam
As one who drowns for air
And breathes only memory.

Losing my mind

I’m sure I left it somewhere
Underneath the bush we planted
Sweet smell of lavender
To cover the gap in the fence

Back before I met you
In a dim-lit bar in Manchester
Dripping with adventure
Now a lifetime ago

Perhaps it’s just hidden
Down behind the sofa cushions
Huddled between the gathered dust
And your key to the Peugeot

On top of the wardrobe
Sleeping in a hatbox
Full of moth-eaten gloves
With my wedding handkerchief

Beneath the kitchen cabinets
Disguised by its companions
A wandering teaspoon and
Some pea-escapees

It’ll turn up again
You say with that
Bad-penny certitude
I have come to expect

Until then I have you
Who lie to my face
In an attempt at conviction
Of my undiscovered brilliance

Submission

Institutions holding power
Over artists, gentle folk
In their own way would devour
Independent deed and thought

With selective themes and rules
Governing what may be seen
Lending weight to private views
Influencing what we mean

Long before our words are cast
Forged as signature by stealth
They’d imagine questions asked
By our readers. For our health

And that of all who stand about
Nattering with glass in hand
At gala, pub, or simply – out
To cultivate this wasted land

There must be structure, must be form
It should be clear all views espoused
Are those full-sanctioned as ‘the norm’
With passions restful, unaroused

In such a way as this, perhaps
Some newer blood may join the rung
As underling to pleasant chaps
And hear their echoed praises sung

Appetiser

Sometimes I really struggle
Not to rhyme with toil and trouble
I don’t mean to burst your bubble
But there’s telescopes to steal

And it need not really matter
If I end things with a clatter
For I’ve other dreams to scatter
That may show you how I feel

Do try to see my point of view
What I may write ain’t up to you
Vocabulary seasons stew
Until a sentence may appeal

To more than literary taste
For modern verbage dislikes waste
Then with the settings all in place
We’ll serve a very tasty meal

Linguistic seduction

There is no order to a poem
No demands made or met
Paper and ink come without shackles
And yet, language has power,
A verse may hold you captive, spellbound,
Words browbeat you, leaving you raw and crying
Lead you to change your opinion,
Mend your ways, even fall in love.
Naturally there is a word for this,
Allowing us to pass sentence on such a construct,
Both praising and damning a few lines,
Summing up the power of written thought
In three syllables, at a stroke.
One dirty, descriptive word:
Compelling.

A trudge down Memory Lane

Giraffes do not grow on trees, well, not according to my Dad, anyway.

I miss the colourful hilarity of childhood, way back when the height of misery meant the red crayon had rolled under the fridge and I couldn’t reach a wooden spoon to poke it out again. I remember being excited to the point of hysteria by a new yellow umbrella, and feeling no guilt at toothbrushing sans-paste when it had mysteriously fallen off the brush and gone down the plughole, not stopping to greet the teeth on the way. Mum always knew when the fluoride had reached its destination as I would spend at least half an hour spitting like a camel and dramatically gargling water all over the bathroom floor to try to rid myself of my new, abhorrent ‘minty-fresh’ breath, then stomping downstairs bad-temperedly to demand something to ‘take the taste away’.

I remember halcyon days in shades of orange with such wonderful sports as ‘puddle-jumping’, and wading through wet, smelly piles of leaves, kicking up clouds of muddy mulch as we marched; long, dusty summers when we drew epic masterpieces on pavements with a sharp stone.

Old age makes fools of us all, and even our childrens children will believe that fifteen is the height of senility, with older siblings’ faces resembling an Hawaiian pizza, preferring to sleep all day, locked up alone in a darkened room, listening to angry white noise, rather than braving the warm violence of sunlight and risking untravelled hormones loose in the outside world.

Ah, adolescence, that fun-filled decade of emotional turmoil, strange sensations, sights, sounds, smells and swellings. Bubonic plague condensed to 5’4″ and made to suffer the indignity of sharing a bathroom with no lock on the door. Discovering that Christmas brought nicely wrapped, clearly expensive zit-medication, a baggy jumper in bottle-green from Aunt Matilda (nothing too tight, dear, while they develop), and pink fishnets from Uncle James.. thinking Uncle James was cool for all of five seconds before Auntie Rose started on him with long words like ‘inappropriate’, and ‘juvenile delinquency’ and you realised that pink fishnets were only being worn this season by 45 year old moustachio’d Bank Managers known as Mandy on weekends..

Kids grow up so fast, gushed some family friend who hadn’t bothered to drop in and see you since you were five, as you cringed, sighed, and tried to get comfortable in clothes held together by far too many safety pins on the lumpy chair you had insisted on throwing yourself into. You may never have gotten around to actual nose-removal, but self-imposed discomfort through spite was a common theme among the terminally uncool.

I look back these days and I even reminisce over my agonies of exams. Three hours spent scratching away in yesterday’s unwashed, unironed school uniform, with dirty hair and inky fingers, wondering what sadist ever thought up slow death by sports-hall sock-smell suffocation and quadratic-equation-queasiness.

And the hell didn’t end with results day. Work experience was to follow. Three weeks of sheer pointlessness pretending to be learning about the world of work while not reaping any of the benefits of the Saturday job you’d had for the past three years (no pay packet for starters, and having to make endless hot beverages for strangers).

Ah, how we suffered, the agonies and indignities both in the name of education. But it was all worth it, that glorious day of liberation. University arrived, and we were so very ready for it, anxious to throw off the restrictive shackles of clean sheets, enforced hygiene, regular, balanced meals..

On we charged, returning home in the holidays to discover that life had somehow gone on without us. Siblings had claimed any items we had rashly abandoned, and what corners of the parental home we had once called our own had been painted and filled with the ‘tasteful’ (unwanted) Christmas presents no one had seen for years, and a lot of cheap shelving to house them.

Most worrisome of all was the seeming lack of caring of our recently-bereaved of our presence-parents. Those bedrocks of familial pride, who after a cursory search for drugs, and a declaration that we were old enough to do our own washing, didn’t bother to go so far as to raise their voices to impose a curfew. And these the carping adults who had brandished the whip all through school, driving us ever onward to new heights of geekery in the name of learning!

In praise of email

The art of writing letters to us now seems to be lost.
In part due to the postal strikes, and also to the cost.
For stamps are hard to come by, and envelopes expensive
And as we know delivery at times can be extensive.
Instead we have a new thing, an electronic toy.
So we can keep in touch despite the obstacles ahoy.
But somehow through the changes, our language has evolved.
Now we don’t spell our words out, but only write in code.
So now ‘I’ll c u l8r’, we often read out loud
Since spelling became optional, secrecy’s not allowed.
Thus I know all your business, even on the train,
In order to get the message, we need to make it plain.
Tis not the done thing these days to refuse an invitation.
By the time you’ve writ ‘washing my hair’, the train has left the station.