The Really Big Issue

When did I learn to pass by

as the thin gruel of humanity

clutches its bags and shivers

in the shadows?

I may avert my eyes,

become pressed upon some business,

but always, in my fear, I judge.

The dock is too small,

bursting with villainy.

It is my home.

Advertisements

On the Threshold, Close to Life

As I stand shivering

Outside the room of your friendship

It comes to me that this

Is a familiar place.

I have seen patinas

Of this same shade in other

Hallways; these tremors are

My resonating strings.

I

In one room I can glimpse

A holy man of passionate

Piety, disguised by

Restless profanities.

His sharp smile betraying

A disturbing recognition

Of the hard edge of faith –

Compassion’s cutting edge.

It was this rootedness

In our earth bound realities

Packaged in intellect

And drive that drew me in.

At the door, stepping in

And full of anticipation

I find a vacancy

An unexplained absence.

II

So I turn, another

Draughty vestibule sheltering

My frozen schoolboy self

Short trousered and alone.

I must leave this hallway

Stepping away from the lit room

In which, as I look back,

The boy and I could have played.

A new thought mistily

Had sprung up, that I might have made

A friend, had I only

Stayed; my own creation.

III

Now I see Harrogate

As the scene for more teetering

On the threshold of life

Aching with love; silent.

No, much worse, terrified

Of letting my passion be known,

Ashamed of who I was,

Crude, graceless, hurtful.

IIII

So I come, hesitant

To the door of another friendship

If that is what it was –

Golden promise to ash

Cold and grey, diminished

Shockingly in its weightlessness

Transformed from a solid

Strangely lumpen living……….

….To drab grief, his parents

Damaged, mown down in the cross fire

Of this childish tantrum,

Farcical tragedy.

I see now, as not then,

That I knew nothing of despair

That it could not be found

In the dead boy’s hanging.

Then I thought, romantic

In my youthful naivety

The cry, “Eli, eli

Lama sabachtani”……

……At death’s side, agony

Intense in its grip on the soul,

Christ transfigured despair

To life uncrushable.

It was not however

The acute dramatic moment

That would define true hopelessness

Despite its poetry.

The long stare, open eyed

Pupils lifeless, dried of all tears

Only the road ahead

All colour drained away.

Here stands hell, paralysed

Dreary, silent accusation

To our failings in love,

Featureless and endless.

This was his legacy

To his mum and dad; I escaped

With a different lesson

About nearly friendships.

I don’t know, wondering

Now as I look back, did I stand

Alone in the hallway

Looking but unnoticed?

Was I not visible

But out of reach, turning away,

Finding safety in solitude?

Miserly in giving?

Mars and Venus

I look on ………………….

I observe ………………….

I scrutinise ………………….

My gaze objectifies the female other …………………………..

I judge and claim the standard as my own…………………………

I act and the act requires a response…………………………………..

I lurch and wait for punishment………………………………………….

I judge and fear a shameful exposure …………………………

My gaze confirms my hopelessness ………………..

I scrutinise seeking reassurance ……………………

I observe to conquer my ignorance ………..

I look on in fear………………….

The Horror of Names

Lined up, they waited in silence.

Before them, the scored glass

hid the shady presence

of a pointing finger.

He knew invisibility

would give him away;

his absence would clash

horribly and draw

accusation from the watchers.

He had to be there,

there like the others,

not trying,

not trying not to try,

carelessly, like the others,

with care.

The weight of the day

bore down on his shoulders;

terror sucked in his eyes

and pinched his cheeks.

He felt the pointing finger

cutting into his body:

a voice called;

he could hear the name……….

Inspiration

Words hide in dark mists.

They hang around in plain view

when you don’t need them,

flaunting their curly quiffs,

their skipping rhythm

as you pick up the cat food

or turn by the swings in the park.

Fold back the white sheets

and they vanish, throwing

a couple of work-a-day

adjectives, a setting sun,

and a care worn phrase

into your eyes. You stumble

and, staggering, clutch doggerel.

49276

We are content in our imprisonment.

The sun shines through the bars and the crops grow.

That is not to say that we lack complaints,

are bereft of hatred and misery.

But we are saved by the bars and locked doors.

So moan holds hands with moan and we trudge on;

the odd chair gets broken, the odd egg thrown.

A hovering drone may make us wonder

just for a moment, but it passes on.

These days, as the hearse passes slowly by,

we look not at the escapee’s capsule

but at fellow prisoners in their grief.

Do not throw us to the wolves of freedom.

We are content in our imprisonment

Back in Oxford

 

The past tapped me on the shoulder

and I turned. Nothing. Well, a scent.

Not even the sound of running feet

or nostalgia’s gentle humming.

Yet a sadness washed over me

that the past was lost and absence

was its legacy. The future

too in its way, either timed out

or boxed safely in denial.

The shoulder was tapped and I turned

hoping to find that ingenue

thrilled to walk in history’s steps.