Category Archives: poetry

The very thought of you

An unexpected memory is released in an unplanned smell and sound and reaches down my throat and retches the sludge up and out. Self loathing slithers around with fetid filthy fingers and re-opens the regret notebook I stopped writing in and had put away in a drawer at the back of my head.

Regrets…….regrets live on long after a death has slipped down in history and changed its shape. Death does not allow for repair or renewal.

Regret squats over what remains like a grubby troll alert for a flicker of joy so that it can shit some toxicity onto it. It wakes you up in the middle of the night with its noxious  farts that cling. Regret bleeds in and out like breath on a humid day. Regret writes on Every.Single.Page.

Before the end it would be good to rescue just one moment of joy from the sludge and inhale it deeply alongside the toxicity, feel its gladness over the sadness, hear the quiet laughter that was. And then close the book.

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Hay Festival 2019 part one, edited highlights

I arrived at Hay on Wye under a sky covered in monochrome laburnum clouds that soon gave way to a warm dry green wonderland. And my gosh I loved Hay this year. My first joy was where I stayed – a beautiful house with lovely hosts and an enviable, huge  and eclectic art collection which brought great happiness –  I wish I had had more alone time to inspect it. But even more delightful were the three women with whom I shared a breakfast table. They were a similar age to me, that is to say mature, and it quickly became clear that around that table no fucks were given, not a one, and we laughed and chatted. We fell easily into our roles: There was a woman-in-charge who poured the coffee and passed the butter unprompted, a mildly forgetful, hesitant  widowed healthcare professional who twittered (in the old-fashioned non-technical way) and a sharp but warm social comforter who reached out and oiled the conversation. They were charming, spiky and lovely, and only one of them liked Dylan Moran. And that didn’t matter. My role was mostly as audience for a welcome change – this break was an intended opportunity for me to speak less and be more alone. Our hosts were a fascinating mix of charm and snob – if he had crowbarred Prince Charles into the conversation any more it would have consisted only of the words Prince Charles – but were warm and accommodating and most importantly made excellent coffee. They opened their house to us without boundaries and with considerable skill and character and displayed  the talents one would expect of creative psychotherapists. They sat in the middle of their wonderful, colourful, often surprising home which was set in the most diverse and pleasing grounds and hosted us with ease and care. Interesting and ingenious they contributed brilliantly to my Hay Festival.

 

As for the Festival……..

Billy Bragg was possibly not at his most comfortable on stage surrounded by a clutch of white middle class privilege but the room was with him and he more than hit the spot with wit and charm. Boom. He built up and promoted the three dimensions of freedom: liberty, equality and accountability. My heart sang as he described their importance, they chimed so closely with me and yet are not trendy or popular and indeed are casually  trivialised, often manipulated. Hearing them normalised and promoted was a good, good feeling and he did it with passion and skill. He equally efficiently destroyed the current faux freedom that veneers the neoliberalism we endure while it imprisons us, but always with respect and courtesy towards other viewpoints. That was, in essence, the point. I needed that.

The poetry collective,despite busting a gut to be diverse and inclusive ( LGBTQ, people of colour, some disability) they failed. No older people. Inclusivity doesn’t cease to be relevant when one is over 25. They were brave and heroic to stand on stage and expose their poetry, but for me they were selfobsessed and selfserious. The phrase “write about what you know” hung heavy on the air and that’s ok, many of the poems were (while being formless, also ok) were worth hearing and benefited hugely from the speaking, offering a degree of depth and clarity. After a while, though, and I own this, they merged, made up in equal measure of pain, victimhood and wistfulness. Also ok. All ok, but not attractive to me. Which is also ok.

Last one on this post, best till last and all that. Benjamin Zephaniah. What can I say? Best gig ever. Possibly, if it mattered to me (it doesn’t), a tad age inappropriate for me, I loved the heat and energy of not only the performers but the audience too. Audiences are a large part of a gig for me and these did not disappoint.  I hugely admired the woman singer in the band, not dressed to thrill or please anyone but herself in her choice of comfortable t-shirt and baggy trousers, her voice and her hot energy blew me away; the bass player who played a fabulous butt-throbbing bass was a greybeard and rocked right alongside Benjamin and the woman singer (apologies I didn’t hear her name) and way harder than the young people who tentatively at first and then bolder and bolder got up to dance at the front of the room. Those dancing people were as much a joy as the performers, all of them memorable, and their happiness when Benjamin left the stage to join them and dance with them was enough to bring tears to my eyes. Zephaniah was a force of nature who absolutely re-connected my politics and my poetry engaging and connecting with the whole room. A funny, kind and passionate man and performer who charmingly took Trump et al to pieces without malice and without violence. He reminded us of our power and our hearts. But he definitely left Trump and others in pieces. I couldn’t dance – never have, too self conscious and now too disabled – but my head and heart danced and my feet beat the rhythm. Zephaniah bounced, rocked, smiled, taught and charmed all evening. And his music and words, the powerful intoxicating music and words, moved us, caught us up and took us alongside the troupe to a magical musical poetic place. The politics and poetry of fun and fairness. Priceless.

 

Part Two of the edited highlights to come soon. Hay is made up of the visitors as much as the performers and this year they charmed and entertained equally and the venue was also unique.

Savage

The words chucked and hurled themselves at her hitting her soft, bruised shame and taking her breath away. More words followed, slicing into her, stinging, aching, pinning her against the wall, sagging and limp.

Grey and filthy brown swirled down inside her like dirty water down a plughole draining her life, leeching into the floor staining it straining it. Staggering backwards into the next room panting and heaving, sick with pain and effort, her legs weakened and knees softened under her. Drifting backwards she closed her eyes, shut out the sights but the sounds wouldn’t be driven away, the words that plunged into her, twisted around, severed her will.

Cold hands touched her face and she realised blankly, bleakly that they were her own crippled hands. With an energy that was already almost entirely depleted and raw she crawled into her cage. The stinging aching pains died as she lay down and drew up her legs. Here was comfort. She dissolved.

A divot in the verbiage

Today I have found a divot in my verbiage.

I am apparently at the age which has become “the new forty” but I am sceptical. However vibrant sixty is – and it is –  it will never have the juice of forty, ovaries have thankfully ceased to be a challenge although their loss was mourned for a while, and I am finding a few other things melt away on the weary climb to the pinnacle of decrepitude before falling off the other side. Slower on the stairs;  tins are more of a challenge, inexplicably; bearing four live children and a few who did not survive has left some scars literal and otherwise; when I stop moving not all of me does.  Nothing I had not expected. But.

Words. My main hobby and place of work. Worshipping at their altar and making a living manipulating them perhaps I began to take them for granted and they are making their presence, or absence, felt simply as a reminder. I take a shade longer to identify the best word for a sentence or description, it takes a mite longer to recall names, running up against white noise instead of the expected tumble of potential sentences is shocking and unexpected. I do not think it is a clinical issue but having noticed it, it matters to me. I can sort-of bear the loss of sinew, suppleness and strength and there are compensations: as an old lady I can be less careful and more legitimately honest – although that was never really a problem – and can walk away from crap more easily, if a little stiffly; I do not feel any pressure at all to dress appropriately; knowing more stuff means I can reflect more effectively and that is a blessing and a curse. Grateful to have reached an age at which I have become a closer approximation of who I am and have learned about a variety of things, I am also burdened with that learning, the realisation of things.  Understanding is often over-rated. Comprehension can be crushing.

My usually lush and well watered verbiage that has grown and thickened over the years is becoming a little pock marked and faded around the margins. It takes a little longer to grow – still lush, still a pleasure to walk on, still fragrant and opulent but with signs of fatigue and some of those heavier footprints take longer to disappear, the turf breathing just that bit harder when forced to restore itself. And that divot, ah that divot…….for now I will walk around it and stand on the abundance that all but covers it. Because who knows if it will heal itself, or the lawn wither and die anyway, or if it will simply sit as a divot and behave itself with grace as a reminder that  am just lucky to be here, now, at all.

Poetry will continue, my life as a storyteller will continue. My colours may simply be a slightly different shade and bleed into one another a little more.

 

 

Is that it?

Jesus in a latte, Narcissus in a pond,

A saint to hear the prayer we make, a star to wish upon.

Jesus in a piece of toast, Narcissus in a lake

When I lay me down to sleep I pray you my soul to take.

There is no sorry, no second chance, no room to make amends.

It stops, sucks dry, bleeds out, falls flat. The light fades out and bends

Towards the loss, the lack, the well of nothing. Empty, done.

No moon, no stars, no breeze, no dew, no rain, no clouds. No sun.

 

Us

When did you become the grit in my eye?

The stone in my shoe?

The itch in my arse?

Which door did I go through that closed behind me?

Horticulture it ain’t…….

My garden, my net, my sanctuary, where I feel safe, has sanctuary for my friends too.

Pigeons, like fat blokes trying to be cunning, sneak faux-stealthily past me to the seeds and crumbs I share with them.

Seagulls wolf down the curry I threw out, only needing a foaming pint to be the lads that they are, a gang of Ross Kemps with feathers.

My garden, where the shade I sit in calms the shade inside me.

My garden, where the sunshine dances with the bees and magpies in a whimsical waltz that makes me smile.

My garden, my net, my sanctuary.

Waiting…..

Waiting.

Waiting for my Dad to get home from the pub triumphantly and unsteadily carrying before him his bribe of chocolates and bread-and-cheese.

Waiting for my Mum while she cleaned someone else’s house and I sat in their front room reading, or colouring, or dreaming.

Waiting for the sibling that never arrived.

Waiting for my Dad to get home from work, smelling of tobacco, brickdust, cement, beer.

Waiting for the coach to France to take me to the monastery.

Waiting for the assault to be over.

Waiting for test results.

Waiting for my turn in the bathroom.

Waiting for my soon to be husband to make his mind up.

Waiting for Christmas.

Waiting in the Post Office queue.

Waiting for the sales.

Waiting for the music to start…

…and stop.

Waiting at the vets.

Waiting for the paint to dry.

Waiting for the rejection letter.

Waiting outside the court.

Waiting for the pain to come.

Waiting for the pain to go.

Waiting for my children to be born.

Waiting for my children outside the club/venue/station/school/hall/clinic/university.

Waiting for the phone call.

Waiting for her to speak.

Waiting for him to speak.

Waiting for them to settle down.

Waiting for the kettle to boil.

Waiting for the other shoe to drop.

Waiting for the alarm to go off.

Waiting for the letter.

Waiting for my grandchildren to be born.

Waiting to finally grow up.

Waiting for my Dad to die in hospital.

Waiting for my Mum to die in hospital.

Waiting by the graveside.

Waiting for the ferry.

Waiting.

Waiting for the waiting to be over.

 

 

My Fizzog

I look up into the mirror as I brush my teeth. I see not my Mother as women are expected to see, but my Dad…..

….his jawline, the indentations on his cheeks where he smiles, his neck, the way he holds his head.

Tears, like yawns, are contagious. The tears of the woman in the mirror catch my throat and cause me to sob.

I sob for my selfish self, lonely and fatherless, motherless now too.

I look at my face. It is a different face to the face I had a decade ago.

It is my Dads face, my Mothers face, my face, the face of my childrens mother, the face of my childrens childrens grandmother. Less lovely than when I hated it but easier to love.

The sobbing stops and is at a distance. It belongs to someone else.

Staring at the red rimmed networked green eyes I see only me again. I smile a rumpled smile.

You old fool.

Savage

The words chucked and hurled themselves at her hitting her soft bruised understanding  and taking her breath away. More words followed, slicing into her, stinging, aching, pinning her against the wall sagging and limp.

Yellow ochre and grey swirled down inside her like dirty water down a plughole draining the life from her, leeching into the carpet staining it straining it. She staggered backwards into the next room. Panting and heaving, sick with pain and effort her legs weakened and her knees softened under her. Drifting backwards into a chair she closed her eyes, shut out the sights but the sounds wouldn’t be driven away, the words that plunged into her, twisted around, severed her will to be.

Cold hands touched her face and she realised blankly, bleakly that they were her own crippled hands. With an energy that was already almost entirely depleted and raw she crawled into her cage. The stinging aching pains died as she lay down and drew up her legs. Here was comfort. She dissolved.

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