how it isn't

nothing is ever how it is, things are always as they aren't


Despite 'blogging' sounding like a perverse fetish involving the disposal of leaking Biros in public toilets, a 'blog' can be used to plaster inane dribble over the already well-dribbled-over worldwide web. It's sort of like disposing of leaking Biros down public toilets.

The Youth of that Day

We’d stripped both sides of every beer mat down to white,
miscued off balance to waste two shots on the black,
made hazy drunken gestures towards every hand-pull on the bar,
and the room’s density had thinned,
the prized stools once lost in the time taken for bladder relief
were now ownerless dogs - free to a good home.

Full past the brim we barrelled through semi-rural suburbia, waking every car
the working world had put to rest for an extended weekend several hours before,
but now roused, crying and screaming in a full spectrum of intermittent frequencies,
all their lights flashing, wailing like an infant in despair after slumber’s interruption,
owner’s manuals opened into bedtime stories of alarm deactivation,
an army of attendant fathers fled, one from each each door,
clicked ‘there, there, everything’s alright’, soothed their electrics back to sleep
and cursed the youth of that day.

When distance from the scene had allowed comfort but not quite an alibi,
hidden beneath a rich carpet canopy of ancient oaks in our woodland retreat,
where the alarms and sirens faded into an owl’s midnight howling
that hung above us, trapped in a ceiling of branches and leaves,
we slowed and then stopped,
until silence caught up,
then laughed in happy, yet slightly painful, intervals at how out of breath we all were,
doubled over, panting with hands on knees, relief,
safe in the dark, school kids, liberated of uniform and guilty only of innocence,
savouring every deep, replenishing lungful of a bank holiday weekend.

Black, White and Battleship Grey.

Susan said she’d talked to the girls at the hairdressers, they’d heard the same, there was to be work, the conflict had escalated; the shipyards were to be reopened. I thought of Billy, he’d said he wanted to see the world and I had agreed, it’s good for a boy to travel. But I knew it wouldn’t be long before those predatory recruitment officers would be stalking the tenements. Those anchor adorned uniforms had never left the office, barely seen the ocean, ‘navel officers required’, ‘engineers required’. I’d be there, faking a smile while he signed his name, one of their fat hands resting on his shoulder overseeing the boy’s commitment; you’re doing the right thing son, while Billy glances in excitement from the page to me over his other shoulder. I’d be watching, struggling to maintain my false grin then grimacing behind the officer, that’s my son actually.

It’d been six months since I’d worked.
‘We can’t afford soap’, Susan said,
‘I need a new coat’, she said.
My greasy overalls hung stiff on the back of the bathroom door where I’d left them all those months ago. Nearly all the calluses on my hands had softened. But there was to be work. The shipyards were to be reopened. I took the bus to meet my old boss, Ian, for coffee. My head rested on the window as I passed newsagents’ A-frame headline boards, ‘war’ and ‘Argentina’ dominated the nationals, ‘shipyards’ on the locals. Ian was a short and fat, were he a few inches smaller he could truly be considered round. All my memories of Ian recall him fiddling with his moustache while looking up and down from blueprint to machinery with puzzled eyes. He’d hit hard times too, his chin was red from using cheap razors for too long but now his eyes were bright and rapid, not only did he have contracts, he could subcontract. He told me they needed me. Pulling a jumble of scruffy papers from his inside jacket pocket and flattening them between steaming cups,
‘Ah yes, next Thursday is your team, go down to the yard, they’ll have an office set up.’
He hastily collected them up. With my contract details was an order form for an unfathomable quantity of paint, the colour column specified ‘Battleship Grey’.

I arrived back from the meeting with Ian, Billy thundered down the stairs upon hearing the door. He told me that I’d never guess what I had already predicted.
‘Son, I’m happy for you, just promise me you’ll be careful.’
‘I will Dad, we’ll be home for the summer anyway, and I’ll have earned enough money to take you and mum away for a holiday.’
I forced the smile that I had been preparing while scanning his young and narrow shoulders for the imprint of a fat hand. He told me that all his friends were going too. My smile sank as I thought of their worried mothers scrubbing dishes beyond clean. I thought of their proud fathers too, several of whom would be washing their overalls ready for my instruction while assuring their wives that everything would be alright after all. Where does national pride come from in a nation that has nothing to be proud of? Does it seep into our skin through the ink of a tabloid newspaper? Did we forget how two generations of fathers’ and sons’ unopened Christmas presents accumulated while the years of pine needles were swept away?

They’d set up a temporary office, the walls were thin and I could hear the cacophony of excitement and masculine reunion from outside. I wished they hadn’t painted it grey though I wouldn’t have much preferred navy blue. All lined up, resolute, single file, uniformed in hard hats and overalls. Deakin was in the queue,
‘My boy signed up on Tuesday, he’s shipping out Sunday.’ I overheard.
‘I took my boy to sign up myself.’ I heard another.
I give a few ‘hello’ eyebrows to a few familiar faces and each one that I recognise distracts me from the running total I was keeping in my head. I give the statistics names and faces. Ian is already seated at the desk at the end of the line. He is stroking his moustache with a Biro and leafing through a pad of forms.
‘You need yours here and theirs on this one underneath.’
He makes two sharp horizontal gestures with the pen at the base of the top form though the Biro remains capped.

I nod and hesitantly relieve him of the pen as he pulls back a chair. I take my seat while surveying the length of the queue from this new position. All at once the black and white of the paper blurs and I see the world constructed in a hierarchical pyramid of dotted lines and signatures. I wonder which direction the pyramid would fall without its base. Again I think of Billy, and I think of the ships outside in the docks soon to be on their way out to the South Atlantic, a swarm of silent killers sensing mobilisation. I see the barrels raise their ugly grey heads. I hear the mechanical drone as they move upwards and swivel. And I feel like a dot on which his signature is signed.

Unbroken

Knelt down low with my palm open,
I offer a piece of precious metal,
forged into an unbroken circle,
I chose to signify ‘forever’.

Watching

Received with the widest smile,
I wore a promise of forever on my reverse,
a sentiment etched in gold, my time was then really,
though when checked thereafter I correctly obliged.

Raised voices, tired eyes and I felt rude to turn.
The jewellers’ polished finish tainted,
my face scratched on a different set of keys,
before long, he couldn’t look at me.

With his past behind me, present and future in my hands,
he said I told it too well.

Hidden away with their albums, wedding days and trips abroad,
when occasionally a crack of light was permitted to enter,
a finger-scaring slam and, ‘it’s not here’ he’d mutter,
‘not here anymore.’

So with the photographs I stayed,
my unresting cogs wearing each other away,
and those moments captured honestly if now one dimension short,
but they showed the time as well as I and, where smiles were present, better.

Who shall tell it when my cogs rust or fall out of sync?
In the darkness, now a lie upon my back, I wonder; could any promise be kept?
Will all forevers extend beyond human arms’ reach,
Will his arms embrace her there? That was his belief.
But down here, where promises are broken and then sever,
this old ticker’s failing, in time he’ll stop forever.

Devolution

Tip me up, down and leave me emptied
or drop me to smash, send glass shards scattering across the floor.

I see an arm clamped around a waistline,
neither stays for a lifetime.

Go on, slam me down at the bar, demand some more.
But I hope they make them strong these days,
these kids that prowl back and forth
with their slurred speech that spills devolution,
when the sticky dance floor weakens tired legs
or the stiletto heels slip, slide then fall,

I’ll hide beneath a table,
while the courting continues above,
I’m rolling from one side to the other,
virtually empty but finally clear.
The ever changing perspective
that this rocking motion allows,
flashes the mind to the first page of memory;
a sand grain hurtling through the ruthless sea;
blurring ocean floor into fishes,
the elemental horizon, and then clouds.

I am officially…

I am officially fed up of people saying they are ‘officially’ something or other on social media. I demand to know - who exactly is the accrediting body as far determining you are ‘officially the most bored person in the world’? I want to see certificates.

Reality Punch

I’m on a reality punch. It’s like a health kick except instead of deciding to live with longevity in mind, I’m conceding that I like the bad things.

The awkward moment when…

The awkward moment when the embarrassment implied by the root of the generic social media phrase you’ve selected is invalidated by the entirely commonplace nature of the dribble that follows.

No Condition to Love

I, in no condition to love,
was trying to love you unconditionally.
But the bundles of love you gave me,
I never unwrapped them,
kept them preserved on the mantelpiece,
believing they’d always wait for me.
As I begin to take them down,
I find expired tealights waiting to be flattened.
and distorted hairgrips longing to recover their shape.

Were it not for how

Were it not for how we’re moving on,
I would tell you how,
at night watching white wave crests materialize,
the black ocean beyond does not care to differentiate itself from the sky,
does carve no definite horizon,
could soars high above,
and land right upon us,
but you would whisper it to another,
and it would fortify your embrace,
sat banked upon the beach.

I would tell you how,
lovers are not geometric shapes
and no matter how perfectly matched,
they will not wholly tessellate,
but you would borrow it,
to explain away the empty spaces left,
between waking and breakfast.

But this I will say,
because I want you to understand.
We cannot fall slowly.
Never did I hear said honestly -
‘I grew to love’,
Because with a meteoric collision is the only way,
love can announce itself:
one moment burning in the sky, the next,
a crater in the earth,
so tell that to another,
quickly, now while the tide is still approaching,
to flood the craters with salt water.