Weekly Poem #202

People Watching

 

Expressions without words, faces contorting,
Some semblance of emotion, untethered from context,
Lively, fluid muscles, shaping canyons and valleys
Stretching outward and inward again and again,
As if manipulated by some massive, calamitous storm.
Pick a direction and follow it, stay still
Or get caught in the middle, shuffling aimless, perplexed.
Crusted minds cracking as they bash into each other,
Glued like mites to circular silken highways,
Firing out signals, taking on water, negotiating,
And scanning for a line of best fit, somewhere in the tangle.
Only questioning it in those quiet, solitary moments,
When you watch the rest of them going past,
And try to figure out how it ends, or where you fit in.

Weekly Poem #201

Trial

A painful, seizing jolt running up the inside of the thigh,

A courtyard forms a canal for heavy, thrashing, boiling waves,

Hammering through his ribs again and again, eroding them

Until a naked nervous system quivers like a bundle of subdued lightning bolts.

This is real fear, fear with teeth, a huge, closed jaw towering over him,

An iron door slowly creaking agape, the airlock opening to the silent vacuum.

Feet cast in manacles, bruised shoulders wrapped in blighted garb

And a set of spear-tips leaning forwards behind him, blocking his escape.

Forward marching, slow awkward steps like a timid, broken animal

Being gently encouraged into the slaughterhouse and readied for death.

The rafters are packed with onlookers but the room feels empty as the void,

Eyes more like the hooded glow of sunlight struggling to negotiate morning fog,

Impotent, and devoid of all comfort, signal flares leading to the stand, the end.

To be told again and again that you’re a creature of legend, someone to be feared,

A man with so many skulls rattling about his ankles that they could form a pedestal,

Now so overcome with dread that he can barely even stand, let alone sit.

This is how legends end, shivering in the wake of new unfamiliar laws, miles from home,

In the grip of a nation he fought so hard to save his countrymen from, that he gave his all to defeat,

“More cruel than Herod”, someone had said. “Robber” “Thief” “Arsonist” “Murderer”

Names which hang heavy around his neck as the sweat pulls the blue shades of pride from his brow.

Given no occasion to speak, no chance to defend his actions or exercise his rights, he has none.

This was no law, this was theatre, parading the pantomime villain out for one last jeer

Before dragging him out by his ankles and strapping him to horses for the grand, gruesome finale,

Where every once of his flesh would be torn from the other, tarnished and destroyed until nothing remained.

The charges read, all the victories twisted as acts of malice, even as acts of treason,

He tries to speak out against that last accusation, voice failing somewhere deep in his battered chest

But the rafters erupt and his denials are drowned, before the final sentence drips from the judge’s sopping maw.

Stripped naked and dragged back out into the town he watches the doors close again, hears them slam,

The last sound that manages to find his mind before the cries of the mob envelop it, devour it.

Heels catching on cobbled ground, limbs shaking, eyes hollowed, noose awaited. This is how legends end.

An Explanation For My Lengthy Absence

HELLO EVERYONE.

So, first of all let me apologise for the recent lack of activity on this blog. Previously, if I ever missed a week without posting a poem, I would knock a ‘bye-week’ off the list in my head and give myself another 12 months before I was allowed to do it again, or if it happened again sooner, even longer. It was a good system, but now I’ve gone 3 weeks without a single poem, so it seems like that system is probably defunct.

Over the past few weeks, I’ve been dealing with family issues, a fluctuating workload and various other things. None of them have taken enough time out of my schedule to completely stop me from writing poems, but I just haven’t felt enough of a spark of inspiration to write any.

Now, this is far from the first time I’ve had this problem, but previously I’ve just forced myself to sit down and write a poem. Sometimes a good one would emerge, but often they would come out half-hearted and malformed. I want to adhere to a higher standard than that now, so I’ve taken a bit of time away.

Rest assured I’m going to start posting poems again, and soon, but I want to refine and improve my process, rather than letting myself hit zero hour every week and then churning out the first idea that pops into my head. That was fine when I started out but I’ve been doing this for almost 4 years and I’m a much better poet now than I was then.

Since starting this, I’ve completely changed my career trajectory, performed spoken word on stage and I’ve actually compiled around 90 poems from this page into a collection, which should be published later this year, all things being equal. I really enjoy doing this, but it’s reached a point now where I’m just coasting, rather than really challenging myself.

From your point of view, nothing is really going to change, poems will still come out on a weekly basis. I might take a week off a little bit more often if I can’t think of anything good, but the blog won’t be neglected. The average length of the poems might change, you might start seeing more material suited for spoken word performances and I might even start posting non-poetry on here more frequently, but other than that, it’ll be back to business as usual.

Expect Weekly Poem #201 to land very soon, and sorry again for the unexplained drop-off. Thank you all for your ongoing support, stay excellent.

Weekly Poem #200

The Talking Door

 

‘Do you need anything?’

Basic, ambiguous, echoing, pleading, and hopeful,

A mantra, repeated countless times through the talking door,

So simple yet asking a hundred thousand questions more.

Can I get you something to eat? Can I bring up some clean sheets?

Can I listen while you talk about how you’ve been feeling today?

Can I reach into the blackness and pull your mind free of it. Can I? Please?

Each conversation, vibrated through a thin layer of lacquered wood,

Each attempt to understand, each desperate grasp at a shred of motivation,

While my insides cramp and twist and my stomach burns volcanic,

Fighting back the desire to kick the door to splinters, rip the curtains down and confiscate the duvet.

To grab you by the arm and pull you out into the morning sunlight. To save you.

But you can’t bully someone into being happy, you can slap a delighted smile across a wounded face,

You can’t take up arms and fight this battle for them, because it’s not a battle, battles end.

Have you ever loved someone who didn’t love themselves? Cared so deeply, while they thought themselves worthless?

Have you ever heard the person who brought you into the world talk about wanting to leave it?

That was my talking door, my daily dialogue with the dark spectre who stalked our home,

Belching clouds of words which scratched their way through my ears and clawed at my mind,

Reminding me that I’m trying to help someone through something I can never really understand.

Standing by that door, listening to that distant, weakened voice, barely audible from the other side,

Telling me that everything is fine, telling me that she doesn’t need anything. Lying to me, day to day.

Every cliche and platitude ever conceived blasts through your mind like you’re cracking a password

A gateway back to some measure of normality you thought you knew before, but was never really there,

Because you were growing up, and she was tangling with monsters, only now they’re stronger.

Even when you feel like you’re doing nothing though, you can’t stop, you can’t ever stop,

Even when every word of comfort you say feels like it’s shattering against a barricade,

You keep on talking, you never stop talking, scratching away like Dufresne with his rock hammer.

Most days it will feel like nothing will ever change, except that they will continue to slip away,

But you can’t ever stop, because even if it takes a million words for one to break through

And remind them that you love them, and you’ll always, always be there for them,

You keep on talking, you reach that million mark, and then you keep going.

My talking door is opening, inch by inch, and I can see light on the other side,

So I take a breath, I stretch myself, I hold my stance, and I ask again:

Do you need anything?

Weekly Poem #199

Raised Skin

 

There’s a notion of something, moving through the darkness,

A few subtle curves in the night, rising, and falling away again.

A slow rhythm of short, muffled sounds, a twitch, a breath,

And yet, to be knowing it, is to be feeling it, the sheer intensity,

So overwhelming that your mind is entangled in a lightning storm,

Tossed, flipped, teased and manipulated in a haze of nervousness.

Reality splitting apart and scattering like static-charged hairs cut loose

And sent sailing across a current moving in all directions, an EMP blast.

You’re not speaking, you’re barely moving, but you’re caught in a maelstrom,

Not conscious, not away, locked in a far off fantasy, a phantom encounter,

Entwined in a misty embrace with the spirit of an echoing brainwave.

Perhaps they’re someone you’ve loved in real life, or imagined what it would be like,

Perhaps they’re a stranger you caught eyes with on the street, just for a moment,

Or maybe they’re an amalgam of all your thoughts and impulses, watered and oiled,

Then made flesh for the briefest moment, false yet so intoxicatingly real

And purposeful, and important, and overwhelming, and suffocating.

But on the outside, just the faint shuffles in the darkness, just the faintest murmurs.

Weekly Poem #198

Disposable

 

Somewhere in a storage closet, in a corner swept smooth with passing shadows,

Underneath a few ripped coats and ragged rucksacks, there’s a plastic box,

A box filled with disposable cameras, stacked five-high and further across.

Accumulating for decades, a slow, monotonous Tetris game, no kill screen.

Films nestled deep in the carapaces, never developed, always dormant,

Brimming with memories from the world over, spirits, sunsets and ghosts.

The moon hanging gigantic over a Scottish loch, a clear sky across a mountain range,

A blurry establishing shot of a party at a flat in Lambeth, wreathed in smoke,

A family walk through a busy market in Istanbul, a family dog dashing through a field.

A candid shot of a grandfather, unready to pose enough to mask a solemn face,

Or a tender moment between lovers, untarnished by the need to face a grin forwards.

It’s all there, an emotional archive, an amalgam of memories since split and scattered,

Entombed in a translucent sarcophagus, but still stubbornly clinging to life, still with us.

Never pasted across a web page to farm for approval or sink into obscurity,

Never poured over by a sleep deprived mind mining memories and wondering when they’ll be that happy again,

Never tagged, tethered and tarnished by the need to prove something to the silent crowd.

Trees fall soundlessly in the woods, and unseen photographs steal beautiful secrets away,

They sit curled like woodlice in their cases, and spark in the minds of their long-gone subjects.

There’s magic woven into that film, there’s a world remembered, but unknown.

The room darkens, the sky swings over, and the box stays shut. In the darkness, the box stays shut.

Weekly Poem #197

Hit and Run

 

I saw him at the crossing, waiting for the lights to change,

Walking like he had a foot tangled in his shadow,

I caught his eye, for the briefest moment, and then he turned a corner.

I still see him, scraped across the tarmac, innards unpacked,

Caped by a crimson streak, fingers twitching their last.

He’d never seen it coming, boy racer, exhausts flaring, wheels screeching

Until the bodywork shattered, and pressed him into the ground.

Walking to work I would hear the screams, shouts and whimpers,

I thrash my head from side to side to shake them loose, but they stick,

I see pleading eyes reflecting in shop windows, see them follow me down the street.

Perhaps I caught the edge of his soul in that moment, and claimed it for my own,

I was the last person to see him alive, the last person to see his complete self,

Perhaps that sealed some spiritual pact between us, tethered him to me.

I’ve asked him before, but he never answers, he never says anything,

He just looks at me, with those pleading eyes, and lets me take care of the rest.

Weekly Poem #196

Pictograph

 

Take a canyon flyover across the palm of your hand,

See the fault lines and rifts which settle there, so softly.

Rearrange them, give them new forms, examine them

And see what translations you can conjure in them.

There’s another language buried beneath your skin,

Whispering and sending out shivering, nervous tingles,

Telling you something you would wish you understood,

Should you ever digest even a hint of the true meaning of it.

You’re scrambling through tight tunnels, painting skylines

And rolling landscapes across the edges, and then losing yourself in them.

You’re jamming a bloodshot eye through a pinhole camera,

Letting the blurs sharpen into purposeful forms, and following.

Sometimes, you can see the cuneiform text scrolling across your eyelids,

Grappling with itself, skittering through the darkness, at play,

But then you fall back into yourself, back into those comfortable folds,

Constricted with a warm, familiar weight, and numbed into deep sleep.

One day, they’ll pick you apart and scan the liner notes, seeing it for what it is,

But you’ll be gone, a glint of light shrinking into the distance, as the words fade

And another dead language is stolen away, and committed to the catacombs.

 

 

Weekly Poem #195

Whittler’s Hands

 

Worn and reddened, and as coarse as sand locked in time,

Chippings strewn across the lightly dusted wooden beams,

And cold, steamy breaths heaving outward, hurting, haunting.

Lines of creatures, of squeezed souls all signed and sorted,

A gallery of eternal life, gathered to observe the one-man show.

He himself a creature, so absorbed in craft that he forgets himself,

He comes the craft, he becomes a callous on a gnarled fingertip,

The blade of a knife presses down hard but no blood flows forth,

The skin just crackles and contorts, like a dead left drying in the sun.

So he carves, and whittles, and turns his trinkets to companions,

He stocks his tea party with harsh, ravening eyes, tapping on his skull,

Worrying at the base, trying to scratch right through to the spine

And see it it resonates all the way down, to see if his spirit will stir.

 

Weekly Poem #194

Stalking Horse

 

Green lights cling to the last flicking sparks of life,

Flashing a sickly hue over slick, empty street crossings.

Nothing feels real here, glass window panes warp with distortion,

Shop window mannequins scan for lost limbs in the darkness

And somehow, the air is soundless, even the wind escapes it.

These streets aren’t all real, you see, they conceal lethal secrets,

Find the line between the derelict and the pristine, then comes the reveal.

A wild west backdrop, a road runner tunnel, a matte painting,

A faintly unrealistic notion of humanity, meant to fool us, trap us.

Once bustling, these dark stretches of town became home to hunters,

Creatures which can replicate our worlds almost perfectly.

We wander blindly into shop doorways, down alleys, over crossings

And we are never seen again, our essence consumed by something far beyond us.

So many lost in this feeding frenzy, those lucky enough to flee retreated

And found refuge out in the wilderness, abandoning the urban sprawl.

For everyone else, the affliction spread, it came to our houses, to our rooms,

Swallowed up into darkness by our bathrooms, beds and wardrobes,

No longer able to differentiate between reality and the jaws of oblivion.

People we’d known and loved all our lives, transformed into anglerfish lures,

Guiding us deeper into a pit of blackness so thick it crushes bones to powder.

This is our apex predator, our balance, our enemy, our looming demise,

The slippery ledge that lost us our grip on this lonely, shrinking world.

Where did they come from? How long did it take them to become this way?

None of those questions mattered anymore, as we recoiled away from all we’d built,

And abandoned our legacy to ensure our survival, to preserve our stagnant remains.

Some wondered if, somehow, we had created these things, from guilt, from pain,

Or in our arrogance, we’d never seen them coming, despite all the warnings.

The streets hang open, and hang silent, soon nature will restore itself, but not for us.

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