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 #193

Responding in Kind

 

What should I say? I ask you, how should I phrase it?

Standing ten feet tall across the chest of a dying man

After pressing a blade against his neck and pushing it through.

Fighting off that impulse to plug his wound and hold him steady,

Watching him writhe, choke, succumb to fear, and then the rest.

Silence just doesn’t seem good enough, does it?

A disdainful look and a corridor of silence for his whimpers to rattle down,

Throat growling and clattering like a tin case filled with ground soot

Mixed with foreign soil to take home and place on the mantlepiece,

A testament to an alien world he’ll never have to visit again.

Instead, he’ll die here, and the soil stays put, waiting for the blood to dry up.

A word of comfort? How can I say that everything will be okay?

When you stand over the precipice of a cold cavernous abyss next to a stranger,

How can you claim you know what’s beneath, if all you’re going to do is push them in.

It’s not going to be okay, bodies line the fields and long lives lie shattered beneath them,

Draped entrails of frayed destinies strewn across the dirty ground glinting, and fading,

Like an archive of hypothetical happy lives now vandalised and left for the vermin,

Smashed glass, collapsed shelves and shredded pages of kind words, calm words, loving words.

So what should I say? Am I sorry? Should I be sorry, flip the page upside down and now he thinks the same,

Standing over me watching me clutch helplessly at an oozing neck and waiting for death to set me free.

There’s no sorry here, we both acted out of fear and a split second set us apart,

For one final moment we both stood on a thin blade, digging into the arches of our feet, seeing which way we would teeter.

I went one way, and he the other, and now I’m standing here, and he’s lying there.

Please, help me figure out what to say. There must be words in some language to help me end this day,

Some combination of sounds, histories and feelings that will ease him and ease me,

I’m watching a man turn to stone and I can feel the boned fingers of his soul reaching out,

I’m the only one here to be with him as he dies and I have to offer him something, I can’t face those eyes.

I can’t stand the wideness, the bulging, pleading wideness of those eyes, trying desperately to cling to the sockets,

Before they drop back into the skull and let time take care of the rest.

Perhaps I should just smile, perhaps I should just smile and slowly walk away, perhaps it will awaken something,

Perhaps I can unlock some memory or crumb of comfort in his mind with that wordless smile,

And let him drift into an unending sleep with some sense of goodness in his mind, his fraction of a lifetime.

What should I say? No words are good enough, no words for the fear, the fury, the futility of it all.

We were brought here to fight for reasons we don’t even grasp, and then you ask us to search for words

While we stand across the bodies of men we never knew enough to hate and see them suffer

At our own hands again and again until it’s our turn to gaze skyward until the shutters close.

We don’t want to be here, and yet we carry on, say our prayers, write our letters and load our rifles,

We carry on, because there’s nothing else, whatever world rises after this, it isn’t for us.

What should I say? There’s nothing to say. We left our voices at home. We’ll never get them back.

 

Weekly Poem #186

Thoughts Tumble

 

When the mind meanders towards thoughts of death, it halts, it shunts,

Like a pilgrim ambling between flowing dunes and coming to face a towering wall,

A black obsidian slab stretching out to touch the horizon from opposite sites,

An unknowably ancient obstacle, speaking to him, telling him to venture no further.

How can one thread of thought, however harrowing, carve our culture so deeply,

Draw the blood of all our ancestors and send it rippling out to the furthest corners

To pool in the hollows it finds, settle there, and slowly ferment, and stagnate.

You try to imagine the way the universe began, an explosion of pure existence

Snapping out from darkness, like the storm of white bubbles set loose by a breaching whale,

Or the burst of light as a fork of lightning whips down from the raging heavens.

You stare out into nothingness, feeling your heartbeat and knowing the tank will one day empty,

But there’s no way to know what that’s going to feel like, or what lurks on the other side.

‘Nothing’, some say, ‘everything’, say others, ‘judgement’, say some. A chorus of blind leadership.

Living life based on the outcome of the endgame is like raising a child just to see it disappear,

Or watching a kite catch the swelling wind and waiting anxiously for it to fall back down.

So we hide those thoughts, we let them tumble away and fizzle to nothing in our stomaches,

We drown them out with prayers and hymns and drum beats and numbing potions

Because those are the questions we can’t answer, and the unknown haunts our steps.

We stare out into the cosmos holding back the maddening attempts to comprehend,

Clinging to theories and fantasies rather than accepting that we are hurtling through a mystery

Which we will never really solve, whatever leviathans float out there in the gloom,

So colossal that they drift past galactic clouds of dust, so far beyond us

That the very notion of their existence would tear a human cortex to neat little shreds,

They are no closer to these answers than we, because these answers do not exist.

Our touchstones of time, gravity, the self, the meaning and the questions and the answers,

They all fade away when you yield to the infinite, or to the coming end.

When the mind meanders towards death, it halts, it shunts,

But when the body goes with it, they soften together, and open up to it.

Weekly Poem #167

Hallowed Ground

 

The wind lifts dandelion seeds skyward

Like a fine layer of dried, loosened skin

Coating the surface of a slumbering giant.

His green, furred surface rolling ever onwards,

But hollowed beneath, shaped for purpose.

I’m tracing my steps across his chest

And hearing them echo into the depths

Of his ribcage, his thoracic cavity,

Adding my own percussion to his notes,

His whispered, respired, sleepy symphony.

This giant will never wake, though

He gave himself to the earth

And we burrowed below his brittle skin

To build ourselves a temple to death.

 

Weekly Poem #155

Mermaids

 

That familiar feeling, gravity pulling solids between sand,

Translated into orbit around the tennis balls on the zimmer frame.

Skin so weathered by putrid air that the salt almost recoils,

As the lapping waves worry at ears long decimated by grinding metal.

You scan the sea for mermaids past misshapen cataracts,

Trying to pick out the tints of green, turquoise and sunset orange

Before the cloud plumes settle and the poison all seeps in.

If one washed up now, arms broken and neck coiled in plastic,

You couldn’t scramble to save her, even if you fell, and crawled,

Dragged your withered remains to her, you would be too weak.

You’ve come back to the cradle of life, and you’ve brought monsters,

Chewed up and spat out by a system that consumes all, and preserves none.

Beckoned in by the bright lights and comfortable, wholesome ambitions,

Now peering inwards at a faded soul, and outward at a rotten legacy.

The somersaulting manta ray, dancing under the moon,

Dragged onto the shoreline and savaged with a blade to lift the gills free,

The silky shark, held steady with an iron hook, and amputated for soup,

The mermaids, all shapes and forms, lost to some tragic, vengeful archive.

You let the zimmer frame drop, feel your sharpened knees dig down,

And with a misted, reddened skyward gaze, you pray, you pray,

You pray so hard your hands blister and your throat dries to bark,

You pray for the seas to rise, wash away the toxins, and swallow this world,

You pray for them to take it back, to undo your mistakes and rule anew.

You are greeted with silence, outer and inner, and you fade into yourself,

You’ll be dead before the tide reaches you, and it won’t give you any answers.

Weekly Poem #140

Habitat

 

Have you ever stared death down so hard

That you saw the reds and blacks interplaying in his irises?

Swirling like deep pools of spiked primordial soup,

Steaming and standing by to be sucked down

By mankind’s misguided, divided progenitor.

It’s not a gaze you can hold, decode or unload

If you should choose to meet him, down below.

If you venture between icy plumes out North

And tunnel down beneath the warmth of Earth’s bosom,

Where shadows thicken and bones glisten.

His habitat is a hopeless void, starved for sunlight

And rabid for souls to unfold, dismantle and dissolve.

Spires of limestone spear up towards the surface

As blackened tentacles clothe their bases in darkness.

The gentle crawl of blind cave creatures

Crackles out and bouncing into a speckled symphony

To wrap around yourself as you edge closer to him.

For in the deepest bulging unknown he sits patient,

Astride a throne of hardened firestone and gently moans,

As he slumbers, his throat rattling a deep, inward thunder.

You guide your chin to the sharpened tips of his ivory toes

And bring it up to raise with his coarse, colossal frame

And finally his whirling eyes are trained

And tethered to your quivering, mortal gaze.

His jaw slackens like the rusted wreck of a guillotine,

Rises again and a gusting voice asks why you come,

Asks what your intentions truly are.

What will you answer?

What will you say?

Will you ask him why death must slumber out of sight?

Cut off from those who must accept him, that they might live?

Or will you shrink into selfishness and ask when your time will come?

What question could you possibly ask,

To that which is the answer nobody will ever know.

Weekly Poem #134

Paper Skin

 

I pressed my hand against yours to find the warmth,

It retreated back like a distant murmur of a fading memory.

Your eyes gently settled themselves, nested deep in socket

As all the muscles relinquished the final twinge of tension

And just like that, in a passing moment, you were gone.

There was no fanfare, no blinding light, and no overture,

Just a steady, struggling breath, whisked away from this world.

The grooves in your skin felt rough and opaque against mine

And I gripped as hard as I could, felt the knuckles roll in my hand

As if I was trying to squeeze your soul back in through the palm.

I don’t know what I thought in that moment, it wasn’t death,

Not in the way I understood it, it didn’t feel final, or definitive.

You had just drifted over the lip of life, moving just beyond my reach

Like the car would vanish behind the hill after your visits.

I felt more like a child in that moment than any other,

Certain that I wanted something desperately, but not what it was.

The half-light crept in through the window, with beautiful slowness

As I pondered who I should call, what the next step was.

I had just seen a life leave a body and cross into something new

And now I had been left alone with a corpse, an empty vessel.

Pragmatism doesn’t really factor into moments like those,

Sat alone in living rooms with statues of your loved ones,

Listening for the sound of a distant, loving farewell.

Weekly Poem #132

Buzzards

 

Palm back, arm forward, beat away the sun.

Heel down, pressure on, sand between toes.

Keep moving, sweat beading, air rippling.

Run your fingers around the border of your eye,

Feel the blood pushing past the cortex.

Tense thigh, let the leg drop, fight past the prickling heat.

The dunes roll in an endless frozen fire,

Dragging your vision out to the edge of sanity.

Tattered shirt’s purchase frays on a burnt shoulder,

Rucksack digging deep and hard into chipping skin,

Scarred, swollen lips weeping hard, viscous tears.

What are you running away from, little pilgrim?

Why do you wander further towards death?

Why do you stand with arms outstretched,

And make yourself a target for the buzzards?

None of this is real, not the hard, sharp sunbeams

Slicing through beyond skin to singe the ribcage,

Nor the gently searing, stinging sand.

You made this prison for yourself,

You dug this pit and waited for the rain to drown you.

Why don’t you just come back?

Dig the rope out and follow it back to the rim of the glass.

Take a spinning step and follow footprints facing ankle-first.

You don’t need to do this to yourself, things were better,

So much better than the ways your mind has warped them.

Don’t give in to the forces sticking in your stubborn throat.

The desert is long, and relentless, and deadly,

You have a home away from all this.

There are no snakes coiled at your footfall

Or angry scorpions poised to sting.

Just one hand to take yours and hold it tight

And another to lay a bunch of flowers at your feet.

There’s a bed for you here, and comfort in darkness,

Embrace it, accept it, and leave this trudging hell behind.

We miss you.

Weekly Poem #124

Crustacean King

 

Gentle rain chatters across the material world.

Heavy deluge reduces rock pool to chaos.

A targeted air strike thunders down rhythmically

As windy wisps stir up the surface tension.

Shrimps and shells slam into rising stone boundaries

And stardust twists and dances in the soupy air.

The king is tied down to his throne of elephant bones

With his eyes tucked carefully behind his heavy crown.

Disturbed sand stirs up subterranean dwellers

And pushes them into the dancing circle, unwilling.

Court jesters hurled into a heaving hell,

Their limbs torn away and set flailing into the abyss.

Searchlights evaporate in the gathering, malicious murk

Which devours light and spits out the fraying shreds.

The king’s court of translucent microbes and worms

Not evolved enough to comprehend a firm foothold.

They become part of the storm, resigned to the whirl

As the world sheds its outline, and life starts to spill.

Weekly Poem #105

Glacier Firecracker

 

Snapping shutters gathered at the tip of the iceberg

As dragon breath blasted from beneath and blackened the sky.

Somewhere, down the track, caught hard in those rocky bowels

A snarling, streaming blaze was raging, roaring and reaping.

 

This was going to be news, this was going to resonate.

The rescuers, rubber-necking rabble and descending press all knew it.

Down below the rest were caught in a pincer of smoke and flame,

One from beneath and the other form above, sealing, choking, searing.

 

The railway car had managed maybe half the journey before it happened,

Tightly peopled with tourists and thrill-seekers the world over.

All of them eager to perch their eye line over the bladed icy edge above,

A monstrous, colossal mover of ancient water and unstoppable force.

 

Perhaps some of them had sought some glimmer of death’s gaze on the precipice,

But now death’s clenching jaws were closing around them with white hot teeth.

A gentle climb up a tunnel had been mutated, now a clawing, cloistered chimney,

An unwanted chimney, a vent for the scattered remains of an unfolding tragedy.

 

Austrian candles flickered as two days were offered in payment,

The tunnel was corked, cased away like a hulking, foreboding Khartoum.

In the time it had taken the glacier to take a fragment of an inch of a step,

155 lives had been claimed, the rails smouldered, the light faded, and it stepped on.

 

 

*Original idea provided by Rachel (about the funicular railway, the depressing, tragic element was all me, make of that what you will)

Thought Catalog

Thought Catalog is a digital youth culture magazine dedicated to your stories and ideas.

Unkilled Darlings

Faulkner said, kill your darlings. I say, put them on the internet and let strangers read them.

NotMyTumblr

Emerging artists and my thoughts on life

toodamncanadian

Just another WordPress.com site

corngoblin

A rather droll affair

Espen Stenersrød- From Pen To Heart

Jack Kerouac with a scent of Henry Vaughn

silkroadcollector.me

An International company that offers private antique art sales to clients around the globe.

amberleighjellytea

Just another brain vomit blog

Jonesing for Design

@stephhh // Digital Designer based in London, UK.

Each Day is a New Story

A daily photo blog by London based digital designer, Steph Jones // @Stephhh

David Darbyshire

Creative Sound & Music