A collection of poems and other writings...

Wednesday, 20 September 2017

A Change Of Clothes

She missed him of course.
Jack.
His presence in the house.
The structure that his comings and goings imposed upon her day.
But she couldn't say she wanted him back.
And as she moved around the house now she still heard his voice – niggling at her, correcting her, undermining her.
What've you done that for?
- Why do you do it like that?
- It'd be better to wash the inside of the windows on the Thursday then when the cleaners come on the Friday you'll notice the difference, won't you.
- It'd be better, do you not think, to wash the kitchen floor last thing at night rather than now, just before you're going to start cooking.
- I wish you'd think a bit, sweetheart. If you used your brain a little you wouldn't be so tired all the time, would you.

It was a Saturday when he had sat in front of the television while she ironed, steam hissing from her iron.
He turned up the volume.
- Sweetheart, do you have to do that in here? It's steaming the place up. Look at the windows. All that condensation. It'll rot the frames. It's not great, y'know. It's not like we're made of money to be able to buy uPVC, is it. It's me that'll have to fix it, isn't it. At the end of the day.  It'd be better if you did the ironing up in the spare room, wouldn't it. You could have the window open, couldn't you.
- But I like to watch the telly while I'm doing it.
- Well, you could take the portable in from the bedroom, couldn't you, love. Take it in and put it on the chest of drawers and you can watch what you want then, can't you.
- But I like watching with you, Jack.
- Well yes, but we don't really like the same things, do we. You're not that interested in football, are you. Be honest.
- I don't mind.
- And I can't stand that crap you watch. Don't Tell Them About The Dress or whatever it is. So it'd suit us both really, wouldn't it. I tell you what, at the break I'll nip up and put the portable in the spare room for you. I'll plug it in there, shall I. And you can go and take the ironing board up there and do the ironing in the spare room, can't you, and watch what you like then. I'll do that for you, shall I. Ok? You can watch what you like then.

The heart attack was only to be expected, the doctor said.
- But he was only fifty four.
But considering his family history, his passive life style, his poor diet, the doctor said.
- I always served him veg, she said. He just never ate any.

- Will you be all right, Mrs McKinnon? The sister asked as she led her out of the family room.
- I'll be fine.
- Is there anyone I can call for you?
- No, you're all right, I'll be fine.
- Sure? Sister? Children? Neighbour, perhaps?
- No, honestly. I'll be fine.

It was 8.00am when she left the hospital.
They wanted to call a taxi for her but she said she'd prefer to walk.
The May sunshine streamed through the trees as she walked down Canal Street and out into the park. A light green flush haloed the birches and tinged the air. She went and sat on the bench by the pond. 
- What now?
She felt a tightening in her throat.
A few ducks swam lazily towards her and then away again as they realised she had nothing for them.
- Nothing today, ducks, she said. Nothing today.
- You'd better get home, he said. It's nearly nine. What're you thinking? You should be home by now, do you not think? It'd be better if you went home now, love, and sorted things out. You know.
She stood up and picked her bag up from the bench. She'd better get home.
A cockerpoo came snuffling around the feet of the bench where she'd been sitting. Then it scented her and came over, muddy feet up on her leg as she stood there. She found she didn't mind.
- Hello, she said. You're a friendly thing.
The dog pushed its snout under the edge of her skirt. She pushed it down then sat back on the bench and started to pet the animal.
- Douglas Fairbanks? Douglas Fairbanks!
A man in his late forties was striding quickly towards them, empty lead in hand.
- Oh, I'm so sorry, he said. Has he been bothering you?
He bent and clipped the lead onto the dog's collar.
- D'you really call him Douglas Fairbanks?
- Haha! It was my late wife's idea. She loved Douglas Fairbanks. Well, in truth she loved Douglas Fairbanks Junior, but that seemed too much of a mouthful. Haha! Do you mind if I...?
- Be my guest, she said.
- Alec, he said.
- Tess, she said.

She looked at his trousers as he sat down. Sharp creases.
Clean shoes despite the Spring mud in the park.
She listened to his crisp, modulating voice as he spoke.
Saw the tidily manicured nails.
Noted the gold wristwatch, the heavy wedding ring which he still wore.

On the fifth of June, he took her to the City Hall. A tea dance. Saturday afternoon. They drank milky tea. They danced. He led. She followed.

On Monday, she sent Jack's clothes to the Mind Shop. She found she didn't.

On the seventeenth of July, while they were watching the special matinee showing of Gone With The Wind at the Great American Picture House on Bentall Street, he reached across the popcorn and took her hand. She noticed he wasn't wearing his ring any more.
She found she gave a damn.

August Bank Holiday and they made love in the afternoon in a small pension he'd found online on the Left Bank of the Seine. She'd never been to Paris before. She loved Paris.
- Can we come again, she said, as he held her.
His hand moved slowly over her belly, still glistening from their love-making.  It slid up her body to cover her breast. She felt an unfamiliar tingling in her nipple.
She loved him.

- It's a bit soon, isn't it? Dad's barely cold.
- Your father was cold before ever he died.
Anthea took the plates from the drainer, dried them and stacked them on the counter.
- Well as long as you know what you're doing, Mum.
- I know what I'm doing, love. I know what I'm doing.

On the first of December, he moved in.
Douglas Fairbanks hid under the dining room table while they went upstairs.
She sat on the bed and watched Alec unpack his suitcase.
He placed his socks in Jack's sock drawer.
He unfolded his shirts and hung them on hangers on Jack's side of the wardrobe. Next to her dresses and the white blouses she used to wear to the office.
His shoes – eight pairs, she counted – he arranged on a shoe rack he had brought with him.

- Thank you, she said.
- My darling, what for?
- Just... thank you. I love you.
- And I love you too.
- Do you?
- With all my heart. I never thought I could love again. You have proven me wrong.
- You make me feel like a teenager, she said. Except that when I was a teenager I had spots and big crooked front teeth and glasses.
- My darling, you are beautiful in my eyes.
- Thank you.
She felt herself flush.
He paused for a moment.
- Dearest?
- Yes?
- Don't you think it would be better if the head of the bed was against the other wall? Then when the sun rises it wouldn't be so directly in our faces.
- Hm... maybe... she said.

Tuesday, 12 September 2017

Thus have I killed you

And thus
have I killed you
a hundred times:
stalked your corpse
among the living;
ripped the soul
from your dead flesh
in some imagined resurrection.


Thus have I killed you
a thousand times and more
when every face I see
in some small way
reflects a part of you:
the line of jaw;
the velvet camber
of a sallow cheek.



Thus have I killed you,
oh, ten thousand times
and mourned your death afresh
for dead you are
it seems
four decades gone
or so they say
though I did never see you dead:
never measured your length
upon a slab;
just some old box we tucked away
into the ground -
a time capsule of a life.



And every woman
still
spotted from this bus
though two hundred miles away
in years and space
for a fleeting moment
breaks nature's rule
and feeds my futile heart
with desperate hope
that hers might be your face.




Tuesday, 29 August 2017

Finite - a prose poem

A second piece written on holiday, originally called No Work On Monday!

Maybe it's my age that brings death to my thoughts so often.
I wrote this not out of a feeling of depression but rather a sense of the release death offers and how briefly we share the earth in comparison to natural phenomena - which are of course, themselves, finite.



Everyday, in some way, I contemplate my death.

Today – Friday – stood above these staggering falls, I cast, in my mind's eye, my carcass down from this viewing bridge to cascade and shatter on the rocks below. And although I fear my end would be neither instant or painless, the thundering water, blistering the air and cracking fractures in the rock, would so overwhelm me that in my shattered state I would have no strength to fight my way back to grace.

The torrent like a thousand fists, like the hurling of a thousand stones, would boulder me to death, pressing my splintered rib cage down against these ragged sharps.

And later, when the hue and cry had scoured the fruitless paths, they'd find these tattered bollocks buttered into crevices beneath the fall. They'd pull me out, of course, and as some poor sod wrung water from his uniform, and accepted praise from colleagues for a difficult job well done, they'd strap what's left of me to a stretcher and man-handle me back to the patient car-parked ambulance.

There'd be no need for sirens blaring, no alarum bells. Hurrying would make no difference now.

And though I do not doubt that some would curse the spot and shout their angry questions in my dead face, I would rest more or less peacefully knowing this to be my last place.









The Birks Of Aberfeldy

I wrote this while we were away in Aberfeldy recently.
I visited the Birks of Aberfeldy several times - a woodland walk along a river that creates a series of waterfalls, the Falls of Moness, famously written about by Robert Burns in his song The Birks of Aberfeldy - he sits now on a bench surveying the scene.

The woodland is mixed but the most striking and numerous are the silver birch trees, The Birks.  We did catch a glimpse of a rare red squirrel, too.

It rained a lot one day but the following morning was beautiful and the swollen river was powerfully impressive as it cascaded along the gorge, almost too intense an experience at the time.

climb this morning
once again
the Birks of Aberfeldy

mount the path
through silvered trees
their mossy overgrowth
their heart-shaped leaves
to where the upmost bridge
spans the bursting stream

and here
I pause
for half an hour or so

to stand and count the water
breathe sunshine
from the naked sky

I study the larches too
that drip with yellow light
against the blue
while chitting wrens
chase flies along their limbs
and russet squirrels
hunt the drooping boughs

I have no thought
to justify the place
no need to argue
why or when or how
here simply is a changing constancy
a thundering, falling flow
that stuns the earth
to silence
drums below the feet
drowns the traffic of the brain
drugs the blood

and yet this dryad spirit is too great
it seems
or this mind too weak
for I find I have to turn away
to imagine
an understanding
of the place

I cannot live within this terrifying moment
but rather long for its memory
so rich is it
in its sufficiency

Monday, 24 July 2017

Darning Socks

Clouds on the horizon. 
Clouds, smoky and grey, pre-empting the passing season - sandal-free days. 
So I spend my afternoon darning socks.

There must be something remarkable in the angle of my toenails for no matter how short I clip them, they are inclined to devastate the yarn above.
They are the Big Toes that create the greatest destruction, incising against the inside of the toecaps of my boots, shredding the thread, fracturing the fabric. Now, the next time the socks are worn they must be slipped each on the other foot, so the holes hover each above the middle toe, Toe Three. Meanwhile, Big Toes set to work again, feasting anew on virgin textile. And come nightfall, as I toe-heel out of my loafers, there are now two pale planets of nail and flesh luminous against a dark woollen skyscape.

'Buy New,' she says, 'for Life is Too Short to spend hours darning holes in such insignificant garments. Buy New!'

But how can I reject my knee-high Prince of Wales plaid?
How can I desert my 'World's Best Dad'? An ankle-borne motto from a time when I was not so worn out by work.
What would I do without the Weekday Run-through – the circling calendar slipping unseen into my shoe? Monday Blue through to Lemon Yellow Sunday.

And these, my wedding socks, black silk softness, will I divorce from them so easily?  Should I slip them along my soles, though now crumpled and ill-fitting, stretched because the size I bought was just a little too short?
Can I render them up? Can I tender them in exchange for something fashionably new? Or should I darn and sew, the way I know how to? Darn and sew, mend and make do.


Tuesday, 18 July 2017

A Graveside Kiss

Lilies
     dense and white
     and speckled orange
     soft-stemmed funnels of sorrow
     bundled within a polythene sleeve
lie
     on the mound of churned earth
     that will cover her coffin
we
     thumb paper tissues
     into our palms
     sidle together
     our heads at forty five
     though a more subtle angle
     between your body and mine
     for we are inclined to weep
we each
     lean on the other's arm
     our soft palates each clamped
     against the grief
     tongues tying the tragedy tight

but here
     amongst the cannas and tigers
     a bumble bee
     fumbles one by one into the flower cones
     re-emerges after a moment
     reversing from each powdery trumpet
     pollen like polenta
     dusting its busby black and belisha fur
then
     its forage complete
     now all sweetness is gone
     it rises against the breeze
     and flies close
     between your shoulder
     and your ear
you
     flinch
     and shudder
     as the wing-disturbed air
     broaches your neck
     an intimate breath
     a whispered kiss
     at the graveside

Wednesday, 12 July 2017

H-Bomb

I climb the corner
from Valley into Upper Valley Road
the licorice evening
cat-curling round my feet

young boy
ten
walking towards me
drops an H-bomb
as he passes

I stutter my surprise
but then
remembering
its sometimes
good to connect
return the greeting

Hello
I say
back


Friday, 7 July 2017

jockey shorts

In an attempt
to drive
his taunting teenaged son
from his bedroom
as he tries to prepare for bed
the father strips
completely

naked
to the blue thread veins
that run across his chest
to the varicose vessels
that meander
from his groin
and delta down his inner thigh

the lad jeers
cheerily
at the whiteness
of the pallid skin
stretched shining
over the ridges of the shins

scoffs
at the loose-toned buttocks
revealed
as shapeless
jockey shorts
are thumbed down from the hips

complains
as a curtain of pendulous stomach
undulates in
a galloping adipose syncopation

but is silenced
as the father's flaccid weapon
larger than his own
claims victory
over the moment

the father
ignores the abuse
chooses to centre himself
in his thoughts
tosses the shorts
to the dirty linen basket
shakes creases
from folded pyjamas
stored beneath the pillow
ties a double bow
in the thick white cord
to ward against
further
more physical
attack


but
eventually
the lad grows up
and
sees that
he is
now the one
who strips to the white bone
before sleeping
contemplates
a ruined temple
as he yearns
for some more sensuous

corporeal sensation

Monday, 3 July 2017

Terrifying

Another piece from an Electric Tomatoes session - this was the first warm up exercise and the prompt was 'terrifying'....

Not there. Not like that.
Like what?
Not like that.  Have you done this before? Get your arm underneath.
It is, it is.
No, all the way round. Take the weight, take the weight.
I don't think I can.
Yes you can. Don't be daft. But perhaps first sit down. She wants to feel held.
Where? Here on the chair?
No, on the sofa, sit there. Take her onto your lap. Then I'll take a snap.
What over here? Shall I sit over here?
Now put out your hands. Put one here and one here. No, under her bum. Just there. Just like that.
Oh I see.  Right, okay.
Now pull her in close. Right into your chest.
Like this.

Like that. You'll soon get the hang, but don't let her head just wobble about.  Hold her tight – and relax. Just breathe – and relax.



Answers on a postcard as to what exactly is going on...

Tuesday, 27 June 2017

Will you never kiss my face again - A Villanelle

We've been looking at the villanelle in my writing class, so I thought I'd have a bash at one.  There's something very wistful and slightly archaic about the form for me - the repeated rhymes and refrains.  I have been a little free with the form but I think it is still recognisably a villanelle....


Will you never kiss my face again -
your hands reach out no more, your finger's tip
not trace the line of cheek on down to chin?

Will my tongue not taste your breathy stain
and will your lip not press upon my lip?
Will you never kiss my face again?

Remember times when we embraced in rain.
Remember how we gave the sun the slip.
Now there is terror in this parted pain.

You struck me once, I still recall the sting:
your hand against my cheek – my swollen lip.
Will you never strike this face again?

And tears you cried, when stressing under strain
or contemplating yet another trip –  
for there was terror in that parted pain.

But now the parting is complete. Death's train
has swept you from the platform, made no slip.
Now there is terror in this parted pain
For you will never kiss my face again.

Thursday, 1 June 2017

shell

I meet you
and my heart bleeds words

and so
upon torn scraps of vellum
I write the words down
in my blood ink
to capture
the beating heart of you
in the beating heart of me

I have chosen my most special epithets
and inscribe them
upon this precious parchment

and with a gum construed

from saliva
and sweat
and blood
and tears

I paste them
upon your soft skin
to cling like lips
to each ululating contour
to follow the curve of your cheek
the sweet overhang of your breast
the challenging valleys
the darker ravines of you
shaped and followed
by my anxious collage

and through such moulding
have I not trapped the beauty
of your spirit
within this papiermâché shell

you dance
and dandle
drift and delight
and I adore you
in this cocooned form

even while I watch
the spirit sift like spun sand
from the pulpit
of your eyes
and listen
to the sea
shudder in your breast



Wednesday, 31 May 2017

prompt - Hollow victory

Latest writing from an Electric Tomatoes meeting - our prompt: Hollow Victory...

She could argue about anything. Made a point of it actually.
'Which do you prefer,' she said, 'the blue satin or the mauve?'
'I dunno.'
'Oh, come on! You're really not helping.'
'Well, they're both nice...'
'Yes, but you've got to have a favourite. Which is your favourite? Come on!'
'Well, the blue's a nice colour.'
'The blue? Really?'
'Yes, I like the blue.'
'You like the blue? Best? Really?'
'Yes. Of the two – the blue.'
'So why don't you like the mauve?'
'I do.'
'You said you like the blue.'
'I do. I like it best.'
'Why? What's wrong with the mauve?'
'Nothing's wrong with it.'
'Well why don't you like it then?'
'I do! I do like it!'
'Well why didn't you say so then.'
'I did! I did say! I said I like them both, but of the two – the blue. The blue's best! Jeez! Which do you like anyway?'
'Me? Oh don't bother about me! It doesn't matter what I like – no, because you can't stand the mauve so... well, there's no choice then is there. If you don't like the mauve, it's got to be the blue then hasn't it. Don't bother about me. Oh no, don't bother about my feelings!'
'They're your frigging shoes, love! You want the mauve, get the mauve. I don't mind.'
'Yes that's it, isn't it! You just don't care. You never listen to me. When I talk you just glaze over – I've seen you.'
'I do not!'
'Yes you do. I've seen you, you just glaze over and whatever I say just goes in one ear and out the other. You just don't care.'
'I DO care. Of course I care, you stupid c.... Of course I frigging care, but I don't mind which frigging shoes you choose. Either'll do. You've just got to choose the ones you'll feel comfortable in.'
'Comfortable? Comfortable – tell me you are NOT serious!'
'Well, you've got to be happy in them. You've got to feel right.'
'How can I feel right in them when I know you hate them?'
'Oh for fuck's sake woman, I do not hate them! Jesus wept, woman. Fuck it, I'm going to make some tea. Do you want some?'
'Of course I want some. Why wouldn't I want some? Of course I want some. Is that too much to ask? Is a cup of tea too much to ask when I can't have the shoes I want?'

So she bought the blue ones but all through the day she was checking them, mumbling about them.
Jeanine looked fabulous of course. Beautiful dress – cream silk with little red roses sewn on. A bit of a train. I could barely control myself as I walked her down the aisle. She always knows how to dress so why Em couldn't ask her advice about frigging shoes I don't know!
'I want them to be a surprise for her,' she says. 'Besides, I can't ask her. She's got too much on'
But all through the reception she'd be checking with people.
Moira, my sister, came over when they'd cleared the tables away and first thing she said was 'Oh Em, them shoes are to die for! Where did you get them?'
'Online,' says Em, ' allaboutheels.com. I'm not sure though. They had some gorgeous mauve ones, but they were threepence more expensive and Lord Snooty said no.  So I feel I've settled a bit. But I'm glad you like them, Moi. I'll probably send them back though after. Can't see me wearing them again.'
'You can't do that!' I said.
'I don't see why not,' says Em. 'People bring stuff back to us all the time and it's quite obviously been out on the town for the night. One woman brought a coat back. All the labels on it and everything – so we took it back, no worries. Then when Glenda was putting it back on the rack she found a half-chewed chicken leg wrapped in a KFC napkin in the pocket! I mean!'
'That's outrageous,' says Moira.
'Oh well then, do what you like, then,' says I. 'On your head though...'
'It'll be on yours as a matter of fact, smartass – it was your credit card details.'
'Oh well thanks very much,' says I. 'Thanks very much indeed!'

So she's off dancing with Moira and I'm stuck at the bar with Brian-in-law, and once we've done West Ham and Stoke and why neither of them are getting beyond the Fourth Round, we just stand there like lemons looking at the girls as they loop under each other's arms.
She's had a lot to drink, Em.
A lot.
To drink.
'Come on, Brian,' shouts Em, 'come and dance with me! He'll never dance with me. Old Lord Snooty. You come. Throw some shades with me, Briannn, come on!'
'Shapes,' I say to Brian, 'she means throw some shapes.'
'Bloody 'ell,' says Brian, 'do I have ter?'
''Sup to you, mate. 'Sup to you.'
So Brian pulls on a smile and bends his knees and shimmies like frigging Baloo over to the dance floor. And Em's there writhing her hips at him like she's seventeen again – well, like she remembers being seventeen anyway. She puts her hand up to his neck as he comes over, plays with the hair at the back of his neck.
I remember that.
So Brian dances with the pair of them for a few minutes till Moira sees her chance and dances her way over to me by the bar.
'Get us a Campari, bro,' she says, 'I'm going out for a ciggy.'
Off she goes and I follow her out with the drinks.

'Why did you make her buy them God awful shoes?' she says outside, 'They're completely the wrong shade.'
'Oh, don't you start! She could have whichever frigging shoes she wanted but no, no. She makes me say which colour I like best – I say blue – and that's it! She goes off on one!
'You're a cruel man, Kevin Bradley!' Moira laughs. 'A cruel man.'
'She just needs someone to blame!'
Then she tells me about Joey. Their eldest.  Twelve.  Leukaemia just diagnosed. God, sad!'

When we go back in it's 10CC - I'm not in love and, fuck me, there's Em with her tongue down Brian's throat. He's participating but it looks more as if he has to rather than that he's enjoying it!
Moira grabs Brian by the elbow and yanks him away.
Em turns to me – fire in her eyes.
'What!? He's more of a man than you'll ever be!'
She's barefoot now and staggers off the dance-floor and grabs her bag.
'I'm going for a piss,' she says. 'And don't fucking follow me!'

As if.
I pick up her shoes and go over to the bar and wait.

So.
That was last Saturday.
Now her mobile goes straight to answerphone and she doesn't return my texts.

So.
Well.
We'll see, won't we.
Just have to wait.
And see.



Sunday, 21 May 2017

Out of the Ordinary

'She's an Alaskan Malamute.'
'Say what now?' 
I must admit I didn't really appreciate being woken up this early on a Saturday. I looked at my watch. 10.55. AM. 'You, bastard! Look at the time!'
'Yeah, I know. I'm really sorry, mate.'
Things hadn't been the same between us since Tori died. I don't know if it was just me or whether Gray had been hit bad too. They had dated for a couple of months before Tori and I got together but she'd always said it wasn't serious. To be honest I didn't really care about anyone else.
'It's just for a couple of days. I've got to get home. Ma's poorly and Dad's fallen apart. She's no bother, honestly. Well, y'know, beyond the obvious. Food, walks, shits in the woods... that sort of thing. What I mean is she's really well-behaved, y'know, when you go out, like... And she won't shit in the house.'
'Oh, fuck! All right, you bastard. But you're going to fucking owe me.'
'Yeah, 'course! That goes without... Y'know, like, understood.'
'Owe me big! What did you call it?'
'She's called Yeika.'
'Right. What?'
'Yeika!'
'Yeika? OK.'
'It means strong, graceful.'
'Oh, OK. But what type is it? You said...'
'Malamute. Alaskan Malamute. It's an Inuit sledding dog, y'know, like a huskie only a bit bigger and more out of the ordinary. She's special this dog. Honestly. You won't want to give her back, I promise you. I've only had her two months but already it's really fucking me over having to leave her. You'll love her, I guarantee it.'
'Get the fuck out of here, man, before I change my mind.'

Well, I was up now, with a monster dog in the lounge, so I went through into the kitchen and filled the kettle.
I heard its paws clicking on the vinyl behind me and it just stood and looked at me, its head to one side.
'What?' I said.
Its head changed to the other angle and it stepped forward a little to me. Snout straight into my groin, nudging my dick through my pjs.
'Fuck off, mate!' I said, gently pushing its nose out. But it'd evidently got all the info it needed because it wandered back through to the lounge over to the window. Paws up on the sill looking out through the nets.
'Get down,' I said. 'You're not meant to be here!'
And it did – straight away. Amazing.
The landlord was a bit of an arse and would kick up a stink if he knew there was a dog in the flat. He hadn't liked the iguana, and we never really got on until that snuffed it.
I got my coffee and sat on the couch sipping at it and looking at this fucking mad-looking animal that had just been landed on me. Mind you, it was good looking. For a dog. Thick hair. Well, you know, fur. Mostly thick grey but under its belly was white and black on its head. But like with a white face. Tail curled up across its back.
'What the fuck am I going to do with you?' I said out loud.
It wandered over towards me, stopping half way to stretch and yawn. Biggest fucking teeth I'd ever seen! And a tongue like a side of ham, for fuck's sake. Then it came right on over to where I was sitting, sat down on her haunches and laid her head in my lap. Oh my fucking God! It looked up at me – huge grey eyes – eyebrows kind of pulled up in the middle. Do dogs have fucking eyebrows? Yes of course they do. Well this one did, anyhow.
And she just looked at me. And darts went into my heart.
'Oh, God!' I said. 'Look, I'm not a dog person, right. Let's get that straight right now. I'm just not a dog person. I'm not a cat person either but that's not the poi...' Her eyes. Fuck!
She just sat there, her head on my lap.
I couldn't help myself, I just reached out my hand and rested it on her head. Not stroking mind, I just rested it. She moved her head a little under my hand and I had to readjust its position. And she moved again and so, yes, I moved again and then before you knew it I was stroking the top of her head and watching her eyelids droop down a little, you know, like she really liked it. And her warm fur under my hand was just, well, you know...

So next thing I know we're out in the park and she's walking beside me like she has done all her life. She's not pulling or tugging at the lead or anything. Just calmly walking along beside me like we're out together on a date or something just taking time, you know. Not talking, just walking. That's what you want, isn't it? Someone you can just be with, that you don't have to think of smart things to say all the time. Yeah, like Tori. Fuck. I reckon you find out more about somebody when they're not talking than you do when they are. Tori knew me – and I knew her
And anyway I'm feeling cock o' the north because, well, for fuck's sake, she's a fucking handsome dog. Fuck that, she's beautiful. She's fucking beautiful. And all these other dog-walkers are out there with their mutts and they're all looking at me as if to say. 'Fuck! You beauty!' And all their little pooches are straining at their leads to come over and have a sniff at her. And some that are off the lead do come over and are sniffing round her arse and she doesn't give them any attention. She just keeps on walking. And I'm trying to get them to keep off her but she's not bothered at all. Even when one or two start barking at her as if to say 'Come on, you stuck up bitch.'
And to be honest, she is a bit of a stuck up bitch! But I reckon that's a good thing.

And one thing's for certain. Gray's not getting her back.

Sunday, 14 May 2017

Black Bin Bag

'I'll take them on Thursday,' I said, 'if that's ok.'
'Yes, whatever. Thursday's fine.'
'Or do you need me to take them today? I can take them today if you need me to. But they'll have to sit in the boot for a couple of days.'
'No, no, come and get them on Thursday. They're not going anywhere. I'm not going anywhere.'
'I could try and get back tomorrow but I can't promise. I'll try. But I can't promise.'
'Thursday's fine.'
He sniffed and started to tie the top of the bin bag closed. Then he opened it again and smoothed the top of the pile flat.
'They're all clean,' he said. 'All clean and ironed.'
'Of course. I know.'
He turned and closed the wardrobe. As usual the door swung open again. He pushed it shut and turned the key in the lock.
'Will you try and get out a little, Dad? You need to get out in the fresh air.'
'I went out yesterday.'
'Did you?'
'Yes, took a turn in the garden. I'm all right. You don't need to concern yourself.'
'Well, I do, Dad. Of course I'm concerned. You've lost a bit of weight the last couple of weeks. You look pale. I don't like to see you looking so pale.'
'Yes... well.... Thanks for that.'
'So, of course I'm concerned.'
He turned and went back downstairs. So I followed him down and into the kitchen. He took the kettle from the side and dipped it under the tap. I saw him glance up the garden as he stood waiting for the water to run faster.
'Grass needs a cut.'
'Yes... Well I can do that for you on Thursday, too. If you like.'
'I'll do it.'
'It'd only take a minute.'
'I'll do it.... Must fix this tap washer,' he said. 'Your mother keeps on at...' He realised what he was saying. I saw his jaw set and a look of irritation come over his face.
'Bloody leylandii!' he said. 'They should bloody get that thing chopped down. Look at it. Blocks all the sun out this time of day. Look at that bloody shadow. I'm going to have to tell 'em again. Bloody antisocial. Should be a ban on the bastard things.'
He placed the kettle on its stand and flipped the switch. But the red light didn't come on.
'Oh bloody hell, what's the bloody problem now?'
He picked up the kettle and put it back down.
'Bloody cheap kettle. I said we should get the Russell Hobbs.'
At last the light came on and the growl of the water heating steadily grew.
'What'll you eat tonight, Dad?'
'Oh, I'll be all right. You don't need to concern yourself. I'll find something in the cupboard. You don't need to worry.'
'I can cook you something if you like.'
'No, no, no – I've got something in the cupboard. You get off. You need to get off home. Sylvia will be wondering where you've got to, won't she. You get yourself off home.'
'She knows where I am. I said I was coming round.'
'Well... you get off home. I'll be fine. You don't need to concern yourself.'
'Ok. Well, I'll be back on Thursday, then. Ok?'
'Ok. I'll see you Thursday. I'll probably have sorted a little more out by then. You come on Thursday. It'll all be ready for you on Thursday.'
'Have you got enough bin bags, Dad?'
'Oh, yes. I've got plenty. Plenty. I'm going to put some stuff in the big suitcase anyway. They can have that an' all.  I'll not need it anymore.  I'll put the dresses and things in there and her unde...'
He bit the words back. I could see them ricochet around his mind. His hand went to his face as if he could pull the veil of sadness from his nose and mouth. His palm rasped on his unshaven chin. I put my hand on his arm. I couldn't find a word. My own throat was clammed tight.
'Yes, the other stuff... I'll put the other stuff in the bin bags. If they don't want them they can recycle or just chuck 'em. They're no use to me. And her shoes.'
He opened the cup cupboard and took out two mugs. He poured boiling water into them and dropped a tea bag in each. Went to the cutlery drawer and found a teaspoon and dabbed at the teabags in turn, forcing the brown liquid out of them.
'Fifteen pairs of shoes, she's got. Fifteen. I haven't had fifteen pairs in my whole life, but she's got fifteen sat there in the wardrobe. Who needs fifteen pairs of shoes?'
'Imelda Marcos.'
'Eh?'
'Imelda Marcos. In the Philippines. She had thousands of pairs.'
'Did she indeed?'
The tea was thick and brown. He hooked each bag in turn with the teaspoon, squeezing it against the side of its mug before pulling it out and dropping it into the pedal bin. ' Well, I think it's daft.'
'Yes. But Mum liked shoes.'
'She did... she did.' He slowly stirred milk into the tea.
'Not too much for me, Dad.'
'Hm?'
'Milk – not too much milk. I'm intolerant. Lactose.'
'Oh. Right.'



Wednesday, 3 May 2017

Ice cold

these legs are stiff
these claws that used to tick upon the floor
and scruff this ear
are deadly still
this tail that used to brush my foot
or beat the table leg
is fixed in place

they said
that if this nose was cool and wet
then he was fit
but
touch it now


Ice cold

prompt - Waiting Room

I'll have a coffee now, I reckon.
Yes. I'll have a coffee now and I'll make it last.
Then I'll have another, let's see, at around eleven, well, half eleven if I can keep this one going till then.
Then we'll see. Where we are.
Maybe a scone at half eleven too.
Or a scone now?
I am hungry now. Maybe I'd better get one now.
Oh I don't know though – coffee goes quicker with a scone so maybe I'd better wait. Yes. Get a scone at half eleven.
Hm.
Oh! No, I know. I'll get the scone at half ten. Yes. With just a glass of water.
I can definitely make that last till half eleven.
A scone and some water.
And then I wouldn't have to stretch this out so long.
Right that's it.
Coffee now. Scone and a glass of water at half ten. Don't have to pay for water – yes!. Then second coffee at half eleven.
Yes – get in!
Sorted.
Then we'll see where we are.
Because last week it was all over by twelve anyway.
What with the trouble and everything.
I didn't need to think about after lunch.
Not with the trouble... et cetera.

O-oh! He's here.
Look at him. Smug get. Sitting there with his crossword.
Oh, The Taymes.
Oh yes, I do the Taymes crossword because I can. I can do all the hard clues because I am a smug get and I have a university education. You probably can't even do the word search in the Daily Fail. But I with my university education can tackle the most difficult clues. Because I am a smart get.
Pah. Look at him shaking his pen. Haha! Has it run out? Ha, not so smart now are we!

God, is that the 9.20. Fooking hell that's late.
Or perhaps I should have a slice of cake.
It's going to be really late in to King's Cross. Somebody's balls will roll.
Two sixty, though, it's a lot.
For a slice of cake. That's a lot that is.
Would be easier to stretch it out though.
Wonder what they've got on.
Who's on counter? Oh yes, Kyle.
Hm. Kyle. Wanker.
Look at him. Long bloody hair. Get it cut, Kyle. You work with food. Get your hair cut. I don't want you hair in my cake, thanks very much.
Tie it back at least.
I hate long hair.

No, it'd better be a scone.
Mind you one fifty's a lot to pay for a scone, I reckon.
It's not so bad if I get a couple of extra jam.
I'll get a couple of extra jam to take home.
Well, two to eat with...
and yes then a couple of extra to take home.
One fifty for a scone, two pats of butter and four jam.
That's not so bad, is it.
I could get two strawberry to eat with...
and a black cherry.
Got to be strawberry with...
and a marmalade. If they've got any.
Didn't have any left last time.
Mind you, van came yesterday, didn't it.
So they should have marmalade.
Nobody eats marmalade now though, do they.
Except me.
There was that thing on the radio about how nobody eats marmalade any more.
You wouldn't think they'd run out then, would you, if nobody's eating it.
You'd think that'd be the last to go.
But no.
Strawberry... there's always plenty of strawberry.
Black cherry... that can go either way.
But marmalade – they often run out of marmalade.

Chloë!
Oh look, lovely Chloë's coming on.
Fantastic!
Is she going to look?
Is she?
Hey Chloë, I think you're lovely.
Can you see me, Chloë? I'm blowing you kisses.
Can you see?
Go on, look over here, Chloë! Look over here.
I'm over here by the window. Look over...
Fook, she's looking.
Fook, she's coming over.
Fook!

Hello darlin'. Have you done with your cup?
Er, no... no I haven't.
Oh. Right. It looks empty to me darlin'. Can I take it?
Er, no... I've still got milk in the jug. I'm just going to finish it. The milk.
Oh. Ok. You finish up the milk and then I'll come back. Ok?
Yes. Ok.
You just finish up the milk and then I'll come back and get your cup. All right?
Yes all right. But...

She's gone.
Fook.
That was close.
Look at her hair though. Lovely long hair. I love long hair. Look at her - how it moves.
I love the way she doesn't tie it back. Just let's it hang loose.
I love that.
That nearly scuppered things though, eh!
Nearly put the kibosh on the Kaiser.
Fook's sake.
Maybe I'll get my scone now. My scone and water.
Mind, if Chloë's on, maybe I'll look at cakes.
While I'm up there. I'll check out the cakes.
Yes.
She cuts a good slice – Chloë.
Mind you no jam then. Or marmalade.
No, better stick with the scone.
Scone, two pats, four jams.
Right what's the time?
Ten to.
Right. Another ten minutes. Damn there's not much milk left.

You'd think they'd just order more.
Marmalade.
People obviously are eating it.

Look at her. Wow!
I love the way she wipes them tables. Look.
Oh yes.
Stretch over.
Right over, Chloë.
Ooh missed a bit.
Mmm. Nice bum, Chloë. In them jeans.
Oh fook!
She's coming this way.

Have you done, then? All finished? Finished with your milk? It's a lovely day out. You'll be glad to be outside I expect. I'll take your cup then.
Er, ok... Hang on there's a little...
No, look, it's all gone. I'll take it.
I was thinking...
Yes, it's a lovely day out. You should go and sit in the park somewhere. Somewhere in the sun. Soak up some rays. Get warmed up.
Yes, maybe...
You don't want to be cooped up in here again. All day. Do you.
Well...
You don't want to be stuck inside on a lovely day like this, do you. Missing all the sun.
Missing all the fun...
What? Yes, missing all the fun. No that's right. You don't want to miss all the fun. You want to get out there soaking up some rays.
Chloë...
Oooh! Can you let go? I don't like it when you hold my hand, do I. Do you remember? We talked about this last time, didn't we. Do you remember what we said?
Yes.
We said 'no touching' didn't we.
Yes
No touching – so can you let go. Kyle!
Yes, no touching.
That's right. Kyle! So can you let go please?
I just wanted...
I'm going to have to... Kyle! Get over here!
Oh, don't fetch Kyle.
Kyle, what fucking took you! Get him out.
But I want a scone.
Now come on, you know Chloë doesn't like it when you touch her.
I just want a scone and some jam. And a glass of water. That's all. I won't touch her. I just didn't want her to take my cup away again.
You can't stay in here all day – you just can't.
Get him out, Kyle. He's had his chance.
Yes, you've had your chance. Come on out now.




I'll go Debenhams
Yes. I'll go Debenhams.
I'll go and have a scone in Debenhams.
Then maybe a cup of tea.
Yes. Then I'll have a cup of tea at midday.
Then another at, say, half one.
I can make it last to half one.
With a scone.