A collection of poems and other writings...

Sunday, 30 April 2017

prompt - Beyond the Horizon

My friend Sujata and I have decided to challenge ourselves to a regular writing challenge just to keep our pens moving.  We agree a prompt, write for an hour and then share.
Our first prompt has been Beyond the Horizon...

'You had to be fast,' she said. ' You had to really pelt back up the beach and up the path, you know, where we came down.'
I scanned back following her indicating hand, seeing her watch her childhood self running back along the beach and up the stony path, to stand breathless at the top and gaze out across the ocean.
'It's like you get to live the moments again,' she said, 'to turn back time. Come on shall we try? We've got about ten minutes I reckon.
The low sun was reflected in her eyes as she looked at me.
'Come on!' she said, ' you're not so old you can't run!'
'I'm a good bit older than you!'
'Nonsense, you're as young as the person you feel!' She laughed and threw her head back, tossing her hair in the breeze.
It was a gorgeous summer evening.
There was no-one else on Marsland Beach. It had been raining all day but now the clouds had passed on, dispersed, and the sun hung like a Chinese lantern in the sky, slowly drifting down towards the horizon.
'We used to make it sizzle when it hit the water,' she said. 'Hissssssssss.'
She squeezed the air out between her tongue and her teeth.
'Then we'd run all the way to the top of the cliff and watch it do it again. But we need to be closer to the path or an old-timer like you won't stand a chance. You only get about a minute and a half.'

She was a frantic lover.
She walked a little in front – always – and I loved that. Her confidence. She led me. I'd watch her hips move. The curve of her ass in her jeans. I'd trace in my mind where my hands had been. My fingertips. Picture her naked beneath her clothes. If she turned to speak I would watch her mouth, remember how her lips had caressed me, her old-timer – the soft slipperiness of them, traces of her saliva on my skin. She always ended up astride me when we made love. Not straight away, but I always knew that's what she wanted, where she wanted to be. And it suited me. I could lie back and let her play. Let her feast on my body to feed her own desires. I know now that she was really making love to herself but it felt like she loved me. At the time. In truth I was just something for her to rub against.
I miss her though.

We stood at the water's edge directly down from the foot of the cliff path. She held my hand, facing the sea, looking out to where the sun was about to sizzle. She stood herself on a small rock resting on others. She found the movement in it tilting it back and forth beneath her feet, shifting her weight and holding my hand to balance herself.
'It's nearly there,' she cried, the excitement of the child she was remembering flooding her voice. 'Are you ready?'
'As I'll ever be!' I said.
For all that it was low in the sky, the sun was still bright and it brought tears to my eyes to look at it for any length of time.
I was standing next to her, holding the hand of this woman I loved, looking out across the sea. But my mind was in her. In her clothes. Swooping around her breasts. Sweeping across her belly and dipping into the soft curls beneath. My mind was my tongue tasting her, slaking my thirst for her, lingering on her nipples. My lips drawing her into me. Her hair. My nostrils filled with her musk. The fragrant moment behind her ear and down her neck.
'Hissssss!' she shouted. 'Sizzzzllllle!'
'Aha! It's down,' I cried. I'd missed the moment itself but jumped back in to join her.
'Come on!' She tugged at my hand. Started dragging me back up the beach towards the cliff path. 'There's no time to lose!'
I followed willingly enough, though the tightness in my trousers did not make running easy. We stamped over the wet sand, through the small pools left by the receding tide, finally hitting a rhythm that suited us both.
'Come on, old-timer!'
I was breathless but managed to stay with her until we got to the foot of the cliff. But she was full of energy still, while I was all but spent.
'Come on!' She shouted again letting go of my hand. Away she went up the narrow path, scattering pebbles and sand with her feet. I followed but she was soon ten yards ahead and the gap was widening.
My breath burned my lungs, my mouth dry, and the heat of my body raging. Legs seizing up, heart pounding, my feet slipping on the loose surface.
'Come onnn!' she called, now twenty yards in front. 'You'll miss the second sizzle!'
'I'm coming,' I said – I tried to shout it but the words just fell from my mouth, tangled around my feet.
'Some day,' she sang the words out, 'some day I'm going to sail away. Climb into a boat, just me, and sail away into the sunset. Beyond the horizon.'
She was at the top now. I was still way below.
'Hisssssssss! Sizzzlllllle!' she shouted into the wind.
The air was painful in my lungs, finding a dark target inside with every breath. A thudding angry ache grew and grew in my chest, sending a dagger from my chest up into my shoulder and down my left arm. Again and again.

She never came to visit me in the hospital. I've heard nothing from her since.

The heart attack left me like a crumpled paper bag, fearful of a recurrence.

I came to as the paramedics were loading me onto a gurney. She held my hand as they manoeuvred me back through the field to where the ambulance was waiting in the lane, but she couldn't look at me. Said nothing.
I could feel my hand holding hers.
But she was not really holding mine.

Wednesday, 5 April 2017

prompt - Some Forgotten Detail

'Well we're going back,' said Phyll.
'What?!' Ann's voice steadied a little. Hope rising as she took in what her mother was saying.
'We're going back. And we're going to find it,' said Phyll. 'There's no way you're losing that. We'll find it, you'll see. I can feel it. Go and get in the car. Come on Duncan, you come too.'
'What? Me? Why?' said Ann's brother.
Twenty minutes later and we were back on the beach. Felixstowe. Summer heat hanging on though the breeze had lifted a little.
I stopped and scanned the horizon. A tanker balked on the skyline. At this distance it seemed motionless as if set on the shelf of the sea. But when I checked again a few minutes later I could see it had moved. Like it was playing some magnificent, slow game of Grandmother's Footsteps.
'Come on, Chris. Help!' Ann was with her mother and Duncan, heads down, all in a line stretched out across the shingle. Eyes becoming fingers, touching shells, turning stones, sea glass, in the clinging hope that the watch would appear.
I caught up with them, coming in between Ann and Duncan. I slipped my hand into Ann's. She squeezed it but released it immediately.
'Not so close,' she said without looking up. She pushed me away a little, and Duncan too moved slightly further out.
Phyll had dropped behind us, scouring the ground more thoroughly. Her positive tone from before had changed somewhat.
'I can't believe you came here with it on. What were you thinking?'
'Don't, Mum,' Ann snapped. 'Just don't!'
'What would Nana say? I told her she shouldn't have given it to you. She should have waited till....' Her voice trailed off.
'Waited till when?' Ann's voice rose in indignation at her mother's suggestion.
'Nothing. Forget it.'
'Waited till she was dead – that's what you mean, isn't it.'
'Don't be so horrible, Ann.'
'But that is what you're saying, isn't it? She shouldn't have given it to me. She should have left it to me in her will! That's what you're saying.'
'That's not what I'm saying, and you know it.'
'Oh, just shut up!'

A heavy silence settled upon us once again.

I couldn't help but think that, actually, Ann's Nana would not really have much thought about it either way.
We'd been to see her the summer before in North Berwick. Caught the bus from Edinburgh. A glorious day, the Firth of Forth glittered under a cloudless sky.
We got off on the main street and bought grapes and a pack of Tunnocks teacakes to take to her. Then we climbed the hill out of the little town until we found the path that led through carefully- tended grounds surrounding the home. It was a grand building, white against the green lawns with gentle gravel paths and wooden benches. Residents dotted themselves around the grounds. They seemed motionless and yet, when I looked again, I could see they had moved.
Inside the heat hung like fog. Radiators on full. The air was dry, with the smell of warm carpet and recently cooked cabbage. We were led into the day-room and there was Nana, sat in a high-backed, winged armchair looking out through one of the bay windows.
Ann's voice didn't seem to register immediately.
'Hello, Nannan!'
It must have been a greeting heard regularly here and old Mrs Bathgate left it unheeded.
'Nannan?' Ann moved and placed her hand on the old woman's where it rested on the arm of her chair.
She looked up at Ann and smiled.
'Ooh!' she said. 'Now who's this?'
Her soft Scots accent made a gift of the words.
'It's me,' said Ann, 'Ann. Tom and Phyll's daughter. You remember.'
'Of course it is,' said Nana. 'Tom and Phyll's daughter. You're Ann. I can see that. And here you are. Ann.'
She smiled and took Ann's hand in both of hers.
'Come and sit down, ma' hen.'
I moved to find a chair – an ordinary dining chair for Ann and set it down close enough to Nana so that Ann could sit down without letting go her hand.
'You're Ann. Tom and Phyll's daughter. Yes. Ann. And here you are.'
'Nana, I want you to meet someone.'
'Oh yes, dear.'
'This is Chris.' Ann looked up at me and took my hand.
'Chris,' said Nana. 'Oh yes, Chris. My, he's a handsome young fellow, isn't he? Chris.'
'We're engaged,' said Ann. 'I wanted you to meet him.'
'Oh,' said Nana, 'engaged are you? So he's not for me then?' She twinkled her eyes at me and chuckled to herself, her shoulder lifting up to her ears.
'Nannan,' scolded Ann. 'Don't be naughty!'
'He's a handsome fellow. What did you say his name was?'
'Chris, yes Chris, that's right. I remember. And you are...?'
'Ann. Tom and Phyll's daughter.'
'That's right.'
'They send their love!'
'Mum and Dad. They send their love.'
'Oh, no dear, they're dead now.'
'No, no – my mum and dad, Tom and Phyll. They send their love.'
'Oh. Tom and Phyll. Oh, are they here?'
'No they're in Ipswich. Chris and I are just up for the festival.'
'Ipswich? What are they doing in Ipswich?'
'They live there. In Ipswich.'
'Oh I don't think they should do that, dear. Now wait...' She paused to search her thoughts for a moment. 'Ach, it's... no I'll tell you tomorrow.'
'We're staying in your flat, Nana. Chris and I. For the festival... well for a few days.'
'Oh, lovely.'
'You remember your flat. On Leith Walk?'
'Remember. Oh yes, I remember. Who's this young man? Yes, Leith Walk.'
'Chris. He's my fiancé.'
'Oh yes. I remember.' Again she paused with a furrowed brow. 'Och, no... no I'll tell you tomorrow.'
Suddenly her eyes brightened and opened wider.
'Ann,' she said. 'Ann Julie. Your Thomas's daughter.'
'Yes!' said Ann. 'Thomas and Phyllis.'
'Oh how lovely that you've come to see me.'
'I wanted you to meet Chris.'
'Yes, Chris. How lovely.'
She looked at me with grey violet eyes. Took my hand in hers. Her skin was pearlescent, cool and dry under my fingers, wrinkling as I stroked my thumb gently across the back of her hand.  Her age granting me permission for such an intimate act. 
She smelled of peppermints and lavender.
'Ann,' she said. 'I've something for you. Young man, would you go to that table, open the drawer and bring me the box from inside.'
She indicated a small table and I followed her instructions. She opened the box and removed a wrap of white tissue paper.
'Take that, Ann, it's for you. I don't need it any more. I've been keeping it for you.
Ann took the tissue wrap and carefully unfolded the paper.

'There!' cried Phyll. 'There it is!!'
She rushed forward, bent over and pulled the watch from the sandy shingle.
'Oh thank God!!' cried Ann. 'Mummy, Mummy, Mummy! You clever thing!'

Tuesday, 4 April 2017

prompt - tried but not tested

tried but not tested

start here, it says
against a chalk line
on the new ash black pavement
start here, it says

here feet pixelate
on newly laid asphalt
footprints stick
and soles pick grit
from tar

start here – humans
drag holes into the pristine surface
from the window I
watch a cat
pad stickily
from kerb to gatepost and
unexpectedly held by
tarry paws
miss the pounce to the stone-topped wall

and scat-scrabble away under the hedge