Home recall

This my first attempt at rhyming poetry. The poet Robert Frost said that writing free verse is like playing tennis with the net down. This poet says that writing poetry that rhymes is like trying to align the colours on a Rubic Cube. My poem tries to convey the thoughts of a Syrian refugee.

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Home recall

This is the street where
We lived, walked in the shade
Of palm trees, leaves rustling
Sat, as the sun would fade
Talk, of our day while breathing
The heady scent of jasmine

This is our home where
Our children laughed, played
In the warm bright sunlight.
Where, we as lovers danced
In the cool white moonlight
Face to face, in tight embrace

This is our home where
We wove our life’s tapestry
An incubator, a warm womb
Our hearts repository
Now, it is a sealed tomb
A catacomb of your bones

I weep, warm tears in my hands
For my children, for my wife
As I walk adrift in strange lands
I remember my lost life
Dream of how we danced
In the home where I lived

The awakening

 

imageRené Descartes, the 17th century philosopher, had a theory that the mind and the body were separate entities. I had learned this on an Open University course in the 1975. It is now 1980 and I am on the operating table, anaesthetised, out of this world, and due to a sort of Descartian mind-body dualism experience, out of my head.

 

 

 

 

I am afloat in nothing. I cannot describe my state in words. Words are things. Words cannot describe this. This is nothing. Not black or dark. I am just here, present, in this boundless space. I am calm, have no sense of fear. There is a muted cacophony; voices, not conversation, but short instructions, answers, the clatter and clink of metal on metal, a door softly closing. With a strange  ambivalence I think, wonder: where the fuck am I?

Pain. An intense burning sensation in the side of my body. Progressively the pain heightens as I dispassionately consider what to do about it. I decide I must make myself speak, communicate with the disembodied voices. I try to orchestrate my mouth; the lips and tongue to form words, to construct a sentence to tell the voices about the pain. The awful pain that my mind is conscious of but doesn’t feel. But my lips are inert, like pieces of tripe on a plate. They fail to obey my commands. As I ponder on this problem my mind wanders, drifts away, a fine filmy cobweb in a gentle breeze………

Six months before this inconvenient Lazarus moment during my operation, I had spent a week at Killingbeck Hospital in Leeds undergoing unpleasant tests to establish the cause of persistent chest infections that had dogged me for thirty years of my life.

The hospital stood in pleasant woodlands and I shared a generously proportioned room with French doors opening onto a balcony. When I first arrived I stood on the balcony, looked around at the pleasant gardens, then looked down, at what I thought was a gravel path but was in fact a carpet of discarded cigarette tips. My roommate Jeff, was a worried man, he had been referred for assessment after coughing up blood. He swore after this crisis in his life never to smoke again. In the long intervals between the unpleasant tests we read, played cards or watched snooker on the black and white TV.

One day, at the end of my stay a nurse bustled into the room, pushed my feet off the coffee table and switched off the TV. Hot on her heels was a self important consultant dressed in a suit and a bow tie and followed by a phalanx of obeisant junior doctors.
“Mr Wilson,” said the consultant, addressing the group of attentive young doctors, “ has a damaged left lobe of his right lung, which we shall remove in a procedure known as……”
He continued lecturing his audience, then looked down at me. “Did you understand? He barked, and, in case I hadn’t added “we are going to remove the lower lobe of your left lung.”

He then turned to Jeff, told him he had had some unpronounceable ailment that would heal without surgery, would make a full recovery, and then marched out of the door his minions following in his wake. Jeff, a huge weight removed from his shoulders, opened the French doors, stepped out and stood on the balcony, hands on the railings, inhaled with relief on a cigarette, while I sat staring at the blank TV screen contemplating my fate.

The mind is a memory time machine.

Memory trip

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Memory trip

The train is slowing down through the leafy cutting, the foliage fragmenting the sunlight, a strobe light effect inside the carriage.

You are standing at the crossing gate as my train rumbles slowly over the uneven rails. The turbulence created by the passing of the carriages ruffles your blond hair, wraps the fabric of your dress around your slender legs. You are attractive, pretty.

You, a stranger, now travels with me, recorded in my memory, for the rest of my journey

The train slows, stops at the platform. My wife steps forward, kisses me.

“Seen anything interesting?” She asks.

Lost at sea

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Lost at sea

Our fourteen year voyage has ended, here in this hospice, in this room. At last, you are at peace. I stand at the window looking out across the lawn, across to the trees bathed in thin October sunlight. I stare dry eyed unseeing. I cannot cry anymore.
I imagine, I feel, that I am standing on the deck of a sailing ship that has passed through a great prolonged storm. A storm that engulfed us, that blew in across the horizon, taking us by surprise. I look across the deck of our ship, at the fallen masts and the sails and rigging floating in the now still sea. You, our navigator has gone. Gone too the charts mapping our future, blown away in the maelstrom, our dreams scattered in the winds. Our instruments of navigation, washed overboard, are at the bottom of this ocean. There are no stars above, no land in sight. I am lost in this vast, endless, sea.
In the distance a door closes, footsteps in the corridor. Noise and movement from this life. I must move, move on. I kiss you goodbye and leave the room.
My first port of call. To explain to our eight year old daughter her mother has died.

Magic uncle

imageThis is a memoir about my Uncle Bill. Our creative writing group are currently covering memoir writing and our course tutor gave us the task of writing a piece in 400 words.

 

 

 

 

 

Magic Uncle

 

My wife Val and I were sat next to my Uncle Bill, dapper in his blazer and old school tie, on one side of a vast mahogany desk. On the other, some distance away, sat the bank manager, who, but for the affordable mortgages framed poster could have been mistaken for an undertaker, good at his trade. Mr Montrose was listening intently as I related Uncle Bill’s woeful tale, an exposé of fraud, deceit and pillage by one of my aunt’s family. As I struggled to set out the extraordinary goings-on to the doleful banker, Uncle Bill suddenly interrupted.

“I’ve a very simple way to make your bank a lot of money!” He said, loudly, as he leant his thin angular body across the desk.
“Pardon?” Said the startled manager leaning sharply back, knocking the mortgage poster askew.
“Look!” said Uncle Bill as he flourished a handful of lottery tickets under Mr Melrose’s reluctant nose.
Mr Melrose looked. He looked as though something disagreeable was being wafted under his nose.
“Look, you just need some of these, and,” my uncle said, as he theatrically flicked his wrist,”Gilly-Gilly, you can make money!”

imageWe all stared as the lottery tickers transformed into a wad of crisp Fivers. Mr Montrose stared in astonishment. Me, well, l stared in frustrated annoyance at the distraction.
Uncle Bill, you see, was a magician. A magician with dementia.
From being a very small, impressionable child, I can remember Uncle Bill’s visits to our home. He would produce coins from my ears, perform card tricks and make objects disappear in angry puffs of white smoke. Gilly-Gilly was one of his catchphrases. Another was, ‘I’m mad you know’, which of course, prophetically, all these years later, he was.

Later, as we sat in a nearby café taking stock, recovering, I looked across at Uncle Bill. This frail old gentleman, who thought I was my late father, who imagined his wife, Madge, was still alive, abducted by the nurses in his care home, and yet could perform, faultlessly, complex illusions. I thought how indiscriminate dementia is. How cruel.
Uncle Bill had been on the periphery of the world of magic, knew David Nixon and Paul Daniels, had been the Vice President of the Magic Circle. But, above all he was my father’s brother, the younger brother that he had looked out for.

It was down to me now.

Missing life

 

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Beneath time swept landscapes
where lost souls tread, you lie
buried; missing, death presumed.
Your lost treasures: your future life
and precious dreams entombed.
Above, no pale stone with chiselled
name marks the place: your grave.
A passive poet, doubtful warrior
you died young, consumed
in a holocaust made by men.
Beloved wife and child bereft
forever haunted by a never
healing sorrow, and unfulfilled
dreams of what might have been.

For you, my unmet grandfather
I carry your genes, your memory.
With these words I mark your life

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During the First World War on the 9th of April 1917 my grandfather Clem Walter died during the the Battle of Arras.  A stretcher bearer his body was never found; one of 36,000 at Arras with no known grave.