Rebirth

I am lagging and flagging,

I wink at the Moon,

I make her swoon.

Tides crawl and creep,

Brides look and leap,

Season of harvest.

*

Deconstructing a miracle.

What else would you call it?

The X and Y chromosome,

Are they available on the phone?

I am nervous.

The world around me is changing,

Alien and hostile,

Scrunching in on me,

Squeezing me to the size of a pip.

It’s me, I am changing,

The world is the same

And it terrifies me.

People smile,

Glib and bright,

Their eyes, oh, their eyes,

Dead turtle eggs,

The foaming sea claims them,

Baubles for merciless angels.

**

A face, an imprint,

Watching, judging me.

Are you up to it?

An image of purity,

A cup-bearer to the gods,

No, no, let me keep him!

***

Blunt and bland,

White white white,

Stark and blinding,

Keep them away from me,

Slobbering shrieking creatures,

Put them in a pen,

And use the cattle-prods.

I blink and tap my heels,

No, this is real.

Everyone tells me it is wonderful,

They must be mad,

Or drunk, or lying.

Resentment has flourished,

Heart tangled with Japanese Knotweed,

Arrigato.

****

I am calm…with terror.

I fake it,

Here is my smile,

I stole it from a clown

Whose face became a balloon,

Up up up it floated,

Harpooned by whalers.

My body is a bucket

Brimming with a bulbous babe

Who squirming like an angry carp.

*****

I am distant,

I am Moses,

I am with God,

I am with child;

Frantic tribes rush,

Ants by my feet,

I look at God,

He shakes His head,

Answering my unasked question,

Fuck it.

I rage at them all,

Their smiles, their exhortations,

Give me a scalpel

To surgically remove their hypocrisy,

My words dissolve into howls,

What is this agony?

******

I trundle with the bundle,

A weary carthorse,

Clippety clop,

Slippety slop,

I am an empty vase,

A fresh wound,

A shrivelled prune

Gory with battle.

This offering,

This bloody parcel,

Anointed crown,

Angry sponge,

My pores sweat joy,

My heart is a burning rose,

I find my religion

In a gummy smile,

I pass out speaking in tongues…

Noli me tangere!

Twenty silver pieces,

I would have held out for more;

Asleep in Gethsemane’s groves,

Ripe disciples to be plucked,

I have a spear for them,

The world is too fast,

It spins and spins,

I feel dizzy,

A goblet awash with scarlet worship,

Could I ascend?

*******

He inherits my anger,

Eyes flash lightning,

Puffs of ash,

Zapping the unbelievers.

I laugh and laugh,

My physical torment,

My stitched scar,

I survived the Wilderness,

I came back a prophet,

Carrying a living logos.

********

I am possessed,

An instrument of torture,

Blue oceans mottled with corpses,

I am moribund.

I could go into exile,

I could find a new Hell,

My skin is parchment,

Arcane language scribed upon me,

Walking miracle,

Read my body,

Proclaim the words,

Darkness flows from me.

*********

She haunts me,

Alive in my head,

Jagged memory,

Tiny hand raised,

Blessing? Imploring?

Stars bleed for her.

**********

Prison cots,

So helpless,

She sleeps,

She writhes,

She cries,

Oh how she cries,

My tears, so many,

I love you.

***********

I want to scream,

I am not the same person,

Hand on the mirror,

Who are you really?

The woman you knew?

She has gone.

Eviscerated by a knife,

Disintegrated by life,

I haven’t auditioned for this play,

I have no lines,

No prompts or stage directions;

Everyone is so familiar,

Your grins are like adverts,

I’m not buying it.

I apply lipstick,

I smile casually,

I am ready

For the parade,

For the charade,

I am a wife,

I am a mother,

I am a woman.

************

How can I have her nightmare?

A dreary weary foghorn,

Swathed pallid bundle,

Floating in a bullrush basket,

Drifting out to sea,

Away from me,

She is asleep,

At peace,

Safe…

She is an arrow snapped off in my heart,

My soul bleeds,

Guilt eternal,

I love you.

*************

I am her again,

Red lipstick mirrored,

She smiles when I smile,

Laughs when I laugh,

But if I catch her eye,

She reveals herself,

Silently pointing at me,

Je t’accuse! Je t’accuse!

I can taste her bitterness.

**************

I am reflection

I am sunshine

I am shadow

I am faded

I am evaded

I am lonely

I am exile

***************

The old wound,

Red raw memory,

Burrowing and munching,

Am I dreaming?

****************

Seasonal symptoms,

Boing boing – Spring!

Floral pageants,

Birdy ballads,

Pulse of rebirth,

I can forget the nightmare,

Ignore those tiny hands

Behind my eyelids,

No, no, you do not belong,

She said goodbye,

She abandoned everyone,

I exist because of her,

Just like you did.

*****************

It is a peaceful evening,

I feel I belong,

That taut knot twisting my heart,

It has loosened,

I am healed,

I can share this revelation,

My smile drops like a careless pebble,

Oh no, no, no,

Cruel, cruel Fates,

I am the understudy,

I am twice revisited,

It is her husband,

Her son, her loss,

They belong to her,

She fell apart

And I healed her.

I weep scalding tears,

It’s not fair,

I go to the mirror,

She is crying too,

She can feel my pain,

Now I understand hers,

We press our hands together,

I turn into glass

And she is resurrected.

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Hidden

Stoic house,

Obdurate,

Arcane,

Standing silently,

Shadowy rooms,

Dark cellar,

Dusty attic,

The well is swell,

A tunnel to the past,

Slimy descent,

Lugubrious water,

Viscous,

Suffocating,

Keep going!

Peel back your sin

And breathe again,

Glowing bones

Heaped.

Vigil

Static

Stasis

Human slug

Slimy grimy

Granite brain

Chipped and flinted

Whipped and minted

I hear sounds…

From their world…

Distant…

Discordant…

Disappearing…

My body is a headstone,

My bed the tomb,

A linen womb,

No rebirth,

No applause,

No sloe gin,

No slow win,

Slow breath,

Slow death.

Centrifugal roller coaster,

Squeezing out my thoughts,

Memories splatter into walls,

Volcanic rainbows erupting,

Invading, raiding, fading.

Ritual cleansing,

I will be a clean corpse,

Their ratchet smiles,

Their gritted furrows,

Their contrived compassion,

I can hear the unspoken words

Echoing in their minds…

Hurry up and die!

Alone

Alone…

Midnight street feet,

Styrofoam cups scuttle,

Mottled jackals cackle,

Feeding on lost hope;

Dirty greasy scuffed

Boardwalk nightmare,

Neon blinking

Wares affairs

Carpet burns

Plastic ferns.

Alone…

World in a marble,

Chipped scarred

Glass eye

Refracted redacted

Rolling racing;

Laughter and tears,

One careless wink

And the shadows claim you,

Red splashes asphalt.

Alone…

Saintly lapis lazuli sky,

Freshly massacred grass,

Cast down the golden orb,

The unblinking nuclear eye,

Mythological god,

Insane fire-giver,

Burn it all.

Alone?

I am a liar

Never looking back

I know you are there

My shadow

My saviour

My reaper

My madness.

Meet the Monster

Bleak shifting sky

Teasing its briny lover,

Clouds dipped in oceans,

Waves ripped in air,

Discordant nature fucking.

Jagged monolith rampant,

Rusty chains tether,

Misogynistic offering,

Female flesh,

Soft, welcoming,

Ready to be mutilated,

Her crime?

She is guiltless,

Plucked and pruned,

Beacon of purity

Bound to the pinnacle;

At the rugged base

Because it is base,

Slithering and snapping,

Clawing serpent of evil,

Monstrous monster,

Mutant of horror,

Hater of humanity,

Sired by a dragon,

Mothered by a gorgon,

Cursed by a geomancer,

Hideous to behold.

Her loose hair

Billows and whips

With the rhythm

Of the waves,

Lapdogs licking her feet.

Rivulets of cold sweat

And drops of blood

Baptise the chains

And season the sea;

The unholy beast,

Fanged smile,

Contagion scaled,

It creeps and creeps.

The girl watches

As death approaches,

She betrays no fear,

Dark silent eyes,

A beast is a beast,

And Man?

What a flawed piece is he!
Sweet harsh words,

War and wooing,

Love and lust,

Conceit and compassion,

Man’s face is murder.

Effulgent lightning flashes,

A holy warrior shimmers,

Swooping divine wrath,

Golden lustrous armour,

A resolute lance forged

With Jesus’s hot tears.

In the absence of hope,

Does she dare to believe?

Eyes clenched tight,

She listens to destiny;

Bestial screeching,

Fangs gnashing,

Unyielding metal,

Cursed blood hissing.

The carcass sinks,

Eager fish nibble,

They will die,

Feeding frenzy,

Incarnadine seas

Swirl and whirl.

The lance liberates,

Chains slingle and jither,

Blink clink plink.

A golden gauntlet beckons,

Celestial avenger,

She cannot see his face,

Blinded by his radiance.

Lightning flashes,

Ripping the cowled sky,

Absolute ascension,

Constant constellation,

Cold astral fire.

Echo

The horizon was tinged with wispy tendrils of the sun’s fading fire. Shadows tentatively crept out of their diurnal prisons reclaiming their domain of sepulchres filled with dusty relics. The cemetery was a sanctuary for the shadows; they could swathe themselves in melancholy, silence and solitude.

The shadows whispered to one another and the trees rustled uneasily…something was out of place. A girl was sitting on the edge of a tomb. She was wearing scuffed Doc Marten boots, ripped fishnet tights, a short black leather skirt and a black t-shirt with the image of a bleeding heart. Her sandy-coloured hair looked brittle, like it would snap if someone tried to touch it. Black lipstick and deliberately overdone black eye-shadow could not detract from her brown eyes which were overflowing with soul. What was the girl doing here? They decided to observe her.

Priscilla brushed broken twigs and desiccated leaves from the tomb until she could see a name, she read out aloud: Jacques De Villiers! Angels carried him up to the heavens on 2nd July 1886.

The persistence of memory. That was Priscilla’s affliction. What made a tomb? Masonry, marble, grandeur, inscribed words or the skeleton within? Walk through a cemetery, read the names and messages, you can feel an echo of love and loss still lingering, cheating the fickleness of Father Time. The deceased persist in our memories and when we, the torch-bearers of their lives fade, cemeteries are their enduring testament.

Priscilla knew she should not be here. How was it that her journey had started at the end? It did not make any sense. A cemetery was definitely the end of a journey. The things she had seen – wondrous horror and terrible beauty. She lit a cigarette. She could sense the shadows were watching her.

“Do not fret, my sable friends, all will be revealed!”

The shadows rippled. This girl was strange.

“I will tell you a story!”

The shadows stretched closer towards her.

‘A noble family with one heir; the son was raised in the manner of a prince. The widowed father’s design was to have his son marry into royalty and promulgate the family lineage. While Jacques was well-versed in societal protocols, he found his peers to be frivolous and shallow. The De Villiers’ estate was large and renowned for its game. Jacques hunted to avoid the presence of simpering girls tittering behind bejewelled brocaded corsets.

It was during a pilgrimage in the forest when he chanced upon her…a girl unlike any other. She moved with the natural grace of her arboreal surroundings. Her clothing was smudged, the hem of her dress was bedraggled and she had dandelion seeds caught up in her flowing hair. He remembered his botany classes and without thinking spoke aloud.

“Did you know the botanical name for the dandelion is Taraxacum officinale?”

The girl whirled around, grasping a hatchet.

“Peasants call it pissenlit!”

Jacques was taken aback. Nothing in his education had prepared him for this encounter.

“I meant no disrespect.”

“If you touch me, I will hack you to death!”

Jacques laughed. He was smitten. He would often seek her out in the forest. She would always ignore him when he spoke to her about books he had read. The girl loved his stories. She did not understand this strange man at all. One day she would consent to tell him her name. Their lives were intangibly different yet neither of them had ever been so happy.

Charles De Villiers had noticed a change in his son’s demeanour. He charged one of his servants to spy on Jacques. Bernard was a shifty fellow. He reported his findings to his master with glee. Charles was furious! This peasant was a passing fancy. His son was defying him. Charles paid Bernard to remove the problem. The De Villiers’ bloodline could not be tainted.

The girl was missing and Jacques was frantic. He spent every waking hour in the forest searching for her. Charles asked Bernard to bring the girl back. Bernard smirked.

“She was a feisty one, attacked me with a hatchet. I threw her down a well.”

“She is dead?”

“Very.”

Charles could not tell his son the truth, he was quasi-insensate without that damned girl. Time would temper his son’s current fever.

Jacques emerged from the forest one night and saw Bernard chopping kindling. He sat down on a log to watch. Bernard was uneasy. Had the old man let something slip?

“Permit me to assist you, Bernard, it would alleviate my nerves.”

Bernard was bemused but acquiesced. Jacques studied the hatchet Bernard had handed him.

“She never would have surrendered this, it belonged to her father.”

Bernard cursed himself. It had been too fine a hatchet to throw into the well. Death blazed in Jacques’s eyes as he advanced on Bernard. The servant fell backwards, scrambling in the dirt. Jacques gripped Bernard’s left wrist, pinning the hand to a log. The hatchet flashed hungrily in the moonlight. Bernard screamed in horror and grabbed his severed hand. He garbled about following orders and a well. The babbling stopped. The hatchet was lodged in Bernard’s skull.

Jacques ran amok, setting the family mansion aflame. Charles saw his son disappear into the forest and dispatched servants to retrieve him. They followed the glow of Jacques’s torch as it flitted in the darkness until it stopped moving. They were too late. Jacques had flung himself into the well to be with his love.’

The shadows sighed.

Priscilla took one final drag of her cigarette.

“It is a terrible thing to know your loved one will never know your name. It took me three days to die in that well.”

Priscilla lay on the tomb.

“I could not let death keep us apart, your Priscilla is here for you.”

The shadows watched in rapt amazement as a phantasm manifested; it embraced the prone girl and pulled her gently into the tomb. Dandelion seeds floated by in the breeze.

 

City Exit

Sauf-effing-ampton! The Atlantis of Hampshire. Not. If you ask me the Titanic hit that iceberg on purpose so it never had to return to port.

I was supposed to be on secondment for six months and now I was trapped. It was month twelve.

Before the trouble started, my rule was NEVER to go into the city centre on a Saturday afternoon. This was the peak time, the spike in the head, sorry I mean, demographic where bovine creatures shuffled along in their tracksuited finery, drooling debt like crash test dummies reanimated by Dr Frankenstein. The missing link? Scarily evident and it was breeding.

I used to wish that a huge iceberg would crash into Southampton and unleash an armageddon of bazooka-toting polar bears and penguins with Uzis. It could happen. Global warming, right? And flying killer whales, yeah, that would work. A brattish kid having a strop on the High Street then whoosh! A killer whale swoops in and minces the child in seconds. All that is left of little Tommy would be a bloodied shoe and red rain falling from the sky.

Sometimes I would go into the centre on a Sunday and pretend to be a homeless guy with Tourettes. Used to have some good scraps, especially on match day, until the rozzers turned up and I had to leg it.

People say I have anger management issues…they can go fuck themselves! Anyway, I threw a Molotov cocktail through Primark’s window one night. I was beered up and it seemed like a good idea. I was never identified because I was wearing a Mexican wrestling mask.

A while back I was attacked by a girl. I had made a harmless comment about her hair and she tried to burn my face off with ceramic hair straighteners. I think she was Lithunian or something. That’s why I decided to get a gun – angry birds, the Southampton edition. I popped over to Millbrook to do some shopping and take in the lovely architecture. Left with a snub-nosed revolver and a box of ammo.

You may be judgy and say it is a bit extreme me packing heat like some gangster from Thornhill but I had a premonition something bad was going to happen.

Southampton is now a quarantine zone. Anyone trying to get out over the barricades is shot. The bodies piled up quickly at the beginning. People could not believe they would be executed in cold blood. Blame Brexit.

The bridges into the city were blown up. No one had any interest in getting in. The city was left to fester, decay and burn.

No one really knows what happened other than a cruise ship crashed full tilt into the docks late one night. The emergency services attended and the virus escaped the ship. It’s called the I-Virus and it is one of the most virulent known to humankind. They started burning the bodies alive or dead and the cruise ship was blasted into oblivion by fighter jets. They thought it was airborne virus. They were wrong. It’s passed through saliva. The virus attacks the red blood cells which mutate at an exponential rate. Symptoms manifest in murderous rage and cannibalism.

I still shiver when I think of the first time I encountered an Infected. It ran towards me screeching, its eyes were terrifying, I shot it in the face.

I have not felt pity for a while. The Infected are no longer human. It’s still bad if you have to kill one you know. I shot Dave the plumber. That was tough. He had fixed my ballcock once, decent job for a decent price. Plus he wasn’t stingy with the beer either. I was gutted. I had hoped he was okay because I had a leaking pipe in my flat.

Marvelous, isn’t it? Successive governments allowed the NHS to crumble into ruin, the train services were medieval and the police spent more time filing paperwork than accidentally shooting Brazilians on the Tube YET one little outbreak of contagion and Southampton was walled in quicker than a dead pharaoh. Personally, I think the government always had a plan to do it, they just needed an excuse.

I like the city more than I used to, which is a bit screwed up I guess.