In the deafening chaos of the early morning
Guns blazing as mortar bombs recreate a cruel
imitation of a past bonfire night
(He remembers the one in 1993 – no reason why)
As children tear across the ravaged streets
Without legs, without eyes, without life
His back to the wall
Clutching a picture of her.
She looks beautiful.
Her eyes reflecting a life he once remembered
A smile that at one time captured him
And made him feel like he would never want to let go
As if he would die if he were to lay one night
Without her beside him
But that was another life.
They would sit with their eyes to the stars
Hands entwined, the cold grass caressing their spines
High above the city limits
The sound of silence a reassuring presence
But for a whisper in the ear
That tells him he never needs to feel alone
There is never any silence.
There is no reflection of the stars in the lights of the city below
No gentle caress of her fingers upon his
No cold kiss of the grass
The screams of the dead echo through the ruined streets
The only whispers come from fallen comrades bent crudely
across his knees, viciously swallowing their last breath
The stars hidden by the clouded trails of missiles and bullets
He does not want to be here
Amongst the dead and the dying
As the broken city falls before his once-alive eyes,
And yet he cannot think of anywhere else he could be.
Because since she allowed herself to succumb to the might
Of a higher being than he,
Once she gave in to the ravaging war inside her own being,
Once she died…
He realised that he could never look at the stars again.
When my students ask me
“What makes a good poem?”
I find it difficult to find
A desirable explanation
For such a phenomenon.
I tell them
It’s generally a matter of opinion
But if it’s up to me
You’ll have a recipe
Consisting of a number of stanzas
Built around sentences split by
The odd simile will jump out like a flea
Off a cat’s back.
There is usually a degree of rhyme
Internal or couplets
And an irregular rhyming structure
Means you back off from the typical
And into creative territory
Metaphors should cascade off the page
A touch of assonance
And some onomatopoeic reference
And of course
Try to avoid
They’ll just make you
like a pretentious twit.
Try to channel Armitage
Speak about experiences
That have made you a better man.
There’s nothing more annoying than
A poem that ends at a sudden point
Halfway through a
With a short
Behind the back of the eyes.
This time flanked
By a fleeting feeling
A fluttering in the chest.
Again, it troughs
It gets worse –
The creeping of bile
The screeching ringing in the ears
The sudden knowledge that within the next half hour
You’re going to be painting a toilet bowl with the modern-artwork of last night’s dinner.
Then the peak;
A fever that courses
Through the veins; the hot,
Beading sweat on the upper lip;
The shivers that juxtapose the searing temperature
The sahara that is your aching, bastardised, virus-laden body
The inability to keep anything more than dry toast within the caverns of your cramping stomach.
Days in bed; rolling and aching and sweating and dirty and shivery and not in a remotely sexy way.
Then it’s over.
It leaves as quickly as it began
And you’re left wondering…
What just happened?
When something doesn’t happen
Exactly how I want it to
I can get a little bit angry.
Just a little bit.
Not full on, fuck-yourself,
Just enough to moan to my mother,
Slam about the house a bit,
And annoy the cat by exhaling too loudly.
Just a little bit.
Baudelaire has nothing on me.
For all his scriptures and beautiful prose
He may say that you have beauty beyond words;
I buy you chocolate on my way home from work.
No, I may not be a McCartney.
Words often elude me at important times.
I may not tell you that you’re my everything;
Instead, I iron your shirt late on a Sunday.
I will never be a Picasso.
What does he possess that I don’t?
He might paint you in a thousand shades of red;
I put yellow peppers in your food.
I am not as dainty as Loren –
She was always too skinny anyway.
She might flash you ‘come-to-bed’ eyes;
I turn the sheets back and put in a hot water bottle.
When all is said and done –
It’s the little things that make it.
The world is a spinning mess
of rainbow. The grass
Is above my head; the sky
Below my feet where candy floss clouds
Blend into flashing lights, blend
Into the shining faces of children
Greedy for exhilaration.
The noises deafen me
Laughter and music and screaming and
The crunch of shoes on gravel.
It’s as if the people are being
And are enjoying it.
I like to spin.
The surroundings becoming a Pollock
dancing before my vision;
The sharp, tight feeling in the throat
I especially like the dizziness.
It is here relationships are made.
An arm around the shoulder
Hair off the face
As she vomits up her doughnuts.
They’ll laugh about it in twenty:
“It was the dodgems’ fault.”
There is nothing like it on the planet
An assault on the senses
The juxtaposition of pleasure and fear
The gentle violence of the fairground.
When life was all about boys
And passing my driving test
And not falling off my bike
And pretending I was sober
In front of my mother
When my biggest worry
Was how I’d pull off tie-dye
Or how I’d get to town on Saturday
Or whether I’d ever meet Green Day
You were important.
You were there.
You were everything.
Now life is all about money
And managing to pay my rent
And not crashing my car
And pretending I am sober
In front of my boss
Now my biggest worry
Is how I’ll stay slim
Or how I’ll get home on Friday
Because I need a day to recover
You might still be important.
But you are not here.
And you cannot be everything.