his face in the candlelight
holds all the promise and threat
of an undone parcel
you find on your porch
one springtime morning.
this fragile sparrow of a song,
unassuming, candy apple gray,
resonates with the lingering
and oh so bittersweet
poignancy of a dusty valentine
or a faded and dessicated rose
discovered in a broken shoebox
on the back of a shelf of your childhood.
sent by a disregarded high school beau,
his name forever inscribed in your vanity,
whose unrequited passion you now recall
with desperate fond and foolish nostalgia.
it chokes you with the lump-in-your-throat
lost loveliness of a little-known track
off a seldom played cult album of long ago.
there are times when you wish
everything were so easily forgotten.
now passion and rejection are memories
from when you used to feel
and you can scarcely remember
the girl you used to be.
Love this album, Nobody’s Fool, by Shakey Graves. Downloaded on Shakey Graves Day in February. Immediate favourites were Wolfman Agenda, Seeing All Red and Pay the Road. Seventh track Love, Patiently was more of a slowburner but has now breached my defences, impregnated my consciousness, set up a camp in the undergrowth and invited its friends round.
dismissed with a flicker of the eyelids,
a transfer away,
attention no longer required.
he wears assassin’s gloves,
a sliver of pale wrist between
black leather and sleeve.
grants you one of his
the ones that speak volumes,
meaning that slices to the bone.
discipline is what rules him
but the rules are not of his making.
lets his trigger finger do the talking
world-weary disdain on his innocent
child’s face, blank, without guilt,
prettily flecked with the
blood of the dead.
in the pharmacy
I recognise the
another woman is wearing.
I know she’s steeled herself
to stillness for a spell,
on the edge of the torn vinyl bench
across from the counter.
but the amenable idleness
of the gossiping clerks
soon drives her to her feet
and she paces the aisles in
a restless aimless fashion
slowburning to caged-animal frenzy.
whatever we’re waiting for –
antibiotics or antidepressants,
sedatives or laxatives –
we’ve long-suffered to the end of our tether,
eventually incubating the edginess
of junkies jonesing for a fix.
each asinine comment or tired version
of what passes for conversation
in tiny unbothered by other people’s
time constraints high street chemists
another irritant, a burr in our tender places,
all kinds of acid to our peace of mind,
when nothing progresses our cause
or expedites dispensing.
I liked you from the start
with your bashful smile
and grime-caked nails,
your nervous hands clutching
each other in muted panic
whenever strangers loomed too close,
whether bearing alms or malice,
to your sacred safe place
by the old subway entrance.
I didn’t know but I should have guessed
the thirstiness that hits you hard
late afternoons when the bars’
dark interiors beckon.
how it sets off a clarion in your skull,
your palms start to tingle and sweat,
and a purpose possesses you,
swallows you whole.
you settle easy for a spell,
disconnected from the world’s clamour
by the clear cool contents of a glass.
a moment of clarity
when it all makes sense
and then, before I know it,
you’ve become someone else
and I’m as unnecessary
as I’d always suspected.
Photo of Beale Street, Memphis from Belinda
at the end of the school field
[since developed into housing],
a boy screwing up his face
in a cub scout uniform
[now father to a ten year old],
your sister uncannily like
a popstar in rather bad drag
poised on the front porch
ready to step into her future
[some things never change],
the front grille of the old estate car
[you cried when it went for scrap],
poses and stances and
moments in a life more ordinary than most
and a sad parade of so much that is lost.
we play with stray mongrels
all eager in spells of sun between snowfall
in rough and ready parking lots
across the freeway from diners
whose customers send back postcards
to pin to the wall to remember them by.
eat ‘homemade’ chilli and packet crackers
powdery and brittle,
with iced water in tall red glasses
of the indestructible kind
and hot chocolate topped with
whipped cream that turns it cold.
unashamedly bright eyed and desperate to please
we stop to wonder whose dogs are these
to pat and praise and stroke and click
our tongues in the sides of our cheeks.
they are all tail-wagging joyousness
and overwhelmed by our mere presence.
left out in all weathers, their eyes
still brim with hope and love
and a longing inside that can’t be named
to be valued and cherished once again,
our brief attentions a blessing
they simply did not count on.
did they once belong in someone’s backyard?
come running when their names were called?
could anybody measure their devotion?
reckon it up when it’s never-ending
like a hot spring welling up
from subterranean depths?
now they cock their heads to
deliver a gaze of plain adoration,
lick the hands of strangers,
with kind words for them,
and time to run and chase and play,
but only pausing, passing through.
The picture is of Buster at Dogs Trust Newbury, who needs a new home. Buster loves his walks and playing in the garden. He is great with people of all ages but sadly dislikes other dogs and cats. Buster will suit an experienced Terrier household with a secure garden and where he can be walked in quiet areas and not need to encounter too many other dogs. Five years old, Buster is a lovely friendly chap who has strong breed traits. For more information, please contact the centre directly: https://www.dogstrust.org.uk/…/fi…/new~~~~~n~/1125418/buster.
the grave gaze of a child
who’s spent too long indoors
and not tumbled wild
and hollering down
a country hillside.
has instead turned inward,
nursing undefined allergies
through a feverish summer
reading library books
beyond his age bracket
till his mind knew more
than his body ever would.
pale as water in an opaque glass
against the sun burnished
sturdy limbed vigour
of the boys from the neighbourhood.
their grazed knees and scarred elbows
talismans of rites of passage,
earned over long daytimes
of companionship and quarrel.
he sees them through a mullioned window
indistinct images from another life.