Poetry Blog – ‘A list of items that I bought but could not bring myself to properly use.’

This is another poem that was prompted by a sleepless night. I’ve had a lot of those lately. It’ll start off with just being uncomfortable, or too hot and then before I know it, my mind is racing and I know that if I don’t head downstairs and start writing things down, I’ll lose these ideas forever.

This poem came about because I started to think about the amount of things I buy and then don’t really use. Or rather, I use them – I’m not a complete idiot – but either nowhere near as much as I should or nowhere near early enough. I’m prone to getting them and then putting them away and all but forgetting they exist. Perhaps the poem can explain…

A list of items that I bought but could not bring myself to use properly…

Books have been a favourite for years, added to the weekly shop or gifted from an Amazon wishlist where they’d sat, forgotten about, until Christmas or birthdays. From there it would be off to a box in the loft and forgotten again. And while I’ll endeavour to read them deep into retirement, I’m already praying for someone to leave boxes of books to in my will.

Trainers are a similar addiction. My two feet will forever have a choice of pairs that run well into double figures, while not, in fact, running at all. And my two feet will never actually be enough. The thrill is in the chase. The irony is that the chase will not be performed in these under-used trainers.

Although in possession of what I feel is an unusually small head, I am somewhat obsessed with hats. Inevitably though, they will adorn my bonce but once, before embarrassment overcomes me and the charity shops feels the benefit.

A new jacket, on the other hand, will rarely be left to wait for a rainy day, unlike several fresh umbrellas now resident underneath the passenger seat of my car. Meanwhile, new shoes must stay boxed for as long as I can stand to wear the four other, older pairs in what is a perverse stance taken to kid myself that I’m getting my money’s worth out of said shoes.

Inhalers are collected and stacked, incongruous, in a drink’s cabinet, while I continue to use those that are long out of date, desperate to squeeze more life out of both of us, while stockpiling fresh cures as if saving for a particularly dusty, hazy day. Similarly, the artwork with the quirky quotes will forever fail to inspire or advertise how fun family life can be while they’re in a bag behind an armchair.

Chinos – always a good idea at the time – will remain stashed in a wardrobe, living up to their slim fit billing by squeezing expertly between suits. Occasionally, when I fancy a change, they will lay on the bed to be stared at, before being thrust back into storage as change is given a rest and I slide back into battered jeans.

And then there are the tiny ‘pint’ glasses, stolen from a bar in the good ‘ol U.S of A. Too small to be used, but too cool to be left behind in their rightful place. Or in fact bought.

And finally, let’s spare a thought, for the entire bathroom suite that was once stored upstairs in our house for months, because the trauma of finding a plumber meant it was easier to clamber over a bath taking residence in a back bedroom, than invite a tradesman to our house. For a while we were possibly the only house in Yorkshire with an unplumbed toilet sat on the landing. And maybe that’s a price worth paying for an claim as unique as that.

I think they call it ‘the thrill of the chase’. That feeling of excitement at getting something that then has a strange habit of wearing off once you’ve actually got it. People blame it for everything from the failure of a marriage or relationship to the reason that we all know that a pet is not just for Christmas. And I think partly, that’s what this poem’s about. Not pets, but the thrill of chasing shiny things and then almost instantly losing at least some of your interest. It’s generally attributable to me in our house, but I think we’re all perfectly capable of it too.

In my loft I have boxes of unread books. I have boxes of some of the ones I’ve read as well, that are too precious to pass on to charity or another willing reader, but I box them up and most likely won’t look at them again for years, if at all. The unread ones started as a small pile when I started working after university. And then disposable income happened. It’s a terrible habit and I must have four big boxes full of ‘to-read’ books. There are so many books in there that sometimes, when it’s time to choose my next one, I’ll discover something that I’d forgotten about entirely. And while this is a lovely surprise (although it can also be quite perplexing) it should also tell me that I need to cut down on the number of books I buy.

Some of the things that inspired the poem are things that I really have no use for. Hats are the best example. I don’t suit them as my head is more akin to a peanut and therefore hats swamp me. I mean, when was the last time you saw a peanut wearing a hat outside of a cartoon?

The point with this poem is that it could have been a much bigger poem. An epic poem about the least epic things you can think of. Believe it or not, I have got better at this as I’ve grown older. I used to buy a lot more. I never got full use out of any of it.

I’m quite proud of this poem. It’s a bit more of a rambling effort than usual – who knew that was possible – but I like it. And that isn’t always the case. But this poem brings back happy memories. For instance those stolen glasses mentioned in stanza 7 were purloined on a holiday to Boston and then packed away carefully inside towels and clothes in order to preserve them on the long flight home. We’ve never used them since getting them home, but I can still picture us sitting in the bar with mile wide grins on our faces because they looked so good and we were going to take them with us! Maybe I’ll get them out at home and just gaze at them, like an art installation…

I hope you enjoyed the poem. As always, I’d be interested to know people’s opinions, so feel free to leave a comment.

Sad, lonely shirt…

This is a poem I wrote about an item that I couldn’t avoid as I bumbled round our house during lockdown.
At the start of a working week I usually like to have some shirts ironed and ready to go. I just don’t like having to be ironing during the week. Anyway…
When I had to start isolating from work – several years ago, it feels like – I had one, ironed shirt left, hanging on the wardrobe door, ready for the next day. I would see it every day and it would remind me of what I was missing. The shirt became both a sad reminder that I couldn’t be in work and a comfort in that surely one day I would get to wear it again with a suit and tie. We would chat, me and the shirt. You know, in my head. Because sometimes being in lockdown wasn’t that easy.
I’m really not sure about this poem. I think I like it. It makes me smile and as time has passed I’ve been able to read it without thinking of myself as some kind of attention seeker.

Sad, lonely shirt

Sad, lonely shirt. I pass you every day and you remind me of where I should be, but am kept away from until it’s safe.
I see you and I wonder what you think about all of this.

“I’m still here,” you say and then you ask, “Why am I just hanging here?” And I say, “You wouldn’t understand.”
Quick as a flash you volley it back. “Why? I am a smart shirt.”
And with reasoning like that, coupled with the fact that I’m a soft touch I have no option but to explain.

You listen attentively – you’re hung on the side of the wardrobe, after all – as I try to explain the world amidst a global pandemic and how these days, without work, it’s leisure wear only for me.

You stare at me for a while, wanting to shrug, but unable to because I’m using my shoulders and you’re on a hanger. Then you say,
“Can I make some requests?”
I mull it over and then think, why not, before making it clear that I can’t do ‘just hold me’ because I couldn’t stand the creases and I will have to wear you again one day.

You look a little crestfallen and then say “OK” and then, “Maybe just two then?”
“Go ahead” I say.
You ask, not unreasonably, “Can you get rid of this dust off my shoulders, please? I’ve been here for weeks.”
Shamefaced, I take you down and gently brush it away. “What else?”
“Could you hang me in the wardrobe, next to my friends, please?”
And reasoning that the light grey suit must be your closest pal, I place you near to that.

I think mainly, this is a poem that was borne out of having too much time to think. It’s another one that woke me at night and forced me out of bed and I just wrote it down in my notebook, with not a great deal of thought. The words just seemed to be there. I really did find myself talking to the shirt if I passed it in our bedroom. Never out loud. But there was always a conversation of sorts.

If there’s any kind of intellectual aspect to it – and if you know me, there rarely is – the poem could be about our own self image and maybe the relationship we have with clothes. I love clothes, always have. I get it from my dad, who was quite the stylish young Mod in his pre-chidlren days. However, because I’ve always had a very slight frame, I’ve rarely felt confident in whatever I’ve worn. Body image, while never something that has been debilitating for me, has always been a bit of an issue. However, I always feel good in a suit, shirt and tie and I’m careful in what I choose to put together. This particular sad, lonely shirt is a bit of a favourite. Maybe others would have just got thrown in the wash, but this one stayed out, hung up, essentially reminding me that I still had a purpose.

There are a few lines in there that I’m quite proud of. I like the “I’m a smart shirt” line as it makes me smile when I read it back. Again, I suppose it works with the idea of a shirt having a personality and giving me confidence in the way that certain clothes can do. And then I liked the line about the shirt not being able to shrug. I suppose it might say something about the fact that clothes can’t actually do everything for us, as much as they might add to our confidence.

As an aside, I’m now back at work and I wore the shirt in my first week back. I’d like to think it was a day that we both enjoyed just a little bit more than usual!

Anyway, as ever I’d be interested to know what people think, so feel free to leave something in the comments.

Poetry Blog – ‘No blue lights.’

Photo by Pranidchakan Boonrom on Pexels.com

So a little while ago, during lockdown, I got to thinking about a couple of years ago when I was poorly and got admitted to hospital. Fun times. It led to a couple of poems, the first of which – imaginatively entitled ‘Heart’ – I published on here a few weeks ago. At first I didn’t know what to do with the poems, given their personal nature. but as I’m not one for going back through notebooks and reading my own work, I decided to publish.
I thought I’d share because otherwise – as I said when I shared ‘Heart’ – it’s just words on a page for no one really and they’ve been sat in a notebook for months. This poem was actually the first one of the two.

No blue lights, no ceremony.
Instead, a last meal, rushed to send you on your way into the dark.
A numbness. A thought nagging at the back of your mind, like a job that needs to be done, but feels better ignored.

In the steady opening of a door time accelerates, yet thought slows down.
A world spins, but you watch wondering if you’re still part of it. And for how long?

A sharp scratch jolts you back, a reminder of a TV drama.
This is really happening. So you summon the banality of the everyday to make it go away.
Then a dark hint dropped by a friendly face and before you can utter a sound, formulate a thought, time moves on and you struggle to keep up.

Death is no longer a stranger. Death is the friend that everyone else hates, but no one tells you why.
Death is a temptation, but a step too far, a drug you will not take. An adventure that tempts you, talks to you before something unnamed barges in and stops you.

Dreams. Faces in the dark. One long nightmare.
The morning’s loneliness and thoughts that you’ll never see them again.
Until you do.
And you fight, kick like an Olympian down the back straight until you catch life. And them. Feel their tears, their warmth, their hearts still beating with yours.

Reading it back for the first time in a while, this feels like a really fast version of events. I don’t know why. There was certainly plenty of subject matter to tackle, so maybe subconsciously I wanted to reflect how quickly certain things seemed to happen. I’m not sure it was a deliberate intention though!

The story behind it is having to go to the Emergency department of the hospital when I was having heart palpitations. I drove myself in – I didn’t want any fuss – and fully expected to be given tablets and sent on my way. And maybe this is where the pace of the poem comes from. They were expecting me in A&E and unlike whenever I’ve been there before, I was seen almost immediately. People came into my cubicle in quick succession, each with a more serious expression on their faces! The ‘sharp scratch’ was a canula being inserted into my arm by a male nurse. It was something I’d heard of on TV, notably on things like Casualty, so I knew things were more serious than I first imagined when a canula got mentioned.

The friendly face was a kind looking young nurse. However, as kind looking as she was, I couldn’t help but notice her tine change when I explained that I’d been feeling this way for a few days and nearly didn’t come in at all. For the life of me, I can’t remember her exact words, but it definitely hinted that I was in a bit of a mess!

From that moment everything was a bit of a whirlwind. Doctors and nurses came and went and my wife popped in with an overnight bag, so I had to resume my act that it wasn’t all that serious. Not long after she’d gone I was told that I was headed for a ward, but wouldn’t be allowed to just walk up, so was helped into a wheelchair and taken by a porter. I’ve never felt so helpless in my adult life!

I was terrified that I was going to die. Doctors and nurses kept waking me up in the night when exhaustion and probably prescription drugs meant that all I wanted to do was sleep.

When I woke in the morning I felt massively lonely – as it says in the final stanza – and, although I’d had the fact that I’d be fine but needed an operation explained to me, started to think that I’d never recover.

I did recover though. I kicked ‘like an Olympian’, tried to eat the right things, exercised, rested when I needed to and cherished the people around me like never before.

Poetry Blog: A Slice of Heaven

It’s undoubtedly been a funny old year. I don’t think I need to give you some kind of encyclopedic explanation as to why. However, recently we managed to get away for a week’s holiday in the UK, something that we felt wasn’t going to be possible and another thing to fall victim to the pandemic.

Initially our holiday had been cancelled and then we received an email letting us know that it was once again possible. Somewhat hesitantly we agreed that we’d go, our reasoning being that a different four walls might be just what we need. We never imagined that we’d be able to go to our favourite beach.

It was that thought that led to me writing this poem. I was just sat one night, thinking about the upcoming holiday and previous ones and remembering the feeling of heading to our favourite beach. Whenever we’re there we’re relaxed and happy and so it really is like a slice of heaven to us, hence the title.

You clamber up the steep path, weighed down by a day’s food, drink and entertainment, round the last curve of the dead end street, stalking the low wall that snakes along the cliff edge and catching a first glorious glimpse of the sea. Soon, your feet will feel the first crunch of gravel. You glance right and see the bench where you all first huddled during a gale stricken picnic, because that was what families must do for a sense of adventure. The memory fades, just as you do, engulfed by hedgerows as you crest the first hill and disappear from sight, furtively glancing back, relieved that no one follows to discover your almost secret. The path narrows and curves, dips like the lasts wallow of summer before turning to sand, just like the feeling of life before this place. Your progress now covered by the tree line, you tramp steadfastly on, gasping for breath a little, still weighed down by explorer’s provisions. You remind yourself of what awaits as you stagger to the top of an Everest-like rise with nothing now between you and the sky. Deeper sand, a rickety bridge and then you creep down steps steep until you sink into pristine sand at the bottom and moonwalk exaggerated stpes across the cove, finding the perfect spot and spreading out your things just a little too much to hint that no one should come too close. Seconds pass and you remove layers of clothing, while simultaneously discarding a year’s worth of work, stress, life, before collapsing onto a perfectly placed blanket and gazing, awestruck, through sheltered eyes at the rest of your day. The estuary with its strong currents, where if you time it right and challenge the tide you can wade out through ever warmer water until you find yourself on a sand spit that feels like another planet, cut off from all other human life. You remember his hand clasping yours as he trembled, trying to be, desperate to be your big boy, as the water lapped at his chest and with every step he sunk deeper into the sand beneath. Eventually you picked him up, daddy’s got you, and bury your own trepidation until you made it onto the ever-fading island and let him run through the rock pools while you sat and took pictures with your mind that you knew you’d cling on to forever. Later, you’d watch them both playing on the rocks, best friends for once, keen to be grown up adventurers; the elder doing whatever it took to keep the younger happy. Their happiness shrieked its way across the sand so that even when you drifted off and lost sight of them, you could find them easily again. Beside you, the love of your life lies on the blanket, no longer propped up on elbows, book still stuck to fingers, headphones still in ears, but breathing a little too heavily to feign being awake. While the sun beats down, you leave her be, safe from the demands of everyday life; the phone calls, spreadsheets, meals, entertainment. You turn your eyes seaward, touch hand to head and feel the heat absorbed by dark hair, as if somehow this is an unexpected comfort. Your eyes catch the shimmer in the ripples of the sea and you imagine yourself one day out there, gliding back and forth on a paddle board, hair a little less dark, but mind a little more relaxed, in the autumn of your days. This is where we come to relax, reflect, to dream, to escape, to forget.

Not a lot of explanation needed here, really. It’s a poem about our favourite beach. You have to take the cliff-top coastal path for about ten minutes, until you get there. I think that puts some people off as it’s quite tiring if you’re carrying a day’s worth of beach gear for everyone. It’s worth it though.

The cove is on an estuary and when the tide goes out you can have adventures on the newly exposed sand, but you might have to wade out for a while to get there. My children love this.

In short, it’s somewhere we love – we’ve considered buying a holiday cottage there, we love it so much – and it’s a place where I think every one of us is able to relax.

Feel free to let me know what you thought of the poem in the comments. I’m always interested in hearing what people think.

Poetry Blog: Heart

Photo by Anna Shvets on Pexels.com

This is a very personal poem. I wrote a couple in March, at the very start of lockdown, when I had been sent away from work due to what they tell me are underlying health conditions. I’m asthmatic and so Coronavirus wasn’t ever going to be my friend. However, on top of this, a while back I was admitted to hospital with what turned out to be a problem with my heart. At the time I genuinely thought I was going to die and it became quite the experience! I didn’t die – I was given various different types of pills to calm things down and then a month or so later had an operation to correct the problem. I’m much stronger now, but the virus brought a lot of memories flooding back, as well as providing me with a genuine sense of fear that there was again another chance that I could die.

In amongst the memories came the sleepless nights and in amongst the sleepless nights came the creativity that led to the poem below and a couple of others. Anyway, here’s Heart.

For four days, I waited. Thought, as all men do, that this would pass. Eventually, fear brought a confession that led to here. And then more waiting, a false confidence painted on to everything I say and do because I cannot let her see my vulnerability, cannot let her see my fear. Strength is a necessary pretence. Yet with every new face, strength evaporates until I am wheeled like a casualty of war or, more likely a damaged antique, into a room where some will come to die.

I sign forms, answer relentless questions, give blood and am attached to a machine that makes me feel like it is doing my living for me. Something has to. Even false confidence gives way now and I sit, slumped, preparing for tears. The thought of death is probably as good a reason as any.

Then a voice from a darkened corner speaks. He’s been here before, a veteran and senses my terror, my weakness and flings out a hand to drag me back to shore and save me from the depths of a black and terrifying ocean. I listen mostly, adding an occasional cliche or just a noise until I sense that I have recovered the strength to be alone. Life has come full circle, I think.

And although I’m far too frightened to close my eyes, I give way to the darkness where the sounds emanating from machines punctuate the eerie, unwanted silence. It is all too much.

Eventually, I am woken by strangers with the best of intentions, giving me tablets, asking more questions, taking more blood and as dawn’s light pushes its way into my dreams, I realise I am still alive. Still here. Still scared, still bewildered, still alone. No longer disguised by darkness I paint on another mask of confidence. This is what men do.

Far too much later she returns. It has been a lifetime. I’m still here. Still hers. Eternally, but almost not at all.

What happened to me wasn’t all that serious. Not when put into context, anyway. I didn’t have a heart attack and as far as I’m aware, there was never any panic from the people that matter that I might not make it. There were, however, some serious conversations had and I was left in no doubt that I’d been very silly to leave things as I did. I worked with a heartbeat of 140+ for a few days. I can’t quite remember, but I think I coached my football team and ran a warm-up that weekend too. Even when a doctor told me I should go to the emergency department I somehow managed to weasel my way out of it and attend a meeting about our football club instead. My doctor called me in the middle of the meeting though and when blue lights were threatened, I took the hint.

On hearing that I’d been ignoring my thumping heart a nurse made some kind of remark that was along the lines of ‘it’s a good job you finally came in’ and that really shocked me. Later, my cardiologist took time to inform me that I would be monitored very carefully and that they were doing everything they could to stabilise things. Meanwhile, I became sure that I wouldn’t be going home.

So that’s what the first verse is referring to. I ignored things thinking that one morning I’d wake up and it would all be alright – very male! I didn’t dare tell my wife at first so I didn’t worry her and then as time went on, so she wouldn’t explode at me!

At hospital I expected to be prescribed some pills and sent on my way. When I wasn’t I was scared. The whole process was lightening quick – a nurse would visit and prod me or give an injection or a tablet, then a doctor, then another with questions and I was told I’d definitely be admitted. My wife came in with a bag for my stay and I had to appear my usual relaxed self. Hence, the line that ‘strength is a necessary pretence‘.

I wasn’t allowed to walk up to the ward. A porter was summoned and I was taken in a wheelchair and this is where the ‘casualty of war/damaged antique image comes from. It was after 11pm so the ward was dark – bizarelly I didn’t expect this – and after a lot of activity with various staff coming and going, I was left alone. I didn’t know what to do with myself, so I sat fighting tears.

The third stanza was the time on the ward that really helped me. The man in the bed opposite had been brought in a few days previously, having suffered his third heart attack. I didn’t want to talk, but on reflection as he ‘flings out a hand to pull me back to shore and save me from the depths of a black ocean.’ was a genuine moment of human kindness. He wasn’t wallowing in his own illness, just concentrating on cheering me up. He talked about how amazing the staff were and just the need to slow down – why I was here – and I was forced to listen. I can’t remember his name, but I know I’ll never forget his kindness.

The rest of the poem is just about the exhaustion that led me to sleep and the people that woke me up at certain intervals to make sure I took pills, drank and just knew where I was and what was happening.

The final thing that I feel I need to point out is the short final stanza. I think ‘Far too much later she returns’ probably sounds critical and impatient. It isn’t. It’s about my wife visiting the ward. I hope the poem isn’t looked at as remembering being ill. It’s also a love poem.

I was absolutely desperate to see her. This was partly for me and partly to let her know that I was alright. I must have woken up on the ward before 6am and so it felt like ‘a lifetime’ had passed when she arrived. Part of that covers just the sheer amount of thinking that I did and part, just very simply the amount of time it seemed to take.

I really hope you’ve enjoyed the poem. As I said, it’s a really personal piece of writing and the kind of thing that I both wanted to share while also wanting to keep private. Essentially though, if it’s left in a notebook, it’s just words on a page.

Let me know what you think.

Poetry Blog: ‘Frozen Bucket List.’

Photo by hitesh choudhary on Pexels.com

So this is a poem written when an idea forced me out of bed at 2.15am a while ago now. Lockdown, although now being gradually eased, has been like that. My sleep has been like that a lot recently, although not specifically at 2.15am. It’s not some kind of magic time. On this occasion though, I ended up downstairs, head full of silly ideas and scribbling stuff down. The main thing keeping me awake was thinking how people would be coping being unable to tick things off their bucket lists because of lockdown and I suppose more recently, the amount of restrictions that are still actually in place. Hmm, 21st century problems…

Frozen Bucket List

When this is over dolphins better find a safe place to hide from people resuming their quest to live their lives like the Facebook memes demand. Don’t waste a day, hour, minute, second, dance in the rain, smell the flowers, and, best of all remember the storm will pass. When this is over waterfalls need to watch out, Everybody wants to watch them tumble majestically off that cliff and sigh. And bunge cords, run for your lives; a procession of adrenaline junkies is looking to find that ultimate rush once more. Same goes for skydiving instructors. Prepare yourselves for a gush of pensioners looking to show that Colonel Tom he’s not the only dog who’s still got life left. Ironically there’s sure to be a rush on hot air balloon rides. Tall, colourful, graceful, but in a few months they’ll take over the skies with all the appeal of a glut of cold callers eagerly knocking at your door. Soon, African animals will break down the fences that keep them safe on reserves as wave after wave of rich American tourists turn up to gawp and disturb their peaceful lives, all in the name of ticking something else off a list and adding a hundred variants of the same photo to social media. Instyaaawn. Only a quarter of them will actually be able to name the animal… In return Route 66 will become a car park for Europeans all searching for the soul of America or some such nonsense. Beware the over use of the words ‘road’ & ‘trip’ where ‘drive’ would do. Lockdown will end, ‘be kind’ will be forgotten and months of sitting around, staying safe will give way to an almighty period of running for your lives. As the bucket listers invade

You might be able to tell that I’m not a one for bucket lists. There’s nothing that I’m desperate to do before dying. There are lots of places I want to go, things I want to do and try and skills I want to learn, but nothing that I’d regret not doing, I hope.

So there’s not a lot to explain about the poem. It was a genuine thought I had – what will people do about their plans? Some friends had booked a ‘trip of a lifetime’ to Disneyworld or whatever it is they have in Florida (theme parks are just below bucket lists on my bucket list) and then found it had to be cancelled about a month later when the world locked down as Coronavirus struck. I really felt for them; what would they do now?

It’s probably a bit cynical in tone, but hopefully amusing to some. I do hope that none of the things in it are things that anyone has had to cancel! Anyway, I hope you enjoyed reading another one of my poems. Let me know what you though about it in the comments box. And if you didn’t like it, as always, that’s not a comments box, it’s a cursed rectangle…don’t go near it!

Poetry Blog: Prince

Album review: Prince's '1999′ keeps on giving in 2019 - Chicago ...

During lockdown many important things happened. People had birthdays, weddings, funerals even, and all were dealt with in as appropriate a way as was possible, given the circumstances. A notable thing that happened in my world was the anniversary of Prince’s death in April. He’d been gone for four years. What a loss. I loved him when I was younger. His music was ace, never failing to make me smile or want to dance or sing along. As a short skinny fella when I was younger, Prince’s legendary swordsmanship reassured me that you didn’t have to be a conventional ‘hunk’ to get any attention off the ladies. I later learnt that while not being a conventional hunk wasn’t always required, it probably really helped being Prince though! What a guy! So, I wrote a poem for him. As is kind of usual for me, it wasn’t particularly serious. I’d like to think that he’d have the kind of sense of humour that would have appreciated it. Maybe he’d call me up, invite me to Paisley Park to just hang out…

We’re four years down the road without you in a world now where unscrupulous retailers sell hand sanitiser for 19.99, Isolation’s brand of selfishness, a terrible crime. No funk, no sex dwarf to admire and no soul. Everyone’s stopped lovin’ to search for toilet roll. We need a multi-instrumentalist psexopath who used baby oil, not water when he was having a bath, A man turned on by a raspberry beret, a walking erection at any time of day. You told me to jerk my body like a horny pony would, Well, I’d try anything if you said it was good. Purple suits, stack heels and an Errol Flynn ‘tache,a sexy motherfucker, shakin’ that ass. An encyclopedic knowledge of sexy time know how, impregnating anyone with the suggestive raise of an eyebrow. With twenty three positions in a one night stand, that’s sexual flexibility like a rubber band. Lockdown might have been made for you, Prince, but adapted to incorporate a harem and no social distance. PE with Joe, telly, snacks, the odd role in the hay, you put the right letters together to make a better day.

Some Notes

I wrote the poem because I genuinely loved Prince and I was surprised that it had been four years since we lost him. As a much younger man, in a band, we’d been quite heavily influenced by his music, spending hours listening to albums like Lovesexy and Sign ‘O The Times and debating what we thought the lyrics were or what they meant. I wanted my poem to be affectionate, but with a sense of humour. And it had to reflect the times that we were now living through. I couldn’t help but wonder what someone like Prince would have made of being locked down.

That first line about hand sanitiser is referring to the fact that people who had it when it was in short supply were selling it at inflated prices – if you were into awful puns you could say it was a sign ‘o the times…

Is it possible to hear tumbleweed on a blog? I also wanted to reference a Prince song – 1999 – and I never actually saw any hand sanitiser at that price!

I think the term sex-dwarf came from either the comic Viz – and very English institution – or a radio show that I used to listen to. I can’t remember which, but I’ve always remembered it and thought of it as affectionate and amusing, rather than offensive.

The line about toilet roll is again referencing selfishness during lockdown. In the UK some people went panic buying as we were locked down, buying trolleys full of toilet roll, as if chronic diarrhoea was the thing that might get them, rather than a flu-like virus.

I came up with the word ‘psexopath’ and it really made me smile. Prince had a bit of a reputation as a ladies’ man, so I liked the idea of him just running round frantically having sex with anything that moved…when he wasn’t making music! It’s definitely how I like to think he lived his life and as a young man in the late eighties it was a lifestyle that just seemed to be a great choice! Thre are a few other references to his sex life in the poem too, none of them meant to be judgemental and all written with a smile on my face.

Finally, because I loved his lyrics, I wanted to get some of them into the poem. I managed a few, but I really like the line ‘jerk your body like a horny pony would’ from the rap in Alphabet Street, so I wanted that in the poem, albeit slightly paraphrased. It’s always fascinated me where that idea came from and always made me laugh a little bit.

I hope you like the poem. I hope it made you smile because that was very much the intention – a light-hearted tribute to someone I very much admired. I’d love to hear what people thought, so feel free to leave me a comment.

Poetry Blog – A New Normal

Photo by cottonbro on Pexels.com

I wrote this one lockdown morning, a few weeks ago in the early hours. I couldn’t sleep, as has been the case all too often lately. I felt creative – what had kept me awake was that phrase, ‘a new normal’ that we’ve all been trying to get used to lately. I had a few lines swimming round in my head and decided to get up and try and write something. It’s no understatement to say that COVID-19 and lockdown/quarantine has changed everybody’s lives immeasurably. One thing that it has done for me is boost my creativity and on this particular early morning, that feeling of having to write something, combined with fear and uncertainty had me scribbling for a good hour. Amongst other things this poem was the result.

A New Normal

And from our fearful hibernation a new normal emerges.
Where faded lines on the ground tell us where to stand and judgemental frowns tell us how to do it.
Elsewhere, no lines are drawn in the sand and crowds flock like fearless pilgrims to beaches and beauty spots.
No one can count to six anymore.
Those we have lost, it seems, are easily forgotten for a burger or an ice cream.
You paid your dues in Thursday night applause, after all. This is the least you should expect.

Meanwhile, some still huddle together, scarred by the past and frightened of this new way of life, feeling our way back tentatively, occasionally forgetting ourselves at the sight of a friendly face, then paranoid that we stood too close.
Our children leave us but remain in bubbles for safety.
Life has to move on, yet we wish to stay this way forever. Confused like a swirl of spinning leaves, we have no answer.
We are passengers, resisting yet blown along all the same. Powerless. Frightened of a silent, faceless foe.

We frown at those who attempt to live again, but know we must submit ourselves back to the crowd sometime.
Sometime.
We don’t know when.
It is a devilish inevitability that awaits us. And we know we cannot shake its hand and be done.
We scold ourselves for feeling afraid, for not daring.
Life, it seems might simply never be the same again.
However brave, wherever you stand in that crowd, the back of your mind will always echo with the voice that warns against the new normal.

Some notes…

I’m not returning to work yet, but have many friends who are. The world scares me a bit at the minute. I keep hearing that phrase ‘new normal’ but I’m yet to discover mine because I’m so isolated. That made me write the poem.

It’s amazed me watching some people, who rather than adapt, seem to think that they’ve been locked down enough and that somehow time has healed things. That’s there in the line about ‘pilgrims’ and the line about ‘Thursday night applause’ refers to the Clap for Carers campaign in the UK, where people have stood outside their homes every Thursday night to applaud and acknowledge the work of our NHS. I think it’s a brilliant gesture, but have always wondered if some see it as some kind of badge of honour that allows them to take the moral high ground and then and go and do whatever they want. The fact that ‘no one can count to six anymore’ references the government ruling that people could gather in groups of six when certain lockdown rules were relaxed and many people seemed to just believe that what they actually meant was groups of over six or just multiples of six!

The line about feeling paranoid was just me referencing the fact that when I have bumped into people on our lovely government sanctioned walks, I always leave the situation wondering if I’d dropped my guard and mistakenly stood too close. I’m not the most tactile person, but nor am I a natural at standing two metres away from people I’m talking to!

The final verse was meant to represent the uncertainty of some people. I know in our house, we’d rather stay locked down, while understanding that this all has to stop somewhere and that things are undoubtedly a lot safer now.

Anyway, I hope you like the poem. It was an attempt to get out some of the frustration and fear that I have felt over these last couple of months and also at the situation that we find ourselves in now amidst the prospect of the ‘new normal’.

Feel free to leave comments – it’s always interesting to hear what people think of something so personal.

Poetry Blog – An Ode to Joe Wicks

Photo by Andrea Piacquadio on Pexels.com

So this is a poem that I posted in our Lockdown Literature group on Facebook a while ago now. I had been swept up in the phenomenon that is #PEwithJoe, which has taken place every morning of the UK’s lockdown, as part of the whole home-schooling effort. It fascinated me that something which was the total opposite of my idea of fun – and even my idea of exercise – had become so important to me. Every morning – and every morning since, 66 in total and counting- I was thinking about our workout from the moment I woke. I was loving putting myself through the whole effort, loving pushing my really quite old and broken body to the limit and loving Joe. Not like that! Although I can’t deny there’s a tiny bit of a (one-sided) bromance going on.

Rather than write a deep, thoughtful poem that would explore how I was approaching fighting the threat of Coronavirus, how we shouldn’t make hasty judgements and my progression into middle-age, I just went for, shall we say, a more ‘comedy’ angle and the usual nonsense. The result is below.

Joe Wicks.

I first met you in Asda. The book aisle.                                                                                                I was doing the midweek shop. You caught my eye, staring at me from the cover of your latest tome.                                                                                                                                     (Well, it was the book aisle).

All hair and teeth and man made fibres, a face that could become the international sign for the word ‘Wotcha’.                                                                                                                    You reminded me of myself a very long time ago: the hair, not the teeth, and a face that said, “What the fuck am I going to do with all this hair?”

You were definitely not for me.

Now, some years later, we seem to be in the midst of a rather intense bromance.            Every weekday from nine you dance for me.                                                                                Sort of.                                                                                                                                            Breathless and shouting out the names of exercises, while I follow, an enthusiastic amateur undignified in clingy leisurewear.                                                                                                        I too am breathless, heart racing, arms and legs trembling as I attempt to squat for the umpteenth time or plank for twenty seconds.

I tell you, I don’t usually act this way.                                                                                            You shout insanely. Something about exercise being a perfect start to the day.                          I think, ‘sounds reasonable’ and ‘why are you shouting?’

I dream of that body being mine.                                                                                                    Not like that Joe Wicks, you mucky pup.                                                                                        No, I imagine that when all this ends I too will have a stomach like a cobbled street and a chest that folk refer to as pecs, rather than moobs.

One day, when I get bored, I’ ll destroy it all with beer, Jamaican ginger cake and Doritos. But we’ll always have that summer Joe Wicks. That summer that was actually a spring. Our very own aerobics Brokeback spring summer. Just locked behind our own front doors, rather than being sexy cowboys on a mountain.

So there you go. As a side note, I posted a video of me reading the poem on both Twitter and Facebook, which seemed to go down quite well. If you’d like me to re-post on Twitter, let me know! As ever with these poems, let me know what you think. Did you like the poem? Have you been partaking of a bit of Joe Wicks in the morning? Have you been someone who’s used lockdown/quarantine to try something new? I’d love people to give me their thoughts in the Comments box.

Lockdown Literature

Photo by Startup Stock Photos on Pexels.com

Lockdown should have been a miserable time. If you’d been told that you’d have to stay indoors almost indefinitely because there was the kind of virus that you’d only ever witnessed in the realms of Hollywood and this was the only thing that would keep you safe, you’d have been terrified. As well as looking at the people you’d be living with and wondering which one you’d end up eating first. But then, of course, this is exactly what you were told. (Answers in the comments about who you’ve eaten or are eyeing up for the garlic and herb marinade, by the way).

I’m sure though I’m not alone when I tell you that lockdown has been far from miserable. Yes, it’s painful being away from family, friends, loved-ones and simple normality, but it doesn’t half test your resolve and your sense of creativity. I have two children – a 13-year-old and a 10-year-old – and the challenge of keeping them busy, both with home-schooling and just in terms of general entertainment is tricky to say the least! The challenge of actually continuing to like them has been even trickier at times!

But there have been bright spots and one of which has been the way that people have rallied round each other. Yes, we can’t be together, but that’s not stopped people being kind and resourceful. Some have volunteered and made deliveries, picked up shopping and prescriptions for the elderly or clapped for the NHS. Me? I’ve done some of that and offered my services out even more. However, easily one of the best things I’ve done is to form a Facebook group to help everyone people stay creative.

Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

Lockdown Literature – although it seems to have fizzled out of late – has been great. It was a group that I started in order to encourage some of my friends to stay creative during isolation and to see what people would write. It would also be another good way of staying in touch. The response across the weeks has been amazing – poems, short stories, life writing, even some literary criticism.

The whole idea came about because a friend had done similar, but with an art group. A bunch of us were attempting to post artwork regularly and as I’d been keen to start sketching again, so it served a purpose too. It was definitely fun. I must admit though, that looking at other people’s art made me feel quite inferior and this played a part in forming the Lockdown Literature group. In short, I knew that I was a better writer than an artist!

Lockdown Literature has prompted me to write some poems. This was something I had last done a few years ago and something I’d considered starting using as part of this blog. Typically for me though, I couldn’t find the notebook containing previous poems. And so, I had to start all over again.

My first idea came when I was pegging washing out on the line to dry. I was looking around the washing at my neighbour’s garden and it just occurred to me that his shed was massive. I was humbled by his shed! And a bit jealous, if I’m honest. So, I finished the hanging the washing out, dashed inside and started scribbling stuff down in my notebook. In about 20 minutes I had a poem and by the time half an hour had passed I’d posted it in the group.

I see my poetry as generally being a bit silly really. I like to try to use humour and to experiment with language, if I can. ‘My Neighbour’s Shed’ was exactly that. Silly, sarcastic and, at times, just me having fun with language. There was nothing here to change anyone’s life, nothing to move anyone to tears…or even think, really! Just an attempt to make people smile.

Since then, I’ve written poems about exercise gurus, home-schooling, nature and Prince amongst other things. And yes, that did say Prince, as in the little funky, purply adorned fella. But, inspired by others in the group, who it has to be said have written with real beauty and maturity, I’ve also written much more personal poems about family, which I’ll be posting in the blog in the coming weeks and months.

At the moment the group seems to have hit an almost terminal low. I’ve continued to contribute, but I feel like people might start to think I’m using it as some kind of showcase soon. A bit of a ‘Hey guys, this is me…’ kind of thing and that would never be my intention. So, I’m trying to come up with ways of getting people interested again, but it’s tricky without appearing to be annoyed at people, which I’m really not. I’d just love to read some more of the poems and stories that I’d read before.

So – and apart from me it seems to be an exclusively female group of contributors – here’s a little push, I guess. Laura – I’d like to see more life writing, Karen, that short story never ended, Ruth, Kath, Kylie, Emma, Hannah and anyone else in the group who I’ve missed, more of your poems, please! I’m clearly pals with a lot of very talented people! I’ve loved reading the things that my friends have written and for a month or so it felt like Lockdown Literature was a tiny force for good. And although I’m sure it’s not the most original idea anyone’s ever had, I’d definitely recommend setting up such a group with other like-minded souls. You could let me know about our own groups in the comments.

It seems appropriate to end with a poem. So, I will! This was a poem I wrote that was a little different from my other ones. I wrote it a while ago now having been forced out of bed by an idea. I knew I had to get up and get some words down on the page. I’m still unsure about this poem, but, as I said when I posted it in the group, it might be apt for the times that we’re all living through.

Happen

Don’t.
Don’t forever wait.
For the right time, the perfect place, the ideal feeling.
Make something happen.

Pick up the phone, write the letter, click send,
speak to him, speak to her, write the song, do the thing.
Make something happen.

Don’t.
Don’t sit on the fence.
Don’t leave it for tomorrow, count to ten, count to a thousand.
Make something happen.

Life will not wait. There is no perfect time.
There is no perfect. The wind won’t change and the cracks in the pavement don’t actually matter.
Before you know it time has flown, things have changed, they’ve found someone else who said or did what you should have, could have…
Make something happen.

Create your website with WordPress.com
Get started