Night Duty

You were wheeled in at 20 past 12.
An ancient pupae wrapped in a white cocoon.
Boney and paper skinned,
your eyes were closed,
but your mouth hung open
in the o shape of shock. 

Images of your insides revealed your pain.
The doctors diagnosed,
then told the family the dread news,
while I drowsily fed futile drugs
into your veins
through the cold comfort needle. 

I watched your stillness and wondered,
did you turn gratefully toward the light,
or were you standing on the edge
of the precipice raging
against the injustice of life
completed, and yet, not complete? 

In your absence machines
amplified the mercurial beat
of your quivering heart.
Your breath shallow as a saucer
did not disturb the air as the weary night left
and daylight came, offending my eyes. 

Still I kept watch over your hollow husk
until I was sure you had departed for good.
At 8:30 I called to the whistling porter
waiting In the corridor
who came and wheeled you out
And then I left for home

I could’ve been a star…

Posted in response to the Daily Post weekly photo challenge. This week’s them ‘The Road Taken’

To this day I don’t know why Dad was so furious when I told him I was learning to play the tambourine.  Well, I know it wasn’t particularly the tambourine side of things he didn’t like, I mean, who doesn’t like a tambourine, it was more where, and by whom, I was learning to play.

To be fair, most people don’t need lessons.  I understand that.

In a way it was his fault.  He was a collector of tat, and one day bought home a red tambourine, complete with long red, blue and yellow ribbons attached.  They swished as I banged and rattled. It was a joyful thing.

I don’t think my parents thought of it as joyful for long though. I’d march about our huge ‘over a shop’ flat, singing along to the tuneless bang rattle. 

I knew about marching.  We lived on a main road, so main that there was a bus stop right outside our front door, I used to have to navigate queues of people to cross over the road to the sweet shop to by my weekly jamboree bag.  I used to love jamboree bags, the blackjacks and the mojos, and the surprise cigarette card, sometimes a sugary lollipop, it’s a wonder any child of the 50’s has any teeth left at all.

Anyhow, pretty much every other Sunday morning a parade would pass by our flat and the sweetshop and the garage and the pub over the road.  I never really knew where they marched from or to, or why, but the people were all ages, dressed in uniforms, marching smartly while being led along, by a pied piper of a brass band.  Some of them were scouts, some girl guides, but the band were special, smart black uniforms, shiny instruments, and… tambourines, four or five playing in unison.  Women with their arms waving, making shapes with the ribbons… across, down, up, across, down up, across, down, up…

This was the Salvation Army band in all it’s glory.  We could hear them coming for a good five minutes before they passed our door.  My sister and I would watch them from the eyrie of our second floor bedroom window, still listening even after they’d disappeared from view.  Oh how I wanted to march like that, all smart, and in a troupe, all in time… left, right, left, right…

As it happens, the Salvation Army headquarters was next door to our house.  It was a dingy long low building stretching back off the road, separated from our backgarden by a fairly rickety six foot brick wall.  I couldn’t see through the grilled windows, but occasionally heard singing coming from inside, other than that it was an off-limits mystery. 

Nevertheless, I snuck in one day when the big red doors were open.  I don’t really remember what got into me.  I must’ve been about nine.  The people there were lovely and welcoming. I told them I lived next door and that I’d got a tambourine, and that’s when they told me I could learn to ‘play it properly’.   So I had lessons. Two of them. Before my dad found out.

Goodness, he was spitting nails when he heard.  What he didn’t call those poor people, who had after all, treated me very kindly. He was thoroughly ag’in religion in any shape or form, and the Sally Army was, in his mind at least, one of the most heinous sects imaginable. I was forbidden to go anywhere near them again.  I’m quite sure I was punished too, but my main memory is my anger and disbelief at the injustice of it all.  He never did explain his reasoning to me.  Dad never needed a reason for anything.  He was his own man.  So without further ado my road to tambourine greatness ended.

I still remember the ‘Cricket stump’ move though (across, down, up etc..) and can play a tambourine with the best of ‘em. And every time I see a Salvation Army band playing carols at Christmas time (actually, the only time I ever see them these days) I remember the grim dark hall and the silk ribbons of my shiny tambourine.

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Not the Salvation Army! This was taken at Easter in Sorrento some years back 🙂

 

 

 

 

Emptiness

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Behold the empty chair where you once sat
and read your books
and grumbled at the news
and spilt your tea
and swore at the cat 

The chair that still carries your form
in its lumpy cushions
where you dribbled
when you fell asleep
where you sheltered from my storms 

This is the chair where you consoled me
w
here you cradled babies
and coddled children
a
nd made up stories
while they dandled on your knee 

This is the chair that has to go
for with it’s stiff and empty arms
it does not hold me well

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Regretting

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Wet windows reflect
the cheeks of the wayward girl
whose own failings
scythe through her mind
shredding her life
with a thousand cuts 

no action scenes
or joyful romances
in this movie
just harsh edits by
the backroom boys
who don’t like drama

living the seedy lifestyle
of the forgotten
she spends her days
dragging the dry air
the unrepairable past
smouldering at her centre

Outside the starry skies
and bright lights
only cast unwanted shadows
of what could have been
to torment in the twisted
sheet of night

 

Dalliance

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Lets go down to the bluebell wood
to lie beneath the new sprung leaves

and let the patterns of their shadows

dance upon our bodies
 

And we’ll snuggle

to annul the fresh spring breeze

which bears the scent

of those virgin flowers

that wreath us as we watch 

the insects search

for nectar 

They’ll be no apples nor any snakes

and yet we’ll sin as one

hidden there in bliss

amongst the bracken

and lucky white heather