Anvil Soul

Humans, don’t trust them.

He told her he’d kill himself if she left him,

but she had to leave him

because he made her afraid.

He didn’t kill himself.

He showed up at her house

and stabbed her

and then poured petrol on her.

The police arrived and shot him

before he could spark a flame

He died,

she didn’t.

 

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The girl

Opening the door,

the familiar yellow light falls through onto the girl.

She is so slender and gentle, her feet hardly disturb the snow.

The street’s noise snaps after her heals

as she closes herself in

and lies down in the small bed in the corner of the room.

She thinks in silent moments and soon dreams.

The men that she has known-

some treated her kindly and some with selfish intent

but all were sweet at first; then cold and sharp at end.

Alone, she awakes early and looks about the dark room.

She can see little but knows all.

There’s the table with the picture of her mother

there’s the shelf with the book about the sea.

What thoughts she has of the day ahead,

what thoughts of days gone by.

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Morning in the city

The boat slaps against the timber wharf

the muddy water sloshes against the piers, like water poured out of an old boot.

Mr. Thomas lets out an inadvertent roar into the tired morning.

People around look at him,

not in surprise but more in disappointment,

as if to say:

Yes, we’re all in this, but we are controlling ourselves, thank you.

Thomas looks up and sees a group of teenage school girls,

laughing, their youth pleased with itself in the face of aging misery.

They are too young and strong to be brought down.

They are, in their beauty, like a powerful beacon holding off the heavy night.

He watches one girl for a moment, the tallest and most pretty of the group,

he sees the sunlight finger her blonde-brown hair

like the light in the leaves of a forest.

Then he looks away to see a man throw a cigarette into the harbor.

What promises he made himself

when he was young

and how much more beautiful that woman was

than even that girl

at 17.

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The Cathedral

The cathedral still stands mighty

Near the river in the city of my childhood.

I have seen it so many ways.

As a child, in wonder at its yellow stone greatness,

Receiving my confirmation.

As a student at Saint Michael’s high school,

Where I watched in terror

As older boys took out silver coins

And began to dig into stone walls,

Carving trenches in the glorious architecture.

What sins they committed

What vandalism,

The glory of God, raped by a silver coin

In the sticky fist of a dead end.

Then, more recently,

From her window.

The Cathedral lit up by powerful lights.

Fingers pointing to the sky,

The greatest buildings are alive

Even when seen at 2 am.

 

Ghost Story

 

After his wife died

Robert lived alone

And spent his nights painting.

His colours were directly plucked from nature

Or so he thought

And he toiled for hours to get the images just right.

He would take them to art shows

And once won first prize

But never made it outside of the smaller events in the country towns.

When he died, his children came and buried him

No one was too sad.

A local woman named Edith announced one morning

That she had been visited by the ghost of Robert Martin,

She described the scene

That it was him, she recognised him,

he appeared before her as she lay in bed alone.

It was his face, but it had shrunken, and the skin had pulled back against the skull,

Dirt fell from his mouth

And his eyes were gone.

He held out his fingers toward her,

The bones had pushed through the skin

And she could see the rib bones through his torn and ruined shirt.

The worst thing was that he glowed like moonlight.

The women listened to Edith speak

And never again did she have any respect in town.

A grown woman telling a story like that, they said.

A new bookstore opened in town a few weeks ago

And I went in today.

New carpet, high shelves, fresh clean books

The radio was tuned to Classic FM.

I looked through the books; they were expensive

But the guy running the place was having a go to succeed

So I bought one.

A fat woman sat in one of the chairs near the large windows

And she spoke loudly so everyone could hear.

“A poet has to be able to read their work aloud to audiences,

Writing is not enough

A great poet in a great actor.”

I took my book off the counter and asked for a free bookmark

And scurried home to write some poems

I’ll never read aloud to the all-knowing crowd.

used car

The car sat on the road, two wheels up the gutter,

two down on the road.

It was a big car, sleek, and flash

but it was old and well used.

“It has a lot of kilometres on the clock,” the man said

touching the steering wheel gently.

“But it’s a good car.”

“Why are you selling?” I asked.

“I want something new,” he shrugged.

The car was beautiful, but you could tell it had been used a lot.

The seats were crushed down; it had the smell of history,

and there were scratches and tears over it.

“Just because it has been around, doesn’t change the fact

it’s a good car. It has never given me trouble.”

I liked the car

but the thought of all the people through it

all the problems that might come up

made me worry.

“I once drove this car across the country,” he said.

“I had a girlfriend I used to pick up; she lived out of town.

We did it in this car a number of times,” he pointed to the large back seat.

“The guy before me drove it an hour to work and an hour home

five days a week.

Before that an older guy had it, but even he didn’t buy it new.”

We started it up and he let me drive.

I had trouble changing gears; they seemed loose and hard to find. It wouldn’t drive for me very well

as if it didn’t like me.

“What do you think?” he asked.

“Give me some time to think,” I said.

On the bus home, I kept thinking of it

and looking at all the new cars parked in the houses as we passed.

Mrs. Bertram

 

She sold dolls with hair

They use in human wigs.

The dolls have ball joints and elastic cord

With vinyl skin for easy cleaning

And soft hugging.

The eyes close when you lay it down

Just like a real baby.

“I’ve made the outfits myself,” she said.

“See her range of swimsuits,

Casual gear, day dresses…”

She paused and opened a drawer

“And this, look…”

She took out a long white dress

With beautiful lace patterns

“A wedding dress.”

She held it near the doll’s lifeless face,

Its eyes like ghosts.

“Did you ever marry, Mrs. Bertram?”

She smiled and put the dress away

Covering it with a sheet of thin tissue paper.

Ex-teacher

I went and saw the guy who lives in the apartment next to me

To tell him his car’s interior light was on.

He came to the door in a yellowing t-shirt torn at his right hip.

I told him about the car, and he thanked me,

Asking me in for a beer.

I sat in his fat armchair; it smelled like sweat and cat urine.

“Do you have a cat?” I asked.

“Nope,” he answered without any hint of surprise.

We started talking about his past.

He worked for the local water board; he dug trenches

And helped the plumbers.

A big man, he leaned on his chair, it groaned under strain.

He put his legs up on his table and sucked at his beer.

“I was a school teacher once,” he continued.

He told me he had lost that job after he beat a kid,

“He was a big kid,” the man laughed.

“I beat him because he spat on me, I beat him until he pissed himself.”

I stayed silent, drinking my beer in short sips.

His face grew dark and shone in the electric light

Like waves in the moonlight.

“I was walking past the local high school the other day, at about one pm.

Some kid I didn’t know, on the basketball court, started to scream something at me.

I ignored him, but he kept screaming at me,

He was calling me a pussy,” he halted.

“Calling me a pussy,” he repeated.

“There was a big fence around the court, and I kept walking

The kid’s voice grew louder and deeper; he was almost hysterical.

I wonder if me ignoring him made him angrier. I hope it did,”

The man leaned forward, took his feet off the table and looked me in the eye

I looked away from him. I couldn’t hold his glare.

“That kid had no idea that I would have cut his throat,

If given half a chance.”

Silence. Then he let out a deep laugh, slow and dreadful.

“Imagine the fuss!” he leaned back, smiled at me and winked.

Finishing my beer, I thanked him and walked home,

The light was still on in his car.