book store

A childhood love


I stood knee deep in the water

Looking at the brown body half submerged before me.

Its skin like dry paper

Or the skin of a well-cooked chicken.

I watched fascinated by the death,

The water playfully lapping about it

While I felt terrified to be near it.

‘Not so near, not so near,’

I whispered to myself.

The river had the brown colour of chocolate and the smell

Was of swamp, fish and now death.

My shorts were wet; I was not supposed to be swimming

But the temperature of the day increased

Until the river sand burned my feet and I needed to stand in the cool of the water.

The strong current, the smooth stones under my feet made me feel so good.

The animal’s horns were white and clean, the only things, apart from its teeth

That were not rotting, falling away. A part of its rib cage poked through its hide

The cow must have come from a farm nearby, or perhaps a farmer had dumped it.

None the less I was frozen, knee deep and fascinated.

Someone from the bank called my name, a woman,

I turned and saw her coming over the sand toward me,

Her yells, high and forceful.

She was not from here; she came to this town to study

My parents paid her to take care of me.

I wanted her in the water with me,

I wanted her confronted with this death and this life.

I was only young, but I was fascinated by her,

She would let me watch her dry her hair after the shower.

I would sit quietly, watching her face,

That gentle smile, the movement of her eyes as they flashed behind her blown hair

That soft brown blown hair that danced like fires on the sun.

She stood by the river, not screaming, just speaking to me

Asking me if I were to swim.

So kindly, so gently.

She had shown me pictures of her time in Africa

She had shown me pictures of her boyfriend.

His dark black skin shone like precious stones, his smile

His confident look, challenging the camera.

He had been run over by a truck

She told me

They had been together on the street and he had stepped out

She saw him

Pushed along the ground as a boot would do to a banana.

She had held me to her as she told the story

I hugged her and listened to her heartbeat

She smelled of honey and spice

‘What is that there?” she asked

We both stood in the heat, the sound of the river like a crowd’s murmur

And pondered the mystery of this death.


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The heart opens to failure



There are no words

No poems

Sad enough to describe

This change she said.

It is true

I am too sensitive

I am too full of self-doubt

My joy is secret, untouched, unshared

She does not want to be seen with me.

But I still have legs to go on with

Eyes to see by

And I thank God.

Someone more confident, certain of themselves

With a brighter face and keener wit

Would suit her.

Someone who never doubts, never worries

Happiness is different depending on the person

It has to be this way, so everyone gets some

At least once.

Wounded and dying

Do not add tears to parting

What good is crying?

There are women who inspire poems

And those who stay to see you write them.


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Why literature at all?

To me the most important part of literature is that it promotes empathy. I am not the most empathetic person in the world. When I walk through shopping centres and some person purposely walks at me or bumps my arm that can make me really angry. Almost to the point of fighting with people, physically.

I turn to literature not just to escape the hellish nightmare that is human society, but also to try and expand my ability to put myself in other people’s shoes. It is very easy to become angry at people. It is very easy to discriminate against people because of the way they look, the color of their skin, their sex, their sexual orientation, their political views the list goes on and on, but if a person can educate themselves and learn where others come from it makes it much easier to not only tolerate other people but accept them.

A man refuses to move over in a crowded space and tries to bump you with his shoulder, a woman with a shaved head pushes in front of you, a car cuts you off in traffic, all these things can very easily make me very angry and judgemental, but it would be a different story if I knew the man has had severe problems with bullying in his childhood, the woman was sexually assaulted as a child and the driver of the car has just been told they have cancer. All these backstories would explain to me why these people are acting they way they are and would help me not to lose my temper. It is of course impossible to know everyones story in real life, but in novels, I am able to discover that everyone is facing a battle, that life is hard and that people from other walks of life, from other cultures, from other neighborhoods are not as different from me as I first thought.

Another reason I turn to literature is that great stories let me know that I am not alone, my problems have been faced by others before and here are some ways to or ways not to face the problems. I was in a book store today and I picked up Catcher in the Rye. It is one of my favorite books and when ever I see it I pick it up and it instantly takes my back to when I was 15 and I read it for the first time. I read along the “all that David Copperfield crap” line and again I am a young man reading about a young man who is having real problems.   I remember being excited to finally find a voice that told me: here it is, here are those feelings, I am having them to… Just today I stood in the book store and I smiled because Holden was talking to me again and I was a teenager again. He is my friend and here he is as fresh and funny as ever.Only a few books can do that.

I tried like hell to make something like this in my debut novel ‘The Bomber’ I wanted to make a voice that was so unique but also faced the same problems of loneliness, anger, revenge and love that we all experience at different points of our lives. Literature is the most powerful of all art forms.


Crying in the Book Store

When I go into my local book store, I spend a lot of time looking at what is new on the shelves. I pick up new books and I study the covers, I feel the books in my hand for several seconds (especially if the covers have indents or raised design) and then I read the first paragraph and then a paragraph at a random page.

Very often new books disappoint me, I read yesterday a book that said about a prisoner of the Japanese in World War Two: “He put on his only clothes, a dirty hat and a cock rag that he wore like a g-string that barely covered his cock.” It was a reputable release that had won a major award. It’s not just the language, I love words and I enjoy swearing if used correctly, it was the fact that the author was not creating magic he just seemed to be producing words.

I then spend a long time in the classics section. The classics section makes me cry. I actually stand in the book store with tears in my eyes, because the books there are so good and I know that I will never be as good as those authors who have gone before.

I stand in the store crying quietly. The staff look at me, the security cameras turn in my direction and other customers get away from me but it makes me feel so good and so happy even though I am not worth a fraction of Charles Dickens or John Steinbeck.

They are giants whose books made my childhood and adult life much better than they would have been without them.