Fiction writing

The oil painting of a woman, nude.

 

The oil painting of a woman,

lying naked across a red bed

with a fat, happy baby searching for her breast,

and a blue sky in view from the window,

hung in the dining room for two generations.

It was painted by a woman with a great talent.

When I was a boy, my grandmother told me

that the artist loved my grandfather

and had given the painting to him.

The woman in the painting was the artist herself

and the baby was the baby she never had.

Now, as a man

with no living grandparents,

I often wonder why my grandmother

had allowed such a painting to hang in the home.

Was it because it is a beautiful image, the flesh so soft and sensual,

The colours so clear and bright?

 

I only remember dark flashes of my grandfather,

I remember him as a happy, kind man.

My grandmother, a widow at the time she stood me before the painting,

Smiled at some hidden memory and asked me if I liked the picture.

I nodded and said I liked the baby.

She was satisfied, and we stood a while,

On that dark winter afternoon,

We looked at that painting, lit only by weak sunlight

Until my father turned on the room’s light.

The brightness broke the spell and we both looked away,

The electric light was too bright and harsh for that moment.

It hangs there still, like a spirit that haunts that room,

that woman forever looking out, searching for love,

while that baby, forever tiny, caught between a smile and a yawn,

begs to be born.

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The War is a Class War

 

This war is a class war

Because he could not find a girl to love

Or a friend to greet,

Because his father left after one night in his mother,

He took a gun to school

shot at those he thought were happier

those once happy teens

dying in the halls, screaming with terror.

The boy with the gun had nothing to lose

So what could be done to stop him?

 

 

Because he saw his father lose job after job

And turn to drink

Because his father hit him

As he was hit by his father before.

Because the time the police stopped him on his way home

And he was already angry.

He pulled away and struggled and was shot.

No hero, bad enough to knock you over and rob you

But the hungry need a place at the table.

 

 

The prisons stand as warnings

Like bells in the night

Like fires licking out of windows

Each iPhone sold, each interest dollar paid

Tips the scales once more toward

That flood, which cuts down each man and woman

Regardless of wealth or colour.

 

I, who you thought drowned by God in the great flood

Have returned.

There was no room for me at the Caesars table

But there was room for me in his army

And it was there I learned to cut with knife and sword.

In the forest I see the collar on the hind

That reads ‘harm me not, for I am Caesar’s.’

But I, having seen Caesar cut down, cared no more for any life.

 

They put me to the guillotine as well

The blade took off my head, but I lived on.

I saw those who watched the executions

In their turn executed,

Now, in my age, I stand on the street of your city.

I see the gun in the hand of the man

I see the children kept from school

I see the woman with the bloody wound.

This war is not one of religion or race

It is as it has always been what it is now.

A class war.

Where one has too much

And many have too few

No number of guns can keep that door closed.

 

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Below the city clock

She has a dream in her eyes

And heaven in her lips.

 

Treat her gently

So her love will grow.

 

The window, wide open

Allows the breeze to wander in,

Lifting the white curtains and reminding me of childhood.

She has a pair of jade chopsticks on the dresser.

Her books line the windowsill

And fill her bookcase.

The time has come to go,

Rain falls gently in the street

Turning the world black and shiny.

When it rains

Go to your window

And watch the drops rush down the pane,

They race and join, until they disappear.

Breath on the glass, my love,

And see the world mist.

Your sweet breath, your sweet touch,

Hides the world and I can rest.

Walking home to you

 

Along the streets of the city

I pass the open windows and see the yellow lights

Blazing in the cream rooms.

I can smell dinners cooking,

I see the children running to the front doors of home

after playing, the afternoon sun lighting their games,

but now the long shadows of the buildings create pools of darkness.

I hear music playing as I pass, someone speaking Russian,

A young couple fighting, their shouts rattling and short,

I hear two people making love, somewhere upstairs.

These are the sounds of the city.

Nothing is happening that will make the news,

But these are the things that keep the city rolling.

Roll on great city,

With the dreams of teenagers in their rooms, eyes of their idols on the walls.

The cars are parked

Pray in your Church

Hold your eyes to heaven

And remember your room as a teenager

Where you had dreams

And you played in the street until the sun fell behind the walls.

What happened to the time? It went by like the evening train.

 

 

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Reply to the wind, sweetened by summer nights.

You have loved before

But know this: Those loves are nothing

Compared to the love I hold for you.

Walking through the summer-warm forest

I came upon the moon, sitting on a log, looking over a lake.

A silent lake.

And her beauty shone upon the water and reflecting, lit the world

In a white fairy-glow.

Such joy filled the air; my eyes became teary, and I sighed

But I kept back; for I thought if I were to disturb her,

Break her silent reflection,

She would instantly fly back into the night sky

And I would lose her.

I waited in silence, but in that soft glow and silence, I fell asleep.

The rough hand of the morning sun shook me awake and said

“You have lost that love, that beautiful woman:

The moon,

Has left. You fell asleep and lost your chance.”

I sat in the morning light, and realised

That I had lost her and would never have that chance again.

The sadness tore through me.

But dear, the universe took mercy upon my ragged soul, and,

I found you.

I have a chance to love again.

I will never fall asleep before I tell you how I feel

Because I fear you will leave if I do not make my feelings clear.

I hold you tight as you sleep, I hold you near.

Volt Lane

The town shut off a lane and threw a party.

1000 strangers, eating, drinking, listening to music.

Humanity squeezed between two tall buildings.

I stand in a crowd, utterly alone.

A small man and a blonde woman stand next to me.

The small man is a doctor.

I turn and look at the lights strung between the walls.

The lights change colour. Above us, the night sky shines with the last rays of sun

mixing with the moon.  

I feel in such a position of weakness as I always do in crowds

And I feel…

Angry

Out of breath

Frustrated

Like walking

And I walk.

I think of her, she is away, gone a long way, maybe she won’t come back.

It is alone that we feel most frightened.

We have to be alone many times,

Some die alone.

Even in a crowd you can die alone.

My idea of terror

Is trying to keep a hundred friends who don’t know me,

My idea of joy is one true friend who knows me well.

I’d rather the sunrise next to you,

Than the sunset in a crowd of one thousand.  

Mostly Mr. Hyde.

There’s a guy I know,

And he sits around all day getting mad,

Or he works at some store or wherever he can get a job

And then he goes out at night running.

He looks for fights; he looks for trouble.

He’s crazy, and he’s angry

He’s never been in a stable relationship.

He starts dating girls; then he starts to agonize about their past boyfriends

Or over thoughts that he’s not good enough for them

Or they’re not good enough for him,

And he starts to break them down and drive them away.

I tell him he has low self-esteem

I tell him not to worry about the things he worries about

But it only gives him more things to twist over.

He tucks a knife into his running shorts

And then he’s off into the night, running all year around,

In summer heat or winter rain,

He goes for hours.

Sometimes he comes back and you can see he’s been fighting.

Some car driven across a driveway, and they don’t give way to him

Or some teenager yelling something at him out the window of a car

While it’s parked at a red light,

Or someone won’t get out of his way.

Most of them regret doing it when he loses it,

Sometimes he finds guys just as angry as himself.

One day, he’ll stab someone

And he’ll go to jail.

I wonder: what’s he got to lose anyway?

A refrigerator full of beer

And some poetry books.

That’s all he has.

He writes poetry sometimes too

Like me.

His writing is good, but that’s not enough.

He’s a mad dog, tearing at his own fur.

 

In New York City

In New York City

She stands on the corner, in her raincoat,

Its pattern reflects in the street light and glistens with raindrops.

Her hair is pushed behind her ears

And she tilts her head down toward the street a little.

There is a golden puddle in the mountains, the water in that puddle

Is fresh and pure

There is a puddle on the street turning brown

And it is kicked by feet moving along in the crowd.

She stood on that mountain, in green summer grass

And I remember how she smiled as the sun sat upon the clouds and filled the valley with gold.

The sun has set on the street now

And my little room above the bodega is emptied of light.

Organ music plays down the hall

Someone is crying in a room nearby.

As I look out the window, the rain falls heavier still

And that woman moves slightly. In the electric light of the street.

She looks up; the light catches her eyes

I see that it is a stranger.

That woman, who spent that summer on the mountain with me six months ago,

I see her in bars, on buses, in theatres all the time,

 even though she is not

In New York City.

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Why I wrote The Bomber

 

I wrote The Bomber because I wanted to see the world through the eyes of a man, returned from war, and facing the horrors of returning home to normal life. I read the New York times article today (http://mobile.nytimes.com/2014/12/26/books/human-costs-of-the-forever-wars-enough-to-fill-a-bookshelf.html), and it struck me that my book is different for many reasons. Firstly, I have never been to war. I thought about it a lot in high school; I thought that I would do well in the Army, that it would be my sort of thing. I thought I could be a good officer. I based this on my interest in Napoleon Bonaparte and Arthur Wellesley, The first Duke of Wellington. I came to realise that the sort of people who succeed in the Army are probably the guys who do well on the football team. I was more interested in history and English. I do not think I am a great leader either. It did not take long to decide against joining the army. I also considered the Navy and at 34 still think I would like to go to sea and sail around for a while.

Secondly, my book looks at the workings of Joseph Starling and his descent into madness and ultimate recovery. The mindset of my main character is similar to one who has to descend into the underworld to save his lover, but ultimately loses her just before returning to Earth. It is a madness of throwing yourself into a system that will crush you because it does not even know you are there. The other books are more concerned with actual places and people; mine is set in a world of madness that could be anywhere. It is not clear cut, heroes and terrorists are as confused as they are in real life.

Finally, I feel The Bomber is successful because it deals with human issues in a human way. It is not because Joseph was a soldier that makes him interesting, he is interesting because he suffers. Just like anyone suffers. How many people do you have to meet before you find someone you actually like? What guarantees does life give you anyway? You could die alone, you might get cancer, your child could become addicted to drugs. Life is cruel and uncaring, but it is also beautiful and loving. Look at the sunset or the way the clouds sit still in the blue sky on a Spring day, The Bomber is a book that examines what it is to be human, faced with madness and fighting not to become mad as well. If Joseph loses his mind, the simple beauty all around him will disappear as well.

Choose books that challenge you. I love being recommended books by people who feel their lives have been changed because of them. I wrote The Bomber because the story changed my life.

 

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