Fiction writing

Death and Roses

“We’re all going to die,” she said softly.

“It all ends so soon, just like our days off from work,

Sunday never lasts long enough.”

She would often say things like this and become sad.

“We’re all going to die, and there’s nothing we can do,

No matter how much fun we have, it all ends and ends terribly.”

I would never say anything to her when she became like this,

It was best to let her become quiet and sit in the dark

Like someone mourning every loss, and only the shadows give comfort-

But that comfort is nothing at all. Like eating ice for hunger.

Her friends were there once when she said this and they became angry.

“Why do you have to say that?” they wailed,

“We know we are going to die, what good does talking about it do?

Life isn’t just sadness; you’ll never be happy when you get like this.”

I watched her face become darker still as they responded.

When they left, she turned to me “They don’t really understand

How things change.” I listened to her quietly again, as I always did,

Like someone listens to the sea.

“They don’t think about things properly.

You aren’t you, what you were at six is not you at thirty,

That six-year-old is dead.”
“But it’s still you,” I answered.

She shook her head, “No, that is gone.”

I did not see her friends again for a long time,

We are all on the same path,

But for her to be reminded of death

Was to ensure she made special effort

To look at things carefully and truly love.

 

That girl

As the leaves turned yellow and Autumn tread among the trees

We drove black roads to see the colours of life.

The girl with me

Urged me to run down animals we saw in our way.

I laughed thinking it was a joke

But she was serious

No good came of that drive.

Later, standing alone at the bar, deep in the heart of the city

In came loud mouth Joe, laughing and wearing a coat he stole from the second-hand store.

He came up beside me, holding a letter like a fox might hold an egg.

He sits down on a stool, hard,

But lays the letter down soft

And points at it, inviting me to read.

It’s from a lawyer

Joe leans across and runs a dirty finger over a line

“You do not owe her any money.”

I know what it’s about, the eighteen-year-old girl he made pregnant

The girl I knew well.

“What’s this about?” I ask him

“I don’t owe her any money?” he yells

Slapping the paper, forgetting himself.

“It’s your baby; you must owe her something.”

“Can’t you see what is written in the letter? I don’t owe her.”

I stopped speaking to him, and watched him drink.

A young girl came across and sat next to him.

“Buy you a drink?” he asks.

She laughs, leaning across, her hand brushing down his leg.

He takes the letter and shoves it into his pocket.

Into the street, I step down out of the hot bar

Steam rises out of a grate; water shines like oil in the gutter.

I walk home in the dark, under the huge concrete overpass I stop and look one way

Along the dark road and then the other, toward a lighted pedestrian underpass

And I wonder what became of her,

What becomes of anyone?

 

anvilsoul1a

 

True love

 

He found me walking home one day, and he started to walk with me,

Every house we passed, he would run in and check for any food left out

And see if he could win a bite,

But then he’d catch up to me and walk at my side with happy pride.

He followed me four blocks

Until we came to a highway

And I turned to him and yelled at him to go.

His face turned to hurt fear and he left.

I crossed the road and regretted what I had done, turned and returned to the other side

and searched for him,

That black and white dog,

But he was gone and I couldn’t find him.

Chances come and go, but I had a chance to love and I let it go.

She stood in the morning light, a sad determined look on her face

And told me to leave.

I left and turned, looking one more time at her standing in the doorway

And my mind goes back to that black and white dog.

The real mistakes I have made haunt me, again and again,

They come like spirits at midnight and dance in front of me, screaming.

The woman didn’t matter, she found someone else and moved on

We did not suit each other,

She’ll never starve.

But that dog! What became of him?

 

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On Smith Street and Nagle Lane.

 

 Outside the supermarket

A man surrounded by fat, heaving along his belly.

Is squatting on a chrome bench

Sucking hard on a cigarette.

He looks a cool breeze away from a heart attack.

On the same road

A young woman as beautiful as summer rain

Stands by a fast food restaurant looking lost.

Her eyes are wide and gentle,

She has all the innocence and none of the hardness

too many people in this place carry in them.

Around her are cold people, angry at life. People whom lovers have fooled

Life has lied to them, broken their dreams like old sticks

This woman is no reflection of these others,

I watch her walk along the street

And feel ashamed to follow her with my eyes.

She passes near the fat man

He drops his cigarette

And leans forward, like a boulder soon to drop

And says something I am not able to hear.

Her face changes, something horrid has been spoken,

She steps away; he is laughing now.

 The flower has been stepped on.

How long will it be before she is changed forever?

The world crushes what it falls upon.

These are the poets

Poems are born from wild times,

From struggle, love and anger,

from men with soft hearts and hard fists,

from women whose smiles are like gold,

whose dreams are larger than the moon

And harder to reach.

Poems are not soft or weak,

They die if given 9 – 5 jobs

And secure homes with understanding friends.

Poems live at 2 am, drinking liquor and waking up in strange rooms with strange people

They live on new cities, tough attitudes,

Unplanned journeys, tall beautiful women on short dark streets

And fist fights with broken glass in their mouths.

Poems don’t live with old men who never danced in the fire

They don’t share a bed with someone who has never been broken

Poems see the devil and laugh.

Silas the famous poet, leaped from the ship at Troy

and dug his feet into the sand, his eyes surveyed the lines of men

heavy with shields and crazed with spear.

The sound of armed men crashing, ringing like thunder

Dying with choking screams and soaking the ground with their blood.

Silas wrote his best poems here.

Twenty-five centuries passing like shadows

Silas the poet still lives, standing on the city bridge, looking out into the lights

Seeing lovers walk hand in hand, deciding if he should jump or not.

Seeing the angry dying with a choking scream

On busy streets, in the arms of strangers,

The lonely driven insane by loneliness.

Pick up a pen and write of love that was never found

Of kindness that was never received

Poems are the children of the angry and mad, the ones not chosen,

Those who tried to hold another and were left

To lie awake at midnight cursing at the moon.

These are the poets.

 

The lights in her eyes

At university

I took a few English literature classes.

I would sit in the same seat each week, usually alone

But I would read all the texts

I would hand in all the assessments

And I did well.

I loved the poems, the novels, the short stories.

I took a subject called literature and the screen.

Every Wednesday night the class would attend the campus cinema

To study a movie on that big screen.

I met her on the first night

She had dark black hair and sat just behind me

Her face was gentle like an angel’s

And beautiful.

The dark cinema, would throw pure white light upon her

showing her brown eyes.

She wore woollen tops, and the sleeves would be pulled down over her hands

She wore jeans that hugged her beautifully.

We would talk in the darkness

And she would make me laugh

Her perfection would burn me inside

And each night I would think of her, counting down the days until I saw her again.

I never asked her out, I don’t even remember her name,

But I think of her often.

That I was too shy to tell her how I felt

Still haunts me.

I wonder what she is doing now,

Do you wonder what is happening to those you loved?

I hope all those old loves are happy,

And may they live forever in our hearts.

 

 

 

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Kindness of the saints

The maniac Simon Freidland creeps along the city street; his pants splashed with mud.

A tattered coat little defence against the cold, he sleeps on a mattress outside the train station,

His beloved wife left him when the money ran out, and the booze took hold.

He saw Saint Patrick last night

Between the Woolworths and the liquor store.

The Saint had nodded and understood all at once

How unfair life had become and this kindness of the Saint filled Simon with a warmth

That faded into a soft light at two a.m. just as the gentle rain began to fall.

 

Simon’s wife, only blocks away on the thirtieth floor of a high rise building

Rolls over in the warm bed

And runs her hand between her legs and along her belly.

He is in the bathroom and in this moment of reflection,

She looks in the mirror and thinks how time has rushed away

She holds back a tear

But the emptiness inside pains her.

What she has lost will not be found with different men each night.

 

Andrew stands in the bathroom and wonders about his health.

It has started to sting when he urinates

And sometimes sores appear on his body.

He has told no one. His mind goes to the woman in his apartment,

Lying in his bed.

He didn’t know her five hours ago and now she is spending the night.

He knows how to convince women to take their clothes off

But he can’t remember the date of his son’s birth.

 

Andrew’s mother lies quietly in her bed a state away,

In the morning she will be dead. She has been sick lately and now old age can take no more.

She dreams of the Virgin Mary, whose gentle actions and thoughts save the souls of tired sinners.

What dreams do the dying dream? She once wondered

And now, in her final hours she discovers. They are sad dreams, lonely dreams

No different to any of the dreams she has had before.

When that dream ends, she dreams Andrew has come home to see her for this last moment.

The lonely room within this quiet house will hold her safe while she fades away.

A childhood love

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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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Winter not a summer

 

There is not too much speaking

We’re brooding quietly

While through the hills, the sun is peeking.

We’re just happy sitting here, doing our best thinking

You’re more beautiful than words and all of heaven’s holy birds

And I mean it – straight to you.

 

Many people think that all I say is true

Most of it is, but some lies

I say to stop feeling blue

But if I say you’re beautiful

I mean it through and through

And I mean it- straight to you.

 

Your smile, your soft hair

The pretty clothes you wear

You think you’re just normal but my hearts says beware,

You’re better than all others

More kind and more fair

And I mean it- straight to you.

 

You’re honest and you’re kind,

I love your pretty feet,

If I had to meet anyone again,

It’s you l’d like to meet

And no matter where you go I hope you’re always on a loving street

And I mean it – straight to you.

 

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Lazarus Danwood

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I look out my window across to the setting sun

coming down over the pine forest, the weather grows cool.

Her love grew cold, faster than the movement of the sun.

I stand in dread that we may have created something

That will forever haunt me

An innocent born from two people who cannot get along.

A knock comes at my door,  

A terrible smell fills my lungs, and I gasp,  

There stands before me Danwood,

A man dead six days now. I saw him buried.

His face collapsed, his eyes gone, his skin purple-grey.

I, in terror, step back into the house

He shuffles in, gently, terrifyingly softly

He sits at the kitchen table

keeping those black sockets fixed on me, staring, endless doom in his vision.

He motions with a purple-black hand for me to sit with him.

“Do,” he says in a growl that sounds like it came from underground.

I sit, moving my chair back from the table, out of his reach.

I say nothing, I shiver and nod, as if all the world had collapsed.

“Your misery and suffering, pleasure and joy are nothing,” he says, “it all comes to none in the grave.”

“What are you?” I ask.

“I was Danwood, now I am a part of the universe” he growls.

“How are you here?”

“I am here to see you, remember we spoke two weeks ago? You were my guest, you said

The young seem younger now that I grow old, and we all agreed that youth is a blessing.

I am here to tell you that we are all for the grave.”

He said nothing more, his mouth fallen open like cargo unfastened.

He reached with his right hand, took his left hand, broke it from his arm and put it on the table.

Those eyes, those empty black holes, kept me fixed, his teeth so white in his brown jaw.

‘Why such horror?” I screamed.

“I asked myself the same when I regained life,” he said, “the blackness was so soothing, so tranquil.

All forgotten, all silent, and now I again feel, I again see.”

With a low moan, he stood and shuffled again from the room,

he went into the blackening night, leaving me at the table, his left hand sitting where he left it.