#goodwriter

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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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.

The heart opens to failure

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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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My sister’s email

I’m feeling fine, you should see the lights here. Amazing- as if the universe were sitting on Earth,

On the bus as we came in, we turned down a dark street

And on a Church wall glowed a blue neon cross.

It almost made me cry again.

I found my room, it’s in a large building in a nice spot,

I’ve met my neighbors, they all seem nice.

You should hear the sounds of the city at night,

It’s like a recording of a dream.

I started work, I’m really enjoying it.

I hope you’re feeling better, I know this change is making me feel better

But I hope I’m not here too long; you know how I get

And how much I love home. Could you call Sal and tell her I’m OK?

Do you have any news? Can you tell everyone it’s going really well for me?

It sounds silly but it’s so big here, and so far away

I sometimes wish I’d stayed.

I haven’t seen him yet, but I’m sure he’ll arrive to see me soon.

I’ve called him to tell him I’m pregnant, but he hasn’t replied,

Could you try calling him? Could you make sure he’s here in town still if you speak to him?

I hope I don’t lose my job when the baby comes- but as soon as we’re together, it’ll be fine.

Anyway, don’t worry about me and sorry I cried when I left,

I was just tired.

This voice, heard yesterday at evening.

An old man, dreaming on a bench by some ancient stone building

Turned to me yesterday and said;

Her smooth hands could break a man’s wrist,

What has she done to be so strong?

I knew a woman who would,

Work all day, washing and lifting,

Moving and cutting

Yet became weak and bent like an old sea-nail,

A cancer cut her in half in the end.

Live life with passion, before it ends.

Some people never find passion

But mock and blur their evenings with drink and lies,

Find something to love, something of value

Something good

And feel it surge in you until it burst forth like a great spasm,

Wear your passion, share it, but keep it safe.

And if someone loves you,

Pray nothing hurts them,

Not cold winter rain

Not strangers,

Not a car on a cold Wednesday afternoon, skidding across stones.

The wind blows, the leaves speak.

There is a tree of mid-size with long heavy branches

that grows by a country path.

The younger part of myself

collects stones, mostly quartz

and leaves them at the base of this tree, as offerings.

I ask the tree to watch over me

and I ask it for luck.

I like to walk this path in the evenings,

just as the sun is setting behind the hills

it is then the cold western wind blows, rushing across the wet ground.

I stand by my tree

and experience the loneliness that helps me remember happier times.

I will take you to my tree one day

and maybe you will understand;

maybe you can leave a stone and make a wish.

There are spirits in nature,

be kind to all things,

be kind to yourself.

 

She reveals her kindness

Once again, like storms I remember from my childhood,

The rain has returned to fill the fields and forests

With deep puddles and the kind of mud that can swallow machines.

She has been sleeping late this morning

Because there is nowhere to go

And the weather is as good as a locked gate.

I watch her face, trying to record the details of her appearance.

I have seen her kindness

It comes out of her like the glow from a flame.

It makes me smile, a sad little happiness.

She shares pictures of dogs with me.

Animals who need adopting from the pound;

She would have them all if she could.

And in her gentle love of animals and from her thoughtful acts

There grows a gentle love in me.

The kind of feeling that lets a single tear fall from my eye.

I am ashamed in case she sees it

And asks me ‘are you crying?’

I would laugh and say no, my eyes are tired.

The truth is; it is a tear that says

You have touched my heart.

That peace that comes

I thought the age of miracles had long ended,

that Gods, because they no longer cared, had forgotten the Earth.

But then I saw her honey coloured hair.

That days, filled with anger

when men turn to guns instead of books,

made me believe we were slipping into chaos once again,

as we do each century;

but then I gazed upon her smile.

A selfish joy, perhaps,

when all I want to do is hold her in my arms

and there, together, forget the terrors that lonely humans

inflict upon each other.

I thought a morning was meant to be lonely,

but then I held her to me, and found the sun, even before it had risen.

A memory, a conversation. Words written in a quiet, sad moment.

The Sun drops, heavy with life

A cold white Moon ascends.

How often I have been blind to beauty, that falls softly

Secretly, silently,

Like the night dew.

She pointed out the sun to me

Not by making me look

But by showing me warmth.

Too late you find

Too soon it’s gone.

At the quiet moment, a young man asks

What is the best way to love?

The older man says;

With the heart.

Heavy thoughts kill what is important

But what is important always dies.

Time waits, but then steps forward

Knocks down what you have built

And snatches away all wealth.

Two visions

An elderly man stands in the art gallery,

Before a picture of the Virgin Mary, and weeps.

I see him, tears on his cheeks, eyes swelled in red-dreams.

I can only imagine what he is thinking.

The years have washed upon him

In a frenzy, unexpected, unstoppable

Time has stepped upon him and moved on.

Now in front of such beauty, he weeps and in weeping feels sorry

For all the things he missed, either

In long nights at home in suburbs, wondering what could have happened if only…

Or

Merciless nights in bars, finding new lovers, never settling down and finding, too late

That it is too late.

Both, both miss much.

You cannot have it all,

And if you are lucky

At 90, stand before the Virgin Mary and weep.

 

 

This morning, at the bookstore where I meet old friends,

A man shouts into his phone

“We pay the payroll not them!”

He continued beside a shelf labelled ‘Literary Classics.’

“It’s not those guys who call the shots. Well you try it your way and if that works

Then well done,”

he stops before a shelf of poetry, and his hand reaches for but stops mid-stretch

“But I’m telling you; it will not go down like that!”

Speech finished, he hangs up as he passes Shakespeare.

He leans against a pillar as if he is out of breath

Out of life

And then pushing his phone deep into his pocket he takes the stairs,

Ascends to the street,

And is gone.

Something had taken his appetite for reading

A payroll will starve a poet.