memories

She could fit a whole egg

She could fit a whole egg,

Shell and all, in her mouth.

She bent over, leaped, kicked and danced across the stage.

The red and green lights shone across her face

And her blonde hair danced in the smokey air.

The egg stayed in her mouth,

When she smiled, her red lips pulled back over that white strangeness.

The music was too loud, I was too close to the stage.

I watched as she danced and jerked, kicked her legs high.

My mind travelled away from this dark room

To the coast, on holiday when we spent the afternoon

Walking on the sand and watching the baby climb the stones.

A drunk bumps into me and wakes me up.

He swears at me and then spits on his own shoe.

The girl, dancing, held the egg in her mouth still.

I looked around at the strange crowd, men mostly, some drunk.  

An old man and a woman were dancing in the corner to the music

The woman looked like she could do better than here.

It was a room of rejects.

A midget stood by the cigarette machine,

He wore a rubber Donald Trump mask and smoked a cigarette.

I laughed.

The woman on stage climbed a metal pole and slipped,

The egg shot from her mouth

And bounced off the stage.

The egg was made of rubber. It rolled around the ground

And knocked against my boot.

No one seemed to notice.

A thin man, who smelled like sweat

Ran up to me and whispered

Where is the egg?

I pointed to the ground.

The thin man bent down, picked it up and threw it back to the woman,

Who put it back in her mouth.

I left that sad room and stood on the street,

The keen neon lights burned red like fires,

One neon light was the image of a naked woman

And the traffic shot along the road, in a city cold and without compassion for life.

Friday night, 1997

Locked gate with heavy rusted lock,

Metal fence with chain link,

One section broken, wire opens back like a flap of skin,

Allows us to duck in.

Cement columns holding up the highway,

The overpass, dirt floor and vandalised walls.

Someone has a fire burning in a metal barrel.

The kids stand around nervously warming their hands in the strange half light.

Cigarettes and laughter, stories of sex and drugs

I watch mesmorised as two older kids kiss,

The girl has dark hair and black eyes.

A firecracker is lit and explodes in the night,

The sound of traffic above is a roar

And the night runs on like sharp needles and broken bottles.

A homeless man was murdered here

Simon claims.

John, the school’s football hero,

Sneers and takes his three friends away.

But we sit by the fire on the cold cement ledge

And talk about Mickey and how he and Wade were arrested one night

And someone throws another bottle and we watch it explode into shards.

Tom and Ben would have to sleep in the abandoned shop on main street

Because they’d been kicked out of home.

They sit apart and look thin and proud.

Jenny’s mother has a new boyfriend and she can’t stand him

Sandy is pregnant and Mat wants her to abort it,

Robert is gay

And his boyfriend will be here soon.

Friday night, winter, thoughts of girls and grown up jobs,

No money to spend and stolen beer.

My room above the railway

 

Moving from room to room

Falling in love with a poster on the wall.

The window is dirty on the outside

But it won’t open

And I can’t clean it.

I see a pigeon sitting on the sill

I watch it clean its wings.

They have tiny mites that bite them all day long

And I wonder how they can stand it.

The cockroaches come out at night.

I found two of them in my cutlery drawn

They were sitting on my forks.

The newspaper that lines the drawers

Is dated from the 80s

The cockroaches don’t make me as angry as I thought they would.

The yellow lights of the railway lines makes me sleepy

The white lights of the city excite me and keep me awake.

Listen to Beethoven and the sound of the traffic.

A baby cries next door

 I didn’t even know my neighbor had a girlfriend

Someone else must have moved in.

I haven’t cleaned this place in weeks

I have no money after paying the rent

They are inspecting this room tomorrow.

The remembering of past times

Like the sun setting through the trees,

These streets give rise to memories.

The night rising in the strip joints and bars

The lights flash on old fashioned bulbs

And red neons point arrows and outlines of naked women.

All you need to do is go into a dark doorway and down some stairs

And you’ll find yourself in a den.

I remember as a boy

Walking the same city streets and seeing the same neon lights.

Everything seems dirtier and worn down now.

Crossing the road into the park

I see the paths that twist by the pond

And the bench where we would sit and talk about the things that mattered,

None of those things matter now.

It was years ago; nothing seems as serious to me now

As it did when I was 17.

The wind whips the dust in the street 

And memories whip in the heart.

I see a poster in a tunnel under the concrete overpass,

The corners are torn.

Remember that man who gave us cigarettes on our first date?

His hair purple and gelled up to points.

We went to the Greek restaurant, and we could only afford an entrée,

We ate and then I walked you home.

At 17 everything is funny, and everything is serious.

The last time I saw you, it was a rainy day

And your car wouldn’t start, so I pushed until it went. You waved but couldn’t stop

In case the old engine stalled.

That old yellow car took you away, you waved out the window and left town.

I prefer it this way; I am glad we never saw each other again.

Memories are worth more when they are left alone.

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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My latest interview

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.

 

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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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.

 

anvilsoul fb cover

High School

When I was thirteen I made it onto the all stars debating team. I was not good enough to be one of the four debaters, instead I was in a back up role. What they called the trust. If one of the debaters was sick I would step in, but my main role was to look up things in the dictionary and help write debates. I was on the bench.

The team was traveling to a nearby city to debate another school. I lived in Wagga Wagga, (a very small city) and we were going to Albury, (a comparably sized city) to debate their best team. We piled into the tiny bus and headed away.

The head of the debate team was someone I held in great respect. I thought he was astonishingly intelligent. I knew he was terrible at sports, I knew he was not popular with girls but, where I knew Shakespeare was a literary god, he knew and had read the actual plays, where I was aware of the world of Charles Dickens, he knew the characters intimately. It was like I was a boy in a blacking factory peering out into the cold London street of literature through a foggy pane, while he was in the globe theatre itself writing and performing the plays.

He was sixteen years old, he was over six feet tall, he commanded the debate team with a sure and decisive hand. If we were to win the debate it would be down to him.

We sat up the back of the bus, we owned the highway. The leader, I will call him Tom, began to speak.

“Lets play a game,” he said. “I will ask questions and see if you guys can get them right. First question to you Michael.”
Michael was a nice guy, same age as me. He is now a surgeon.
“What year heralded the beginning of the French Revolution?” Tom asked.

Michael thought for a moment. “1789?” he said.

“Yep.” Tom went through the players and they all answered correctly. He came to me.

“Easy one for you,” he said, “What is the capital of France?”

I knew the answer, but I was so nervous I could not get it. I just could not get the word out.

“Don’t you know?” he asked, leering at me with disdain.

“Uhh,” was all I could say.

“Anyone?” He finally said.

“Paris,” they all shouted.

Tom looked at me in disgust.

The actual debate did not go too well for me either. In the class room where it was held the teacher asked us why there were five of us.

“He’s the trust,” we answered her.

“No, we don’t do that here, that’s cheating.”

I answered quickly, “I’ll just sit and watch then.”

“No you won’t!” she bellowed. “You’ll sit outside, keep quiet and don’t wander off anywhere.”
So for the debate I sat outside and waited. Anger welling up inside me. One time I moved away and she came rushing out and telling me to stay where I was, sitting on the ground.

When the debate was finished I was so angry I did not even ask how it went. I think we lost. That teacher was a real son of a bitch.

A few months later, before Tom graduated to Senior high, we held a writers group after school where all the kids wanting to be writers came together to talk about our work.

It was held in Mr. Hall’s English classroom. (Mr. Hall being the greatest English teacher at our school).

After the last bell, we rushed down to a corner store next to the school, loaded our pockets with  candy and sugary lollies, and came back to class.

Tom called every one around and took out a huge folder.

“This is my novel,” he said, “It is almost finished.”

He opened the folder and there were hundreds of pages of writing, thousands and thousands of words, a real novel. No one could have guessed he had such a treasure. Where we were writing poems about motorbikes and army men he had written a real book.

He let us read the first lines. The penmanship was neat easy to read. It began something like:

“On the planet Grossmorss something moved about the craters. It oozed like slime, but was hard enough to move huge rocks aside like pebbles. Captain Tom Draft sat at the controls of the Space-Eagle trying to charge the batteries for lift off when he heard a noise like tearing metal coming form the base of the ship…”
“That’s enough,” he said and slapped the folder shut.

“That was great Tom,” I said.

He looked at me, I could not tell if he recognized me or not.

“I want to be a writer one day,” I said.
“What do you want to write, verse or prose?”
I was unsure, “books,” I said.

“I don’t think any one would read your stuff,” he declared. “If you ever write a book it will never be as good as this.” he slapped his hand on his folder.

Those words still haunt me. I think he is still writing, I know he is an English teacher now. I keep expecting to see his name announced in the new releases, I still expect to see his book about Captain Tom Draft in the book stores and it worries me that it will be a better book than mine.

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THE BOMBER is out 24th of June with Pen Name Publishing.

The main character is not Capt. Tom Draft but someone somewhat similar.