fragments

I’ve come to realise that free verse, dark poetry is my go-to place when things are tough. I’ve written a lot of poetry over the last couple of weeks, and it’s been dark. I first noticed myself retreating to this place of creativity when I was a teenager. It was the first time I really began writing. And I did it because I was desperately unhappy, and I needed an outlet.

Over the years, it’s always worked out this way. Free verse just seems to flow more—well—freely when I’m depressed.

So, with that said, here is today’s offering:

 

n_council-of-europe-convention-on-preventing-and-combating-violence-against-women-and-domestic-violence-italy-turkey-istanbul

fragments

secrets transmitted through
silence,
morse code in static;

tap

tap

stomp

insanity seeds sprout shoots,
instil doubts, and
truth—
that toothless, old man
with brandy-breath—
morphs into eggshells and
glass

fragments of memories—
sharp, vicious—
shatter, then dissolve;
taking with them what’s left of my
m

i

n

d

there are moments within these
stills of life that
p  a  u  s  e
long enough
for me to catch their truth …

how do i change this cassette which
l o o p s
my brain’s membrane?
how do i
stop
the voice who torments me?

fatigue violates my bones;
tearing down walls of ligaments and muscles,
draining blood.

i’m barely here

my fingernails are
starting to ache and
letting go
would be
so

e

a

s

y

the ledge

The Ledge

the ledge

at night, he crawls through the
crack in the curtains;
false teeth snarling,
rotten gravestones covered in scum,
. . . which one is for me?
i cocoon myself in the
puppy-dog covers
(all that’s left of my youth)
a tremor in my little finger
the only tell of my
f e a r
eyes scrunched up,
years of training bid me,
don’t look . . .
cognac and old spice,
which have no right to
linger on a young girl’s skin,
flip my stomach and
heat rushes my cheeks
as i swallow the bitter
in my throat.

when i wake,
frigid night air dimples my skin,
strong hands grip my arms
and the voice that speaks my name
has that
sexy American twang
i peek at my husband
whose animated eyebrows
dance on his
crimson face,
and like a far-off view
through someone else’s binoculars
the room comes into focus;
i’m an adult
i’m safe
except for the window ledge and
open window
over which i hover.

i step down,
into his arms
and weep.

A Childhood Memory

The mental health writing group I’m part of gave the prompt to write about a childhood memory. I tried to keep it happy. It was hard.

 

childhood-memories1

 

Should be simple, right? But, as of right now, I have no idea what I’m going to write about. I’m hoping something will come to me as I type. You see, this prompt (or, a similar one, at least) came up a couple of months ago in something else, and I discovered I don’t have memories from childhood. Except for the nightmares I have pretty much every night and the flashbacks every day. But I’m not going to write about any of those. I want to write about something normal.

And so, I struggle. It’s the strangest thing. I try to think about my childhood, and it’s like the part of my brain which holds the files for that part of my life is locked. Or, maybe it’s been thrown away. I’m not sure.

Okay. I’ve made myself a coffee and had a hard think about this, and I have something. Something that, actually, makes me really happy when I think about it.

I know I’ve mentioned a few times how important music and dance was to my Dad’s family. They were all singers and dancers, and I inherited the love for both. Today, music is the thing that links me back to Dad the most strongly. It’s the thing that can break me, but it’s also the thing that makes me feel loved.

So, this isn’t one specific memory of one specific event. Every Saturday night, we used to go visit my Auntie Beryl; Mum’s favourite sister. The car journey was about twenty-five minutes, and those whole twenty-five minutes were always packed with song and laughter and happiness. Dad usually let me choose the cassette tape (yes, I’m that old!) to play. Now, this is where I hold my hands up and say, “My taste in music is not cool. My taste in music is eclectic.” I guess, at the age when I used to go to Auntie Beryl’s with Mum and Dad (once I was thirteen, I opted to stay home alone and invite friends over) a lot of my musical taste was based on Dad’s tastes. I have to admit, I still like that music. I’m talking music from the 60’s, 70’s, country music. There were two cassettes I chose most often: one was a Beatles compilation and the other was a 60s compilation. On the Beatles album, ‘Eleanor Rigby’ was mine and Dad’s favourite. We always (and I mean every time we listened) discussed how sad the song is. It felt like it was really important. It connected Dad and me with a fine lasso. The song from the 60’s album that caught me was ‘Those Were The Days’ by Mary Hopkin. Again, we discussed the meaning every week. Dad would talk about how I should’t waste my youth because it would be gone far too quickly, and you can never get it back. He always had this wistfulness in his voice. It’s weird how I understood that; even when I was only, like, six or seven. I already felt like I’d wasted too much time feeling unhappy, and I was terrified that life would only get worse from there. I feel so sad when I hear that song today because my youth has gone. I did waste it.

Ahh, nuts! I meant to keep it happy. Despite what I’ve written above, we did sing along to all the cool songs. Like ‘The Devil Went Down To Georgia.’ That was one of our favourites. I still love it today. Those car journeys were special, bonding time. What I wouldn’t give to be in the car, singing along to Johnny Cash and Dusty Springfield.

Right, now I’ve started to write about a memory, I’m going to continue. Once we got to Auntie Beryl’s, I always had a great time. Mostly, because I was away from home, and away from my grandfather and my bedroom. My two cousins, who are both older than me, used to play with me. They had a huge garden with lots of places to hide and build dens. I loved going there. But the crowning glory for me was the dart board they had in their hallway. I loved playing darts every week. I don’t know why because it’s not exactly an exciting game, but I always looked forward to it. And then, there was the ice cream. Every week, Auntie Beryl gave us a Pzazz ice cream. I don’t think they sell them any more, but they were delicious.

On the way home, Dad would start by singing his own, local songs that he and his family used to sing in pubs and clubs. They were, mostly, really depressing, and I remember feeling sad when he sang them. But they were beautiful, too, and his voice was rich and lovely. He sang some funny, slightly rude, songs too, and I remember Mum tapping his arm more than once and telling him to stop.

It may not sound like much, but these moments are among the happiest of my life. Yeah. So, there is my memory.

Lullaby

Well. Here is a surprise. I have another happy poem to share today. I don’t know what’s wrong with me. It’s most unusual, that’s for sure.

To be honest, I did have a prompt for this one. It is: “In poetry form describe inner peace – the quiet of the soul – the place where you find that moment.”

wallup.net

Lullaby

A quiet Sunday afternoon,
with sun stretching over the
field next to our house,
we sit out back
together—
no words needed
appreciating the warmth
and the golden hue of the crop …
a dazzling dragonfly
skitters
between us, sending out the tiniest
vibrations of good will,
but other than that the air is
s t i l l,
l a z y,
blackbirds chirping in the old oak tree,
I close my eyes and listen to their song,
and my heart slows and beats its own
lullaby.

A romantic Friday night,
wrapped in David’s arms,
watching some old movie we’ve
seen a hundred times before,
his warmth permeating
my body
love
latching onto my heart and keeping it
safe;
laughing together
at nothing important,
the tranquility that settles in my stomach
with one touch,
and my heart slows and beats its own
lullaby.

Each day as time marches away
I am able to look back and find more
happy memories,
moments frozen in time,
perfectly formed stills
of childhood,
my mind is sifting the vast
catalogue
I hold within,
dispensing with all the hurt and
pain,
and retrieving the times I was loved;
a mother so proud,
a father who tried his best,
and when I am lost in these reveries
my heart slows and beats its own lullaby.

Impromptu Contest

My prompt for today was to write a piece of flash fiction containing as many names of US sitcoms from the 80s and 90s as possible. Quite a task! Very enjoyable. So, I’m going to share with you my writing. It occurred to me I could make a little contest out of this.

The contest is to read it and reply to this post with how many titles you think I’ve included.

You have until midday GMT tomorrow (so, 24 hours from now), and the person who guesses right (or nearest to right) gets to feature a poem or piece of their writing on my blog. How does that sound?

If lots of people guess correctly, I’ll feature all of you. It will be wonderful to be able to share some of the talented people I’ve met through blogging.

So. Here is my story:

The Memory Chest

treasure-pirate-chest

 

Emptying my mother’s house is harder than I anticipated. This intricate little box incites butterflies to float and dance in my stomach. The box, which is shaped like a pirate’s chest, is a deep plum purple and decorated with tiny green rhinestones and cut-out silver spoons. Mum was obsessed with spoons. I have already taken five complete sets to charity shops. I kept her favourite for myself. On top of the chest, Mum has written “Small Wonder”, her nickname given to me following my miraculous, if somewhat arduous, fifteen hour birth. It is a perfect title for the snippets of life I find inside. I lift the lid to a plethora of old photographs, newspaper cuttings, and letters.

The photographs are bound together with a length of purple lace so dark it reminds me of aubergines. I smile without trying when I see the first picture. It is taken at our old house, 227, Benson Road. Three girls, as yet untainted by the traumas of adulthood, smile awkwardly at the camera. On the reverse, Mum has written “Roseanne, Kate & Allie”, 1989. My smile falters when I look at the background scene. I see the looming figure of Mr Belvedere, our creepy next door neighbour. I could never understand how he made a living out of driving a taxi. He smelt of mildew and feet and was always watching us from his garden. One time, I ran straight into him when I was late for the school bus. I got to see his (not so) lazy eye study me carefully. It was too close for comfort. I was happy when we moved to our new house on Alf Tyler Street. Our new neighbours, The Jeffersons, were much less intimidating and, as far as I know, they never once smelled of feet.

I dig deeper into the chest and find my mother has lovingly documented every stage of my growing pains; all my happy days. There is a newspaper cutting, which evokes the fondest feelings inside of me. The picture is of my two friends and me. This time, we are smiling with all the confidence our new-found adulthood and sexuality has brought. The heading reads, “Three’s Company For This Homegrown All Girl Group” and underneath, the article continues, “The Golden Girls of Tucson land their first top ten hit.” Not just our first, but our only hit. I read the whole article, which gushes huge helpings of praise onto Saved By The Bell, a decidedly average song which, somehow, made it to Number 6 on the Billboard Chart. Mum almost burst from her pride in me. It was a magical time, a different world to the one I inhabit now.

Today, I am married … with children. Three children, they are my world and I am a full time mother to them. My life is still full of cheers. My full house of loved ones is more rewarding than all the bright lights and fame in the world.

Even so, I think I’ll keep this treasure trove of memories. When they are old enough, I will show it to my children. Maybe I’ll create my own box and fill it with my new beautiful family ties.

Perfect

Just a quickie post today. I’m sharing my Soundtrack song, which is ‘Perfect’ by Alanis Morrisette.

 

This song is taken from the 1995 album ‘Jagged Little Pill.’ Which is my favourite album of all time, and I could have shared any of the songs from it today. This one, though, always brings a lump to my throat.

The album reached me at a time when I really needed to know that women are allowed to get angry about the way they’ve been treated. I needed strong female figures who weren’t perfect, subservient doormats, and this album gave me that in spades. I loved (and still do love) Alanis Morrisette’s balls. I love her honesty and her uniqueness. The only other artist I can ever compare her to is Bob Dylan. I know, I know. Nobody ever gets that analogy. But, they are both incredible musicians who write songs that are “wordy” and honest. Both of them have slightly unusual voices, both of them appear fearless in expressing their views. Both of them, I love.

I chose this song because it’s one of those that the moment I heard it, I felt it could have been written about me. Every inch of it seemed to be talking about my relationship with my Dad. The line that really gets to me is where she (almost) screams, “Why are you crying?” God, the amount of times I heard that as a kid. This song understood me, and I understood it. I discovered it at just the right time: a time when I had the chance to get away. A chance for a clean break. Of course, the best laid plans, and all that jazz . . .

Walking On Sunshine

I have a tale to tell, and this time it’s filled with shame. But, also, it zings with happiness. So, why not share, eh?

WALKING ON SUNSHINE by KATRINA & THE WAVES

 

Ohh, Sunshine! This song is so 1980s, so uncool, so everything I feel I shouldn’t like. But I do. Because, in addition to all these things, it’s also fun, its also happy. It’s . . . well . . . sunshine.

The moment I hear the intro to this song, I’m happy. So, so happy. It takes me back to a time when I must have been about 16 or 17 (although it was released mid-eighties, so I would have been nine or ten). Mum was in hospital. I was home from school. It must have been school holidays. Dad always came home from work at lunch time for his main meal. He had done it since he was born, and refused to entertain the possibility of changing things up a little and eating at night. Anyway, on this particular day, I was cooking our food. I had my Sony Walkman tucked into the waist band of the long, multi-coloured, tye-dye (with fringe!) skirt. I should probably point out I was just coming out of my Goth phase and entering my hippy phase. I was so cool. Really. I wore the headphones on my head.

I like to dance as I cook, but I always try to keep it low-key, because people tend to find it a little strange when they happen upon me without warning. But, when ‘Walking On Sunshine’ began to play on this day in (let’s say) 1991, something within me broke loose. I danced frantically; jumping and kicking my heels mid-air, spinning, singing at the top of my voice. An unfamiliar feeling of happiness for no particular reason washed over me. I really let go and danced like the craziest of crazy ladies. It came to the end of the song before I saw my elderly neighbour and Dad stood in the kitchen doorway. I’ll never forget the look of puzzlement on my neighbour’s face. I think she thought she’d entered the Twilight Zone, or something. Dad just laughed. I think the scarlet colour my face turned and look of shame in my eyes really amused him. I was so embarrassed. So very embarrassed.

The story doesn’t end there. I told my two best friends about this when I next saw them. They thought it was hilarious and spent the next few years begging me (with no success) to show them my ‘Sunshine Dance.’ Choosing to retain a little dignity, I always refused. Until, that is, the three of us and another friend called Mary went on holiday to Dawlish Warren, a beautiful seaside town in Devon. One night, we decided to stay in and have a few drinks. Well, a few turned into a few more, and so on. We played tunes on the CD Player. Shell made sure ‘Walking On Sunshine’ was one of those songs. Without hesitation, I performed my routine. All four of us laughed for, what felt like, hours. It was probably only about half an hour or so. We laughed so much we cried. Our stomachs hurt by the time we finished.

I’ve never repeated the dance since, despite Shell and Nina’s attempts to make me. But the song remains a special one for us. It reminds me of happiness, just for happiness’s sake. It reminds me of a time I thought I could turn my life around. There was so much promise. I have said (perhaps, a little morbidly) I would like this song played at my funeral because I know it would make Nina and Shell smile. So that’s why I chose this song for today.

A Design For Life

I’m still soundtracking, so here is my choice for today:

A DESIGN FOR LIFE by MANIC STREET PREACHERS

 

For today’s song, I’m sharing another of my all-time favourites. This time, it’s from 1996, and it brings me pure happiness. Manic Streep Preachers come second only to The Carpenters, when we’re talking favourite bands (that’s quite an odd mix, isn’t it?). They are a Welsh trio, but they didn’t start out that way. Their fourth member—and very much the original soul of the band—was a guy called Richey Edwards. He suffered depression, anorexia, self harm. He wrote the most heartbreaking and intense lyrics. On 1st February, 1995, he disappeared. Two weeks later, his car was found in a service station near to a “popular” suicide spot on the Severn Bridge, which has led many people to believe he committed suicide. No body was ever found, although a few potential sightings of him have been reported in the following years. Personally, I’m not sure what I believe. I doubt we’ll ever know.

But, back to the song. I love the tune! The guitar playing is awesome. James Dean Bradfield’s voice is sublime. The lyrics are so clever, and they spoke to me so much as a twenty year old in search of meaning. The first time I heard that first line—”Libraries gave us power”—I was in! A lot of the Manics’ songs have class at the heart of them, and this one is no different. They are political and intelligent and make you think about their words. I love how, on the surface, Nicky Wire’s lyrics are saying the working classes drink and spend money they don’t have. Taking it on face value, you could be forgiven for thinking he’s being critical of the working class. But he isn’t. It’s where he’s from, after all. He is digging at the middle classes who still view the working class as inferior, as being proles. He’s angry that people from the working class are getting better jobs and better opportunities to work their way up, yet the middle class still look down at them. I would say that really hasn’t changed so much.

My main memory of this song, and the reason I say it is a purely happy song, is of my silver mini (name: K.C.; after Karen Carpenter) and my two best friends. We all loved this song, and often played it on a loop when out in my car. We all banged out the tune with our hands and sang at the tops of our voices. I know, that sounds really lame. But, it was 1995. They were simpler times *Laugh*. What I’m saying is, this song takes me back to K.C., Nina, and Shell. We laughed so much at our crazed drum playing. It was a time of pure happiness.

This song is more pop-y than most of the Manics’ songs. For something a little more punk (and still political because I, apparently, seem to like that) check out ‘The Masses Against The Classes.’ In fact, I’ll link that one too. It’s another of my favourites.

 

Going To A Town

Going To A Town by Rufus Wainwright

 

This is my second song choice for the Soundtrack of my Life activity.

I’m skipping forward a few years today. This song was released in 2007, and it just happens to be my favourite song of all time. That said, I was a little unsure about including it because it’s very political and has some slightly unsavoury religious undertones. But, it is also incredibly relevant to the political climate of today. Seriously, it could have been written about the current administration in the US. But it wasn’t. Rufus Wainwright wrote it at the end of the last Bush government. When asked what it is about, he says he was sick of the current government administration, and he felt America had lost a huge part of its soul.

The “town that has already been burned down,” to which he refers throughout the song, is Berlin. He actually went to Berlin to stay some time while he wrote the album from which this song is taken (‘Release The Stars.’) His theory was that places that have already experienced great loss—such as Berlin—reach a point where a single spark of change kicks off the rebuilding of a greater future. Let’s hope he’s right about that.

But, enough of the politics. That’s not the reason I love this song. I love it because it takes me back to a precious moment between my Dad and me. From the first, lonesome piano note, I am in a car, driving Dad to the hospital. He has cancer, and we know it’s rapidly catching up with him. I took him to every appointment he had. I was there for the highs and lows, and although they break my heart constantly, they are also times I cherish because I was there to share everything with him. Mum is disabled and stayed at home for most of his appointments (it was pretty hard trying to push two people in wheelchairs at once!).

So, this song. One day, on our way to the hospital, this song came on the radio (I even remember the exact piece of road). First the piano sounded, then the bass drum kicked in as Rufus started to sing, and Dad and I both reached for the volume button at exactly the same time. We didn’t speak for the duration of the song. When it finished, I stole a quick glance at him, but we were both speechless. It touched us both.

The way this song makes me feel now is nostalgic, sad, hollow, but connected to Dad. It is my favourite song. I love how it builds and builds, and the final crescendo at the end is mind-blowing. Even without the emotional connection, I would still adore it. It’s cleverly arranged (by Rufus), and the string section is brilliant. I love every part of it.

A Childhood Lost

 

stopdomestic violence

a childhood lost

 

the t u m b l e

d

o

w

n

stone wall

draws me nearer

it’s years since i’ve

dared to stand before

this house

d a n c i n g  leaves perform

a show of  s

w

i

r

l

i

n

g

s h a d o w s

hypnotic silhouettes

teasing me in

one

step

toward

the uncared-for, splintery door

as though reflecting my thoughts

a vast

looming storm cloud

st ea ls

the sunlight from the a i r

leaving only a vestige of a time long

g o n e

i step into the past and

wonder if i should be here

light and darkness mingle

dotting the interior

with sepia sadness

i loved this home

i hated this home

stairs creak under my weight

still i take them

one by o n e

light headed,

trepidatious,

i know i must do this

to regain

control

so i ascend

to the height of my

r

a

e

f

and i’m greeted by

hideous

peek-a-boo shadows

a childhood lost

i glance inside the

dusky remnants of

The Room,

and that is

enough

i turn

i leave

outside

the suffocation ends

my lungs expand

and light once more suppresses

darkness