Poetry

 

To move on

Tiny fingers wrapped around a giant thumb

“What’s it like to be old?”

Old … old

I suppose I am

Old

“It’s sad,” I say

“Everyone you love disappears,

one by one.”

 

“Oh.

“And how does that feel?”

Little legs swing under the chair

“Like the oceans sucked into a vacuum.”

“Huh?”

“Like a hole in the heart.”

“Oh.

 

“Can you stop it?”

Yes, disappear too.

“No, but you can make it easier.”

Or harder.

“How?”

“By treasuring old photos and remembering.”

Reading old texts and emails, even letters

Reviving someone who is so readily gone.

 

“Are you going to disappear?”

Someday

“Not for a very long time.”

“How do you know?”

I don’t.

“Because you and I have a long way to travel.”

And I would never leave you alone.

 

“But what if you do?”

“Disappear?”

Small lips tremble.

“Yes.”

“Then you will be brave and move on.”

“Move on?”

Forget about me.

“Find other ways to be happy.”

“But no one makes me as happy as you.”

“They will.”

 

Tiny grip unwraps

clutches the waist instead

head buried in the side

“I won’t ever let you go.”

Yes,

but one day you’ll have to.

 

********

 

When life tends to zero

Life deals us all a finite horizon

With a probability of exit

tending to one as life tends to a hundred

 

But when the probability is refined

By sickness or emergency

There is an ominous approach of death

 

Where as family, friends and loved ones

Without thinking too darkly,

Too deeply, or too profoundly

 

It is incumbent upon us

To let it be known

That we love you

 

With our whole hearts

Bodies and souls,

 

To infinity,

 

as life tends to zero.

 

********

 

The world ends only for the self

Brother and brother walk arm in arm,

trudging through mud

with the bigger boy pulling his smaller self

towards his body

to steady him in the thick, gummy soil.

 

They clear the dirt and burst into the field

unlinking their arms

as they sprint for home along a beaten path

still side by side

until they hit the entrance to their mother’s home.

 

Curled under her arms for a bedtime story

from the sofa

they listen in awe to the tale of a talking rabbit

with a funny voice

who makes them giggle all the way to bed.

 

Ten years later they wave goodbye as they exit

that same door

With bulging rucksacks on their backs

which they pack

into the boot of a small blue car they both owned.

 

Their journey through the world brings them

right back home

alongside two brides who squeeze into their lives

now time is split

between brotherhood and a life apart with others.

 

So small boy is best man for his older brother

and vice versa

with both committing to monthly pints together

to not discuss wives

but to watch a game still side by side at a bar.

 

The centre of their childhood world then dies

their brown-haired mother

but they take comfort in their shared grief

the only two people

who knew her unbounded love and warmth.

 

Life continues at an altered pace

under broken hearts

which beat together like they always have

from within two chests

that embodied the souls of two boys yet to rest.

 

As the years pass faster the older they grow

small boy gets sick

big brother pulls him close again but all love

is insufficient

to stave off the death that takes us all.

 

Standing over the hole that is six feet deep

the soil evokes the mud

from when brother and brother ran arm in arm

through grassy fields

 

Now a single man stands living

 

hands by his side

 

since the world ends only for the self.

 

********

 

Your shadow

When I said I wanted to go with you

You turned, smiled, and said ‘my shadow’

It was without irritation

For I knew that sound

 

I took the car with you,

Sometimes silver, other times green or blue

Those cars took me through many years

And a portion of yours too

 

We were hanging laundry

Cleaning dishes,

Chasing dogs from one kennel to another

Or I was just peering over the counter

Wondering when my time would come to cook for you

 

Over the years my shadow grew much bigger

But it always walked behind you

Hanging on your every word

Telling you every thought and story so our lives were intertwined

 

I thought my life was part of yours, and yours of mine

But with getting older comes the lesson

That every life is on its own

 

Then you took your final journey without me

So here I am

Your shadow

 

Now I walk alone.

 

********

 

Lesson Observation

From an East London Classroom;

At the back I have my elbows pressed
against the blue painted desk
a voice at the front speaks of culture,
ritual, language and faith
A white man, slim lipped
oval face, brown eyes

What does this mean to you?

The class is still in thoughts of origin
of Pakistan, India, Kenya
Afghanistan
Look up at the man asking
how he’s relevant

Clicking mouths in wrinkled features
the aftermath of a Monsoon month
Fasting ends in EID

Kabul, Peshawar, Nairobi
London
Gather in the room together

Eastern festivals light
under fireworks or plain gunpowder.

Yet when all the ceremonies of Africa and Asia
are exhausted
A round black boy in the middle
shakes his head to a friend and asks
But here, they have no culture?

 

********

 

Escape of the City

I will return to the Island in a matter of weeks

The pace of London

Its charm

Its rudeness

Will be behind me

 

I will miss being absorbed daily into the City

Disappearing under a mass of suits and skirts

Of being crushed between bodies and a pole

On the central line

As I make my way back to a dull apartment

With few of the comforts of home

 

I will wave goodbye to Piccadilly Circus and Leicester Square

To screaming lights and aggressive taxis

To the golden glint of Parliament

The Eye,

Trafalgar Square and

the city by the river where I used to work

Canary Wharf

 

But worst of all

I will leave this City to return to someone who is not there

Who I feared when I left would slowly fade

Who I would watch get older with every passing quarter

That I made my way home

 

I had hoped to avoid this

To return in time

To enjoy the greenery of Wicklow

The quiet rhythm of a bustling town

But the pleasure has been scuppered

By her expiration

 

 I will see her everywhere I go

Feel her blood flowing through my veins

But it will make the emptiness harder

More profound

 

As I escape a few final times into this City

I will enjoy the possibility that she could be alive

On the other end of the phone

 

But coming home will restore the truth

That she is no longer there

That I lost her months ago

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