Storm Light

It’s time for me to take another of my breaks from Social Media. For my sanity, as much as anything else. I’ll leave the comments open, and promise to answer anyone who leaves a comment, sooner or later.

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I will not be idle! I have some work to do on this site, as well as a lot of writing to catch up on, but I need to find a bit of time for life in general, too.

I’ll leave you with this poem.

Snapshot.

 

Thin, wind-threaded branches:

Spilled black ink against storm light

Rook-song echoes from cold rocks

Patches of rain-lain foot-snaring nettles

In wind-rolled grass

 

My luck,

Emerging from the holloway just then,

From beneath wind-whipped trees

Into involuntarily sucked breath of

Wind-ecstasy.

 

My luck.

 

If you liked this poem, you may like the poems in my new collection The Night Bus, available here.

All The Lost Words

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Last night I dreamed I sank into the depths of some great ocean.

I went down, right down to the bottom of the sea and

There I saw a wooden chest.

And then a mermaid appeared and smiled, and indicated

That I should open it.

 

But having done as she had asked,

I thought at first I had made a mistake,

For I beheld countless stars shining in the depths of the chest,

Which appeared to be as large and as wide as the sky.

And even as I thought this, those stars rose up and surrounded me

And then, dismayed, I saw them floating up until they reached

The surface of the sea,

Where they were taken by the tides and currents

And swept away to every corner of the Earth.

 

***

 

When I awoke, I felt sad for the loss of those stars.

But then I realised it had been a dream, and

I fell asleep again and dreamed I laboured down a mine.

And I was hot and weary and grimy as I crawled

Through low passages, searching for precious stones.

It was tiresome work but finally,

Rounding a corner, I saw a distant glow and

As I drew near, I saw a gem that shone amidst the darkness.

I found then I carried pick and hammer, and

Any number of chisels, so I set to work.

 

After much labour I held the gemstone in my palm and

The light from this treasure seemed to flow out from my hand,

And illuminate every corner of the mine.

This gladdened my heart, but one appeared who I had been dreading,

Although I had not known it until that very moment,

And they took the jewel from my hand and disappeared,

I knew not where.

 

***

 

And so again I awoke and then

I slept a third time – troubled sleep! – this time

I dreamed I walked on crowded streets

And watched the many who surrounded me

And listened to their talk.

These were the conversations carried on

By every man and woman who had ever lived,

Or ever would.

 

But after time their speech became confusing;

I could no longer distinguish any words, and then

The world fell silent, although they still spoke,

And still I watched and found that I could see their speech,

And all their conversations floated on the breeze

Before me,

For their speech was made of stars and gemstones,

Mingled now with flowers and with ash.

Mingled now with night soil and with butterflies.

 

And I was content with that, and now slept deeply.

 

Home

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I’m walking on tracks,

On familiar tracks,

Under blue sky,

In the evening light.

My shadow before me,

The wind behind.

 

I’m yawning now,

And my legs are tired.

I’m looking forward to supper,

A beer and then bed.

 

The shadows lengthen,

Along with my stride

On familiar tracks,

Along familiar tracks.

I’m heading for home,

Now,

I’m heading for home.

 

Five o’clock

I’ve been away from the computer for most of the last week, but now I’m back with a slightly longer poem than I usually write.

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At five o’clock the fire is lit.

Around the table we all sit,

With buttered bread and eggs and ham,

With cups of tea and cake and jam.

The idle talk is of the day,

The work now done, the latest play,

And ‘Anything to watch tonight?’

Or in the warmth and soft lamplight,

Perhaps we’ll read and play a hand,

Of whist, or bridge, you understand.

And ‘Don’t forget, at half past nine,

The radio – it’s music time.’

Then bank the fire, put out the lights,

The household settles for the night.

 

The heat blasts out in every room,

And lights and games and TVs soon

Take over so completely that

It’s pointless even trying to chat.

The sounds of gunfire, screaming cars,

Exploding buildings, and on Mars

The aliens armed with laser beams,

Are killed on several different screens

In different rooms by different boys,

With highly deadly killing toys.

The evening mealtime’s such a treat,

With pizza, chocolate, crisps and sweets.

Although it seems they all are eating

Different things at different sittings.

 

‘A cup of cocoa? I don’t think

That that will do, an energy drink

Is what I need, the evening’s young,

And there’s still much that’s to be done.

And if I cannot concentrate,

Upon this game, it’ll be too late,

The zombies will have won and then

I’ll go back down to level ten.’

It’s one o’clock, they still can’t sleep.

There’s not much point in counting sheep,

‘cause they’re all battery-powered toys,

Just so much electronic noise

And moving parts all running round,

And round and round and round and round.

 

I’m standing now beneath night skies,

Pale silver light from fresh moonrise.

I’ve walked for almost half a day,

It takes that long to get away

now, searching for a quiet place

Where I can pause and have some space.

I’m thinking how it used to be,

At five o’clock, the time for tea.

It seems to me that what we’ve gained,

Is not worth any of the pain.

And even more what we have lost,

We should have saved at any cost.

But anyway, now it’s just me

I have my flask, I’ll pour my tea.

 

Keep Watch at the Window

It’s October.

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That must mean it’s autumn. It certainly feels like it, now. So here’s a little poem for when the days are drawing in and it’s becoming colder and darker outside.

Keep watch at the window in the Westering light,

On the distant hill in the approaching night,

Under darkling clouds, over dew-touched heath,

Where the flowers of summer are now touched by death,

I’ll be coming home in the fading light.

 

Keep watch at the window in the fading light,

You’ll see me walking when the moon is bright,

My shadow before me coming down the hill,

My breath opaque in the air now chill,

I’ll be coming home in the last of the light.

 

Keep watch at the window in the last of the light,

When I’m weary you’ll see me come into sight,

Drawn by the firelight and the thought of wine,

By the thought of you; so glad you’re mine!

I’m home now, let’s shut out the night.

 

Oh I Do Like To Be Beside The Seaside!

A standalone excerpt from a work in process – a series of linked poems with the overarching title Breeze.

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You see, I never do things by halves. Unfinished novels, short stories and poems, too.

I’m sure a psychologist would have a field day.

On the late season sea-front we press our hats to our heads,

And shout to make ourselves heard.

The rain stings faces, and dribbles miserably down necks

It hoses noisily up and down abandoned streets,

As we struggle to stay on our feet between the chip shop and the variety theatre.

 

‘Shall we go for a drink?’

‘What? I can’t hear you!’

‘I said…’

 

Cables beat maniacally, ringingly,

Against rusting and white paint chipped flagpoles.

 

Piles of deckchairs like collapsed marionettes shift uneasily

On the shingle among the lolly sticks and sweet wrappers,

The bladdery seaweed and the old egg sacs,

Beneath the rounded overhang of the promenade;

Their fabric thrumming and whirring

And flapping.

 

The weather forecast said a thirty percent chance of rain.

 

An empty drinks can follows us noisily across the road.

 

‘That’s better.’

‘Gosh, that wind’s strong today!’

‘It’s almost like winter.’

‘What’ll you have?’

‘Better make it a strong one!’

‘Yeah. Make that two.’

 

Leaning on the bar, waiting for the drinks.

Staring gloomily out of the window.

 

Darting gulls,

Silver light,

Drinking silently,

Glancing at each other.

 

‘Tell you what. Why don’t we just go home?’

Time, Gentlemen, Please!

When I go out, I will frequently leave my phone at home. If I have no particular reason to take it with me, such as for work or awaiting an urgent call, then it is a real pleasure to be able to leave it behind.

I feel a release, not being in constant contact with everyone. I also rely upon it for the time, not possessing a wristwatch, so again, without it, I am freed from this small tyranny. Interestingly, I often know the time if I am asked, as long as I reply spontaneously, without thinking, but then, if I give it more thought, the gift disappears. I wonder if this is an instinct that we have largely lost. If so, and I ponder this train of thought, how did older, ancient peoples view the time? Presumably not as ‘nine’ or ‘three o’clock’ – morning, noon and afternoon? A time of waxing and waning light? Those more sedentary no doubt were as much tied to the sundial as we are to the clock.

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At court, or in monasteries, or other relatively affluent places, they relied on candles, marked with hours, to tell the time, but the common people would have had no such thing. Here in England, the church might have possessed a clock that chimed the hour, so that those who lived near enough might have an idea of the time, but apparently these could be notoriously inaccurate, sometimes being wrong by perhaps several hours or more.

But this probably did not matter, for the rural worker would not need to know the time. The farm labourers would rise at dawn, eat something for breakfast, then make their way to the fields. Around noon they would eat lunch, and at dusk they would return home.

They had no need of timekeeping any more accurate than that.

Contrast that to today, when it almost seems necessary to justify every minute of the day. I think this is one of the attractions of taking a holiday; it seems such a treat to spend each day doing as much or as little as is desired, and not to have to justify it to anyone. And, by extension, perhaps it is vitally important that we take holidays now. Hundreds of years ago in those semi-mythical non time-dominated days, workers did not get holidays. They just had Sundays off. It is easy to suggest that we are softer now, but I think the fixation of time has contributed to lives vastly more dominated by stress, and overwork, and that holidays are essential for us all.

I know I damn well need one!

Well, yes, right…or write…

The clocks have gone back, and it’s getting dark earlier and earlier, but there is still a blackbird singing in the garden, although there is also the smell of wood smoke in the air – from a bonfire, I would guess – and a definite chill in the air. The autumn leaves have been exceptionally beautiful this year, seeming to have an extra couple of tones of red and orange. And there are still plenty of late flowers out. I may be a summer person, but it is  decidedly beautiful at the moment..

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I said I’d take part in NaNoWriMo this year, didn’t I? What on earth could I have been thinking of?

Did I really commit to writing over a thousand words a day all through the month?

Oh, for goodness sake! I’ve not even had time to look at anyone’s posts for the last five days, let alone write anything.

I quit. November 2nd, and I quit. Just like that. I’m sure no one else has ever backed out of it that early. Can I claim some sort of record?

But, as some sort of penance, I’m going to put up a short fiction piece for today’s post. I wrote it last week, so that’s almost November…

Light Years

It appears now both ridiculously arrogant and incredibly stupid, but after a mere few thousand years of development we seemed to think that we had arrived at a stage of development that we should consider to be an advanced civilisation. For a handful of years we had been capable of a rather limited space travel. We were beginning to probe the makeup of the universe and were on our way to some understanding of its complexities. And out of all of these thousands of years of development, we had had machines only for a few hundred years. We had had electric light for less than two hundred years. Computers for less than a hundred. We reached the moon one year, and two generations later we were probing the edges of the Solar System. And in those two generations, the life expectancy of almost everyone on the planet increased dramatically. We invented mobile phones and within one generation they were tiny computers that virtually controlled our lives.

In short, the pace of our technological progress increased exponentially.

But we had had wars and cruelty and genocide all of this time. We never solved that problem, we only invented crueller and more effective killing machines.

And should we ever make contact with another civilisation – that’s civilisation, mark you, not just life form – then the odds were that it might be several millions of years old.

No one seemed to realise the rather obvious implications.

And, despite warnings from a few of our more eminent and talented thinkers, we continued to recklessly send signals out into this huge unknown, advertising both our presence and our level of development.

Science fiction in popular culture would have aliens suddenly visiting our planet, swooping through the skies in huge flying saucers with deadly heat rays as weapons. The visitors would be recognisably bipedal – large headed, of course, since their brains would be more developed than ours – but with a limited range of facial expressions (why limited, I always wondered? Surely they would have developed more subtle ones? But perhaps they no longer needed them). The world would be in a panic; world leaders would meet, and attempt to make contact with the visitors. There would be an ill-advised attempt to engage them in battle, which would turn out very badly, but they would finally be forced to leave, or leave of their own accord, and in the end we would be the wiser for it.

But it wasn’t like that at all.

No one seemed to know what they saw, and many seemed unaware even that they had seen anything at all. There was light, but not the lights of UFOs buzzing through the skies at night, and not the stabbing beams of destruction envisioned by the writers and film-makers. For several days, it seemed to me that the light was a rather odd colour, and at times a little misty, or…hard. Others noticed that the light would move around, almost in blocks. It sounds ridiculous, but there you go.

That was about the time that I noticed a slight throbbing in my head and my brother complained of a ringing in his ears. No more than that, although it did seem that there was more shouting and arguing from some of the families in the neighbourhood, but this wasn’t particularly unusual and I thought nothing of it then.

It was the following day, which was yesterday, that everything seemed to go quiet. The arguing had stopped, for which I was grateful, but so had the background noise of traffic. I walked down to the ground floor and pushed open the door, and with that the throbbing in my head seemed to get worse. There were one or two people in the street outside, but no one seemed to be in a particular rush. All of them appeared to be strolling or standing around aimlessly and when I began to walk towards one of them, I found it quite difficult to move my legs; they felt very, very tired. I stopped and looked at the man I had been approaching, but when I caught his eye he began crying. It seemed shocking, and I wanted to cry too, although I did manage to stop myself. In the end, I turned around and went back home. I thought I’d see if there was anything on the news, but the TV no longer worked, and nor did my laptop. There was power, since the power lights came on, and I filled the electric kettle and made a cup of tea, but that tasted awful – perhaps the milk was off –  and I poured it away.

My head was still throbbing, but I thought I ought to see how my brother was this morning. I tapped on his door, then went in, but he wasn’t in his room and the bed looked as though it hadn’t been slept in. He had gone out the previous evening, and it seemed obvious that he had stayed out all night. It didn’t seem to matter.

I still felt tired, and now I did start to cry. It only lasted a moment, though, and then I thought I should have some breakfast. I put a couple of slices of bread into the toaster and put a pan on the cooker. I was going to fry a couple of eggs, but the oil in the bottle seemed to have turned a greenish colour and set solid overnight. I pushed the lever down on the toaster anyway, and for about a second the whole thing glowed with a bright orange light that hurt my eyes, and then just faded away. There was no smell of burning, and the toaster looked unharmed. I unplugged it from the wall, and lifted the lever. The bread was still white.

All of this should have worried me more than it did, but the truth was that I felt that I didn’t care. For the next hour or so I sat at the window, watching the few people outside trudging slowly along or standing and crying. A couple of them were lying motionless in the road. With an effort, I lifted my head and looked up to see that there were bands of thick colour across the sky; not clouds, because they were too transparent to be clouds, and they were the wrong colour anyway. I don’t know what colour they were, but it was wrong.

When I looked down again, the street was empty, apart from the colours.

It is possible that what we saw was no more than a trick of the light, or perhaps they were machines. Possibly, they were even the creatures that had sent them. Who knows, maybe they were both at once.

Light. Yes, light. It keeps coming back to light.

I don’t even know whether this is the end.

But I think it is.