Post-downer

Where am I?
The first question someone asks
In the movies
When they wake suddenly
From a perfectly-coiffured coma
Or cartoon blow to the head.

I have come round
From another lost week
And I want to know
Where was I?
And more to the point
How do I not go there again?

Struggling

Give me an enemy
I can see;
A foe to go
Toe-to-toe with;
My day in court
Or ten rounds in the ring;
An honest contest
Where one walks out
And the other’s dragged away.
Not these endless ranks
Of faceless fears, amorphous terrors
I cannot pin or throw.
Then I could make my stand
See my opponent broken on the ground
And find my peace in overcoming
Instead of this unending warring
With my own rebel, unquiet mind
Beating my fists on empty space
And raging at the wind.

Work jag

Days pass. I am forgetting all I knew
About myself. What certainties I’d gained,
Such habits that had once seemed so ingrained,
Are lost and sanded out.
                                                            So much to do,
So many varied parts a man must play;
His gaze is ever outward.
                                                            Till one day
He looks within and sees the life that grew
And blossomed in him overthrown, disdained
As fanciful and foolish. All is grey
And blurred. And though I have retained
A face I faintly recognise, my true
Self seems to shrug, and slowly walk away.

One day at a time

Didn’t fix an engine
Didn’t break the ground
Didn’t sign on the dotted line
To make a million pounds.

Didn’t cut a record
Didn’t fly a plane
Didn’t cook, write a classic book
Or operate on brains.

Didn’t tend a garden
Didn’t build a wall
Didn’t do what I wanted to
Or anything much at all.

Didn’t drive cross-country
Didn’t serve cold beer
Can’t quite say what I did today
Or what I’m doing here.

Didn’t crack my spirit.
Didn’t break my heart.
Not much to show for the day, I know,
But I made it. That’s a start.

High plains drifter

Long days
Long gone
In unknown, airless lands
Alone;
A wordless drifter,
Eyes half-closed
Against the glare.
Out there,
They said, I’d find some answers:
God knows I searched
For sign in soft creek beds,
Scuffed down dry arroyos
In a boil of dust and gravel
Stood rim-rocked on the canyon’s edge
And stared out at the plains of promise
Shimmering, unreachable
Across the great divide.
Turned around and tried retracing
All my sidewinder steps. Too late:
Hot high wind and freak flash flood
Erased my passing from the earth,
Left my mind’s big wide-open
Empty as the drunk man’s threats.
I shot at shadows,
Spoke with stones
And tried to set my loop
Around the breeze.
Lost my mount
And found myself
Afoot In all that elemental space
With only two rounds left.
This one
Loosed off in the air
To boom and echo
Unheard in the void:
The last
Saved for myself.

Dark days

 

Hard, now, to tell just where and who I’ve been
These last, dark days. From some strange sleep I’ve woken;
A morning-after taste of strange words spoken,
My mind a rain-washed sky. Phantasms seen
On those dead ways I walked alone: the end
Of days and dreams – of life itself; night falling
Without a hope of dawn; the chasm calling
With sweet and poisoned promises. I’ll mend
As I have many times before; the hole
I dug myself will be filled in. I’m learning
To live again, again: a slow returning
To normal service in my shuttered soul.
A kind of death, a falling out of time.
I’ll go no deeper. So begins the climb.

 

Decided to try stretching the sonnet form a bit further: ABBA CDDC EFFE GG rhyme scheme, and an extra ‘weak’ or ‘feminine’ (not my terminology!) syllable on the middle lines of the three quatrains. I can safely say I enjoyed writing this piece a whole lot more than the few days that inspired it..! N.

Too much of a good thing

Losing myself

I have found myself
So filled with others’ clamour
My own word-hoard is spent and plundered.
I have measured each hour’s value
While leaving its true worth unweighed;
Made walking in the woods and fields
Another tick on the to-do list,
Gloried in the dawn departures
And burning quarts of midnight oil,
Talked of plans and strategies,
Of doing, being, wanting more.

So I must lose myself
Again; become forgetful,
Run my hands along the bark
Of growing trees, watch the wind
Turn ash-leaves silver,
Smell the grass the cows have trodden,
Find my old ways through the woods.
And if I wander far enough
I know that I will meet myself
Coming back again.

The longest day

The longest day

I need not wait
Until the earth
Tilts my hemisphere toward the sun
At twenty-three degrees:
For me
The longest day
Can come on any given date:
Each time I find myself
Confined indoors by work or weather;
When the phone is ringing
Constantly, each call adding another hair
To this shirt of mine;
When the bike betrays
A secret creak or nervous tick;
The hunting-dog goes lame or off his food;
The numbers topple
No matter how I stack them;
The lame knee does protest too much;
Or one of my beloved girls
Is gone.
Days stretched and overstuffed with hours,
That end in nights
With far too few.

Perspective

Weatherproof

Seen from inside
Outside
Is a grey hell:
Trees in full leaf flayed by a west wind
Thrash and hiss with spray
A ten-tenths sky leans on the land
Like a drunkard on a doorpost
And next-door’s downpipe
Mumbles an ostinato in its throat.

I stand under the wood’s dripping eaves,
Smiling warm, watching the hunting-dog
Gun down rabbits in the wet field.
No rain reaches beneath my hat-brim;
My jacket turns the wind’s blade like a shirt of mail;
In these boots I could wade a river.
No such thing
As bad weather:
Just the wrong clothing.