Saturday, 9 October 2021
The Return of Peter Pan
Wendy, your Peter has returned to see
bedroom window shut. Barred against me,
its curtains, in sallow pink, flap open wide,
call more welcome crooks to peek inside,
while the frigid clasps, for want of use,
are fixed in stubborn hardness fused:
yet here I fly all milk tooth pearly grin,
casting cast off fairy spells to let me in.
Why do you draw back? Ah. Pain.
Now, printed here on paper plain
for readers’ gaze, the horror. Years strained
to drag down face, penned sagging rhymes
in drooping loops on that page’s aged lines;
Did you grow old, Wendy, promise broken,
exchanged true love for something token?
I can’t part with any change, shan't
pay to look, won't turn back pages of your book,
read lips’ gold thimbles were cheaply sold,
that hot pyres of longing burned only cold.
We should've used soap to fix dark shadows,
she might fly away when warm breezes blow,
her stitched on smiles unpick themselves,
in unread fables that fall from shelves.
Do you still believe in fairies
like you did when you were young?
But you’ve come and come and come
so many times, that songs we might have sung
melted like gold thimbles and are all gone.
You grew old Wendy, in promises broken,
forgot how to fly and Time has spoken,
like candles snuffed, all dreams have flit,
in cloud of moth, dun and thick, to fires lit
who tinderbox, burn and burn and burn,
melt lost tin soldiers, to gutter and yearn.
Roll all love’s imagination into one ball,
pitched into darkness where devils call.
And there she sits. Hides her beastly shape
in plain view for all, but you. Ah, it’s fate?
It lies not in the stars to steer our course,
but in ourselves, we must pick which crew,
like all lost boys, which ship to join, or lose.
Oh, she’s every pirate rolled into one,
her hook sticks deep and twists in death,
like cuckoo plants eggs in your nest,
stabs your flesh, cuts short your breath,
hangs off with teeth your sagging breasts,
like lead weights now they plumb new depths,
you partnered something you detest.
You wanted monsters? Her crocodile clock,
her tick tock stopped, her jaws are locked,
chain-stitched her shadow on your back,
her vulture smile snaps clackety-clack:
Oh Wendy, see what you have become,
you grew old before you grew young.
Please, my Wendy, look not so sad at me.
Take back those outstretched hands,
you’ll weep enough tears to blossom sands;
and they hang so heavy on my heart.
Would you conjure some ancient art,
try alchemy to turn free spirit to lead,
mould it into anchor, fix to sea bed
then watch us drown? Maybe you can
turn boy to man, but see your Peter Pan.
I gave you books of brilliant things,
but I cannot give you back lost wings,
Wendy, poor Peter returns your regrets,
and calls you to forget, forget, forget...
Friday, 1 October 2021
Shrinking Violet’s Chopped Cucumbers
Friday afternoon. Late-ish.
Even from his bedroom, he could hear them. And his bedroom was far, far from the front door. There was a longish L shaped corridor from there to here.
You see, the truth is, that Stuart lived on the ground floor.
What’s so bloody truthful about that, you might ask, given the import of the previous declaration; what’s the deal? I mean it seems a small thing to point out, doesn’t it?
Well, nothing really. It’s just that being on the ground floor of the block meant it was near to elevators for all the others.
Ungenerously, the architect had provided only two such.
Yes, stairs, of course, but they were a tad narrow and uninviting. With those push bar to open fire things.
And, during the busy hours, there were…people.
Impatient neckbottled people, awaiting transport.
Friday afternoons between four and six o clock were particularly messy, due to it being the end of brunches, whereupon those hotels so welcoming at midday became weary of four hours of tiresome drunkenness and gluttony. They applied velvet gloved iron hands, nailed boots and chucked out hordes of pissheads onto the hot, Kata streets.
Most of these were young, most of them Irish and all of them wankered.
How they clamoured for taxis, how they cursed as wiser drivers passed them by, wary of damp patch jeans and slippery strapless mini-dresses on their pristine seats.
The yoof of today made their way back to the apartment building in dribbles, some quite literally, then, by the elevators, and reunited once more, sang boldly of their adventures. Mainly football chants they had heard on the telly – well because most were too young to have actually been to a game.
Listening to them, Stuart scowled. The girls were extremely shrill and noisy.
He blocked his ears with pillows as they pierced his brain, devising ever more brutal traps to slaughter them, then reflecting that it would all be over in another hour until mid-morning Saturday, when, upon waking, they’d discover who’d shagged who, questioned why and, under clouds of hangovers, tears and tantrums would start to fight each other.
Stuart looked at his phone again and tried to read the message. His sight was nowhere near as good as it had once been and the screen was small, of course. Unwisely he had taken to spraying Covid disinfectant over his glasses until a student pointed out he was probably ruining the varifocal lenses.
Now he had to tip his head back slightly to read – or push the bottom of the frames upwards.
Her words swam into view. He strained harder and his headache worsened.
‘I failed you in hunky panky,’ he thought he read, ‘I am feeding up play sensitive games. You are serious to me with no dramas.’ he scrolled up slightly. ‘but before hunky panky, I need your intentions. We should go on to conquer the world. I raised my son and daughter with God’s grace, but sadly ruined my lovelife.’
Stupid God, stupid grace.
Stuart sighed. Rolled over. Listened once more to the hedonistic clamour outside. Some of that shrieking sounded positively impure.
Mid-morning Friday, outside the Blue Salon, adjacent to C Ring Road.
It being Friday, the road was quiet. There was literally no traffic, save for a sad-face Filipino riding his bicycle. It was one of those with a wicker basket in front which contained a large bottle of water – probably five gallons – to be upended into a cooler.
Do they even have gallons in Kata?
As the bicycle made its melancholy way past him, creaking slightly with age or abuse, Stuart was reminded of a film. He knew not which. But a line came into his head. ‘It is time to keep your appointment with the wicker man’.
Stuart glanced at his watch, then back at C Ring. Where was she? Twenty minutes and no sign of her car. And the sun was baleful, burning his neck and shoulders viciously.
Fishing in his pocket for the phone, he opened it and reread her morning messages.
‘You feed me yoghurt with a spoon?’
‘Yes, of course. Cool yoghurt on your hot tongue.’
‘I should think you are.’
‘I come to ur apartment.’
‘Now? Or tomorrow?’ Stuart had wanted to go swimming; if she came now, his plans would be in disarray.
‘I already in car.’
Blast. ‘OK. I’ll wait by Blue Salon, C Ring.’
It was spooky, C Ring being so empty of life. At any other given moment it was a gridlocked soundscape of angry horning from frustrated drivers, weaving lanes. The intertwining was extremely irksome, bonnets thrust aggressively across white lines, causing obstructions beyond the wit of humanity to solve.
A tangled skein of quick step and side kick woolly momentum. Judging just how far to push out, how much to retract, mishearing the traffic signals which had a habit of shouting stop, just when you’d put your engine into first.
Stuart licked his lips with thirst. Waiting for her.
But she’d already arrived. He could see her small figure in the distance, waving. Obviously she’d come by another route. Her diminutive Filipina boobs bounced as she strutted towards him with a smile.
Stuart was unsure whether to be pleased or afraid. Above him the signals changed colour again.
To get to his apartment, just a stone’s throw from Blue Salon, involved a great deal of huffing, puffing and blowing the house down. There were tricksy manoeuvres involving her car, u turns and parking.
“No, turn right here. You should remember this, Sweet Violet, surely?”
Then the lobby and security had to be negotiated. It was a good ten steps from the entrance to his door.
“Will Anis see me? What about Tessa? I could be recognised.”
“Well, wear dark glasses and a hijab next time.”
Finally, he fumbled and dropped the key, noticing a gecko scuttle away.
“What was that?”
“Is it your pet?”
“Do you have a pet?”
“I have a turtle.”
Once they had entered that L shaped corridor, Stuart embraced her like a lover would. He regretted that choice of clause, due to it being a lyric from ‘Louise’ by Human League – a break up song.
Upon hearing intruders, Mr Stabs was making a lot of racket in the spare room. Shrieks, squarks and telephone ringtones.
“Mr Stabs. A parrot.”
“I think you have no pets?”
“I’m minding him for a friend. She left me with him. Only temporary. She said. Six months ago.”
“Mr Stabs is strange name.”
“If I go near him, he bites me.”
“Really? Can I see?”
Reluctantly, Stuart plucked a grape off the bunch sitting on his dining table in the bowl and walked along the small corridor which separated the living area from the two bedrooms. Violet padded behind him, all four foot of her, blinking through thick, pebbly glasses and panting in excitement.
Mr Stabs regarded Stuart and the proffered grape malignantly as both approached his cage. He was silent – a silence that presaged only doom and torture. True to form, as Stuart’s fingers got nearer, he stabbed at them, seizing the grape and drawing blood in exultation. Then he tossed the grape aside in amused contempt.
Violet was delighted.
As Stuart winced, sucking his forefinger, she hopped up and down to see, then her face creased with concern. “You need band-aid.”
“No, not really. Sorry.”
Now both of them sat on his sofa, a cushion’s distance apart, as Stuart waited for the bleeding to subside. He was unsure how to proceed on this second date, having hoped for a coffee and cake at the mall, or something. Neutral ground. Difficult sophomore album syndrome.
Should he put his arm around her? Go in for a snog? What did she actually expect? Maybe get the yoghurt and a spoon?
Reading minds is so difficult.
Violet wasn’t being very helpful.
So, he showed her round the apartment, to kill five minutes, and dispel an awkwardness that hung between them.
“This is my study.”
“What through door?”
“Ah-ah. Who that?”
Violet was indicating a printed picture that Stuart had pinned to his bookshelf a while ago. “That is Angel.”
“Angel? That a man?”
“Is it?” Stuart squinted. It was definitely Angel she was pointing at, not his son. “No. It a woman.”
“Woman?” Violet giggled. “Not woman.”
“It is woman.” To be fair, it was an unflattering snap.
“A woman. I keep it there to remind me not to have any more. She helps me write.”
They continued the door. “This kitchen.”
“This spare bedroom.”
“This my bedroom. I put clean sheets today. I always put clean sheets on Friday.”
“What through door?”
They padded back to the sofa and sat apart once again.
Stuart inched his arm along the back minutely, so as not cause alarm. Mr Stabs would have approved. His hand was on her shoulder, then at her T shirt. He casually shifted his fingers slightly so that they moved underneath the short sleeve and he had the top of her bra strap. Result.
Violet flinched, pulling away, freeing the erroneous digit from elastic, then roughly pushed his back. “I massage you.”
She pulled up the back of his shirt from where the belt secured his waist, then prodded her fingers into bare flesh. His spine cracked under her touch and he winced.
She giggled. “You tense, Mister.”
“Yes. A bit. I injured my back in a tug-of-war competition, one sports day.” Which was true. As nearly all of this is.
“You have oils? Scented oils work good.”
“No. I only have Ajax.”
Her fingers worked him, like a dilettantish keyboard player who spots one in a church hall and tries chopsticks. After the first bum note, a wan smile and finish, hallas.
She pulled his shirt back down with the finality of a closing piano lid.
“What for lunch?”
Stuart ushered Violet the three or four steps from his sofa to the dining table.
Like she was seeing it for the first time? Hadn’t he given her the tour?
Still, living alone, he took a little pride in his table which was quite well apportioned for one person. Maybe he was fairly unusual in that he cooked his own meals when he had time, rather than ordering out for shawarma, pizza, chicken or beef-burgers.
Another favourite pastime of the block dwellers.
When not pissed they ordered lakes of fizzy pop and mountains of processed meat, delivered by unhappy looking, small men on scooters, pretty much around the clock.
Just last week, Stuart had seen one of them tottering across C Ring from MacDonald’s carrying a small mug of diet coke and a tray of fries in 45 degree heat.
He, however, kept table. Fruit in a bowl. Six bottles of condiments, an electric salt and pepper grinder. That sort of thing. He also scattered ashtrays around the apartment – like many men his age, he enjoyed a quiet smoke.
Violet’s round face was smiling. She wriggled her bum in the IKEA chair.
He fussed her, bringing salad, hummus, crackers, cheese. The sort of thing he liked, well obviously, because it was lying around and in the fridge.
Well, okay, so they munched on the cold collation and chatted idly. It wasn’t long before love reared its ugly head, because, Stuart supposed, that was where this was heading.
He wondered if he could still perform.
At least the sheets were unstained. Always changed them Friday’s. He was a stickler for that.
“My husband cheat on me. I leave him. I waiting for annulment one day soon. So I bring up two children. They grown now.”
“Are they here in Kata?”
“No, Mister Stuart, they in Manila.”
“Ah, I expect you miss them.”
“Sometimes I miss but I bring then up with God’s grace.”
Stuart knew bits of this story from the first date where he’d plied her with bottled water and she’d struggled to eat five or six mouthfuls some chicken pasta arrabiata in a very expensive Italian she had chosen.
They should’ve shared a pizza, really.
Maybe it had been four of five weeks ago.
Last day of summer term, he’d wandered into the school library to see Violet, checking books in. Those dumped by life’s stragglers.
“Have a happy summer, Violet.”
“You travel, Mr Stuart?”
“No, no. What with Covid, endless PCR tests and the UK on the Red List in perpetuity, it seems...” (he rolled the ‘r’ of perpetuity, enjoying the feel on his tongue and the dramatic flair it lent) “…there seems no point. I shall stay in my apartment.”
“Me too, Mr Stuart. I sad. My flatmate leave and I alone.”
Which had led to him messaging her, having drunk too much watching England beat Germany in the Euros.
That can happen.
He returned to his table, listened and watched as she pecked at a Ryvita. Mr Stabs would put her to shame. No wonder she was small, with such an appetite.
He seized the initiative.
“Do you miss it? The hanky panky, I mean?”
Flickering his eyebrows, five rounds rapid, in what he hoped was a non-threatening gesture, he grinned. It had worked for Wayne in ‘Auf Wiedersehen, Pet’.
She understood. Chewed thoughtfully on the corner of the Ryvita. Smiled. Answered.
“Ah. That is hunky panky. I not hunky panky for 10 years.”
“Really. That’s a long time to go without.”
Stuart knew this because his wife had frozen on him some eight years ago and he’d moved firstly to the spare room, then later to another country.
It was now or never. Hook or me this time.
By no means a Machiavelli, Stuart hit upon a plan as they cleared away the table together, drifting in and out of the kitchen like two clouds of summer butterflies.
He could see the bed waiting, waiting, each time he returned to the table and she, humming a tune pleasantly under her breath, washing the few dishes carefully; stroking, rinsing.
It so happened that Stuart’s Egyptian doctor, a lady of undetermined beauty, due to sunshades and a hijab, but of a kind, loving nature, had dropped into his apartment kilos and kilos of fresh fruit and salad, two days ago.
Until now, he had not the slightest idea would should be done. How would they not waste?
Now, he had it.
“We must cook.”
Violet replaced a tea towel she had been drying plates with and Stuart put them in the top cupboard. He thought about lifting her, but he was somewhat aroused and did not want her to feel it against her back.
Instead, he reached into the bottom drawer of the fridge, taking out a huge bag of cucumbers that had been cooling, along with the huge tub of plain, Arabic yoghurt.
He pointed at an adjacent cupboard beneath the sink. Violet looked inside and had no trouble kneeling down, to take a large glass bowl.
With a flourish, Stuart produced a knife and board.
He tumbled out all the cucumbers onto the kitchen surface and stood alongside her.
Comically, they began to jostle into each other. Why? Violet was insisting on rinsing each and every stiff vegetable under the cold water.
He nodded, jostled her once again, feeling her small breasts press into his elbow accidentally, and took the cucumbers. Now as he rinsed each one slowly, he passed them to the left and watched as she deftly chopped each down to size.
Chop, chop, chop.
The juices oozed out, onto the surface.
Chop. chop. chop.
Each piece decimated, becoming smaller, then smaller still.
Chop, chop, chop.
She licked her fingers; rubbed the wet onto her chest.
Chop, chop, chop.
Wincing slightly, and yet still somehow drawn as the moon draws water, Stuart poured yoghurt into the bowl, mixing in the mint and stirring the pot.
Now she tipped in the cucumber. A sparrow could not have filled his beak with one piece, so diminutive were those cucumber morsels, yet together they were plenty.
He took her hand and joined it to his so that they stirred together, watching the white stuff as it tinted green.
He took the spoon, scooped some of the ice cool mixture and placed it to her lips. With eyes closed, she drank.
Now their hands slipped deep into the yogurt and they began to squeeze.
Squeeze, squeeze, squeeze. For minutes they squeezed until they were almost melting into it, in a strange dual insanity, until they were squeezing each other’s hands, mistaking them for the gentle milk. Squeezing the yogurt, squeezing the yoghurt.
Annie get your gun.
Somewhere deep in the sweaty mixture, two hands were clasped in a promise, and way above the slippery lip, two pairs of eyes met.
The bowl moved, somehow animated for a brief moment, self aware, malignant, and in those few seconds of consciousness, chose death.
It fell those four terrible feet to the kitchen floor and smashed into a thousand splinters.
What had once been firm, was formless.
It was a lake. No worse, it was a white whale, vengeful and terrible, covering every surface in a tacky, pale cucumber and mint slime.
Stuart swore vengeance almost immediately.
‘I was going to eat that!’
‘Mess. It everywhere.’
‘My cucumbers, see what you did to my cucumbers.’
‘All on wall, on floor.’
‘My yoghurt, my yoghurt’
‘My hand hurt.’
‘What through there?’
She disappeared. Stuart knelt in the spreading, dispersing whale flesh, seized glassy, spermy liquid in both hands mesmerised, raised them above his head and watched in horror as it oozed in glaciers down his arms and covered his shirt.
Then, realising this was a stupid act, he sighed, and filled a bucket. It was to be a long afternoon.
He barely heard the door as she let herself out.
Friday afternoon. Later-ish.
If anything, the shrieking was getting worse out there. Stuart wondered if they were copulating in order to pass the time as the elevator passed between floors.
He smelt his fingers, wishing the scent was something other than sour milk sea and mint, remembering afternoons when perfumes where altogether more…tangy.
Squinting again, he read some more. Somehow, the words seemed pathetic; sorrowful…and old.
‘I fail in hunky panky. I will take time. We will find our intentions. I enjoy lunch with you. Thank you. Next time.’
Time is for tortoises.
Time was a spreading white whale of turning milk inviting swimmers to shun diving in and risk what lies beneath. Cuts? He'd had a few.
Bollocks to it.
Stuart rolled off his bed, padded down the corridor, grabbed a bottle of gin and unlocked his door.
He balled his right fist. Unsure what he intended to do, of that much he was certain.
Friday, 17 September 2021
Life in 280 Characters Including the Title.
and pile up
of quivering chests
tumble to rust
Saturday, 11 September 2021
It squats like a bank vault.
White sandstone and concrete, with eyes to see,
framed with pepper-pot crotchety brows,
whose tellers chant long tales of vows,
slender beacon fingers thieves who steal,
calls faithful husbands within to kneel.
An argument boiled the night before.
Incarcerated: a five or six stretch but here’s a turnkey.
By text, how else? Some gorgon knot,
a huge dispute over not a lot,
all deceiving feelings, twosome reelings,
slashing veins by way of healing.
Gifts hot smuggled under her dress,
under her breath, well hid where he could see, fake ID,
on parking lot and up her sleeve:
pink satin sheets, for sure, almost fresh,
soaked in wet woman’s scented press,
jeans for him, so very tight, stiff crotched,
silk shirts, dressed with her heart’s lock,
newly uncorked, her perfumes run wild to soothe his
nightly rhythms of stroked scent wristed sin.
Unrumbled plans, tumbled half phrases,
daring heists, from under his nose, escaping scot free;
they hold their future in unheld hands,
his heart beats gold, hers all diamonds
and rubicons, they soak his mind,
to slip the dogs and cross the line.
Of course, there was a line.
Tantalise in teasing looks and she’s most likely to flee,
border crossed lips press cheeks most chaste,
handcuffing both, just the merest taste,
she slips off shades like hands from glove
her naked eyes moan trembled love.
Words were passed between the two
like parcels, or adamantine pearls hardening by degrees,
treasures form over callus and wound,
his lyrics to quite make her swoon,
fainting soul is locked within her breasts,
both swell imprisoned beneath her dress.
These moments are stolen, she says.
He understands, grips hand, because passion or destiny,
speaks loud; beats in better times than these,
where touch will wander where it please
in hot sweet torture, the will enfolds her,
he rests her head upon his shoulder.
Never spilling secrets, their lips find peace,
desires hot drench deserts of the East:
where it watches squat, the husbands kneeling,
her swollen belly spread with stealing.
Saturday, 28 August 2021
Such is the Fate of Angels Born
In Plymouth we began to draw, before our time
together, crystal stars above started to align,
scoring diamond arcs into cut-glass expanse.
Writing testament before we had learned to sign,
bright in brash symbols, curved parabola dishes,
all slowly grinding gimballed turrets, pegged cogs,
pointing needled fingers at thundercast heavens,
where galaxies swirl outwards from the centre,
never meeting except by intervention or design,
two vivid coalescing roaming masses briefly find
shared space; a decade or two of pooled rhyme.
Finds me a traveller puked up, cast out, hauled
from station floored concrete mossy platforms;
heavy sea tore vulpine teeth into sandstone cliffs,
iron tracks bent apart from sleepers forming rifts
unsealing, one lost squall tossed January mauled.
Small, it is true, in time I became smaller still,
more than mindful of vultures gyring above,
tailored alone, until you finally find such clothes
suit well, fit the body snugly, separateness grows.
Tolerant of voices that speak in long gone tongues
wrapped within memory, while flesh withers slow,
but man-trapped feelings hard times have sealed
within eyes as streaked as yours today, my love.
The train pulls in, sixty years steam to a halt,
thinking back, lock those lost voices in vaults,
I had ridden storm blown scorn, knitted brow,
flung the painter, raised anchor, took the prow.
You’re taller now, quite reaching up to my chin,
mind strong, despite limpet hug and weak grin,
and your tousled head, soap scented, leans in,
notes my crumpled black mask in love slipping
from my nose. Those are boy’s tears, I suppose,
for a year is a long time in virus, build sorrows
in protein spikes, gouging hearts out of spite.
I can see in your look you think it isn’t right,
but I had eyes to see with once, just as bright,
before this dark suit of much beaten thin skin.
Threw kitbag on my shoulder, left to let it begin
that journey, spiralling out in arcs to meet you,
away, away, from harbours grim our boat flew,
so steady as she goes, bite your wobbling lip,
hard starboard on, noble boy, bring us midships
to set my course by your brave constant star,
til one bright future look back in healed scars.
For when, of fierce cold October frost, still lost,
I was passed lit cigarette and guardedly told
that soon I would have another heart to hold,
well, it never ends, stealing you with my arms
when first we met, your look a soul becalmed.
Cast off your grief, we should not be forlorn,
it is smiles, not tears, that should be worn,
look back from your futures, a day will dawn,
when having lost, I gladly pass this baton on.
Take it well, for such is the fate of Angels born.