abduction

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panic in the ragged edges
of her voice, calling
a child’s name into
the twilight.

guilt rising hot and acrid,
instant heartburn,
churning her stomach
with a wooden paddle
of speculation.

her breathing serrated
by apprehension,
imagination supplying
every gruesome
possible outcome.

the inevitable
parental press appeal
cliché of TV dramas
dries her throat
and drains her will.

she all the time,
against her will,
visualises the pathos,
the poignancy
of a tiny white coffin
lowered into the earth.

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privilege

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she reclines
like an heiress,
all lissom limbs
and condescension,
accustomed to
chaises-longues
and long hours of leisure
as absolute as dogma.
martinis at cocktail hour
leave her languid and sultry
as an indolent
indian summer,
a 1950s post meridiem.

‘if your heart is a flame burning brightly’

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posthumous praise pours out
with all the bittersweetness
of too little too late,
a cascade leaden with regret,
a familiar call and response,
the side effect of death is appreciation.

now the solar flares
of overdue recognition
burst from every page and screen,
scalding you with their importunity,
obituary, tribute, overview, résumé.

resentment stirs for
the bandwagon jumpers,
their feet still trailing
in the dusty wake
of a beleaguered talent.
the johnny come latelys who
bask belatedly in the reflected glory.

daring to claim him now,
prepared to be generous

now he’s in the grave
and no longer the thorn

in the side of the establishment,
they gladly cut him the slack
so rarely afforded him alive.chanspicofgrant

I hold a long island
iced tea party in my head.
I do this in remembrance
of grant at first avenue.

 

Picture of Grant by Chantal Latchford

diminishing returns

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OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

once upon a time
my happy ever afters
hitched their wagons
to someone else’s star.
my possibilities shrank,
dreams gathered dust
on the cluttered sideboard.
my future narrowed,
narrowed, to the sights
of a gun, a circle of light
and colour in the far distance.
and I still have such a long way to go,
but on a rope bridge of uncertain strength
and to a destination less distinct.

unreconstructed

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old cameras

we put our past together
imperfectly,
from fragments we find
in envelopes with yellowed paste,
on the tops of wardrobes
and at the backs of drawers.

overloaded drawers that only open
if yanked at a certain angle,
and taken by surprise, whose bottoms
billow out into the cupboard below.

or in a schreiber blanket box,
with its unsatupon black vinyl seat,
long-term resident of the landing,
a sanctuary for half-finished garments
sewn for small children long grown up.

washed out 110 instamatic colour snaps,
faded as if by the hot 70s summer sun
they captured in blurry matte oblongs.
or square monochrome over-exposed
polaroids, the nearest we came to magic,
as we posed awkwardly,
clutching our own elbows,
in front of the french windows.

blanket box

letters from our neighbours,
witnesses who took an interest
in our welfare, postcards
from our younger selves,
cheery messages from foreign parts,
birthday cards from long-lost friends.

we reassemble our lives as they once were.
but they are jigsaws with missing pieces –
the edges of a cloud, the arrowhead tip
of a church spire, the verdant heart of a tree.
they will always be insoluble and incomplete,
vital clues absent or jumbled,
astray in the thickets of memory.

 

Incidentally found out the camera on the left is still halfway through a film …

death and the musician

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hearing a certain song now
resonates inside your heart
as if it really held strings;
and your eyes begin to leak the grief
that is drowning you by degrees.
your record collection
a roll call of the dead.

it carries the same unexpected pathos
as the accidental discovery
of something banal or mundane
– a note to the milkman,
for ‘one extra pint, please’,

 a recipe or an address –
in the handwriting of
a deceased parent, so
grant et al
 familiar and now so seldom   seen.
they will never put pen to
paper again.