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The Price You Pay To Be Alive

May 21, 2017
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Bright shards scrape down the dawn wall
Splintering eyelids that seek only dark peace,
Soft sleep shaken neath its brittle pond,
Its broken surface slicing the skin
As you rise into stark reality’s cold air
That again you attempt to withhold.

Try again to dive below and swim away
Try, try again to ignore the body’s fresh aches
And the mind’s urgent thrashing
Flaying, until dead, cowering subconsciousness
As it releases its clinging, hurting tentacles.
Now you are fresh vomit, free until day crashes.

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Year Twenty-nine

April 2, 2017
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29 years today, Veronica and me.
We hitched our wagon to a shining dream,
Endured the jumping, bumping roads,
Held fast at winds that rocked our sides,
Each taking turns with firm-held reins
When at a climb the other baulked.
And still each day we greet as one
And each still evening share our song
To fill each other’s sorrowed moments
Up to the brim with steadfast love.
On as one, a trust in each secured
We’ll hold our hearts as long as we can breathe,


SJ – inked in parentheses

June 13, 2016
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Before the breeze arrived from the Azores
Before the blooms of Spring broke through the soil
She left. The sun too late to warm her bones,
Under Winter’s sullen canopy,
She inked her life in squared parentheses.

The weight of spiky granite in her head,
She stumbled often, grazing tenderness
From skin that wouldn’t shed no matter how
She longed to cast it into bygone years
Before the breeze arrived from the Azores.

And tears, empathic with the Holocaust.
And unjust faith in failed humanity.
Exquisitely, her faltered self-belief
Denied that academic mountain-top
Before the blooms of Spring broke through the soil.

Before the party and the burgeoning,
Before the Rosie age yet to arrive,
She left no packing done, no notice given
Unwilling, in her proper state of mind,
She left. The sun too late to warm her bones


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Earworms of Sammy Joe

February 11, 2016
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Earworms sometimes plague the normal day
Snippets from another time and place
Annoyingly embedded in our thoughts
Forcing out when thinking slows its pace
A melody in the amygdala
A hippocampus hip-hop on repeat
This one is an anthem ‘cross the world
Famous words that chime in with the beat
This one is familiar from somewhere
Eluding attribution to the mind
Quizzing friends and family is hard
It’s one that only Internet will find

But this one… this one rattles in my head
Not a tune that I could track and seek
This one is a voice I’ve often felt
Stroking the waves we breathe, in trough and peak
Here the nuances that strain to show
Internalised experience of another age
Boldly written in the margin’s rim
Hid beneath the folded, dog-eared page.
This voice has a timbre all its own
That nestles so obliquely in my brain
Attached to words, the master of us all,
Speaking of a joy, a laugh, a pain.

And when she heard her voice recordings back
“OMG! I sound so posh!”, she shouts.
Pasted in my mind, a comfort, rosie scene
Dining table craftwork, homework, grins, and pouts.
A thousand messages, social media bound
Have faded as the random tweets of birds.
However, I still hold, as do we all,
Those meanings and that love, once pressed in words
Friends have said they’ll never more again
Hear her words in her sound – sung or said
But I can hear her now – she does remain
Perpetually hiding in my head.

Lodged inside a chapel on a hill,
Dressed in wood and coloured out in white,
She wasn’t there to hear the sullen tones
In eulogy to what she was, or might
Have once become, had living saved her mind
And fixed the broken web that shaped her pains.
Intelligence wrapped in enslaving shroud,
She took herself away. Her shell remains
But briefly, as the teardrops on our cheeks
That wipe away in discard handkerchief.
But her voice in my memory still speaks –
In earworms she reminds me of my grief.


Painted Maybes

December 6, 2013
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Filling a book of futures with planned desires
Hopes are mounted like empty photographs
Whose pictures we supply,
a priori.
Each image, when it’s due, removed
And pasted in the book of me on the page of now
Painted with reality,
a posteriori
Time passes and each life moves on with its own pulse
Marking moments as the turn of chapters,
Marking moments as the flicking of pages
That fill the heart with recollections
Of joys and pains and the mind’s reflections.
And hope’s pictures unachieved gently rest as feathers in the book of fallen dreams.


Hating Her Life

April 29, 2012
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Waiting for life to begin
she sat picking at the rough edge
of the ruler, hating Maths;

sat in the window-seat in Chemistry
wrapping and unwrapping the litmus paper,
scraping the rubber tubing
with a painted fingernail,
hating Mr Thorsby;

sat sketching a fruit bowl in Art,
poking holes in the dog-eared corner,
hating Lakeland Pencils;

sat in the back row in History
filling in the o’s and the e’s in the chapter
on the Relief of Ladysmith,
hating South Africans;

sat in Geography contemplating
the pointlessness of oxbow lakes,
hating the school.

In Games she scored three goals
and brought her hockey stick
full in the face of Mandy Smith,
hating the stuck-up bitch!


Life Is Like… Chocolate

April 17, 2012
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Every day comes wrapped in foil or loosely packed in plastic trays
Eyelids, forced to greet the waking moment, seize upon the opening box
Some will push away the tempting sight and smell and crinkling sound

Or take the sweet of least resistance that they always take and will always
Some will baulk at such variety, hard decisions pondered on like rocks
That may be slippery, jagged against tender skin, or hiding underground

But some will savour each description, every sensual moulded shape to graze
Taste the joy of taste before a finger-touch, certainty of taste avoiding shocks
Smiling from a deep fulfilled perception radiating to the universe around


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