Scan

The flowers are rotted in the vase
the table unset and bare
the candles long snuffed of light and warmth
the music is silent and the needle off the record
the words unspoken drift as smoke in the air
as ephemeral as my endless cigarettes
or my haunted dreams
I whisper them to the shrouded stillness
unheard, unread, misbegotten
drawn deep of smoke and mirror
a looking-glass reflection of calcified eyes

Slog

My hands are clenched in icy blocks
in the predawn rain, treading old paths and byways
a cigarette dangles loose from my blued lips
and smoke wisps in the frigid air like a departed soul
I am 140 pounds clothed and soaked
and the gusts cut deep to my bones
where the flesh has melted away
I am a shadow of myself, but my shadow no longer tracks me
on this darkened road
My hair drips wet down my face, washing away
traces of the morning battlefield
feeling like the thin white duke on desolation row
destitute of meaning under drizzled sky
My pace is random, I light another smoke
a cough, an indrawn breath of wet smoke and cold air
searing at lungs still expanding and contracting
in autonomic regularity
My heart a drum of arbitrary beat
giving rhythm to a wordless song
words rush through my seething mind
more torrential than the downpour in which my feet march
I will forget them all before I get home
washed away by the rain I leak or that falling deluge
I want to float away in the icy waters of the swift creek
to be absolved of my sins or responsibilities
to forget forever the numbing agonies
and delighted ecstasies of a world gone awry
A fresh cigarette finds its way to my trembling lips
I turn and trudge for home

Fragments 0.9

I’ve turned off the heat and the cooker
just made another hole in my belt
the 4th since that day
I’ve given away so many things
but kept your pictures on the wall
and the declaration you made
pinned to the fridge
with magnets and despair
cancer comes on fast and I wonder
if I can hasten it


My dog has sad eyes
as he looks at me
with understanding and empathy


I kept all the things I bought
for your birthday
an unexpected interruption
or a final heave to heaven


You’ll inherit all this, the mess and the random
with some surprise I suppose


Kisses and wishes and all of your lies
memories of breast and of thigh
forgotten with my welcomed demise


Condemning yourself to the romance of
a sodden paper bag
seems a strange way to live


I no longer have fresh flowers
that were always there for you
flowers die, decay is life’s revenge


If there were gods or mercy I would be
long gone from this and from your thoughts
if I was ever there


I’m kicking everyone out of my life
with disregard or callousness
I’m sure you remember how that works
you’re a master at it


Finally alone, unloved, unwanted
the forgetfulness I craved
the emptiness of sorrow
the raven scream of relinquished blood


We start and end in loneliness
and everything in between is lies and deception


Simmer

I looked in the dead of night
for the dead in the night
and found under the bed
the monster I knew was waiting
with slashing talons and fangs of rotted steel
wearing my face in stretched mask
slipping into my skin as his own
in ecstatic agony of form and function
They’re mine – those ghosts and revenants –
and I shoulder their disdain and the hate
as a burden to bear
one of them is you, still beautiful
still chanting a plainsong of love
though your eyes are cold and damning
The monster sees through my eyes
and through my soul
brute and miscreated miscreant
savage as some rabid fiend though I fight
to keep him at bay
It was easy when — in our brief time —
you banished him with a word
or a glance or a smile
He has many names, this degenerate demon
self-loathing, despair, doubt, anguish and rage
desperation and misery and wretched torment
He forces on me the blame for all eventualities
and seethes at the edge of my existence
in endless turbulent fury

Borderline

Today is the best day of the rest of my life
and today is a nightmare
the worst I’ve ever had
emotional overload and agony of spirit
it’s worse than yesterday or the day before
and tomorrow will be worse again
all the skills I learned useless against this onslaught
I no longer care to try for anything
more than this, and soon that too will be gone
I cry at everything now, each television show or errant thought
a reminder and a damning indictment
and all my worst fears are true and real
abandoned and alone in spite of love and your promises
I’m self-medicating my way into
oblivion and the void you left behind
and no amount of mindfulness or distress tolerance
is working anymore
the inevitable end will be a blessing
for me and I think for you
you must wish me dead and gone, a forgotten chapter
in your life

Souvenir

I looked in the place, where the gifts still sit
ungiven on your birthday some seventy-two days past
I wept great sobs into that empty room
and fell to the floor, foetal and shivering
I though of how I had imagined
your smile and your joy, and how that brought me such
a lift in my heart.
I looked at them there, and at the unopened card
romantic and sexy and practical and sweet
and all carefully chosen
because I know you so well, or thought that I did
I lay there, keening your name in desolate gasps
and remembered how we fell
into breath-taking love and the promises we made
and how in the blink of an eye you forgot
and abandoned. And I remembered stolen
moments and Christmas and how you told me
you needed me. Your name is an invocation
on my lips now, but it always was. A heartfelt prayer
that only you could hear.
This is my life, tears and grieving and sorrow
sleepless nightmares and daytime terrors
The gifts still sit, ungiven and forlorn
unwanted and undesired, taking space
that should have been yours
keeping company with me
into dissolution

Count

Three months by the date
these ninety-two days
gnawing like underfed rats at my soul
each one a reflection of the one before
but worse and more desolate
than any preceding
and I remember the last words you said
as you looked me in the eye
told me you loved me
and smiled in that way that
made my world complete
in this time I have thrashed and flailed
against your merciless onslaught
of callous indifference
and for that I am sorry
Thirteen long weeks
my face a rictus in the mirror
of hollow cheeks and sunken eyes
my mind an abandoned battlefield
of lost dreams and beleaguered hope
all of which are worse
with every passing hour
all I do is miss you
and I miss your dog – and our walks
I miss your smile and your laugh
and your body and your kiss
I miss talking and your head on my shoulder
I miss the butterflies in my stomach
every time I saw you
that sense of love and peace and desire
and how you made every little thing
in my life so bright and filled with joy
in your presence the depths of winter
gave way to the promise of spring
and the darkness of night to the dawn
Now the skin hangs from my bones
and the bags under my eyes hang dark —
heavy against my sallow visage
Rudderless and listless in a sea
of lonely longing, I am adrift
my only lost hope the shelter of your shore

Song 0.5

Waking each day, each in in its own way
a darkness that never ends
you stare at the light, and it seems far too bright
illuminates what you couldn’t defend
desperate times call for desperate means
raise a glass to your spirits and ghosts
your living has left you split at the seams
as you stand up to offer the toast

You pace through the halls, and stare at the walls
remember her hand on the knife
barely able to walk, you’re reduced to a crawl
and the memories of a wasted life
it all seems to stop, as you count the cost
on your fingers and in your head
nothing was gained, everything lost
there are only the tears that you shed

There is nothing left inside with meaning, hope, or joy
set down, discarded, like a child’s unwanted toy
left tied and chained as an anonymous whipping boy
this is the future
this is your fate
no more the suitor
penitent for her to excommunicate

Waiting each dawn, before the night’s gone
for all dreams to enduringly cease
the sun hits the lawn, and daybreak is drawn
on a face that can never see peace
mouth open wide as you scream to the sky
a silent refrain from your bed
and in your futile voice, you think of the choice
and the very last words that she said

This is the future
this is your fate
no more the suitor
penitent for her to excommunicate

Note: I rather like this although it needs some polishing. I have the keyboard party mostly written. I am hugely indebted to the lyricism of Roger Waters in this piece — a conscious acknowledgement of his influence on me as a writer

Room

There’s a place under my desk where my dog sits at my feet
in the cool of the morning before the heat sets in
before the lights go out and the fear takes hold
beneath my keyboard — lit pink in her favourite colour
beneath my chair and the half-smoked pack of cheap cigarettes
It’s a place that exists only before the day aggravates the damage
before the self-medication and impairment that comes
before the descent into degenerate disintegration
There’s a small amplifier perched brooding and boxy beside me
a pair of guitars waiting for the inspiration to come
when songs form and lyrics weep in visions of the hell
that resides ever in my heart and my mind
blood splattered words and minor chords all
riven through with the weight of tortured heart
There’s a stone in my stomach and a rock on my chest
tattered breath and bloodshot eyes forcing mangled words
from my tormented brain in great gasps of existential abhorrence
my dog sits, my keyboard glows, my guitars wait
and the cold sweat takes me deeper

Song 0.4

Born beneath the steeple and raised up in the shack
Played out on the street on the dusty tarmac
In winter the old chimney would mutter and crack
Our faces smeared with soot like a panic attack

The people in the church would bold and loudly pray
Sneer at us across the street and in the alleyway
Grew into a man despite the jeers and the dismay
Found work as a carpenter and so I plied my trade

And the river is rising
The wind reeks of blood
The hanging tree bows
As you’re dragged through the mud
Cut sideways and upwards
Through flower and bud
But the wounds that cut most
Are those fashioned from love

Made good and met a pretty girl – built a house and fenced the yard
Found and then lost on the turn of a card
Life was never easy, oh lord but it was hard
The hatred of the townsfolk left us always on our guard

My wife was so pretty and so kind and so sweet
The whisperers said she should do better than me
Fingers point in our direction in the stores and on the street
Thinking they were more than us in all of their conceit

And the river is rising
The wind reeks of blood
The hanging tree bows
As you’re dragged through the mud
Cut sideways and upwards
Through flower and bud
But the wounds that cut most
Are those fashioned from love

They came for us one evening in the sleet and the snow
Screamed we didn’t quite fit in and their screaming turned to blows
Then they lit the fires and our house was aglow
And they took down my pretty wife and left her for the crows

Many hours later I came back around
Heard the fire still crackling such an awful sound
Wept at what had happened but now I’m honour bound
To seek revenge on all in this terrible town

And the river is rising
The wind reeks of blood
The hanging tree bows
As you’re dragged through the mud
Cut sideways and upwards
Through flower and bud
But the wounds that cut most
Are those fashioned from love

I’m seeking my revenge so bitter and strong
Nothing but this hate to keep my heart strong
Stand up the threat of the menacing throng
Ain’t nothing but a spectator to my own song

I love her now as I loved her then
Ain’t nothing left inside in this sorrowed glen
I’ll let you die running, count to ten
Basted in angels blood, bands of men

And the river is rising
The wind reeks of blood
The hanging tree bows
As you’re dragged through the mud
Cut sideways and upwards
Through flower and bud
But the wounds that cut most
Are those fashioned from love