Thursday, 21 April 2016

Suicide attempt

Today, an ambulance passed me at the traffic lights,
lights flashing, and I remembered how
we followed the ambulance through every set of lights,
down the Stratford Road,
past Lipton's Grocery and the fish shop,
past The Antelope,
down the hill and past The Mermaid,
leaving the ABC on our right
(where we sometimes queued on a Saturday)
then left onto the number 8 route and past the bus terminus.
I knew things were bad, they must be bad,
us driving through red light after red light,
my dad gripping the steering wheel,
not speaking, not a word.
Through the lights on the Ladypool Road,
through the next set on Moseley Road,
then the long straight stretch downhill and up again,
and into the Accident Hospital.
The ambulance already there,
and my mother lifted out, tied tight to the stretcher.
The boys, white faced, beside her.
A long day of waiting. Sun shining. Dust.
Fish swimming in a tank.
Nobody saying anything. Nobody saying a word.
Endless day, and boredom,
watching the fish swim round and round.
Eventually, a two minute visit,
mother sitting up in bed. Tubes? I think so.
Bloodshot eyes. Everything brittle.
A long drive home, no red lights.
Nobody saying a word.
The sun still shining, and our swimming things
in a heap by the door.

Won't you celebrate with me

Won't you celebrate with me
My chickens are sleeping happily in the garden,
My grandson is sitting by the pond, looking at tadpoles,
My son is playing football wearing a poncho,
My daughter will soon be home from school with my
other daughter who was offered a job today,
And my other son got something published in the Galway Review.
Won't you celebrate with me,
The sun is shining, Victoria Woods died today,
and life is far too short, too precious,
to not celebrate

Monday, 11 April 2016

Cycling to school

On mornings like this, I'd cycle to school. Take the bike out the hall and over the concrete slabbed patio, and left up Ivor Road. Past the dance hall. Mist hanging low and muffling all sound. Down the hill and over Stoney Lane, then through Balsall Heath, the red light district, silent now in the morning mist, few cars, fewer people. Past the playground, through the traffic lights, chip shop closed and fish and chip papers heavy on the pavement outside. Over the Moseley Road and past bigger houses now heading towards Cannon Hill Park. Through the park. This little bit of country in my morning. Past the lakes. Stop and sit on a bench, watch the geese. Compose myself between Sparkhill and Selly Oak. Back on the bike, out past the nature centre, up past Pebblemill Studios and onto the Bristol Road. Up the steep drive to the boys' school, past the swimming pool block and swing the bike into the garage under the art room. Up the steps. Lower sixth common room. Another day. Another day.

Sunday, 10 April 2016

Self Portrait

I am nothing. I am nowhere.
If I don't open my eyes,
I won't exist.
From my body,
invisible spiral cords
spin through the air
and connect me
to invisible ancestors.
Polish. Armenian. Hungarian.
Noble fighters. Starving refugees.
But I look in the mirror and see
grey hair, too many lines.
Unruly hair, an unruly face.
Too much grey, no spring to be seen,
no new buds evident.
Crowlines at the corners of my eyes.
Crowlines. Crowlands.
Too much, too much of everything.
Moving inexorably towards old age,
while trains cross vast distances, and
if I don't open my eyes, I won't exist.
Loose jowls, Polish jowls,
bringing me back to invisible threads,
and the ties that hold me
in the honourable,
in the heroic,
hold me in the stoic,
hold me as a survivor in this world,
a wanderer on this earth,
even as I plant and work to root.

At sixteen, I was lost, and
at twenty three I rooted myself
in bricks and mortar, but still,
if I don't open my eyes I won't exist.
On Saturdays, I take my son swimming and diving.
On weekdays, I wake early.
Make lunches and breakfasts.
Something different every day.
In my spare time, I write.
Sometimes I work late into the night
to catch up on myself.
I never catch up on myself.
Sometimes I drink wine to escape.
I walk the dog, not often enough.
I feed the chickens and collect the eggs.
My house is not as tidy as it should be.
My hair is not as tidy as it should be.
I pay back my debts. It's the
honourable thing to do.
My pleasures are in small things.
I'm unlikely now to see Columbia,
or the High Atlas Mountains, or Peru.
I long for a silent white room,
with windows that open out onto
a sunny garden, yet the life I create
is relentlessly busy.
I long for my own odyssey.
If I don't open my eyes, I won't exist.