thats the spirit…

Sometimes, things in life just cohere, come together. I’d been working in a hostel, sleeping there three nights a week, it was a caretaker role. Ten ‘til eight the next morning, keeping a watchful eye in case of fire, fights between residents and oppor-tunists who would try to take advantage of the vulnerable residents. A position of great but no powers. This isn’t about them.
I’d been there about seven years, starting in my student days where the quiet over-nights gave time to write essays and the dissertation. My room was a sparse twelve by eight, single bed, bedside locker, small wardrobe and a sink. And to emphasise its utility they kept the mops and vacuum cleaners in there too.
In the latter years I’d had disturbed nights, waking to my room full of smoke that dis-appeared as I blinked myself awake. Slight sounds of crying that too evaporated as I woke and sought where they came from. These I accepted as single incidents until the night I heard a voice.
The voice was low, a murmur against the night: ‘I want my daughter, I don’t know where she is, please help’ and that put the willies in me, now, today, I feel a shiver, like I did back then. I was more than a bit scared. I got out of bed, put my pants on, checked the corridors: nothing. Went back to bed. I didn’t hear the voice until a few weeks later, the same message, sounds of crying and would wake up, put the light on and it would be gone. I didn’t tell my work colleagues, thinking that they may think me worthy of medication.
The coming together was with one of my students-I’d gone from being the student to teaching. Derek was a great oddball, a flaming haired torrent of odd ideas and plati-tudes, he’d always be at the centre of discussions on life, its meanings and what it all meant. He was a spiritualist who held the notion that all religions held but a splinter of the original diamond that was the truth. He was great fun but you wouldn’t want to be alone with him in the kitchen at a party.
Eventually I told him of the events at my hostel. He offered to bring his posse to try to help, I mulled this over, knowing my employers would not appreciate such a group visit, so he suggested I try to respond to the voice. She spoke again some nights later, so I asked her what she wanted and she cried more, saying she’d lost her daughter in the war and did not know how to find her. It is an odd feeling, in the middle of the night, talking to the air, not knowing if you are indeed quite mad, hear-ing a disembodied voice from 50+ years ago telling tales of the war and death. I needed help.
Derek and his odd friends arrived late one night-I felt I had to ensure all residents would be unaware of this visit and not just to be sure my employers would not find out.
They sat in a circle of five as I sat on my bed observing. They settled themselves and then began offering to help. It took a while and then they called to her, called her to them, then called her to the light. It has become a cliché now, the calling to the light, but in that moment, I understood that her journey was incomplete and she needed to move on. It was odd, I was observer and involved, apart yet immersed and as they called her, I suddenly felt her pass through me and into their circle and then…gone.
They sat a while longer. We talked, I gave them my thanks and they gave theirs to me for giving them chance to help a lost wandering soul. After that there were no more disturbances, no more smoke, voices or restless feelings. Derek offered me a space in his group, a place to develop my clair‘audience’ my ability to hear voices. I went to see if I did have something but seemed to have nothing, except at the end we sat and waited to see if we had any ‘messages’ for others in the group. I felt an urge to tell one woman that her house contract would fall through that the seller was not to be trusted. It meant nothing to her. Other oddments too fell on unwanted ears. Oh well eh?
The job at the hostel came to an end soon after that, I had a quiet leaving party until my colleague who slept there the nights I didn’t, told me of her disrupted nights, of sounds, lights and fear. How she hadn’t slept in that room for over a year. I felt a re-lief that It wasn’t just me and told her of Derek and his ghostbusters and that it was over. She hugged me, said thanks, she too feeling absolved of madness.
Later I told Derek of this and he looked at me oddly, ‘you still doubt?’ he said and shrugged to let me know that it was weirder to ignore this truth than holding conven-tional views.
‘By the way’ he later continued ‘you know your messages in that group? The ones that nobody could take? We met the following week and talked about them, you were about ninety degrees out on the people you gave them to!’ I never went back to that group, the need, the pull was not there, what happened next is another day, another story.

this mug is mine

this mug is mine

would you want to see
this older face
across the table in the a.m?
I recognise my charm
in the dark
between sheets
and your choice
in these things
at night
when we were excited
to do the bumpy thing
but now the heat is gone
its coffee and toast
will you want to see
this face again in the a.m
or will I be
another finger
in your lying memory
of lovers past.

what else?

What else is youth for?
laying out under the stars
staring into space
scaring yourself
at how insignificant you are
knowing that nothing
you can ever do, say
will alter
the firmament
much like
your life
in front of you
will hold no meaning
for anybody
else but you
or possibly
a tiny circle
that you will create
which is
the tiny parcel of sky
you see as you lie
in the long grass
late at night

i was at the bar

I was at the bar being morose
as usual
I had enough to get half a head on
and that was it
hoping a friend would drop in
make the night more interesting
I kept looking around
but no.
one look round
a woman caught my eye
I smiled back
not knowing who she was
but hey, impolite doesn’t get friends
she stepped up
I watched her
as the guy she was with
stepped out
‘so, who are you?’ she purred
I did a double take
‘me? Just a guy getting a drink’
‘I like you’ she said and smiled
wouldn’t take a drink
had brought hers over
‘I’d like to take you outside..
would you like to come with me?’
what about your man?
‘Oh, he’s just a friend, I don’t feel good
coming out on my own’
we finished our drinks
went outside
leaned against the wall
kissed a little bit
her hands wandered
‘come to the car, we can sit in the back’
she opened the door
the guy, her guy
was sat in the front
‘don’t mind him, he doesn’t care, he’s gay’
this didn’t work for me
I didn’t know what the gig was
but knew I wanted no part in it
and left
I was at the bar being morose
as usual
I had enough to get half a head on
the barman smiled, grinned
‘you back again?’
I ordered a beer
a friend dropped in
‘hi, hows you? anything new happening?
No I said
tipped back my beer
and winked at the barman
he knew his job
like I know mine.

things they say

You need to
mind your manners
respect your elders
learn some manners
shut up & listen
mind your own business
put others first
grow up
sit down & shut up
stop asking questions
be seen & not heard
pay attention
respect your elders
think before you act
take your hands out of your pockets
stop slouching
sit up straight
slow down before you crash
stop thinking like that

Some of us pay & pay

Some of us pay
& pay
I think I’ve paid
what they call dues
a runaway mother
obligatory absent family
teachers who knew
which kids they could pick on
cops who made
promotions by arranging
the evidence
who was I to complain
jobs that went nowhere
with bosses caring less
each day
where there were
more days
than money
some of you know these things
the blown tyre
with no cash to replace
no light
no heat
coats on beds for warmth
sitting in the library
hating on the rich
waiting for the bills
to stop coming in
toast again
at least it was a meal
cold ache in teeth
from the bitter

The Remains of Adolescence…

The difficulty of adolescence (-apart from the living through it-) are the vestiges or remains of the ego states that guided our thinking then and the parts of these get left behind to form our psyche as we move into maturity.
What we do or did as younger people profoundly affects us in later life; like all history, unless we learn from our experiences, we are doomed to repeat them.
Adolescence represents the link between childhood, where we were held responsible for few of our actions and where possibly too, we were not that effective in shaping our world.
In maturity we are held responsible for all our acts; whether conscious or unconscious. Adolescence then, is when the shift begins from irresponsibility to full responsibility, yet we are still allowed some laxity in trying out new behaviours, ways of being and ideas. Here I suggest that adolescence is informed or guided by three ego states or distortions in our thinking

The are three major ego states of adolescence:
1) Invincibility
2) Mythic life
3) Invisible Audience

Each of these ego states is primarily focussed during adolescence and echoes of them recur throughout our lives unless we are prepared to fully understand them, learn from them and move on. My intention here is to explore each in turn and to demonstrate how they can affect us or can continue to affect our lives.

1) Invincibility is the belief that as young people youth will always be ours; that we cannot or will not ever die. This feeling creates within us the ability to follow dangerous sports, to want to do newer possibly ever more dangerous things and to keep going when we face difficulties. The downside is that this creates the belief that excessive drink, drugs and dangerous activities are not life threatening; we are going to live forever and are able to push our minds and bodies to the limits without regard. It is only when we reach our physical or mental limits that we begin to recognise our personal boundaries. Unfortunately for some; this searching for boundary results in death. Generally for most of us we encounter our fear/s, have an accident, an injury or we simply grow out such pursuits. Our legacy then becomes happy memories of the exploits of our youth, enjoyment of the irresponsibility we could have then and at worst scars or injuries that create arthritic pains as we get older. If we do not reach or learn to respect our limits, we continue on to either hurt ourselves and/or others by our actions.
2) Mythic Life generates the belief that we will be rich and famous. Be celebrities; film, pop, sports or media stars; that we will be discovered as the wonders we are when singing karaoke, walking down the street or even playing guitar badly but with noise, passion and verve in the garage. The difficulty with this ego state is that it can allow us to do nothing, to kick back and wait because; ‘its going to happen anyway, right?’
These beliefs can unfortunately stop us from making the most important things happen that we need to build a career, to develop our athletic talents, our writing, singing or music playing skills.
At this point too, young lives appear full of omens, portents and signs that wondrous things are and will continue to happen in their lives. Our vision is clear; we are connecting on deeper more heroic and mythic levels than those older types playing it safe…and for some this will indeed come true, life will conspire to pluck them from obscurity and into fame. However, in maturity we recognise that for every example of this happening there are dozens more who have made their achievement through hard work, perseverance and developing their innate talents.
Also we recognise that If we do not ground ourselves by finding the depth, value and limits of our talents then we can become doomed to living in a fantasy world where one day we will ‘make it big’ and continue hanging on or waiting for that lucky day.
3) Invisible Audience is perhaps the Ego State we are most aware of and can or will consciously acknowledge, the others being more repressed or difficult to own. In this state, we become aware that from dawn ‘til dusk that the eyes of the world are upon us; we are continually assessed on (especially) our looks, our abilities and levels of ‘Coolness’
Beneficially this state helps us to make the best of ourselves, to begin to recognise that there is a wider world away from our own previously juvenile personal concerns. A world of different belief systems, of fashions, groups different or like ourselves. Where there may be a place, a niche, for us in this larger adult world. On the downside: this is when a pimple becomes a life or death matter. I’m not joking here as every year countless teenagers kill themselves because of their body image; having Acne, being too tall, too short, fat, thin, mediocre or the stress of being too popular. These can all contribute to teen suicide and we mock such feelings at their peril.
This invisible audience causes young people to dress provocatively; either to shock or seduce. As every eye is upon them they dress to make the most of that audience. This fuels fashions, trends, creates peer groups and creates alliances against the old order that ‘doesn’t understand. And we don’t; because either we forget about these deep feelings as we grew out of them or made them part of our emotional makeup.
In later life, the desire for thick net curtains or needing to keep all our personal affairs hidden ‘because the world is watching’ can be signs that this ego state still keeps a hold on us. As we mature emotionally we learn to recognise that in reality the world is watching only if we draw attention to ourselves in some way and that other people have their own more pressing concerns to attend to unless ours interrupt theirs.

In combination, these ego states can be lethal, by themselves, they can distort our thinking for good or ill and if we are not aware of them they can remain with us into our later lives: As adults we may hide behind a ‘front’ developed in adolescence; the hard man, the drinker, the smoker, toker or junkie. The flirt, the tease, the risk taker, the wannabe rock star or celeb.
I’m not saying that after adolescence we should give up our ambitions nor should we abandon our dreams. What I want to say is: that we may be discovered as the wonderful people we are. But that unless we have put effort in to write, learn to play or develop our skills, that when opportunity arises we will have nothing behind the façade to continue building a career upon and that this is more mature thought.
Conversely if our dreams are shattered in our teens then depression can become an option; a retreat into smallness…’its only me, insignificant, nobody, nothing little old me’ and this place eventually is just as debilitating as that of excess. Both extremes being built by distorted thinking and each driven by not being comfortable with who we really are. And this is the key; if we can grow and recognise that Death will come to us. That a Mythic Life can be ours if we build the skills and put in the time and effort needed to accomplish great things, that the world is not our Audience and not watching our every move and judging us; but this we do to ourselves.

He’s a Satanist now

I knew him as a young man
full of ideas
he wrote
played in a band
and lived, man
he fucking lived.
We’ve met over the years
and I remember
the detail
his loves
the drinking years
yellow of hep
bands that stopped calling
lost track of him for a decade
until we meet again
in that old street our feet know
and he was gone
no memory of our conversations
between the years
so told newer stories
to fit this new audience
wanting to give out the best
rather than the holes
in his fading raincoat
he’s a Satanist now
and has forgotten
it was his truth
that held him as friend


has been done
Breathing sweetly on my neck
I have met the dead.
their concerns
are different
but much the same
except that of
food, drink, sex and cigarettes
perhaps that’s because
these things
got them
to where they are


She was proud
I drove in to the car park
sat for a while
and listened
she was upset about something
something I’d done
not done
not thought of
had thought of.
We got out and walked to the bar
and she struck
across the back of my head
got hold of my long hair
pulled it
pulled me
to the ground
while pulling
my head
then it was done.
She walked
into the bar
calling: ‘c’mon’
she was proud
people in there
had watched
and they sniggered
as I bought beers
for us.
I took her home after that
tried to never see her again
her grip on me was failing
I knew my grip on her was gone.