Give yourself

every single day
permission to
be who you really are
think what you want to think
love who you love
hate those that need hating
forgive your parents for being poor
forgive yourself for the difficult bits of you
wear what you want to wear
fuck up when you do
cry
curse
scream
laugh at anything
care about the stuff you want to care about
say I don’t care when you want to
fail at being fashionable
liberate yourself
add to this list
just be
because
these are the permissions
you
we
give
every day
to everybody else

about the place

I can never return
you ask me why
& I can never tell you
when you hurt someone over
over again
it becomes less about the pain
more about the place
& can you ever understand
you were part of the shame
playing the game
all was good
that you need to ask
is part of the blame
putting everything on me
if I were to ask
how come you stay?
would be your struggle
my answer has to be
home is where the hurt is

pay rent

I woke up
in the deep black dark
fumbling in the ink
who’s bed was this?
who’s room?
wondering where I’d wound up
fragments of the night coming back
the relief of being home
flooding light into the gloom
an evening with people
not wanting to pay rent
waiting & listening
for others to spark the hours
starting off sipping
moving into drinking
hoping the boredom would lift
nobody had opinions on anything
in fear of raising offence
ideas had drained from these urbane
literate suburban high rise yoyo’s
looking for me to raise the bar
be the entertainment
& I remember wheeling
baying not your fucking clown
which made the statement false
all went down after that
when their polite faces
could not recognise
sincerity of my dislike
of their sauve mannered distances
sure they’d read Watts
understood to be in the now
but had failed to understand
that was a continuing instruction
rather than lines soiling the read once page
I was home safe again
a space beside me relieved
thankful I didn’t have to talk
I pushed my feet from the bed
reached for the pen
and

a good enough bottle of red

I said I had to go
just got up & left
got into my car & drove away
we’d dated a few times
tonight was dinner with friends
her best friends
who’d seen her through
I’d spent the afternoon with her
cooking a stroganoff
all pleasant enough
there was a good enough bottle of red
some gentle conversation
about nothing much
& somewhere in the middle of this
I looked up
a vague reflection in the tv
placed across a corner in the room
& it woke me
a jolt to the head
caught sight of the room
the décor
the guests
the drapes that matched the sofa
the realisation I was not in home waters
hit me like a plush bear wrapped
around an iron bar
this would be the future
if I stayed any longer
I got up
apologised
said I had to go
got in my car & drove away
you’ll say I was cruel
unkind
a terrible person to do that
you were not there
saw what was in the reflection
of that tv
catty corner across room
what would happen if I stayed

I used ter

I used ter’ave one of these
he mumbles
as he stands over my bike
note
he doesn’t say model
year or when
he’s all tribal tattoos
arms
half shaven head
soft shoes & clothing
thankfully he doesn’t ask
to sit on it
he’s joined by his baby momma
same soft clothes n shoes
forcing a burger in with both hands
he gets wistful now
remember me when I had?
nods at my bike
before the kids
when I was working at X
good money those days eh?
any grief I had with him gone
I’ve known those stark choices
thankfully I made other
he nods again
have a good ride mate
& is gone
& you wonder

I got asked

what does your naiveté do for you?
well, I guess
it saves me from cynicism
I know only too well
how people do the shitty stuff
steal, rob, maim & kill
without skipping a heartbeat
get in the way of the next person
needing a cigarette
a stiff drink
getting home
or to work
& they will mow you down
on their way to me, me, me
you see?
I can do cynicism
but to do that every day
would make anyone a killer
just be thankful
I wish the best from everyone
& you are not in my way

The second time I felt peace

Navy training
over a thousand young men, boys
cooped up except for weekends
never a moment to yourself
in a whirlpool of sex frustration
ego, hormones
mixed with beatings of each other
for the slightest, trivial offence
that energy had to go somewhere
I was volunteered to go clean
shithouse duty
the changing rooms
of visiting football teams
locked me in
with a mop & a broom
y’got half an hour
make it spotless son
I sat for a while
smoked a cigarette
surveyed my kingdom
swung that broom
slipped the mop wall to wall
no noise not a note
‘cept the slop of that mop
me & my breathing
as I watched it dry
that easy afternoon
I think I nodded off
for a minute two
until he unlocked the door
looked in said: that’ll do
sorry I forgot about you
can you do this next week
again?

a better night

One time I quit you
laying on a hot bed in Paris
you didn’t want to walk
anymore
everything was wrong
the city was much too hot
you didn’t have the money
to sit in a street bar & stare
& the booze we kept cool
in the bidet was all gone
you were throwing things
a baguette sailed over my head
out of the seventh floor window
it was time to go
about time I let go
& you said c’mon babe
take me out for a drink
we went out in the sticky streets
sat at the back of a long bar
under the neon close by the ac
counting the minutes until
thinking of sartre’s hell is others
your good mood had returned
I was losing my mind over you
wanting to run to the hills
knowing deep you were no good
hating only me in this love for you
the minutes ticked on
you needed cigarettes
turned on the charm
as I bought camels from the machine
lets find the flea market
find something for home
the drink was kicking in
a couple more
& we’d buy bottles for the bidet
this would be a better night

That’s 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.

thirteen

The first time I felt peace
I was thirteen
on a mountain top in wales
had hitchhiked a full day
only to go sixty miles or so
to be left on top of a mountain
as the night began closing in
I had nowhere to go but stop
or walk the long winding road down
in the dark
I stopped
lay down behind a thick stone wall
as cover from a light breeze
& watched as the stars multiplied
as the night grew into black
occasionally a car would pass
on the other side of my wall
as I settled into my grassy nook
that & the sometimes call of an owl
were all the sounds I had
as the moon came to arc across the sky
I knew nothing of what the next day
might bring, much as I’d not known today
I lay looking into the stars & dark
then slept until the sun warmed me
invaded my eyes
I wanted to stay
to do this all over again
to be held by the mountain
against the night
I was thirteen
had finally found peace