Autumnal

 

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Autumnal

Skeletal rattle of autumn trees their crisp,
leaves fallen beneath barren branches.
Rat-a-tat rap of dead bone music dries out
flowers, shakes seed pods. Summer’s end
yammers its ruby-sweet, rose-tinted world
where petalled hope and October carnival,
with its ghoulish goulash, mish-mash mix
far-fetched mismatched face. Gruesome
uniforms, fairy-faced, gauze-winged, facile.

Cadaverous danse macabre of death mask
clowns posing distorted in a hall of mirrors
for selfies. The drowned moon needs a kiss
of life. Last night, she peeped through my
window and nuzzled me. This morning my
head is full of mystery, poetry, and dreams.
I analyse them. None of them make sense.

Bubbles

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Bubbles

Count them. Each day she was here, a bubble. Little did I know as I saw them floating in the sun across the porch against a background of leafy trees that they would so soon burst and vanish, one by one.

Lost now, her voice, gone her footsteps from the stairs, no more the scrape of her chair as she climbs up beside me, calling my name. When I wake in the morning, I wait for her joyful call. How she loved to bounce on my bed. Knees up, but no Mother Brown this, just my grand-daughter, four years old.

And now she is gone.

Last Day of Summer

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Last Day of Summer

Farewell, sweet hollyhock, you served us well. Your beauty lingered long after the warmth was done. At your best, forty, fifty magnificent blossoms.

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But now your dried seeds rattle in the wind. You will follow the sunflowers into winter’s dark. Poor sunflowers, all have departed, even the one that greeted us from his pot at the garage door …

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devoured by a chipmunk whose bulging cheeks and sleight of eye tell  of a late summer harvest gathered and stored.

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Shower (A Selfie)

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Shower
(A Selfie)

I smell. I whiff. I gloriously stink.
My arms, my feet, my crotch, reek with beauty.
This is me. I am still alive. I’m rank.
The time has come, the Walrus said, to take
a shower. I strip. I weigh. I obey.

Hot water streams. Bathroom steams up. I draw
faces on grey glass, smiling, glum. Soft soap
works its miracle turning Japanese
nylon into a rough body cloth that
rubs and cajoles all putrid dirt away.

Butterfly from its chrysalis, I step
from the shower, sniff with caution, and stench
no more. I am clean. I no longer pong.
My body has been taken over by
perfumes no longer mine. Who am I now?

I am no more myself. I am no more
my own gorgeous underarm muscular
ripeness. I have left my odor circling
in the soap suds and drifting down the drain.
What a pain. It will take me a week or
more to start smelling like myself again.

Comment: The cartoon is today’s effort. I looked out of the window and saw all the garden plants with ‘no particular place to go’ and that’s how it is sometimes, especially at this time of year, the summer behind, us fall present , and the winter ahead. We are left with the tiding up, the readying for next year, a sense of sorrow, and a feeling of hope that yes, the garden will return and yes, we will be here to witness it.

So, what are the figures in my cartoon saying to each other? Well, they have been reading the wise words of my olde friend, Oscar Wilde. “Be yourself,” he told them, ” everybody else is taken.” What are they you ask? They are themselves, as I am myself, and you are yourself, and yes, I am very happy to be who I am. And of course, everybody else is taken, so who and what is there left for us to be?

On the outside

 

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On the Outside Looking In …

I walked home on my own. As usual. I’d hated the church Christmas party with all its trumped-up noise, childish games, and artificial gaiety.
The priest, formidable yet effeminate in his long black skirted robe, had made us sit in a circle on the floor, legs crossed. He stood inside that circle and placed a bar of chocolate on the wooden boards. Then he walked around the group and whispered a word in each boy’s ear.
“You must wait until you hear your secret word,” he explained. “Then one of you, when I speak that word, whoever it happens to be, may have the chocolate bar,” he stared at us, large, horsey teeth, black no hair, eyes golden, fierce, like an eagle’s, beneath bushy eye-brows. “When you hear your secret name, you must run and grab the chocolate bar. Understood?”
I had come to the party on my own as both my parents worked. The mums and dads who had brought their offspring to the party leaned forward in keen anticipation. The boys all nodded.
“Are you ready?” The priest watched us as we nodded and then he shouted “Alligator!”
Nobody moved.
“Elephant!” The boys shuffled forward, like inch worms, hands twitching, fingers flexing and grasping.
“Tiger!” A sigh emerged from multiple mouths. Some of the boys licked their lips.
“Lion!” One boy moved, but the priest shooed him away. “Sit down. That wasn’t your word.”
“M-m-mouse!” The boys heaved, a sea-wave about to crest and break.
“I do love this game,” said the priest to the parents. “And so do the boys, don’t you boys?”
“Yes, father …” came the chorus.
“Monkey!” All the boys, except one, leapt into springy action. They dived, crawled, leaped to their feet, ran … a surging heap of boys writhed on the floor as the chocolate bar was torn apart and the long-awaited fights ensued.
All the boys moved, except me. I just sat there.         “I said ‘Monkey,’” the priest frowned at me. “That’s your word. When I say ‘Monkey’, you join in with the other boys and fight for the chocolate bar.”
I shook my head.
“Have some Christmas fun. Join in the game.”
I again shook my head.
“Why not?”
“It’s not right. You’re just mocking us.  I want to go home,” I stood up and walked out of the church hall. I turned at the door and saw the priest glaring at me while a mound of boys continued to scrummage on the floor.
As I walked home, it started to snow. Not the pure white fluffy snow of a Merry Christmas, but the dodgy, slippery mixture of rain, snow, and ice pellets that turned the streets of that little seaside town into an ice rink. I turned up the collar of my coat, bowed my head, and stuffed my hands into my pockets. Two houses before my own, I stopped.
A neighbor’s house. With a window lit up in the gathering dark. I drew closer, pressed my nose against the window and looked in. A Christmas tree, decorated with lights, candles, more decorations, a fire burning on the hearth, two cats curled up warm before the fire, presents beneath the tree, stockings hanging from the mantelpiece. For a moment, my heart unfroze and I felt the spirit of Christmas. Then I thought of my own house. Cold and drafty. No lights, no decorations. No fire. The snowball snuggled back into my chest and refused to melt.
When I got home, our house stood chill and empty. My parents were out at work and the fire had died. Nothing was ready for Christmas. I sat at the kitchen table, took out my colouring book and began to draw. When my mother came home, I showed her my drawing.
“Very nice,” she said, barely glancing at it.
“But mum, you haven’t really looked.”
She stared at the picture again. This time, she saw the Christmas tree and the lights, the cats and the candles, the decorations and the presents. But she never noticed the little boy standing outside the house in the falling sleet, peering in through the window.

Westbury White Horse

Chaos

Westbury White Horse

Winter in Somerset. No trains from Frome.
They sit in the engine sheds, boilers frozen.

Clare drives me to Westbury, in Wiltshire,
the neighboring county. She leaves me there

and I stand on a platform as white with snow
as Westbury White Horse towering above.

People arrive, flapping their arms, stamping
their feet, walking around trying to stay warm.

Finally, to shouts, cheers, and laughter, a train
arrives, its boiler successfully thawed. People

rush forward, open doors, claim their seats.
It’s a corridor, not a compartment train.

“Is this the eight-fifteen to Temple Meads?”
I ask the porter. “Nope,” he says. “That’ll

be arriving later.” “When?” “About ten
or eleven, I expect.” “What train is this?”

“Ah, now this is the six-thirty to Bristol.
Running about two hours late. Better be quick.

The guard’s waving his flag. She’s about to leave.”
I open a door, climb on the train.  All

the seats are taken. I stand in the corridor,
shivering, all the way to Temple Meads.

Red Face of Fall

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Fall

red leaves are multiplying on the maple trees
bright berries draw rings round the mountain ash

just one flower survives on the hollyhock
its blaze of glorious blooms lost with the bees
faded away to silence and dried seeds

hummingbirds have departed too and geese
gather in great gaggles on the grass feasting
before they take flight and soar to the south

I want to walk out and talk about their journey
but they waddle away and won’t let me get close

 

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