Free

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Free
Flash Fiction

            I am as free as my father was free. He was free to walk on his walker, as far as he could go down the street. Free to walk in the wind and the rain. Free to sit on his neighbor’s wall when his legs and back got tired. Free to sit there, although it was raining, until he had recovered his strength and energy. Free to get soaked so badly that he caught a cold. And the cold was free to turn into bronchitis and the bronchitis was free to turn into pneumonia and the pneumonia was free to perform its assassin’s work as it tried to kill him. But my father was still free and strong enough to call the doctor and the doctor was free enough to call at the house and visit my father and write him a prescription for an anti-biotic that would free his body from the pneumonia that was free to leave when its time was up and it felt ready to go. Pneumonia, the old man’s friend, they used to call it, sitting there, in my father’s lungs, muttering away to him, day after day, louder at night, and my father slowly getting stronger and the pneumonia growing weaker until one day it left and freed my father from his immediate ills. Then my father was free to get up or to stay in bed. Being a free man, he chose to stay in bed all day and to listen to the radio and to read a book and when he got bored with reading he just lay there and counted the lines on the wall “one, two, three…” and “one hundred and seventy five” he told me one day when I was free to visit him, “though I have lost count once or twice and have had to start again from the very beginning. And the sun gets up at 7:03, and strikes the third line at 7:53 … and goes around the wall 33 lines a minute; and leaves that third line from the right at a 3:15 …” And there he stayed, day after day. But he was free. And sometimes the home help came and sometimes she didn’t, for she too was as free as the birds in the garden. And sometimes she remembered to buy him some food and sometimes she didn’t. And she was free to come and go, free to remember or forget. And my father was free to mumble or complain or grumble, though he rarely did. And he was free to eat, so long as there was food in the house. But I went there I often saw that the cupboard was bare and my father had neither milk, nor eggs, nor bread nor cereal, nor tea nor butter. And all those people, those acquaintances, those friends, they too were as free as the sea-gulls in the sky. But to find the time to set my father free from the hunger and thirst he seemed predestined to freely suffer, they were never free enough for that, not even at Christmas.
Neither was I.

Bristol Temple Meads

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Bristol Temple Meads

Bristol Temple Meads

“Temple Meads, Temple Meads.”
Passengers on the platform shuffle
rearrange themselves to get closer
to opening carriage doors. Steam
hisses out from the engine in great
white and grey clouds. He gets out
asks a porter, “Is this Bristol Central?”
“No, son. This is Temple Meads.”
The young boy gets back on the train.

Next stop, Bath. “Is this Bristol?”
“No, son. This is Bath not Bristol.
You should have got off at the last stop.
You’ve over-run your ticket mate.
There’s a fine for that and you’ll have
to buy a new one to get back to Bristol.”

“But I asked them if it was Bristol Central
and they told me it wasn’t.” “Playing silly
buggers they was, son. Bristol Temple
Meads is Bristol Central, well, sort of.
And you’ll have to change platforms.
Go to the ticket office, over there, tell them
what happened, and maybe, just maybe,
they’ll let you take the next train for free.”

Commentary: Funny place, Bristol Temple Meads. I heard lots of funny things, all told in a West Country accent, or fluent Bristolese, while I was passing through there. Loved confusing passengers, they did, but more about that later. As for accents, well, the West Country accent and the Bristol accent are very different, but neither go well into prose, “coz, thee’ll never git a gurt big ‘ead like thine in a tiny l’il ‘at like this.” Thank you, the Wurzels. And as for reading and writing accents, click here.

Bristol Temple Meads
[Prose]

“Temple Meads, Temple Meads.”
The train slows, comes to a halt with a hissing of steam and a shuddering of brakes. Passengers waiting on the platform shuffle towards the edge of the platform, re-arranging themselves to get closer to opening carriage doors.

A young boy, not yet a teenager, gets out carrying his grand-father’s overlarge suitcase in his hand.
“Is this Bristol Central?” he asks a porter.
“No, son. This is Bristol Temple Meads.”
The young boy gets back on the train along with the other Bristol passengers who are travelling to Bath.

When he gets there, the young boy gets out of the train and again approaches a porter. “Is this Bristol?”
“No, son. This is Bath not Bristol. If you wanted to go to Bristol, you should have got off at the last stop.”
“But I asked if it was Bristol Central, and the porter told me it wasn’t. So I got back on the train.”
“Playing silly buggers he was, son. They’re like that in Bristle. Bristol Temple Meads is Bristol Central, well, sort of. He should have told you that.”
“What can I do now?”
“Well, you’ve over-run your ticket, mate. You’ll have to pay extra for coming on to Bath. And you’ll need a ticket to get back to Bristol. But it’s Temple Meads, mind. Don’t let them fool you again.”
“I won’t.”
“And you’ll have to change platforms. Tell you what, just go to the ticket office, over there, tell them what happened, just like you told me, and maybe, just maybe, they’ll take pity on you and let you take the next train for free.”

A question: Is the piece better in poetry or prose? Each version serves a different purpose, but I think the narrative rules. I’ll welcome any opinions you care to share.

 

Rhondda Fawr

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Rhondda Fawr

To be Welsh on the coalfield
is to speak the language of steel and coal,
with an accent that grates like anthracite ‑‑
no plum in the mouth for us; no polish,
just spit and phlegm that cut through dust and grit,
pit‑head elocution lessons hacked from the coal‑face.

We sing arias and deep, rolling hymns
that surge from suffering and the eternal longing
for a light that never shines underground
where we live our lives and no owners roam.

Here “gas” and “fall” mean violent death
and the creaking of the pine pit‑prop is a song‑bird
suddenly silent in its cage warning of danger
soon to be upon us…

… words and music stop in our throats
as up above us the sad crowds gather.

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Time-Spirits

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Time-Spirits

Zeitgeist

Zeitgeist is a concept from 18th- to 19th-century German philosophy, translated as “spirit of the age” or “spirit of the times”. It refers to an invisible agent or force dominating the characteristics of a given epoch.
Wikipedia

Those who cannot learn from history are doomed to repeat it.

“Plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose.”

Poems for troubled times.

Introduction

Our world finds itself in an incredible mess right now. Somehow, we have to sort it out. Images and metaphors tie past, present, and future together. We must pick our ways through the difficulties of these troubled times, as you must pick your way through the intricacies of these poems. Many of you will give up. Some of you, the chosen few, will make your way to the heart of each poem.

These poems are deliberately cryptic. Each one is a mind game I am playing with you. I do not underestimate you. I have placed clues throughout each poem and if you follow the clues you will arrive at many of the poem’s hidden meanings. Some poems are more difficult than others, their meaning more recondite. Others seem very straightforward, yet still contain secrets.

            This style of poetry has a long history going back to Anglo-Saxon riddles and way beyond, back into the mists of time. Luis de Góngora (1561-1627) and Francisco de Quevedo (1580-1645) specialized in similar forms of recondite poetry, often based on metaphor and the juego alusivo-elusivo, the game of alluding to something while eluding the act of saying what it is. Jorge Guillén (1893-1984) and Federico García Lorca (1898-1936) also played this game, as did Octavio Paz (1914-1998). In the works of all of these poets, the clues may rest in the poem or they may be found in a generic knowledge of the mythology of the poem’s exterior world.

             Always remember that “those who cannot learn from history are doomed to repeat it” (George Santayana). Otherwise expressed, in the words of T. S. Eliot: “Time present and time past / are both perhaps present in time future / and time future contained in time past” (Burnt Norton). The seeming anachronisms in these poems suggest that all time is ever-present and that each new day presents us with events that have already occurred on many occasions.

Commentary: The idea for Time-Spirits aka Zeitgeist was born around the kitchen table in Island View on Saturday, 22 December 2018, during a literary conversation between Gwen, Victor, and Roger. A poem at a time, one after another, grew from that table top chat. The result: 70 poems, not easy to read, deliberately difficult, that reflect our troubled times. My thanks to Geoff Slater, line-painter, who drew the cover picture: Robin Red in Claw and Breast, a symbol of nature ‘red in tooth and claw’. So are we in the words of Albert Camus who writes ‘nous sommes ou les meurtriers ou les victimes’ . Is it the early bird that catches the worm? Or is it the late worm that gets caught by the bird? Whichever: it’s the worm that gets eaten, until the robin bites the dust, when he is eaten in his turn. Just think of it as nature doing its regular recycling …

 

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Age of Spillage 2

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Age of Spillage 2

Fingers turn to butter, permit cups to slip,
flying saucers to take off, to stall and crash,

their broken bodies resting in peace and pieces
on kitchen floor, waiting to be picked up and buried.

Worse: bottle tops screwed up tight refuse to open.
Plastic wrapping, flagrant in its defiance,

wages its guerrilla war against ageing,
uncoordinated, arthritic fingers.

Tongue-twisters twist tongue, tones, and speech,
filling mouths with glottal stops and threadbare words.

The ribcage is a cupboard barren and bare.
So many slips between palate, teeth, and lips.

So many precious things dropping to the floor.
I cannot always bend and pick them up,
not even with my new mechanical claw.

Commentary:

A slight set of revisions to the earlier version. Any and all comments welcome.

https://rogermoorepoet.com/2018/07/23/age-of-spillage/

 

 

Russian Roulette

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Russian Roulette
(1789 & 1937 & 2019) 

trickster mind
bred in heaven’s
half-acre
gateway to counterpane
sleep-full forgetfulness

yesterday’s
visual banquet
bluebell primrose
clover and cowslip
gone all gone

cuckoo survives
emerges every hour
calls from cuckoo clock
skylarks lie buried
within vinyl grooves
no more to rise

lions tigers panthers
elephants rhinoceros
slipping off the ark
sliding into oblivion

soul’s dark night
empty the house
spun Noah’s wheel
no more bets
the stakes are set

space-ship earth
humanity’s house-boat
spins onward into what

wheel of fortune
onward she goes
where she’ll stop
nobody knows

Comment 1:
I am intrigued by the ideas in this poem. Sitting in the eye surgeon’s waiting room this morning, I watched a video on vanishing wild life. The result: I added some images to this poem and elaborated it a little bit more. There may be some twists to the cork-screw, some more spins of the gun’s roulette wheel. I am not sure that I am finished with this one yet.

Russian Roulette 2
(1789 & 1937 & 2019)

yesterday’s
visual banquet
bluebell primrose
clover and cowslip
gone all gone

cuckoo survives
emerges every hour
calls from cuckoo clock
skylarks lie buried
within vinyl grooves
no more to rise
unless the magician
waves his wand

who loads the gun
points the pistol
pulls the trigger
fires at lions tigers
elephants leopards
pushing them off the ark
sliding them into oblivion

soul’s dark night
land’s desolation
all covered by rising seas
Noah spins his steering wheel
les jeux sont faits
rien ne va plus

space-ship earth
humanity’s house-boat
spins onward into what
a roulette wheel of fortune
onward she goes
where she’ll stop
nobody knows

Comment 2:
Told you I hadn’t finished with it. Here’s the next version. Great to live in a bilingual province. What a pity that so many people do not speak both official languages. If you have read this far, let me know which version you prefer. I am going for the one below, the latest edition.

Rushing Roulette
(1789 & 1936-39 & 2019)

yesterday’s
visual banquet
bluebell primrose
clover and cowslip
gone all gone

cuckoo survives
emerges every hour
calls from cuckoo clock
skylarks lie buried
within vinyl grooves
no more to rise
unless the magician
waves his wand

who loads the gun
points the pistol
pulls the trigger
fires at lions tigers
elephants leopards
pushing them off the ark
sliding them into oblivion

soul’s dark night
land’s desolation
all covered by rising seas
Noah spins his wheel
steering space-ship earth
humanity’s house-boat
onward into who knows what
a roulette wheel of fortune
onward she goes
where she’ll stop
nobody knows

messieurs et mesdames
les jeux sont faits

rien ne va plus

.

 

Dustbin Alley

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Dustbin Alley
(1789 AD)

all the dustbins
dancing down the street
trying to achieve
a spring time copulation
to create more dustbins

you can’t have a revolution
without dustbins
dustbin … dustbins … dirty
dusty dustbins

a sadistic way to look at
basket-bins full of sawdust
heading between potholes
wind-blown bins
a right St. Vitus’s Dance

him sitting next to me
knitting a new red cap
to place upon
the old dictionary
me standing
on Gibraltar’s Rock so fair
this square in Paris
Place de la Bastille
where tumbrils rattle
over cobbles

Old Moll in a Moll’s Cap
toothless fairy
at a Goblin Party
afraid of mushrooms
scared of toadstools
[sick]

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