Silence

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Silence

Our conversation today:
a sun baked Roman aqueduct
dried up, no water.

In the bathroom,
brown sacking hangs
ragged on leaking pipes.

Our words are lifeless kites,
earthbound,
too heavy to rise.

Each sentence fills
with wasted movements
of lips, tongue, jaws and teeth

Enormous
barbed wire barriers
have grown between us.

Words and thoughts
hang like washing
pegged out on a windless day.

Dead soldiers
gone over the top,
their uniforms flapping
on unbroken wire.

Losing It

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Losing It

When you lose it,
whatever it is,
your fingers pick at seams,
hankies, skirts, shirts, jeans,
or strip a label from a bottle,
or crumble bread, or …

There are so many things
you can do,
personal things.

On the table:
a vacant cereal bowl,
a silver teaspoon in a saucer,
an empty teacup
returning your round
moon-face stare.

Comment: I would like to thank everyone who joined in this discussion today (blog, e-mail, and Facebook). The poem transcribed above is the final version, subject to later consideration of course. Earlier versions, with selected comments, are set out below.

1

Losing It

When you lose it
whatever it is
your fingers pick at seams
hankies skirts shirts jeans
or strip a label from a bottle
or crumble bread or

there are so many things
you can do
personal things

on the table
a vacant cereal bowl
a silver teaspoon in a saucer
an empty teacup
returning your round moon stare

your hands
twist and pull
your nails
click together

blunt needles knit
then unpick stitches
trying to unravel
then to repair
this ball of empty air

 Comment: This is a Golden Oldie. It dates from the final illness and passing of my mother, thirty years ago next month. When I wrote it, I wasn’t punctuating my poetry. Nowadays, I prefer punctuation as it guides the reader in terms of the rhythm and flow of words. Leaving it exactly as I wrote it means you, as reader, have to wrestle with the meaning, the order, the pauses, the rhythm. My guess is that this over-complicates the poem. However, it was a difficult time, so the poetry I wrote at that time was also difficult. I will be interested in any comments on the following question: to punctuate or not to punctuate?

Comment from Judy: An out there idea: what if  for Losing it – you ended poem with first stanza?
Reply from Roger: What if, indeed? Then it would need a tweak or two, something like this: the poem changes, but does it gain or lose?

2

Losing It

blunt needles knit
then unpick stitches
trying to unravel
then to repair
this ball of empty air

your hands
twist and pull
your nails
click together

your fingers
pick at seams
hankies skirts shirts jeans
or strip a label from a bottle
or crumble bread or

there are so many things
you can do
personal things

on the table before you
a vacant cereal bowl
a silver teaspoon in a sauce

an empty teacup
returning
your round moon stare

Comment from Jan: Play it again, this time with punctuation. This time I have returned to Judy’s original suggestion, and just placed the last stanza first. Then I have punctuated the poem. Revision and re-creation time: this is fun! I punctuated the above version, then cut it down to the first poem published at the start of this article. Tank you all for the help.

Butterfly

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Butterfly

A butterfly
brushes against
my mother’s rose bush.

Pale and delicate,
much too frail to survive,
in this April wind,
he tears his wing
on a thorn.

The white of its shredding:
a sudden shriek,
blanched blood
drifting like snow.

“Why did you write those words?”
My mother’s voice
sounds in my head.
“Am I the butterfly?
Are you the echo of my cry?”

From this distance in time,
my mind bounces back and forth,
from image to image:
a stone skipped across
tranquil water.

Pictures pound through my head:
waves on the shoreline
where I scattered her ashes,
and every grain of sand
a grinding of small bones.

Mice

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Mice

“When the cat’s away, the mice …”
they said, with a knowing wink, but
there was no play and you left me
with an emptiness I couldn’t fill.

It was our daughter’s fourth birthday.
She and I baked a cake, though to tell
the truth, I did little more than watch
and all encouragement from the side
-lines. So competent, she was, I called
her ‘Mother Two’ when she told me to
do all the things she wanted me to do.

Her cake turned out fine. She used
a whole packet of icing sugar, layered
so thick there was more icing than cake.
It was just a bit liquid too, and we could
not be bothered to wait until it cooled.

Drinking hot tea, munching  a slice of
her birthday cake, I sang a line or two
of Happy Birthday and then fell silent
as I wondered what you would be doing.
Later, we fed tiny cake crumbs to the dogs
who sat there, begging, not wanting their
own food, drooling, missing you, just like us,
and all of us waiting for you to come home.

Jacuzzi

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Jacuzzi

Warm and safe,
womb waters whirling,
drifting me through time,
eyes closed, and space.

Amniotic, this liquid,
rocking me to the throb
of my mother’s heart.
I close my eyes.

The walls around me
open out to reveal
the sun by day,
the stars by night.

The full moon:
a golden circle
beaming down.

My mother’s face
hangs in space
above me

and me:
re-born.

Raw Poem:

I wrote this lying in the jacuzzi about an hour ago. It’s not just a raw poem, it’s a very raw poem. There’s something comforting about it, though, and I like the in and out of reality moments. It’s good to remember my mother, too, especially in the image of the full moon in all its plenitude and beauty.

“and me: re-born” — the small circle in the centre of the Mexican pottery mask is the symbol of the seed of the new born babe. The mask goes full circle, from birth, to beauty, to old age, and death … a full moon cycle.

Claustrophobia

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Claustrophobia

“I’ve got to get out of here.”
“Why?”
“I can’t breathe.”
“Where are we going?”
“Anywhere.”
“Are we going to Gran’s?”
“Why not? Yes. Pack your bag.”
“What about Dad?”
“What about him?”
“Aren’t you going to tell him where we’re going?”
“No.”
“Why not?”
“Because he doesn’t care. If he cared, he’d be here.”
“Maybe he’s had an accident?”
“He didn’t have one last night, or the night before. He just doesn’t care.”
“We can’t just go …”
“We can.”

She called a cab and when it came, they turned the lights out in the house, and shut the front door behind them. Then they got into the cab. The cabbie turned to her and spoke over his shoulder.

“Merry Christmas, and where would you be going, Ma’am?”
“The station.”
“Bus or train?”
“I don’t care. They’re both the same.”

The cabbie shrugged and pulled away from the kerb. The bus station was closer and that’s where the cabbie left them. Mother and son stood there for a moment, under the station lights, looking at the coaches that squatted there, parked in regular lines. Then, mother and son, they walked into the ticket office.

“What time does the next bus leave?”
“Where do you want to go?”
“Home.”
“Where’s home?”
“Swansea.”
“The next bus for Swansea leaves in twenty minutes.”
“We’ll take it.”
“Single or return?”
“Single. Two tickets.”
“You should buy a return ticket; it’s cheaper.”
“We’re not coming back. Not this time.”
“How old’s the boy?”
“Seven.”
“He can travel half price.”
“One and a half then, singles.”

It was December 23rd, her own mother’s birthday. Mother and son sat together on the dark, empty bus. The cold seats chilled them as they waited  in silence. The boy looked out the window and coughed.

“Will Grampy be there to meet us?”
“No.”
“Doesn’t he know we’re coming?”
“No.”
“Does granny know?”
“No.”
“Mum, why are we going?”
“It’s granny’s birthday today. We’re going to give her a surprise.”

Two hours later, the bus deposited them in Swansea. The night had filled with heavy clouds and promised snow.

“Can we take a cab. mum?”
“There’s none here. We’ll have to walk.”

They walked side by side down the well-known streets. Christmas lights adorned the shops and they walked through alternate pools of light and darkness.

“Mum, I’m tired.”
“Give me your bag. We’re nearly there.”
“But mum …”
“I can carry both. Hold on to my arm.”

They kept on walking. After a while, they stopped beneath the streetlight outside the old family home and looked up into the street light’s glow. The first snow-flakes danced down.

“Can we go in now, mum? I want to see Gran and Gramps.”
“You go in. I’ll be with you in a moment.”

She watched her son climb the steps to the front door. He lifted the old brass knocker and banged it down. After a moment, the front light came on and the door opened a crack. She stood beneath the street lamp, inhaling, taking the chill air deep into her lungs. She felt the tight bands in her chest start to loosen. For the first time since this time last year, she felt free

Warning to the reader:
Raw material, still under revision, and probably needs lots of revising. I look forward to your comments. In some ways, this is my take on A Child’s Christmas in Wales. Not quite how Dylan Thomas saw it; more a sort of … well, you work it out for yourself!

In Vino Veritas

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In Vino Veritas

Last year, on the road to Pwll Ddu,
I turned the steering wheel too fast
and almost rolled the car I rented.
My mother’s ashes were in the back.

I was driving my father to the Gower
so he could scatter them on the sea,
as she had requested. “Watch what
you’re doing,” my father cried.
“You’ve knocked your mother down.”

Now, as I drink to forget her ashes
tumbling around in their plastic urn,
I call you names. Crude graffiti clings
to the wall I have built between us.

Can you forgive me? In vino veritas,
said the ancient Romans, but truth from
a bottle is a double-edged sword cutting
both striker and person struck. My love,
I sense stark darkness within you. I see
black stars exploding to flood blue skies
with their inevitable ink. Can you feel
the instant hurt behind my eyes, like I
sense yours? Here, in one of our secret
gardens, give me the pardon I never gave
my parents. Heal the harm I’ve done.
Forgive me. Break the cycle. Set us all free.