Don’t hold your breath

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Don’t Hold your Breath 

    Two small gnomes camped last night, one in each of my lungs. All night long they played their squeeze-box, wheeze-box concertinas, never quite in unison. Sometimes they stamped their feet and my body rattled with their dance. Their wild night music caught in my throat and I coughed unmusical songs that spluttered and choked, while I lay awake counting sheep and window panes and struggling with my future and my past.

    An east wind rattled my window whistling a sad song as it herded flocks of stars from one constellation to another. Wind and stars followed the westering moon’s slim finger nail as it scratched at the sky. The planets danced to the rhythms of the accordion music playing in my chest, and the sky’s planetarium folded and unfolded its poker hands of silent cards marked with my fate.

    Black jack, bright jack, one-eyed jack: what do I care when fate’s cards tumble onto the table and I count their spots. Forty card baraja, fifty-two card standard, Tarot, or any of the many others, what do we believe and why? I pluck runes from a velvet bag and shuffle and cut multi-colored cards. I survey the skies, cast dice and I Ching pennies … The fault is not in our stars, but in ourselves, that we are underlings, I mutter, not believing a word of what I say.

    I look in the mirror and see myself as I am. Grey, ageing, diminished, withering … yet proud of who I am and where I’ve been. Upright, in spite of all my failures. Proud because of all the small things that I have achieved. Who am I? What have I done? Where am I going? The eternal questions thrust at the shadows in my silvered morning mirror. Silent, it grins grimly back.

 

F-F-F-Forgetting

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F-F-F-Forgetting

    The apps and programs that no longer work. The computer files you can no longer access. The photos that vanish leaving a blank space in the album.
Now your memory goes on the blink and you forget faces and voices, friends, phone numbers, addresses, street names, the houses where people live, when to turn, where the best parking spots are, how far you can walk, where you were really going, and what you were sent out to buy.
Snow banks don’t help: that banked-up whiteness, that sticking out of the car’s snout into traffic, that stretch of your neck peering round corners. How many number plates have vanished into those white mists? How many cars? How many phone numbers have you forgotten?
You have forgotten the birthdays of your closest family and friends. When was your father born? When did he die? When and where did you bury him? Did you actually scatter his ashes or did someone else do it for you? When was your cousin born? When did he die? How close were you at the beginning, in the middle, and at the end? What color were his eyes, his hair? Did he even have any, hair, I mean of course?
What happened to that carton of eggs you abandoned in the store? Do you remember buying it, let alone leaving it there? How about your brothers, their faces, the sound of their voices? Did your own voice change when you emigrated?
Have those who live in Australia forgotten that they are Welsh? Do they speak like Australians, now, or do they still have those rich Welsh voices and rhythms that nobody in Wales ever wanted because they made us stand out when we moved, unwanted, to England? How many times have we, the Welsh, heard those threatening words: why don’t you go back home to Wales. Countless times, no doubt. In fact you have forgotten how many and you have forgotten so much.
Do you remember the parking spot in which you left your car? Do you recall your number plate or what model your car is, or what color?
“What day is it today,” you ask, for the second or third time. “I’m sure I know you,” you say to a friend who stops to talk to you in the shopping mall, “but I’m sorry, I can’t remember where we met and I can’t remember your name.”

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Butterfingers

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Butterfingers

My fingers turn to butter, but they taste of nicotine, garlic, and soap when I bite my nails. These butterfingers encourage cups to slip, saucers to fly off, run out of energy, stall, and crash to the kitchen floor where they lie in broken pieces, resting in peace, waiting to be picked up, one by one, and buried in the waste bin.

Arthritic fingers, grown clumsy now, struggle with bottle tops and glass containers screwed up so tight they refuse to open, even when soaked under the hot tap. I stick those jars in door jambs, lid first, closing the door with one hand, and twisting the jar with the other. Sometimes it slips and crashes to the floor, often with a portion of the contents spilling out.

I hate layer after layer of plastic wrapping. Flagrant in its defiance, it wages its guerrilla war against these ageing, uncoordinated fingers. I am often forced to use a knife, but a knife can slip or twist so easily. Occasionally, blunt, it will not even penetrate indomitable, multi-folded Saran wrap. So many slips between plate, teeth, and lips. Multiple precious items drop to the floor.

I cannot always bend to pick them up, and I cannot easily grasp them, not even with my new mechanical claw.

Miracles

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Miracles

Waking in the middle of the night, meandering along a moonbeam, making it safely to the bathroom without tripping on the rug in the hall, managing to pee without splattering the floor, the seat, the wall, or my pajamas, climbing back into bed, staring at the stars’ diminishing light until I manage to fall back to sleep. Listening to birdsong in the morning, walking to the bathroom without bruising my left arm against the door latch, shaving without cutting my face, getting in and out of the shower with neither a slip nor a fall and without dropping the soap, drying those parts of my body that are now so difficult to reach, especially between those far-off toes that I no longer see with regularity, pulling my shirt over those wet and sticky patches of skin still damp from the shower, negotiating each leg of my pants hanging on to the arm of the rocking-chair so I won’t fall over,  tugging the pulleys of the plastic mold that allows each sock to glide onto my feet, hoping my toe-nails, uncut for so long, will not catch in the wool and that the heel will end up in the right spot, forcing swollen toes into shoes now much too small, hobbling to the top of the stairs and lurching down them, one step at a time, with my stick in one hand and the balustrade in the other … always on guard for the quick, unsuspected rush of the cat, the edge of the steps, the worn patches where my cane might catch or slip … one more step, and I’ve made it down. The first of today’s many miniature miracles.

A Chill Wind

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A Chill Wind

computer programs
no longer function
buy a new app

word files
no longer
accessible
without a new app

photos that vanish
leaving a blank space
a new app
will bring them back

memory blinks
goes blank
brain farts
friends say

forgetting
phone numbers,
words misplaced
Freudian slips

“What day is it today?”
she asks
for the second
or third time.

“I’m sure
I know you,” she says,
“but I can’t remember
your name.”

Flickers

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Flickers
(1613 & 2019)

a watch spring
this cuckoo-clock heart
fully wound up
time’s ticker flickering
waiting to strike

black hole its beak
poked the world’s fabric
shredded into ribbons
robin’s nest torn
storm-tossed onto lawn

constant this love
its warm ashes lingering
searing holes in shoe soles
soul-sick with yearning
bright bonfires burning

metaphor and meaning
real and imagined
hammering on chimneys
territorial flickers
spring heartbeats drumming

losers of somethings
winners of others
wings lofting upwards
light above darkness
all creature comforts

a spring need to nest
an old man’s need to rest

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Palsy

 

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Palsy
(1817 AD)

starts with a twist
a palsied twitch a nod
more movement

slow loss of grip
bottle-tops won’t open
things fall to the floor

twist and twitch
turn into shakes
bad vibes not good

words tripping
on not off tongue
stumbling over teeth

vitality extinguished
a dullness in the eyes
a cork-screw turning in

bland the writing
both erased
chalkboard and page

dry honey tunnels
yellow calcined skull
empty hexagonal cells

this lone bee searching
for a special something
it can no longer find