The Blue of a bruise

Idling of the blood stream.
Brightening those nightmares that shudder.
Twisting in and out of focus.
The mind finding reference points.
All chalky talk and eye darting.
Searching the door to find new weather.
Trust seems lost again.
Blue skies clouded like the eyes of God closing.
Tearing in the rains of revelation.
Words struck the vein.
The devil tastes the pain.
What part is called to be diminished?
Swallowing in a rapture, that unpicks the scars.
A lie to curdle the blood.
A pain to feel alive once more.
Do you know the lungs want to sing?
Padded with angel feathers they heave in lament.
The soul siphoned away, bottled like wine.
Death’s most beautiful throw.
Snatching things, before they grow.

Island

This fear of limitless emotion.
Washes at the shore of my soul.
I fought a war for our love.
Raging like a storm on the face of time.
And now I fall like an island in the sea.
Alone and bare.
Washed by a tide, a poison of loneliness.
Never more to welcome the sun above.
I can only skim sad pebbled tears out to you.
There on the horizon.
That sight of hope, which will never land on my coast.
I glow, and diminish through this all.
Soon nothing but a shell.
That cannot even echo the sea.

Girl on the mountain

“Hang on, we’ll get there soon.”  She said, changing gear as the car struggled up the road.

The incline was harsh, and the trees that surrounded them hid the true dominance of the hills in this area. They had been travelling for nearly three hours and they were all tired, having gotten up so early for the journey. This part of the country was new to them all, and as the car snaked its way up through the trees, they were eager to see the open hills and valleys that they’d been told to expect.

Jessica rolled down the window in the backseat, letting the cool air and murky smell of the woods flood the car. She’d told nearly everyone at school she was going away for a few days, off to Wales and to hopefully see a dragon. They’d laughed and joked with her, taking the real reason for the trip away from her mind where it had only rested gently and fleetingly. She promised to bring them back something Welsh, though she didn’t know what that could be.

“Don’t get too cold back there.” Rachel said, shivering herself, changing gear once more. Their little car struggled against the demands of the road, but it had not failed them yet. Rachel had only been here once, back when she was a very small child, and she remembered nothing of it. Her grandmother had always visited them. It seemed selfish of her now, in all those years she’d never visited her in return here. Now, with her body about to be placed into the ground, she’d set forth to the soil that Amelia called home.

They suddenly burst through the trees as the car rounded a bend, a huge drop on one side bedded a stream nestled at the bottom, all grey and motionless. The brightness dazed her momentarily, and she blinked repeatedly as she drove on, the white and grey sky sprawling out over the huge expanse before them.

Richard tucked the map back into the glove compartment. He’d dug it out from an old box they’d kept in the spare room, the room where most things got dumped in their house. They’d found it useful, but they were nearly there now, and a signpost showed that in 14 miles they would make it to their destination. He’d also found the map made him feel useful, reading it as they had travelled, pointing out the sites along the way to Jessica. Not being able to drive made him feel a bit useless from time to time, even though Rachel enjoyed it. He reached down the side and retrieved the bag of sherbet lemons and offered the bag back to Jessica, who took one out and popped it into her mouth. He took one too, offering it to Rachel who said no thanks, so he ate it himself and ruffled the white bag closed and placed it back down the side, licking off the powder from his fingers.

“No dragons yet.” He said, aiming the words back at Jessica. She kicked his chair playfully.

“Nanna Amy once told us about one which slept in the mine near the village. She said the workmen had to send a sheep into the cave to distract it while they worked.” Rachel said, catching Jessica in her rear-view mirror.

“What happened to the sheep?” She asked, somewhat alarmed.

“Well, it usually came ambling out at the end of the day, I think it just used to get chased around the caves.” Rachel said, grinning.

“Must be a playful dragon, or not interested in eating sheep!” She said, looking out the window now as they began to head down into the valley.

Jessica watched as the green and grey flashed before her, she could see huge hills off in the distance. The trees seemed sparce, but little fluffs of them peppered the area, much like green sheep caught up high.

“What time is the service again?” Richard asked, turning to look at Rachel just as a light rain began to splatter the window.

“Oh no, not rain.” She said, turning on the wipers.

“It’s Wales, what did you expect?” He said, and she smiled.

“I was hoping to get there before we got caught in any rain, these roads might be tricky in wet weather. Urm, 3 o’clock is the service but they want us there at 2.30. I know aunty Glad wants to get us settled, and to show us off no doubt before.” She said, the wipers increasing now as the light rain had turned suddenly heavy.

Jessica watched as a huge bank of dark clouds rolled in above them. A car passed them on the other side, the first one they’d seen in a while, it’s headlights on now in the rain. She looked out across the valley once more, following the line of the hills with her finger on the windowpane, breathing on it to mark her way.

“Hey, what’s that?” She said, tapping the glass.

They all looked to the left, though Rachel only for a moment before returning her eyes back to the road.

“I’m not sure, why would….” Richard began, and Jessica added.

“There’s someone at the top of the hill, they have a fire.” She said, squinting to make them out in the rain and the distance.

“Why would someone be out in this weather on the top of a hill?” Rachel asked, noting the sign whizz by. Nearly there.

“Well, they are it seems. The flame is struggling in the wind though.” Richard said, and as he did the little flame seemed to burst a bit brighter for a moment, a beacon atop the hill.

“That’s really weird.” Jessica said, her window now rolled up as the rain had come in too heavy.

They carried on, leaving the hill behind them until Rachel made a left, turning off towards the village. Richard could still see the hill with the person on it as the car trundled down a rough road, skimming over the stream they had followed along. Soon enough they had arrived, the stone cottages and buildings littered their way as if giant rocks had been dropped from the sky, and the people below had carved houses out of them.

They all sat inside Pen-y-Waun, Aunt Gladys’s little cottage which looked out to the moor. Jessica munched on the custard creams that Gladys had placed on a very delicate little plate, while her mum sipped her tea.

“You call that heavy, nothing but a little spit of rain.” Gladys said, dunking a biscuit herself into her bone China cup. Jessica noticed the pattern, a little brown dragon curving around the side with trees and flowers decorating the edges.

“Well, it was hard to drive the last few miles. It was fine most of the way.” Rachel said, nestling her cup on her knee.

“Weather for a funeral, tears from God. Amy would’ve hated a clear day. Still, at least you made it safe. Remember any of it?” She said, asking Rachel.

Rachel shook her head.

“You were young, surprised if you could remember, though not much to remember really. But you were happy, always a smiling child. And your brother, good kids.” She said, but at the mention of her brother Rachel slunk down in her seat a little. “So, you’re here until next week then?”

“Oh, no just a couple of days. Don’t want to impose.” Richard said.

“You’re family, there’s no imposing. Stay as long as you like, be nice to have a few more faces around here to be honest. They all seem to be dropping off. God rest ‘em.” Gladys said, reaching for another biscuit.

“Are there many in the village then?” Richard asked.

Gladys pushed her horn-rimmed glasses up her nose, licking the crumbs of the biscuit away before speaking.

“When the mines were working, loads of us here. Now, most of the cottages are empty half the time. They rent them out for holidayers now, getting them all up from Bristol and the like. Come here for the quietness. Hmph!” she said.

“Is it not so quiet then?” Jessica asked, and Gladys cast her a curious smile.

“Jessica has heard about the Welsh dragons.” Rachel said, smiling.

“Dragons eh, I could tell you some tales. But that’s not what makes this place what it is.”

“Is it the person on the hill, with the flame? Is it for the dragons?” Jessica said, sitting forward in her chair.

Gladys put her cup down.

“It’s nearly quarter too, we best be getting a move on.” She said, hauling her large frame up out of her chair. Jessica knew when grown ups didn’t want to talk about something, but she felt suddenly invisible there in that little cottage.

The wind had picked up as they walked across to the small church. Most were already inside, but a few were making their way down the road towards the little building which stuck up on a ridge at the top of the village. Richard and Rachel walked slowly up towards the building, following Gladys who waved solemnly to the others as they came.

She suddenly put her arm around Jessica and pulled her in close, almost swaddling her in her black jacket.

“You saw the girl then?” She asked her, almost in a whisper. Jessica’s eyes lit up.

“A girl was it, a girl then?” She asked.

“Yes, she’s a girl alright. The girl of the mountain.  You are lucky to see her.” She said, slowing her pace as they got closer to the church.

“What’s she doing, who is she?” Jessica asked.

“That is a hard thing to answer. No one knows who she is, but we know why she is there. Not many outsiders see her, course she usually isn’t there in the day. You must be more connected to this land then you realise.” She touched the girl’s chin kindly, flicking it with her crinkled thumb.

“Why is she there with a fire, is it to do with dragons?” She asked. Gladys shook her head.

“No, nothing to do with dragons. She is there to light the way; she is a beacon when there is sorrow in the village. Amy, your great grandmother was much loved here, she was a spark of joy and happiness in this little corner of the world, this grey world which can feel quite foreboding. The girl of the mountain is there to remind us that everything will be okay, that there is light even in the darkness.” She said, profoundly.

“But who is she, is she a ghost? Jessica asked, curious.

“She is something that perhaps doesn’t need explaining, she is there to remind us to spark our own light in the rain and fog of life.” She replied.

“So, everything will be good again, after the loss and the pain?” Jessica asked. Gladys looked down at her.

“You are beyond your years aren’t you. You’ll have to visit more often; I like company that has its head screwed on right. But yes, things will be good again, this will pass.” She said, and they made their way into the small church with Rachel and Richard following up behind.

“It’s cold isn’t it, shame about the rain.” Rachel said, stepping up the steps.

“It is, but the organ music is somewhat cheerful considering. Nothing sombre which is nice.” He took her hand, and for some reason they stopped and looked around them. Through the rain and the clouds, they could see a little smudge of yellow, dancing off in the distance. They did not know it, but the girl on the mountain was singing as her flame burned on through the weather. Sweet words of redemption and hope.

Wind is strong, but don’t you sway.
The pain is heavy but will give way.
This light I bare will warm your heart.
All’ll be right, begin from the start.


 

Pieces of time


PIECES OF TIME

Have you seen?
Have you seen this life we lead?
Fragments of space locked in time.
I stand on this beach, with each grain beneath my feet.
Ground down from rocks and God grinding his teeth.
This sea has washed a thousand shores.
These tears have dried a million times before.
Did I miss something? The big reveal?
My hands are empty as I forget how this feels.
Closing my eyes I feel it wash over me.
These pieces of time we cling to like driftwood.
Was I wrong to run? Or weak to stay?
(I don’t know so please don’t answer)
I cling faster now, each splinter a memory driving its way to my heart.
You can find me here, holding your hand.
Encircling this moment that I wish to stretch out for eternity.
Don’t pity me.
Let us disappear and fall once again into your own jealousy.
Leapfrogging to another piece of your own space and time.
Alone again.
We watch as the beach rises and the moon turns over.
Capturing us forever in this bottle on the sand.

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Disturbance

Paper feathers stick to your frozen heart.
Threatening an ink to write your story.
Do my eyes seem empty?
They lost such love for you.
Welling with tears that know the truth.
I’ve forgotten how to dream.
Too much darkness pushed the light away.
You don’t ask me to stay.
When it fell down, you pulled yourself clear.
Watching the fires rage from a distance.
Safe and sound.
As I burned into nothing.

Beauty lost at the heron house


Beauty lost at the heron house

The world collapsed in thirty seconds there.
A beauty aged in a moment while the rose petals died.
Who faded into the future, without the knowledge of the past?
We all did.
We came once to that spot, to watch the herons dance.
To see how they cast their wing’s against a backdrop of stars.
Through tears we watched them fly, soaring along our fingertips.
But we did not know, or care to wonder;
if they’d ever return.
And the days folded into years while the crows walked across our faces.
Milking our eyes to the blurred canvas before us.
Sight dancing into all but silhouettes.
What was destroyed there, at the Heron house?
Was it love? Was it power to hold in the wells of your hand?
Surely love never dies. Love always saves the day.
But beauty was lost forever there.
When it was valued more than gold, in hearts that feared to fly.

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Taken from Alchemy – out now


 

Fundamentally a confused period of wheel spinning

A mud that clings, sticking like the saliva of sin.
Was just darkness.
Covering completely.
Rooted, yet lost.
What miracles could be made in the dark.
When we had forgotten how to spark.
Collectively they comforted.
Wrapping words around like arms to keep us safe.
Yet the fires were still burning.
The neon plumes of dangerous magic.
All out of control.
Nothing moved but danger.
Nothing thrived except fear.
And death crept on near.
Inactive seeds of hope.
Littered the floor once more.
Those hands of light crept back into the void.
And we were once more, covered in darkness.

Death in neutral

Death comes, not in the sudden felling of your tree of life.
That monumental crash in the wooded realm of existence.
Or in an avalanche of silent demise,
Crashing into white off a precipice that follows a climb.
Death never leaves a new life.
It breathes silently on your skin.
Like a misty voice, cold and condensed.
Dew dropping its pain along the way.
Watching as your petals of life fall.
A new one each day.

dead rose skull


Taken from
Seasons of a wandering heart

book cover snow and tree


 

Something to stay awake for – Stain

Listen to this episode.


It had begun to rain, a light drizzle that peppered the people as they walked along Bradley Way. Not the prettiest street in the world, and today it was overcast with a churning grey cloud that dampened the mood and made things ever more ordinary. People walked up and down the road, seeking out the local small supermarket that had opened just last year. It was housed in a former pub, the Bull and horn; the cigarette stained walls and beer marked floors long since ripped out. Outside, the faux Tudor design was kept, hoping the inn-like appearance would entice more customers. But people shopped here anyway out of convenience. The newsagents across the street had closed a year ago also, the owner packed up and moved away after a red Ford escort had rammed into his shop and robbed him late on a Sunday afternoon. Unless you were willing to cross the giant playing field at the back of Ashen road to go to the giant superstore, the pub-turned-metro shop was the easiest option.

Just near to the store was number 46, and though it was starting to rain, Mrs Taylor was found scrubbing the pavement. She had swept and tidied already, and now she was striking the wet brush across the path like she was toiling the earth. She worked with determination, scraping and scrubbing the ground over and over. She never dressed for cleaning. She was made up in her Sunday best, as if she had just gotten back from church. Though the fine rain had settled on her hair, giving it a web like crown, her hair was in place as if she had spent an hour on it. She was an odd sight to those making their way down Bradley road. After a while, she packed up her cleaning materials and went back into her house, number 46, the one with the red door.

It was grey again. It had rained in the morning, and the streets glistened like slumbering snakes. It was Sunday again also, and the local football club had finished their practice over on the giant field. A few kids had wandered off on their way home, stopping in at the local store to grab a drink and some much-needed sugar.

Mrs Taylor watched them as they walked down her road. She was scrubbing again, hot water and bleach burned away at the pavement. The added soapy suds flowed down the kerb and washed up to the drain, down into the darkness. She watched them, and they stared back at her as they walked by. She did not frown; she did not glare. There was no smile on her face either. Just a determination to scrub and wash, and get the job done. By the time the kids exited the store, Mrs Taylor had finished and returned inside her house. She had gone to make herself a cup of tea, her hands stinking of bleach and had become pale. The kids thought no more of her, and carried on their way home, their hands a healthy peach and holding the chocolate bars like tiny swords.

​-

The whole street knew of course. They watched her every week. She used the same bucket, the same brush. She would start by sweeping up the dirt and leaves that had fallen from the huge oak tree that loomed over the garden from number 38. Joyce, who lived with the tree, had never cared form Mrs Taylor. Joyce was a generation away from the woman, and tutted and shook her head to her antics in private. But if she saw her on the street, she would always nod her head in quiet recognition. To which Mrs Taylor would always nod her head slightly back.

It was Sunday again. No rain today. Just thick dark clouds above threatening the worst. A nasty cold breeze blew in from the south, ripping through Bradley Way like an arctic arm reaching from the poles. She resigned herself to a coat today. She had lost more weight than she would care to acknowledge, and her frail body would shiver in the conditions now. Underneath her plum coat, she wore her Sunday best again. The pearls her mother had given her hung over her dress, little eyes gleaming out into the cold. She had also decided to use some gloves, not because of the cold, but because her hands were now so raw from the bleach. She sat at night picking at the loose bits of skin around her fingers, peeling away the hangnails that had appeared, paled underneath from all the toxins. They stung and hurt.

But she did not care. She wanted to carry on, so she used the gloves to keep the feeling in her fingers to get the job completed. To feel the work.

And she scrubbed and rubbed and washed the pavement.

Bundled up against the elements, Mrs Stokes, and her daughter Ivy were walking along the other side of the road. Mrs Stokes lived down on Humber Way, but she knew Mrs Taylor from the primary school morning mums run. She had seen her at the gates with the others, a gaggle of women with their precious little birds waiting for the gates to part.

Ivy watched her as she scrubbed on her hands and knees, the warm water cascading over the lip of the pavement. Ivy broke free of her mother’s hand and crossed the street without looking, going over to Mrs Taylor. Her mum called after her, following her onto the street.

It was quiet that day, few cars littered the road and there was a peaceful calm.

​“Hi.’ Ivy said to Mrs Taylor, who looked up from the floor. Her eyes were glassy and tired.

“Hello.” Mrs Taylor replied, friendly. Ivy’s mum came up to them, grabbing her hand.

“Ivy, don’t bother her. Come along, we have to get to the store. And don’t run off like that. I’m sorry.” Mrs Stokes said, looking down at the woman. With that, Mrs Taylor looked off slightly, as if searching the road for something.

“Why are you cleaning the path?” Ivy asked suddenly. They all shivered there in the cold. Ivy’s mum began to pull her away.

“Don’t bother her. I’m so sorry, she’s always curious. Come along Ivy.” Mrs Stokes said, eager to get away.

Mrs Taylor stood then, much more agile than her demeanour would suggest. She popped up like a dog ready for a walk.

“Its fine, kids are curious. I’m just doing a spot of cleaning. The council seem to neglect this part of town, and the road is filthy.” She smiled then, a warm smile as she looked at the little girl. She turned her head slightly, as if she heard something, then turned back towards them.

Mrs stokes, eager to get going smiled back, hoping it would be the end to the conversation.

“But, no one else cleans the pavement. I’ve not seen anyone do it like you, scrubbing away.” Ivy said, determined to understand. Mrs Taylor was silent for a minute and then replied.

“Well, you see there where you are standing; I just can’t get this bit clean. It’ll take some time, but it will lift.” She said, reaching back for her scrubbing brush, having looked more at the spot where the two stood.

Ivy looked down at her feet, seeing nothing but the black road.

“But there is nothing there.” Ivy replied.

“Come along now Ivy. Leave her to her cleaning.” Mrs stokes said, vigorously pulling the girl. Mrs Taylor laughed a little. A small laugh, brittle from its long hibernation.

“You kids think everything is already clean. I bet your room at home is a mess and yet you think its fine. No no, the stain there, it spreads up and across the pavement. I think it is oil, but it’s taking ages to go.” She sighed suddenly, as if reminded of the huge task in front of her.

“There you see. Sorry to bother you. Come now Ivy.” Mrs Stokes said, and this time successfully moved the girl who walked on still puzzled.

They made their way to the store and Mrs Taylor watched them for a few seconds before scrubbing a bit further and then packing up her things and heading back into her house, closing her red door behind her. She took off her coat and went upstairs. She always did this. She went into the front room of the house, the second big bedroom. Hers was at the rear and was slightly smaller, but she liked the view of the back garden. She liked the green. She went across to the window and looked down at the pavement.

“It’s still there.” The little girl said.

Mrs Taylor pulled at the sleeves of her dress.

“I know. I’ll buy the super strength bleach next week. That’ll do it.” She said to the empty room.

She looked up the street as a few people came out of the store. The old newsagents across the road had been turned into kitchenettes. She looked in through the ground floor window, a huge TV screen the size of the wall flashed away in blues and reds.

“Maybe in time, it’ll fade on its own.” The girl said.

She looked down at the spot again. A huge stain on the floor seemed to pulse before her. She closed her eyes and watched the red ford escort zoom away noisily like thunder down the road. She hoped she would never see it again, but she knew she would.


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Comes back to then

The red country hung before us.
Our life now a great adventure.
Your love was all I needed.
Your smile I planned to treasure.
Days crumbled, eyes tightened.
We were no longer tender.
The gulf began to widen.
I couldn’t stay.

Ten years in, I hoped you believed.
All of my love and my heart on this sleeve.
I cannot cry, I cannot lie. All I can do is die inside;
On the day that I had to go.

You told me to meet you.
Down by the Yarra river.
I wanted to keep us.
In my heart that had begun to quiver.
Life shifted, dreams folded.
My instincts ignored for worse or better.
We cried and imploded.
And then I left.

In all of my time, I barely ever touched what really was mine.
Life briefly showed me, everything that never really ever could be.
A cruel revealing, a maddening feeling of seeing all that would never last.
The joke from above, putting such beautiful future quickly in the past.

Tiny empire

Discovered by mistake.
A breaking heart hidden under the couch.
Buried beneath the earth.
And if it broke and if I died; what world is left behind?
A towering empire of loose threads.
Pulled at many moments in a life undone.
How precarious those moments were.
Towering up to god, a shaking finger of Babel.
Crying out in many tongues to a deaf creator.
The holder of my heart.
Now these racing rats and spiders which crawl over me at night.
What a sight, it is to see a hollow mind explode inside out.
My little world of mistakes, dew drops to effort.
Tsunamis of remorse.
When heartbreak altered my course.
A treasured time where the earth held still.
And I held my breath, for you looked inside.
And watered my garden.
Tended to the flower that had crawled away from the sun.
My tiny empire, rebuilt by the one.

Heavy

Pull out a rib, snapping a finger.
Divert the pain, do not let it linger.
The heaviness pulls like a planet of sorrow.
Flickering at times, but returns again tomorrow.
When did this all get to heavy to hold?
When did the hurt turn as heavy as gold?
The tears fall like lumps of lead.
Splashing on skin, little emotions now dead.
Leaving me soaking and covered in despair.
The alchemy of hope, now no longer there.

Conversation with mortality

A pain so dark it blots out the stars.
Rubbing the divine into charcoal.
Left shaking in the wake of skeleton waves.
That snatch my voice into the sea of the selfish.
Loss drips across like oil.
And the reality paralyses.
A bloom of love is choked by the frost of departure.
And my soul is snatched by the shadows of indifference.

Come home

A sky threatening to swallow us whole.
Disappear into blue.
Lost in me and you, and the pulls of the earth.
You wandered too far into the outback.
Too far from my feathered touch.
Now the oceans recede.
And the heavens close.
The stardust of hope may sprinkle these sheets.
Matched by tears of absence.
Yet inside a birdlike song sings.
Come home.
Come home.

While i slept

To collapse but not to shatter.
Yet veins of the break spread deep.
Frozen in the reckoning of our time.
Managing a mosaic of madness.
Fleeted days, encapsulated by hurried tensions.
Pickled in the wine of the year.
Sadness stalked my fields.
You set fire to my home.
It burns still, the flames will not recede.
Your words breathing oxygen to its devastation.

Leave us where we lay

His heart, now the colour of his wife.
Ashen grey and broken.
The urn smashed, scattering them both across the clouds.
Little flecks of life stuck on the window of the world.
As the volcanoes rumbled and the gods groaned.
Down they both came in the rains.
Licked up by the wood spirits and the humans below.
Pooling in the heart of the world.
Cells and shells, finding the seabed of the soul.
Undulating to the sound of time.
Those tears of the gods which fell in this passing.
Are drunk only by the sinners, like sweet wine.

Conflict(ed)

The ticking clock moves my bones.
Vibrating to a new chorus.
Such fear and bravery dogfight within.
Triggering the gunfire in my heart.
Bringing other humans to their knees.
It stains this soul.
Are we cast out of Eden?
Ordered here under the guilt of honour.
Directed there by badges that shimmer in the sorrow.
A broken moral compass, scratched by time.
Left stranded out to sea.
Struck by the passing grief of that tide.
The one that washed over me.
Seeing death in the eyes of those all around.
Feeling hope strangled, feeling fear take hold.
Who really wins the fight, when we lose ourselves in the struggle?
Stretched and stricken, sunk by the force of your hate.
Every tear here brings the ocean higher.
With every cry, a family welcomes in a stranger.
A void, the blackness. The stories to tell a generation.
Of the great fight, that felt so wrong.