Scenes from a Ward

Reg wrapped his towel out of communal showers
in all the wrong places. Jill still can’t forget her eyeful.
—My brother drove down a ditch, says Reg, now dressed.
—How awful. Jill can’t stomach things no more,
since Bill went & got himself a whore.
—Said a rabbit ran out. It’s a dangerous road. Out there.
—Safer here, Jill laughs & lights a cheap fag;
      I accidentally woke today, she sighs,
      for seven days, staring at the carpet.

*

Nurses wheel out drinks, tolling cups announce a procession,
Jill clears cards, wraps a pinky.
—Look at my hair how it’s super curly.
      Makes me want to die. Drinks her tea.
Reg breathes on his glasses — now his mother can’t do it.
—I’m going to Canada when the weather clears.
—It should be nicer than here, says Jill.
      My sister locked me in when it was raining.
      Called the cops. Said I was ill.
      (She’s mad that way.)

*

With a sigh Reg admits:
—I’m sick, (the doctors give an eye)
      I’m gonna study King Arthur. So I can live in the past.
He palms his face, shaving never goes to plan,
the razors here just don’t cut it.

*

So many want out. But Jill can still taste tears.
—If I pick a side, she frowns, it might ruin my soul,
      better to be neutral in here — a hand on her gown.
      And let God decide.
Reg picks pieces of a puzzle,
—I just want earphones in. Be busy. Chores, reading you know?

*

—My brother wasn’t alone.
      My sister was there too. She works in a bank.
      But he’s stubborn, born angry like me,
      that’s why he drives
      everything into the ground you see —
      that’s where mom went. Now he just stands around.
      Doesn’t help.
      Now mom’s not around.

© 2017 The Wasted Love Song
In response to: NaPoWriMo, Day Twenty-One (Overheard Speech)
Image: #56 by Yasmeen / CC BY


Inspired by real conversations overhead in a barber shop recast into the voices of two patients in a psychiatric ward.

A Game of Chess

With an opening gambit, lines learned from a song,
—Let your puny body lie down lie down,
he unpins her frock; but before too long,
her blockade he encounters:
—The lady’s not in the mood tonight, and walks away.
What a fool’s mate! Checked like that.
What would the boys at the club say?
The board relaid over drinks, he assaults again.
—You look wonderful tonight, my sweet Caïssa.
A calculated book move, this time he can’t lose,
an early en passant, he takes advantage, presses on —
she’s quite a capture. With an exchange of moves
he controls the centre, a kiss on her shoulder, a caress of a bust,
a leg over hers, a cramping emotional move if ever —
what a clever pin, what a clever fella!
But then oh! what a blunder; no defence is required,
this isn’t the endgame he desires.
His bishop’s quite sozzled, in no mood for encounter —
what an epaulette mate, what a patzer.

© 2017 The Wasted Love Song
Image: Chess 4 by Laury Rouzé / CC BY


NaPoWriMo, Day Twenty: ‘write a poem that incorporates the vocabulary and imagery of a specific sport or game’.

This takes inspiration from T.S. Eliot’s The Waste Land where chess is seen as an analogy for unromantic love and sex.

Notes:

Blockade: A strategic placement of a minor piece directly in front of an enemy pawn.
Blunder: A very bad move, an oversight.
Book move: An opening move found in standard reference books on opening theory.
Bust: Colloquial term for a refutation of an opening.
Caïssa: The goddess of chess.
Capture: To remove the opponent’s piece from the board.
Centre: The four squares in the middle of the board.
Check: A direct attack on the king by an enemy.
Cramped: A position with limited mobility.
Emotional move: A suboptimal forcing move played with the intent of seizing initiative at any cost.
En passant: French for: ‘in the act of passing’; a rule that allows a pawn that has just advanced two squares to be captured by an enemy pawn.
Endgame: The stage of the game when there are few pieces left on the board.
Epaulette mate: A checkmate position where the king is blocked on both sides by his own rooks.
Fool’s mate: The shortest possible chess game ending in mate.
Gambit: A sacrifice (usually of a pawn) used to gain an early advantage in space or time in the opening.
Lady: Slang for queen.
Patzer: A weak chess player.
Pin: A piece that cannot move.
Unpinning: The act of breaking a pin by interposing a second piece between the attacker and the target.

‘Let your puny body lie down lie down’ – The Smiths, ‘Stretch out and Wait’
‘You look wonderful tonight’ – Eric Clapton, ‘Wonderful Tonight’

Picnic on the Beach

Aphrodite leaned in,
whispered a kiss between bites of a peach.
Knees curled up, sands still damp from rain.
On a blanket of surrender and sandwiches.
A serenade of ice cream vans,
children released balloons in celebration,
kites rose like doves into the sky.

I was a creature of pain,
I never knew I was suitable for love again,
until that kiss. Her brown hair waving
sea windward, calling the mermaids’ songs.
The myths were wrong, Psyche had nothing
on her. That was the moment — strawberries on shingle,
wine between nicotine kisses,
bare arms embracing, thighs pressing. I was born
to love and laugh and love and love again.

© 2017 The Wasted Love Song
Image: Florida – Sunny Isles by Wally Gobetz / CC BY

Lost Ring of Saturn

I am a tree floating in a lake
like a scar that rests on a dying man’s face;
a muddy shore, sandbagged, dirt-bound,
bracing, to spill amid white horses,
and freely drown under the glass blue shelf.

You tell me there’s treasure in empty rooms,
that still wells will bleed,
dead weeds will birth flowers,
feasts will be laid when flies clear,
and one day we will live there.

But I can’t see it where I am,
far away like a lost ring of Saturn,
floating rock in an ice of stars —
born barely burning — caught in my own radiation storm;
temporal, cold, colliding for light and years.

© 2017 The Wasted Love Song
In response to daily prompt: Opaque
Image: NGC 3455 by Judy Schmidt / CC BY

Sartre, Beckett, and Kafka

11221-jean-paul-sartre
Jean-Paul Sartre,
I wished he woulda
Lightened up and lived a little,
Wrote a treatise and taught me how to do it too.

cropped-Samuel-Beckett-Directing-

Samuel Beckett
Couldn’t hack it,
A psychiatrist helped him see tomorrow —
Wonder if he’s still waiting for Godot.

franz-kafka

Franz Kafka
Felt the angst of Gregor Samsa —
A man morphed giant insect —
But he, like Josef K., just wanted peace and rest.

© 2017 The Wasted Love Song
In response to: napowrimo, day fourteen (clerihew)


A clerihew is a four line biographical poem that satirizes a famous person.

Beggar in the Sand

My senses have been at sixes and sevens since the birth of memory — hearing what I feared, tasting what I couldn’t see — it even earned me my BA (Hons) in Underachievement at Dropout University.

But I reckon my sense of self is pretty rumpled now — like a parched beggar blind beached and teased by the sea — perhaps this timely thirsty reminder of mine will help dig him out. I’ve been taking empathy courses, and delivered some canapés (well past their sell by date), and some hors d’oeuvres of the future. Careful not to overfeed him, lest he be sick of the hereafter.

My beggar has been left in a thirty-year sterile season. I really should take more care, build a shelter, have a chat, take a change of light and clothes, and comb his hair. Look at his face, like a cactus drained of rain, sleeping sallow in the mirror. It would be a shame to wake him now and rudely rob me of my companion in the sand.

But I rope in some community volunteers, and with advice from professional overseers, I wake up the beggar. And, I’m embarrassed to say, cast him with some new clothes; ‘Go on, shoo, off on your way.’ Out of sight, out of mindless stupor, that’s what they say.

Now this is the part where I exclaim, ‘I feel better, now my beach is clean, and I can swim in the sea!’ But the truth is, I miss my beggar, the sands blow guilty without him, so now I lie down and take my thirsty place in his wallow.

Please don’t wake me now — leave it till tomorrow.

© 2017 The Wasted Love Song
In response to daily prompt: Timely
Image: Chia, 2014 by Maurizio Agelli / CC BY

Honeymoon in Kraków

Morning train from Wrocław (née Breslau) — so like a musty movie — a nun silent with God’s love
where Wałęsa may have prayed before the fall; a honeymoon at the Grand Hotel — Kraków, I’m in love.

Post-modern Chopin interpretations; ambling hand-in-hand past star-lit, street-lined trams;
wild boar and beet borscht; night river sailing, we sat mooring kisses in the rain, on the Vistula in love.

Mickiewicz rises romantically; gothic St. Mary’s trumpets call; a hard cafe of rock;
Europe’s oldest bookstore; clopping carriages pass Tatra mountain stalls; couples lean, like us, on fountains, in love.

Kazimierz stands tall, a bullet-ridden star, graffitied beauty past Wawel’s walls
where heads attend, and Kaczyński sleeps above the dragon’s den; on across Piłsudski Bridge where Oskar stowed away love.

Bergen-Belsen to Auschwitz, oblivious tourists V-signing — Arbeit macht frei — railroad scars on grass; brick fingers, like lost limbs, breaking for air;
dark hair mountains; standing panic cells; an anguish of shoes, soulless and stripped of love.

© 2017 The Wasted Love Song
In response to: napowrimo, day thirteen (ghazal)

My Father’s Watch

Waking while the world is still,
staring at my father’s watch from afar,
unwinding, expressing regret since ’46 on the dresser.

It has kept time on heartbreak across oceans —
a father seized by red hands of armies,
a mother by another time zone in her bed;
clasped the hand that clasped an arranged partner,
deranged in troubled times taking trash out;
raised, raging for obedience’s sake, sobbing in the ’70s (sorry thereafter);
betting between beatings, blowing money on football scores.

Saying my father’s watch has witnessed many changes
is an understatement. Undressing heart surgery scars;
immersed in rivers, fatherless, fathoming future life; measuring medicine doses —
ticking broken beaten eating sleeping diabetes.

Sometimes, its malignant mocking mechanisms
makes me wonder why we clock,
just for one day, for everything to
stop.

© 2017 The Wasted Love Song
In response to: napowrimo, day twelve (alliteration & assonance)

Remember, Nothing Is Ever Free

My birthday month, a German doctor,
we talked of Brecht, Weill, and The Threepenny Opera
while she picked at my brain’s cadaver,
and smiling pinned a label. Arms bandaged (heart too),
It looks like you’ve been in a war, they laughed —
in some ways, it was true.

Remember, nothing is ever free.

Five months watching rain, blue chairs, plastic sheets,
swallowing pills to swallow pain and public-funded food.
When your trust is sanctioned daily,
when each scratch of ear, nose, or arm is a sign of danger,
it becomes easy to surrender what remains,
like my friends: Shaun who mislaid words; Harold, the king, who careened his car;
Debbie only wanted a child; and Martin with his Chlorpromazine smile.
Then they surprised me, released me into snow, wearing freedom like a strange shoe.

Remember, nothing is ever free.

A dragged spectator, reluctant player in someone else’s game —
My back is fine, their assessments said, there must be work to find.
But life’s page flipped, became a strange, perplexing vocabulary:
art therapy, psychotherapy, CPNs, CBT, community-funded therapeutic communities,
Prozac, Seroxat, Lithium, Efexor, MOAIs, SSRIs, tricyclics, suicidal tendencies
it was enough to give anyone anxiety.

Remember, nothing is ever free.

© 2017 Occasional Dreams
In response to: napowrimo, day eleven (Sylvia Plath / bop)

Old Blue John

The miners have left, their lamplights extinguished,
replaced by transplanted, arterial cables.
An electric hum breaks the silence,
tungsten lights cast shadows where boys and lovers
have carved their names across the years.

You have witnessed our rise and fall,
wise, old Blue John,
peeking hidden through the tor of heather and stone,
where we have warred for centuries.

The landscape has changed, the castle is ruined
but our stains remain, like jaundiced tears
caught by purple hands,
held with a sobriety gained only through grief.

You listen as the rain weeps,
and settles as formations of lime measuring time,
endlessly on and on, dripping dripping unseen,
as we learn from your beauty within.

© 2017 Occasional Dreams


Written in response to napowrimo, day five (nature). Blue John Cavern is a series of beautiful caves in the Peak District, United Kingdom famous for its ‘Blue John’ stone — a unique formation of yellow and purple mineral — which dates back centuries.

The Night Carer

I hear him sneaking sometimes still
In dim corridors and hidden rooms
Emblazoned in gold and black
Velvet cloak and crown
The prowling night carer
Silently rages to be found
The moon pauses and pours a profusion of shadows
Against the wall perhaps tonight he will visit
Drape a cloth transfer the crown
Confer authority on me now
So I too may pounce and prey
Maul the mind over and over with the madness of desire
Take a heart for an eye
And claw at life before the night departs

© 2017 Occasional Dreams
In response to: napowrimo Day Four – Enigma
Image: Bamboo Forest by youn-sik kim / CC BY

New Ways to Ruin

Finding new ways to ruin
Seems to be my primary concern these days.
I’m striving to be more like me —
I feel. Then I feel, and I’m unable to love anymore (or well enough).

When you’re scared of living and everything,
It’s not as easy to let go as some people say.
Sometimes, letting go takes you places you don’t want to go.
A strange country without a guide,
Where food and language is unrecognisable,
Getting fleeced by a taxi driver’s concern for profit.

Someone once said: ‘there’s a better world out there’ — but I haven’t seen it yet.
That’s why I spend so much time here
(Beneath the shadow of the high ideal),
Subsuming myself in everything I do;
Moderation just seems an awful way of living  —
If you’re going to fail, fail well.

And when the sun does come, it beats like time,
Dries and sterilises everything it gazes on.
My heart is furrowed and parched,
My senses seared and conspire against me.
All I seem to do is pick myself up in circles before I fall —
It’s about the only thing I’m good for.

© 2017 Occasional Dreams

Backwards Through the Tunnel

My train was delayed
Broken down in tunnels where rats played,
I was a commuter without a fare —
Sometimes I wonder if I was ever there.

I’m trying to get better now, in every way I know how:
In waiting rooms waiting for the smell of bleach and death,
In boardrooms with game show junkies competing for breath,
In a reliable Japanese saloon on a lane that never moves,
Killing myself slowly with fast food in a service station built in ’72.

Life used to be simple, like child’s play,
Full of snakes and ladders until someone took the ladders away,
A Game of Life where life was still a concept with a finite stack of cards,
A Disney picture puzzle where all the pieces fit together,
A Mousetrap in a crazy old house until the mice took over.

I blacked out in a meeting
Bathed in the heavenly glow of a PowerPoint slide,
Had an epiphany about corporate deployment strategies.
When the doctors had done their drinking,
I walked home on streets no one else could see
Full of unwanted dreams of promotion and publicity.

My train is delayed again,
Maybe there’s still time,
While the ghosts in their carriages dream,
I could walk backwards through the tunnel
And smile a smiling scream.

© 2017 Occasional Dreams
In response to daily prompt: Simple
Image: Follow the Light by  sanpani / CC BY

The Secret Lovers of Logic

The secret lovers of logic
Conceived tomorrow’s pleasures
Under electric shadows
In room number seven.
He stretched out on sheets of rust,
Watched the stars burn and said: ‘I think the manager’s dying.’
The dogs were digging at the rain again —
Dark waters in his head.
‘I don’t think he existed.’ she said,
‘It’s lucky we paid in advance.’
He kissed the scent of musk on her thighs,
His fingers teased the moon’s twisted gaze onto her breasts;
Reminders of the deception of pleasure —
A promise paid in advance
At the raging gates of love
Where the snake drove the screw further
Into the broken spirit.
And at ten she said:
‘The only hell is this hell.
(There will be no eleven.)
Here in this motel,
In this dark mouth of pills and tar,
There is no fall like our fall my dear.
Now open your arms my love
For the gleaming storm of heaven.’

© 2017 Occasional Dreams
In response to daily prompt: Ten
Image: bangkok by Roberto Trombetta / CC BY

The Passenger

A ship in the night aligned its cargo to the stars.
But nobody heard or saw its departure.
With thoughts of a new century,
Of new memories to be made,
In the silent house
Everything became dust.
Black river, dancing
With a bottle in the mirror,
Waiting for the invitation to come.
Like a sigh lost in the wind
Or a wilted flower born of dreams,
In the too long, the only escape is
Nowhere.
Age changes us —
Belief and time are linked,
But your life is now an empty platform
In the morning.

© 2017 Occasional Dreams
In response to daily prompt: Invitation
Image: The Train Station by Jake Stimpson / CC BY

Midnight Forests

He stands, then sits.
Alone, up, reading.
The desire burns, mysteries like a knife,
So soon.

Her memory of it —
The detail she forgot —
In that place, deepened, as she fell into his arms.
‘I will be fine soon.’ she said.

April. Burning forests after midnight.
‘I was walking all upside down.’ he said.
He tries to go back,
To pull back the accentuating descent.

The cable cars,
The stream dividing strange words.
The pictures, his dreams in the night.
‘My Life. Funny how things turn out.’ he said.
‘But funny must go. The crazy one, He and I were never here.’
The moon split the trees to be apart from the earth.

And then what?
Chances without safety nets,
Stolen words from borrowed books.
The room was dark,
The big buddha, his mistress, the train,
They were never coming back.
And the world was still young.

‘Our lives are like a symphony played staccato.’ he said.
‘Miles from anywhere, miles from the older us.
Perhaps we were never meant to get old.’
It was the desire of wanting desire,
Not the desire itself.
‘When you fall enough, you divide.’ he said.

© 2017 Occasional Dreams
Image: They are Burning the Woods with Sodium Plasma by Leucippus / CC BY

Parliaments

Roofs and tiles,
Pecking,
Licking,
Careening
So that they may know how to cry
At night, of men,
That is the curse, and in towns.

And in towns,
We followed the stumps
In the breast,
Blinded and bound,
The man through the night.

A curse,
Folded and refolded,
Redoubled.
Prometheus’ curse
Drawn like a veil across the eyes.

The black suit who tripped up men,
The face less man, wounded,
When parliaments converge
Across the eyes like birds.

© 2017 Occasional Dreams
Image: European Starlings Overhead B&W by Mr.TinDC / CC BY

On Being

Through silence the tide rectifies the sea —
A perfect unfathomable division,
A rising of burning trees.
From the red shadows of rivers,
And the tattered banks of mud,
Spring sleeping sapphires and fish
Like manacled stars lit by remembrance —
Troubling the reaches of lucidity, tangible and illusive,
Bound by imposed limitlessness,
Drifting freely without hope, as a veil
That clothed a secret is thrown over an abyss.

Terrifying contentment is realised
In an instance without sound and parameter,
The descent spirals and sparkles with madness and love,
In dust there is turmoil and creation,
Knotted roots are eternal and transient,
From darkness, flowers detachment,
Time is a vessel that never leaves and always returns unseen.

The fall fractures within the circle.
Many roads are inverted without reason —
We are the ground upon which the paths tread,
In all directions, like a hollow sound;
We are the stars that celebrate the weightlessness of hummingbirds —
Connected, sheltered by totality, unburdened of repetition;
In the rose garden, we are the leaf that clings to a demented branch
That trembles in the wind.

© 2016 Occasional Dreams
Image: Milky Way through the Grant Grove by Justin Kern / CC BY

The Age of Hopes and Dreams

Do you remember your hopes? The old ones?
The ones scribbled longhand under fevered lamps, bound in green books,
In sad, neurotic tenement rooms where the summer reeked of landfill;
Lost and on trial over weak coffee in cheap, greasy cafes
In distant, northern towns, where fruit machines stood in judgement;
When you were eleven and the crazy one who wrote his life story on a ladder on bricks, gifted you with a kick;
Stained, nauseating curtains, running through grey-rain soaked, insidious streets —
Swastikas crudely daubed like tattoos on walls in blackened blood — trying to find your way home;
On an evening train from Nottingham — where the miasmic madman missed his stop —
After mistaken love waved goodbye again;
Smoking cigarettes on the steps of the Sacré-Cœur,
Cloaked in purple with a red rag, near where prostitutes danced in the snow —
You abandoned your heart half-way down.

Your hopes, the half-forgotten old ones,
You folded and tucked away
Until you found better days.

Do you remember your dreams? The old ones?
The ones painfully sketched in tall, make-shift rooms,
Where the twenty-year-old red mirror stared back in disbelief
As the orange-haired bastard reigned with an old HB pencil;
Painted in borrowed acrylics, smeared like an orgasm of contentment over virgin paper,
Bound and stretched on your bed so your dreams didn’t buckle;
Or printed, colours squeezed tight like a desperate fist,
Through screen onto delicate silk — a scene of nature’s beautiful brutality;
Traced over and again in the dark shadow of machinery that wore you like a death shroud
In days when your belly was full of pills and the nights empty of sleep;
Carved into warmed, biscuit-coloured vinyl where you pushed the blade on through,
An idyll of suburban Xanadu, until the red turned the page of Songs from Innocence to Experience;
The local church spires, like Monet’s Haystacks, green, cerise, and gold —
Changeable under light’s seasons like your faith and your rationalism of pain.

Your dreams, the doubtful old ones,
You mounted and framed
Until you found better days.

And you waited for those days, for years, for days in a kingdom
Without rain where the colourblind man is king again.
For a land where hopes and dreams fuck and love and suck each night
And give birth to new day after new day after new day, every day,
Until you no longer hide outside your skin,
Until the faceless, shameful shade you conceal
Can run and roam in the open fields of day.

But as you stand on the shores of your life
You watch the vultures swoop down.
They issued a search party in the night and dredged the lake.
The boatman lost his way in the mist,
Ferrying somebody else’s hopes and dreams.

To set those old hopes and dreams free now before you die,
You fold them up again, but this time carefully, like origami birds,
Like bright-blue paper jays and white doves chirping
Amongst charms of hummingbirds and trembling finches,
Like winged, shattered pieces of stained glass,
You scatter your dreams in the air with bleeding hands
Until they assemble like a thousand, radiant rainbows,

Until they soar and command the wind, the thunder and the rain,
Until they live and breathe and sing and shout and cry and burn and die as clouds in the sky.

© 2016 Occasional Dreams