Jack and Jacqie on display
the Fort Worth touchdown’s one big smile
grand ol oprey Texas style
shoot the breeze and stay awhile
Dealey Park’s about a mile
Oh JFK hey JFK
Dallas greets your final day
Oswald bookworm sure as hell’s
a worm’s a-turnin’ ne’er do well
Your temper gets a little frayed
on stop-start stroll-pace motorcades
in your head you launch tirades
at papers blabbing escapades
flaunting all the times you’ve strayed,
the women you have JFK’d
you’re decadent as the decade
other thoughts play touch and go
in your topless, broad limo–
Monroe Monroe Monroe Monroe
the Bay of Pigs, Fidel Castro
brother Bobby, father Joe
Oh Jacqie K oh Jacqie K
you hold your pearls and glance away
you know about Jack’s other ‘girls’
you’d crawl the boot to get away
despite the push-back from those churls
Bobbie Robert Bobbie K
Every Kenn’dy gets his day
L.H.Oswald, Soviet troll
is lurking at the Grassy Knoll
Look JFK look JFK! –
a gift sent by the CIA
upon your knees your fingers run –
Les Demoiselles d’ Avignon
is cubist blueprint for this gun
‘It’s great!’ is your o-pin-i-on
Oh JFK Oh JFK
careful how you go today
L.H.Oswald, Soviet troll
is lurking at the Grassy Knoll
Our troops will wave this cubist colt
the barrel, trigger, grip and bolt
all interwoven for assault
an each-side-seen-at-once gestalt
the trigger’s here and also there
the bullet flies out anywhere
it’s every soldier’s worst nightmare
touch with caution, use with care
a cubist firearm, JFK!
the ruskies’ have their RPK
(one wound per shot — bar ricochet)
this cubist firearm differs, yay
one bang creates a bullet spray
Western art’s un-soviet
and cubism’s a great big niet
it’s the biggest jibe that we’ve purped yet
it’s both an insult and a threat
Oh JFK, oh JFK
do not hold the gun that way
Yes, do not hold the weapon thus
you’d better hand it back to us
flip-triggered as a blunderbuss
the kickback’s liable to concuss
sweet jesus do not mess about
the barrel’s like a teapot spout
the bullet can just dribble out
and take your head off –no, LOOK OUT!
Lee Oswald, elbow on a shelf
sees JFK unpick himself
modern art killed JFK
its power blew his mind away
I’m Keeper Triggs, night duty staff
I fold the legs of the giraffe
and stack him in the keeper’s gaff,
unplug hyenas from their laugh
remotely tune the wolves: D minor
put them on the random timer;
check for smuggled language-primers
tick-off primate social-climbers
reverse the knees on geese and ganders
teach dressage skills to anacondas
remove the frills from salamanders
then take the bandit masks off pandas
Each night’s different, yet repeated
stairs are hills that someone’s pleated
the earth’s still spinning, please stay seated
moonlight’s tread is deeply cleated
Meet the Noahs. Act 2, Scene 3
“Dad, I’m starving.”
“Me too, Shem, me too.”
“Everyone’s complaining. Moan, moan, moan.”
“What’s your mum saying?”
“She’s really pissed off. Thinks it’s your fault. Says she should have been involved in the planning. Says that just because you’re a bloody Patriarch doesn’t mean you should behave like a bloody patriarch and she can’t stand it any more.”
“So she’s angry?”
“And hungry. Says if you’d had any sense you would have done the supermarket shopping before getting the animals on board.”
“Yeah, well. It’s too late now.”
“Slaughter an auroch?”
“Had better. Fetch the axe, will you?”
Baba Yaga kidnapped me when I was a toddler. She did not eat me
– I was too measly a portion.
14:04, September 27th
Let’s deconstruct the corned beef sandwich:
Firstly there is the corned beef itself, bought from the supermarket.
Secondly there is the butter, real butter, I cannot abide margarine.
Finally there are two slices of thick, fluffy white bread.
Some may add salad, I say let them. There’s nothing wrong with adding lettuce, cucumber and other remnants of rabbit food to your sandwich, it just isn’t for me.
Deconstructing a sandwich is easy; if I were to deconstruct my life I don’t think I would be able to concoct a successful formula. It is not as simple as learning the alphabet, I did not journey from a to z, but I veered off in between, I tore through formulas, shredded algorithms and filtered myself down. I am not yet a polished diamond, my edges are still sharp and, when I walk, black dust glitters from my pores.
One of the many imperfections to riddle me is the inability to find a knife when I need one. I’ve closed the café for lunch and now I stand at the counter, butter in the refrigerated compartment in front of me; corned beef, in its rightful place, on a plate beside the butter, the slight globules of jelly shimmering in the dim light. Yet, I cannot find a knife – whenever a customer asks for a sandwich, or a baked potato, or salad, or anything that may involve a knife, I can find one, right where I left it. If I need a knife, however, I believe the café hides them from me – she has been known to do things like this before.
I crouch down and open the cupboard door. It has a steel handle, cold against my palm as I tug on it.
It won’t budge.
A lock of hair falls across my forehead and I pinch it between my thumb and index finger, setting it behind my left ear. Biting my lip, I brace the sole of my left plimsoll against the tiles beside the door and clench the muscles in my upper arms.
I’ve never had these doors fitted with locks. Sometimes, the café finds it almost humorous to lock doors and move rooms around. I remember, once upon a time, I spilled egg mayonnaise on my collar – I went upstairs to get changed, and by the time I’d returned, we were teleported to the River Thames. We were a raft, selling our wares to waifs and strays who had found themselves caught in some form of maelstrom.
I didn’t make much in the way of money that day.
I heave a breath and pull on the door handle, but it refuses to open and I let it go. Losing my balance, I fall backwards, and land on my hands, filling my palms with crumbs.
A bell above the front door tinkles announcing the arrival of a customer. She’s unlocked the door. I know she must have done because I still have today’s key on a string around my neck. Today the key is a long brass thing, flaking black in places with a round end, and two ridges to insert into the keyhole.
I roll my eyes and push myself to my feet.
‘I’m afraid we’re closed for lunch.’
‘Well … no … I’m not afraid about being closed for lunch; it’s something people say.’
‘Everyone is afraid.’
‘I don’t fear life.’ She has crow’s feet, their toes clack against the tiles. Her hair is red – but not of blood, nor of fire, this is the red of fallen leaves, forever in a stasis between life and death. ‘I fear nothing.’
‘We are closed.’
‘I brought you a gift, an offering, temptation.’ Her tongue curls around the word, forks from between her lips.
a tongue to taste it licks her lips it lingers in the dip
beneath her nose it rises further covers her nose
pink to red blood red over the eyes over the forehead
down her back this tongue trails she is surrounded
she clashes with the tiles rolls to my feet: temptation
I pick up the apple and rub it on my apron.
poison in an apple core
i do not
it only happens once
as dark as snow white
as hard as fairy wings
the café deconstructs
floorboards rupture and fall through cracks into
molten earth the ghosts escape the foundations
– they wail –
window panes release memories bricks let go
the voices and they wail, they wail, they wail
and their search for an answer will be lost
for there are more answers than questions
and like all good jigsaws none of the pieces fit
VIII. Damson And Dee Lilacs
Der once was a strong kid called Damson,
whose 6 pack made him look damn handsome.
His girlfriend, Dee Lilacs,
his locks she like hijacks
for which she was paid a king’s ransom.
Now, Damson, he was not best pleased,
more like he’s completely off cheesed.
“I’m fed up with wimmin
hair sneakily trimmin’”,
so brought the house down when he sneezed.
© Phil Poyser, Macclesfield, 23rd. October, 2013
VII. Handsome and Delightful
Well, thank you very much. That’s really kind.
It’s been hard to cope since they made me blind.
They chained me here in Gaza, tresses shorn.
At first, I wished that I had not been born,
but time has passed and I now have my plan.
Vengeance I’ll wreak on every single man
….. and woman too. I was deceived again.
Betrayed and betrayer both will be slain.
Week after week, for hair my temples yearned.
My hair’s regrown and with it strength returned.
The climax of this story I will crown.
Step back. I’ll bring their temple crashing down.
© Phil Poyser, Macclesfield, 23rd. October, 2013
Note: An episode of the Simpsons was entitled “Simpson and Delilah”.
VI. Spaniel in the Lions’ Den
A spaniel named Jarvis Cocker
had ball skills worthy of soccer.
You threw them, he chased them
which sometimes caused mayhem.
I’ll tell you of one, a real shocker.
One day he went into a zoo,
a rather unwise thing to do.
When his ball ricocheted
where fierce lions were laid,
he through the bars squeezed, silly moo!
Now here’s the strange thing. In the cage,
the pride didn’t get in a rage.
He wasn’t a victim.
The lionesses licked him.
which their anger seemed to assuage.
After our cocker’s eviction,
the zoo made an interdiction.
No ball games were allowed
Of their pride they were proud.
I swear this tale’s no pulp fiction.
© Phil Poyser, Macclesfield, 21st. October, 2013
III. Joshua And The Bottle of Sherry-O
When Joshua round a city was encamped,
his trumpets blew and his folk loudly stamped.
The walls fell down, the effect of stereo.
Joshua won a bottle of sherry-O.
© Phil Poyser, Macclesfield, 20th. October, 2013
IV. The Wisden of Solomon
Now there once reigned a very clever king
whose problem-solving was his special thing.
Less well known was his role in writing up
all test and county scores and cricket cup.
Overs, wickets, stands, every run that’s scored,
all matches taking place at home, abroad,
for all posterity would be notated,
the Wisden of Solomon widely fêted.
© Phil Poyser, Macclesfield, 20th. October, 2013
Zing-zing Wedding Ring
Now Jenny is a redhead
I said I want her in my bed
She said to me now play it cool
She wouldn’t break her golden rule
That she wouldn’t come to my bed
Until we were properly wed.
I thought I’d take a real chance
And asked her to the tea dance
She said she’d love to come with me
And that she’d sit on my knee.
The night went so very zing-zing
She accepted my diamond ring
So we arranged ourselves a wedding feast
And we found ourselves a friendly priest
And he declared us man and wife
Me and my redhead for life
And we lived happy for ever after
Many years of life, love and laughter.
II. Joseph And The Goat Of Many Collars
Joseph had eleven brothers,
all one Dad but several mothers.
He told his brothers all his dreams,
which sometimes brassed them off it seems.
One day, of goats he was in charge.
He had a favourite nanny, large.
He’d made her collars for her neck,
a ploy to keep her more in check.
“We’ll fake Joe’s death,” the bros. declared.
A shame he had not over-herd.
They sold Joe off, brought back his coat
stained with the blood of nanny goat.
Poor Jacob thought his son was dead,
the more loved Benjamin instead.
Good years went by and tables turned.
The cattle died, the crops all burned.
In Egypt, folk from far and near
came to see the Grand Vizier.
His fortunes changed, this was our Joe,
a fact his brothers weren’t to know.
They went to barter for some corn
for Egypt thrived on plenty’s horn.
They did not recognise their kin
who promptly threw them in the bin.
He called them spies, but part in jest.
He put them through a trying test.
To Egypt came the youngest child.
At last they all were reconciled.
© Phil Poyser, Macclesfield, 19th./20th. October, 2013
I posted the first part of this a few months ago. Link here: https://maccwriters.wordpress.com/?p=168&preview=true
On yellow days I drink green tea.
I stand in front of the bathroom mirror and stare at my grey, lumpy skin. Outside, the world looks barren, sparse and clinical, as though overnight Mother Nature decided to spring clean. Above us, the sky is filled with fog and clouds, yet they’re not white clouds, they’re pastel yellow. And I see myself for what I truly am.
I have fallen victim to stretch marks and cellulite,
with my dog-eared flesh,
pricked by acne scars.
As a child, I slept with thorns for a pillow
and thistles for a blanket.
There is a strict procedure to follow.
We work from the top down – heads
but I refuse to end with my eyes. They are the keys to my soul and today they are
thin red veins creep across the whites of my eyes like ivy, moving ever close towards my pupils. the dusty crumbs of sleep fill the corner of my right hand eye. i stretch the skin down and using the nail of my index finger i scratch it out. at first my eye stings and a tear slips into the hollow beneath my eye before dribbling down my cheek. i swipe it away and along with the sleep i flick it at the tiles. i lean closer to the mirror and close my eye. i press my finger through the skin, pushing against my eye ball. if i so wished i could scoop out my eye like a melon ball and freeze it. i would save it and drop it into his green tea. i would watch him scream.
I repeat this with the other eye and rub them both, before blinking a few times with my lips parted. I exhale, creating a mist on the mirror. I wipe it away and leave a thumb print.
black dots fill my pores like bullets, waiting to be released. i scrape some away with my fingers. rubbing at my nose the skin peels slightly, i bring my hands down the sides of my nose and wipe the skin away. it flails and settles in the sink like pale dust. my nose feels softer now. i cup my nose; stroke it with my index finger and the ball of my thumb. i roll the tip of my nose across my palm. the bone clicks and squelches, before i move away. i am glowing red.
I cover my face with a cream filled with grit and stare into the mirror. If this didn’t work, I think I would scrub my skin with a pumice stone, scouring the flakes away and watching them fall to the floor. I would endure blisters and calluses so that my skin might refresh. It would return, soft and renewed.
After this, I wash it away, inhaling the peach scent as it glugs down the drain.
the skin erupts from my lips. i take a sheaf of toilet paper and scrape the skin into the tissue. i drop it to the floor and crumple it underfoot. i stretch the skin around my lips, opening my mouth wide and repeating the sounds ‘me’ ‘mah’ and ‘moh’. i reach into my mouth, holding it open, and stroke a finger across my teeth. scum and plaque create a grimy coat that i wipe away, letting it fill the space between my fingernail and the skin beneath. it’s white and reminds me of the fat discarded when you boil ham.
I brush with tooth-paste that burns my lips, so that I am forever hissing air. My toothbrush is too rough, and stabs at my gums. They bleed and I spit it into the sink so that there’s skin and plaque and blood against the cracked porcelain.
the mirror isn’t kind to me. i see myself from every perspective and in each i find a new purpling stretch mark, deep, like pot holes in the road. i trace them with my fingers, sprawling my fingers so that i explore each and every creamy worm of skin. on the underside of my arm, i locate the smooth portion of skin and circle the tip of my index finger around and around, if i find a stray hair, i tear it out and save it in a shot glass so that i can see all the pain i have endured for my beauty. when i reach my legs i scratch the stubble. i bend down, start at my ankles and work my way up. i use shaving cream, a sharp razor blade and start to shear away my imperfections. i am stone. i must be chiselled and sculpted to find the hidden beauty beneath. as i shave i ignore the scars from before when the blade went a little too deep. I nick my skin all the time – wash the blood away in the shower and continue – I ignore the stinging of soap and stay there until the water boils and burns my skin. i am red and sore and when i leave the confines of the shower i cannot see for steam, but i am whole.
I switch on the extractor fan and place my sodden towel on the floor. It’s cold against my back as I lie down and stay there. The steam rises from my body and coils about my face. Water dribbles from my skin and is absorbed into the towel. I watch as the steam on the walls turns to condensation and beads to the ground.
I stroke my right hand up my left arm and lift it when my palm’s damp. Once I’ve done this, I repeat the act on my other arm. I rub my hands on my legs. My thighs are soft and when I press my index finger into my flesh it is warm. I imagine it as a teddy bear; it keeps me warm and wants to be mollycoddled.
When I’m dry, I stand up and leave the bath room. I like to walk naked across the landing; I bask in the cool breeze that tickles me. The hairs on my arms and legs stands on end, and I embrace the sensation, holding the pose of a model – my shoulders back, lips pouting and eyes daggers. To achieve this look I imagine you. I call upon the memories of you, the wind whipping your hair, rain soiling your brow and I am a woman scorned.
In my bed room, I admire my reflection in the mirror. I am a new woman. I slip into a white dress decorated with violets and wrap a purple belt around my middle. I am not fat, I am curvy and I refuse to let you tell me otherwise, anymore. I make my lips purple as well, a deep purple, practically burgundy and I lightly dust my face so that my cheeks aren’t so pale. I curl my eye-lashes, apply mascara, and then shadow the lids with a smattering of lavender.
My woolly tights are black – you claimed I would have looked better if they’d been sheer, but you never were able to think. Always overtly sexual, you never could think about what was going on underneath. Mini-skirts and deep cleavage are all it takes to have you drooling like a dog with a bowl of offal in one paw and a bitch on heat in the other.
When it comes to shoes, I choose patent leather high heels. I strap myself in and saunter down the landing. I forego the lounge and head straight for the kitchen.
On days like these, my kitchen consists of a kettle, a plug and a counter top. There’s a clear glass mug with a string leaning over the side. I boil the kettle, and pour the steaming water over the green tea, inhaling the dull scent. I grimace and head over to the circular table in the corner, behind the door. I sit down in an orange plastic chair and wrap my ankles around the steel legs that support me.
Cradling the mug, I warm my hands and lean my head back. There’s something meaty about the taste, it causes my face to turn in on itself: my eyes close, lips curl and I shake my head.
A woman appears in the corner. She’s a little old lady, her shoulders hunched. In her hands, she conceals something; I assume it’s an orb of some sort. She has her hood pulled up over her head, shadowing the upper part of her face. Her beak of a nose peeks through, like a chick poking its head out of the nest. Shawls and heavy skirts weigh her body down, so that even making the slightest of movements is like wading through treacle.
I see her lip curl and she opens her hands to reveal an eye-ball. Yellowed with cataracts I can barely make out the blue iris underneath. The pupil seems to twist in on itself and I am reflected in its gaze. My hands are gnarled claws, wrinkled like the eagle
He clasped the crag with crooked hands and my nails are scoring the glass. I am transfixed as my body shifts – I am Quasimodo, the threads of my dress bursting at the seams. I arch my back and hear a distinct crack. Glass falls like glitter across my lap, green tea spattering against the linoleum. My hair falls down my back and the colour changes from the roots outwards. This is white. Not platinum. I won’t be creating jewellery any time soon.
The old woman covers the eye once more and I fall to the floor. Shards pierce my hands, blood mixes with green tea and the salt of my tears.
NOTE: This is a work of fiction. Any similarities to people alive or dead, or to places, are purely coincidental. Any similarities of technology mentioned to existing technologies, or those under development, are purely coincidental.
“But God said unto him, Thou fool, this night thy soul shall be required of thee: then whose shall those things be, which thou hast provided?” Luke 12:20(KJV)
Things had gone well; Professor Tom Hickinson was on a roll. His latest break through was significant. Having worked all day at the lab he returned to his home in the, highly vaunted, gated community of Moonrise and grabbed a sandwich to eat. Olga was out, which irritated him, so he logged into the lab servers just to have another look over the latest test data. Before he knew it the clock said eleven pm, where was Olga? He flipped open his phone and dialled her number, there was no reply. He closed the phone, and then he remembered, “she’s at her aunt’s place, she did tell me” he said to himself.
He opened his phone and dialled her again so he could leave a message “Hi Olga it’s me, I was worried because you weren’t back, I had completely forgotten your trip. I’m going to bed but call anytime, sweet thing”.
Tom carefully brushed his teeth. He grinned at himself in the bathroom mirror, “you’re a winner Tom Hickinson, a real winner like your father and grand father before you, and soon you’ll be able to take it easy, really indulge yourself”. He flopped into bed.
Just as he was dropping off to sleep he was woken by the familiar sound of the spiderbot scuttling around in the kitchen. It sounded like it was looking for something as he could hear drawers being opened and closed. He hadn’t programmed it for a kitchen clean up, no, he definitely did not remember setting that program on for eleven in the evening. But then he had forgotten that Olga was away tonight. Work had filled his mind so that he was, it seemed, becoming forgetful. The sound of drawers and cutlery rattling continued from the kitchen. Tom had had enough “I’m going to switch the bloody thing off”. As he threw his legs over the side of the bed the noise ceased. He paused, the kitchen activity did not resume.
“I’ll find out what that was all about in the morning” he said to himself and he rolled back into bed.
As he dropped off to sleep his estranged wife Sandra came into his mind. How could he have been so stupid, but then he thought of Olga and smiled. He regretted how he had treated Sandra but now he was with Olga and that was all that mattered. His other infidelities weren’t serious matters, he had forgotten them. All that mattered was Olga.
He felt he had been asleep a long time when he was woken by the bedside lamp coming on. It took him a few seconds to wake up properly from a dream in which he was caught in a giant spider web and the spider was getting closer.
“Olga darling is that you?”
There was no reply; she must be in the bathroom.
Tom was wide awake now. The bedroom door was open. He caught movement by the side of the bed. Had Olga fallen? Tom reached for his glasses and as he did so the spiderbot scuttled onto and up the bed. Tom wasn’t afraid. The only person who had control of it was Pete his assistant. Then he remembered that, for extra security, the wifi was on a timer so the spiderbot shouldn’t be operable now. With unease in his heart he looked at his clock, it said 4:30am.
“Pete is that you”
His eyes adjusted properly and he saw that the spiderbot was holding the old Walther pistol that his grandfather had brought back from Europe after World War II. Slowly but steadily the eight legged robot raised the pistol pointing is straight at Tom. He stared in disbelief, a surge of fear went through him and he turned to grab his phone by the bed. At that instant the gun fired. The recoil flipped the little robot right off the bed. It climbed back a second later to see that professor Tom Hickinson was quite dead. The bullet had penetrated through his right temple.
The spiderbot climbed onto Tom’s body and moved his right arm until his palm was face up, then it carefully laid the gun in his limp hand. It pushed his forefinger through the trigger guard and pressed the dead digit onto the trigger but used too much pressure, the trigger compressed and the hammer fell. There was no bang just a click, there had only been one round in the chamber, the magazine was empty. The spiderbot retrieved the gun from the dead man’s hand and attempted to pull back the slide as if loading another round, but the gun’s spring was too strong. Metal claws scraped along the top of the pistol. After three failed attempts at the slide it changed tactics and managed to pull back the hammer. Then it carefully replaced the gun in the open palm.
The spiderbot walked back ward a few steps as if paying it’s respects and then, dropping from the bed, scuttled back to the kitchen.
Tom’s phone began to ring; the display said “Olga”
……to be continued.
For seven years she’d watched them. Watched as they raised their young. Watched the chicks grow from awkward, gawky balls of blackness. Watched them as they left the nest and fledged.
For seven years she’d watched all this, watched as the adult pair flew together for the rest of the year. Partners. For seven years she watched all this and thought how lovingly he groomed his mate. Groomed his mate until her feathers shone in the sunlight.
She knew the call that was his above all the birds. She knew his walk and his white-marked tail feather and she wondered whether it was age, this greyness.
For seven years she waved her husband off to work. Watched him drive to the end of the road. Watched him turn the corner and vanish out of sight as she stood and waved. For seven years she did this. She was sure and never missed a day.
In the autumn of the seventh year she waved to her husband. She watched and waved until he disappeared from sight. Then she looked upward and saw the crow on the roof. He was cawing and bowing as if to her and he was alone. And she watched him, heard his call and saw that he was picking moss from between the roof slates. And all the time she watched. And all the time he was alone.
The sky was dark but split with light, as some autumn mornings are. He was lit in the brightness of the shards and he watched her. He watched her as she closed the door and went into her house. He was alone and she was alone. He knew all this because for seven years he’d watched her. He knew her wave, he knew the soft sound of her voice; knew that she loved autumn best of all the seasons.
For seven years he had watched her.
Later, and when evening began to fall she heard his call as he flew across the sky to his roost. Other birds called but it was his call that she knew and she listened. And then she watched until he disappeared from view. Watched as he hid himself amongst the tall trees whose branches offered little shelter. The tall trees whose winter coat was almost cast and who gave little shelter to him. Up in the tall trees he cawed. He cawed and he watched her.
For seven nights he watched her. And she saw him fly to roost. For seven nights after seven years he watched her. And she was alone and he was alone.
And in the morning and for seven more mornings he watched her. Watched her as she stood by the door and waved to her husband. And as he watched her he cawed and she saw him and smiled. And he picked moss from the slates on the roofs and he took the moss he had gathered to the tall trees and there he lined a nest with the soft, green moss. And he was alone.
And after seven mornings it was done. And he watched as she waved, but this morning she didn’t go inside. Not today, not on this day. On this day she watched and she waited and she heard him call. So she stood and waited and he came down the path and his feathers were purple black in the morning sun and he called to her as he stood on the path. And she watched him. And she saw that he was as a man. And she stepped down the path and she went to him and he said her name and she knew it, even though it was just his call. The call he had used for seven years and seven nights and seven days. And he was as tall as a man and he took her in his wings. The black purple wings that shone in the sunlight. And she went with him. And her husband lost her. But she watched her husband, still. And she called to him, but he never knew her call or that it was her. He never knew that it was she watching him, and flying past overhead as he turned the corner and disappeared from sight.
Margaret Holbrook’s anthology Watching and other Stories is available to purchase on Amazon.
“That’s right; give those teeth a good clean. And when you’ve finished we’ll go and get Gramps’ present. You haven’t forgotten have you? It’s his birthday today. We’ll go and see him after lunch. And you can wear your red dress. Yes, that’s the one. The one Granny gave you for Christmas.”
He hadn’t thought about not opening the notebook. The one he found in the old wooden kist in the lounge of the tiny flat. It’s just that after he had finished his egg and toast he wasn’t sure what to do with himself. He knew it wasn’t a work day and she was out, probably with Jenny Simpson and Teresa Carter, both old school friends and both now living back in the area – we all come back sooner or later, he mused – and also both keen amateur artists. He noted that the easel was missing from behind the spare room door so he knew they would be out sketching and painting somewhere, near some picturesque old mill or up on the moors. She wouldn’t be back until late afternoon. So the day was his to fill and enjoy as he liked.
He would just potter, he thought. Potter around their little retirement nest, poke into old boxes, flick through photo albums, rummage around the cupboards. You never knew when you were going to find something of interest.
Anyway, this note book was one he couldn’t remember seeing before. So he opened it. Lifted the black cardboard cover with the tip of thumb of his left hand. And why shouldn’t he? There was nothing to suggest that this was private. No warning signs. Nothing to indicate that reading this could bring unhappiness.
The front page was almost blank. Only six words. In her handwriting. Of course it was her handwriting. He would recognise it anywhere. Their early days of courting had been a long distance affair with letters of eternal love and high passion carried backwards and forwards across vast and dividing oceans by unsuspecting mail ships.
“Yes, Gramps loved Granny very much. One day I’ll show you some of the letters they wrote to each other. When you’re ten. That’ll be a good time. Now hurry up with those shoes and tie them in proper bows, not knots.”
He looked affectionately at the framed water colour hanging above the fireplace. Signed Veronica Ottoman. She certainly had a way with the brush, he thought. And with words. Never a word wasted. Always honest, never flinching. Those love letters, so direct, so brave, so unashamed of her feelings. And he never doubted what he read.
His eyes went back to the note book. Six words. In black ink (she always wrote in black and couldn’t understand how a large percentage of the world’s population took to writing in blue; just didn’t understand it at all; silly old thing). Six words. Only six. “To kill or not to kill”.
No words wasted, he thought. Always direct, always honest, unashamed. Never a reason to doubt them.
He noticed a tremble in his hand and moved to the comfortable wicker chair next to the sitting room window. He pushed the curtains further apart to get more light and slowly lowered himself onto the embroidered cushion.
“To kill or not to kill”. What was she thinking of? Was she unhappy with him? He thought not. Was there someone else? How could there be? They were always together, rarely apart. Unless she was out sketching. With her friends. Jenny Simpson and Teresa Carter. He removed his glasses and rubbed his forehead. It was tingling. It happened now and again. The tingle. Anyhow, she loved him. They still wrote each other love letters.
But! Her words – always direct, always honest. “To kill”? Kill who? Him? She was planning to kill him. He rubbed harder. But why. She still loved him. There couldn’t be anyone else. They were always together. Unless? Unless what? Jenny Simpson and Teresa Carter. He hadn’t seen them for months. Was she really out with them? Up on the moors?
He knew what to do. He reached across to the occasional table on which the phone rested and picked up the well-thumbed phone book. Flicked quickly through to Jenny Simpson. Dialed. Halfway through the number his finger slipped so started again. Dialed the number. Heard the ringing tone. Held his breath. Heard the voice, “Hello, Jenny Simpson speaking.” Carefully replaced the large black handset onto its cradle. Went back to the phone book. Selected another number. Heard the voice, “Hello. It’s Teresa”.
“This one, what do you think of this one? Do you think the colour will suit him? It’ll go well with those brown corduroy trousers he likes to wear. Anyhow, he needs a new jumper. The one he’s got at the moment is quite disgraceful, don’t you think. Time for a new one. And you can draw a picture of him wearing it if you want to. But you’ll have to hurry. We’ll be leaving in about an hour. And we still have to wrap this. You can help me tie the string. Dear old Gramps. He’ll look good in this. A gentle colour to suit his gentle nature.”
The tingling was getting worse. He should press the red button on the wall. Every room had a red button. “For emergency use only.” He knew he should ring it. When the tingling starts he needs to press the button. Then someone would help him. But what would he say? That Veronica was planning to kill him? That would make sense. But what if Veronica came? With a knife or a heavy blunt instrument? God, he hated her. Always making his life a misery. Always calling him names. Going out with other men. Laughing in his face when he challenged her. He felt the anger arising, reaching every pore of his body, every fibre of his being.
Blindly, unseeingly, he rampaged through the flat, tearing pictures off the walls, pulling books off the shelves, shouting at furniture, damning Veronica, the person who had lived the lie, who was the epitome of the cheating wife. The tingling had turned into a black and searing pain and the more he raged, the more he hurt.
“You remember Mrs Simpson and Mrs Carter, don’t you. Friends of Granny and Gramps. Do you remember them? Well, they’re coming to the party with us. We’ll pick them up along the way.
“Gosh, you look lovely in that dress. Gramps will be so pleased to see you in it.”
He stood quietly amidst the wreckage of the room in his baggy underpants. He was calm. Watching. Waiting. He knew they would come for him. In their uniforms and with their false smiles. With their pills and their needles. His jailers. He knew them, oh, he knew them, with their superficial friendliness and their, “Good morning, Mr Ottoway”, or their, “Hi, David, nice day today. Egg and toast for brekkie. Enjoy”.
Oh, he knew them and how they kept him locked up in the building, restricting his movements, refusing him his rights. But this time he was ready for them all. Two can play at this game, he thought. And so he was calm. Calm and ready. He would nod and smile and laugh and all would be fine. Oh, he could play this game.
He watched a group of them getting out of the car. Three women and, skipping around excitedly, one little girl dressed in red. The little girl looked up at his window and waved. He stepped back. She was signaling someone. He mustn’t let her see him. He needed to be careful.
He heard the gentle knock on the door. “Gramps, it’s us. Come to wish you a happy birthday.”
Downstairs a nurse on her break sat in the library and browsed the books. One particular title caught her eye. To Kill or Not To Kill. By Veronica Ottoway. She remembered it well. A best seller in its day.
A quickie from a Macclesfield Writing Group exercise concentrating on genre. With a nod in the direction of Douglas Adams:
The smell of coffee awakened its senses.
It glared at its interrogator using all of its four hundred and seventy six eyes. “This is not allowed you know. Under Clause 375X of the Universal Charter of Creature Rights no being should be subjected to the smell of fresh coffee.”
The interrogator, a Zircon from Outer Kelvin, faded in and out of visibility and turned slightly arcturus amber. “This will be unknown by all. It’s just the clashing of our word credibilities. So just gift the knowledge into my memory bank and imprisonment will not be yours.”
The prisoner blinked in perplexity. “Can you say that again please.”
“Abundance! What is your iron in the fire here? Do you preach Adaminism? And where is the root ginger?” And popped the percolator back onto the pot-bellied stove with gestures full of extreme malice, chuckling cruelly.
His captive shone blue with fear, but held firm, “Under Clause 375X of …”
But before he could say more the Zircon placed a one-shot espresso cup on the highly polished mahogany Queen Anne coffee table and reached for the percolator. “Sweetener?” it asked, sarcastically.
The prisoner fell screaming to the ceiling where it lay weeping and moaning. But still refusing to speak.
“So,” said the Zircon, “It is uttering you are not. Time to get unplayful. I’m afraid we are going to have to open the Nescafe!”
If you’re going to San Francisco,
wear a flower in your hair
for if this was a crossword clue,
it’s a Ribble you might wear.
But if it’s flower power you want,
here’s my word contorted list.
It reeks of puns and plays on words.
Is there any one I’ve missed?
There’s hydrangea-electric. You see where this is going?
Petunium, geradium and ger-uranium are glowing.
Then coal-iflower and fuschial fuels take a lot of beating.
Have you considered grass- or v-oil-et-fired central heating?
Take stem-powered locomotives. Buy petal-driven cars.
Sunflower’s the source of Life here, just one of lots of stars.
With solanum panels on your roof, update your insulation.
I think I’ll draw this to a close and stop the irritation.
© Phil Poyser, Macclesfield, 5th. February, 2013
This verse comes with a warning.
It will be just 8 lines long.
It’s jam-packed full of energy.
It’s a silver-backed King Kong.
It throbs with power, vibrates with oomph.
It resonates in your brain.
It’s gelignite. It’s dynamite.
It’s a fuel that’s high octrain.
© Phil Poyser, Macclesfield, 2nd. February, 2013
Posted on 12/02/2013 by maccwriters
My disguise is quite authentic:
dull, late 60s, humanoid.
My persona is eccentric.
My poems often nod to Freud.
But just beneath this outer coat
of liberal, middle-brower,
there lurks a crime-wave antidote,
a superpowered ker-pow-er.
When devastation’s on the cards,
when MacclesfieldTown’s attacked,
when councils lift the last safeguards
and short-sighted plans are backed,
I don my underpants and cloak
in some quiet deserted spot
and suddenly I’m Superbloke,
so don’t mess with me. Best not.
Developers’ mad plans are dropped
and the council soon recants.
My alter ego I adopt
when I wear my underpants.
Clad in lycra®, cloak and undies,
small town villains fear my name.
I’ll work weekdays, Sat’days, Sundays.
No job’s too wild nor too tame.
I’ve been known to swoop on bullies
or when litter vandals strike
and drop rubbish in our gullies,
Superbloke’s back on his bike.
So, remember when a crisis
needs resolving at a stroke,
I’ll perform my next ecdysis
and emerge as Superbloke.
© Phil Poyser, Macclesfield, 2nd./3rd. February, 2013
I want to be a mountaineer who climbs towards the sky.
I want to be a swallow who dines out whilst he’s on high.
I want to be a long-haired cat who snuggles by the fire.
I want to be that mountaineer and climb forever higher.
I am a “funky” gibbon: the Goodies sang my song.
I am a hairy primate: to the jungle I belong.
I am the colour purple. I’m worn by rebels old.
I am the polar regions and I’m getting much less cold.
I am the melting glaciers and the shrinking thawed ice-floes.
I am the tinkling of the ice which in your glass just glows.
I am the whiff of kerosene you use on bonfire night.
I am the tongue exploring which will set your soul alight.
My grandson’s name is Maxim and he is one today.
and sometime soon I’ll visit him and play and play and play,
but I’m a Wednesday cyclist, two wheels my pride and joy
and all my spare time’s taken up in the wake of Sir Chris Hoy.
© Phil Poyser, Glossop, 31st. January, 2013
(Written as a warm up exercise at the Word Wizard workshop run by Matt Black, the Derbyshire Poet Laureate).
You’re the main course to my banquet,
Surprise du chef by Michel Roux.
You’re the sparkle in my champagne.
You’re a vintage Bolly too.
You’re a tasty soup for starters.
You’re prawn cocktail Mary Rose.
You’re so bootiful a turkey,
Such a pretty parson’s nose.
You’re my daily staple diet.
You’re the calories I crave.
You’re a chocoholic’s wet dream .
Oops! I so wanted to behave.
© Phil Poyser, Glossop, 31st. January, 2013
(Written at the Word Wizard workshop run by Matt Black, the Derbyshire Poet Laureate).
I am attractive, healthy and single and in my early twenties, but my partner of six months is suggesting we give up sex for Lent. Do I find someone else? I think maybe we should abstain? Please help.
Abstinence is something I wouldn’t suggest,
Could you last forty days without being caressed?
That only leads to a slippery slope,
Don’t let yourself be ruled by a partnerless Pope.
Get the cookie dough out of your beautiful eyes,
That way for certain madness lies;
Contrived self denial is like a leaky tin can,
Serving no purpose for woman nor man.
Try greeting your urges with yesses not noes,
Dispense with propriety and with it your woes;
God’s gift to you is the bloom of youth,
It’s a sin to reject it; there lies the Truth.
I hope these words help you decide;
Now let your hormones be your guide.
Last Friday while I was at the dentist, the snow began to fall. Ever so lightly. The ghost of snow, phantom snow, the spirit of snows past and of snows to come (more worrying). In spite of the snow, my teeth or rather my gums are stable. It is extremely gratifying, considering I have “pockets” in my gums, that they don’t bleed profusely when the dentist plunges her size 0 dental crocheting hook into the soft bed of my mercury-stuffed molars. On to the hygienist, Sue, who was delighted that I had persevered at poking those little plastic bottle brushes, soaked in a solution of neat Listerine, between my teeth with continued vigour on a “regular” basis. Strange thing while I was waiting in the ante-room for the hygienist to finish her cup of coffee, I got chatting to a lady first about the snow and then about teeth, who confessed that she had never been to a hygienist before. I asked which hygienist she was due to see, and the lady said “Can’t remember”. Then I said, “Is it Sue? ” and she said: ” Yes, but how did you know my name?” You see, her name was Sue too, the same as the hygienist’s, and she thought I was either psychic or a stalker. Oh how we larfed at the serendipity of it all! Turned out she was seeing a different hygienist in the end.
Evening: heavy snowfall. Mow Cop girls: Alison, Deirdre, Maxie still on plus two extra non-dancing guests. I packed the pull along with spare veils, belts, galabayas (phonetic spelling) and red wine decanted into a soda water bottle (plastic). Yes, cheapskate I know, but must needs – unwaged – and still need some Dutch courage to get up and shimmy. Made a delicious gourmet salad for Derek to accompany his Aldi 21 day-aged sirloin steak and new potatoes (skin on), and gave him a glass of wine out of my soda water decanter so he wouldn’t feel left out. Donned my dramatically cosy winter coat, Peruvian hat and Nanook boots, and trundled out to the taxi with pull-along making gorgeous parallel tracks in the snow. Wilmslow British Legion! Here come the dancing girls…
(to be continued)
She managed to get the key in the lock and open the door. She took a few steps into the room before she collapsed onto a kitchen chair.
“My god, that was a party and a half.”
Michael came over to her.
“Are you okay? You smell of booze. You’re drunk.”
“So what’s your excuse?”
“Jesus, Angie. What’s this about? Where’ve you been? What’s happened?”
“New year, babe. New year. Saying goodbye to the old. That’s you. And saying hello to the new. That’s Eric Thompson if you need to know.”
“You’re drunk, Angie. Let’s get you to bed.”
She looked at him. “You’re finished, Michael. Let’s get you out of my flat.” And turned to the still open doorway. “Come inside Eric Thompson and help me throw this pile of shit out. It’s time for him to go.”
And in walked Eric Thompson. “Happy new year, Michael. Angie says time for you to go.”
Later that night, just before dawn, in a small forest clearing just beyond the edge of town, Michael paused in his digging to marvel at the way in which an ordinary kitchen knife can play such an extraordinary part in the lives (and deaths) of everyday people.
© Patrick Prinsloo
Hey, diddle, diddle.
It’s a bit of a riddle.
Neil Armstrong, who walked on the moon,
and Buzz Aldrin laughed once they had done
and their module was docked again soon.
Then back down on earth, Neil questioned the worth
of his fame and the toll it would take.
He was wanted by all and was always on call,
an appetite he couldn’t slake.
He was dined and fêted. It never abated.
He was the toast, the talk of the town..
This man of few words said, “Fame is absurd.
It’s a burden I want to put down”.
Once from NASA resigned, he had peace of mind,
he settled on a farm in Ohio.
Over vast fields of maize, he would steadfastly gaze
at the stars and the moon in the sky, oh.
And he knew he had been and the earth was blue-green
by the light of the moon bright and shiny.
“What more to achieve?” he would quietly grieve,
“We are dust specks that breathe. We are tiny.”
At age 82, his time here was through
and he passed into History’s charge.
It was time to find peace, all his atoms release
and his fame and his name are writ large.
© Phil Poyser, Macclesfield, 31st. December, 2012
Fame: I Want To Live Forever Version II
Known as “Wiggo”, Bradley Wiggins,
the new “Sport’s Personality”.
finds instant, unsought fame begins
to grate. It ain’t his cuppa tea.
For to Olympic gold he sped
on his fine-tuned, trusty velo’.
thus giving cycling more street cred.
He rode Tour de France in yellow
right along the Champs-Elysées,
He’s the first “rosbif” to win it.
Thanks to his team mates all the way,
his fame’s more than 15 minutes.
Celebrity’s a fact of Life,
but Celebrity is hollow.
He keeps embarrassing the wife
She finds it hard to (s)wallow.
He is an ordinary bloke,
not brash and loud like Usain Bolt.
The side-burns were his little joke.
It didn’t take them long to moult.
He could have grown a great big “tash”,
been a Movember hirsute star,
but wind-resistance as they dash
would be a drag from handle-bar.
The laurel is a crown of thorns,
champagne a poisoned chalice,
post-success a chasm yawns
in a land like that of Alice.
And like that flurry at the end,
when they sprint and it’s a blur,
he finds it easier just to blend
et il parle français comme eux.