Friday, 30 August 2013

Five Minutes - 3

“Ball!” Tyson yelled. “I’ve got Ball!”
            He lumbered to the front of the line, shoving aside a couple of kids that got in his way. David watched the intent with which the bully moved, instantly feeling his stomach turn to water. If Tyson wanted Ball, he always got Ball. And he always got the person with the ball, regardless of the rules. That was the law of the schoolyard.
            David knew that it wasn’t coincidence that Tyson made his call when he realised that Nathan held the football. Another law of the schoolyard was for the bully to make certain that newcomers were treated to a bit of a roughing on their first outing. The fact that Tyson had waited this long meant that the roughing was going to be extra special.
            Nathan didn’t seem too concerned. But he had no reason to. Thus far, all Tyson had done was just push a few kids around, before ambling off with a couple of mates for a quick smoke when the teacher disappeared around the front of the school on her perambulations. But never in that first five minutes did Tyson call for the “Ball.” Never had he moved in anything faster than a loping walk. Only now, like a wolf sniffing the scent of a lamb, did he jog to the front of the line, sneer in place, arms flexed, tense, ready to grab.
            As if by magic, the opposition line suddenly kicked forward. As one they all moved, a thick wall of farm boys in work boots. Each kid announced their “tags” once more, their voices now cleared of any fatigue. The game was reaching matchpoint. And everyone knew what that meant. Everyone that is, except for Nathan Johnson.
            With this knowledge, the rest of David’s team slowed down. Of the half who’d kept up with Nathan, only two remained in the line… and Paddy O’Sullivan was only there because he was in the middle of Nathan and David—he couldn’t see that none of his team-mates were tagging along. Why David kept jogging was a mystery to him. It probably would have been less painful had he simply stopped running like the rest of the boys.
            Seeing the lambs making their way blindly to the slaughterhouse brought about a change to the personnel in the opposition line. There were two more “tags,” followed by some shuffling of the line. Next to Tyson appeared Vinnie, and next to Vinnie, was Damien, and before either Paddy or David could react, there was a loud whoop from somewhere on the farm boy line.
            It happened in the blink of an eye. Three bodies crashed into three; there was a series of grunts, and then, a high pitched wail of pain. The ball bounced away, only to be kicked further away by a steel-capped boot. David felt knees dig into his back, and a pair of rough hands shoving his face deep into the soft, oozing mud. His hearing was blotted out momentarily, replaced with the roar of blood in his ears. In vain, he tried to roll, to lift his head out of the mud, but the pressure was too much…
            “Ah, my arm! It’s broken!
            The howl split the air; everything momentarily stopped. At least long enough for David to wrench his face out of the mud. Damien, the oath that had tackled him was still kneeling over him, but his attention was not on the task he’d been performing. His face was a slack jawed expression of equal parts shock and stupidity.
            “You broke his arm, fuckhead!” It was Nathan Johnson, who somehow had gotten back to his feet, and was shoving Vinnie hard enough to knock him back a few paces.
            “Whatcha gonna do about it!” Vinnie sneered, shoving Nathan back. But before anything could escalate, a big meaty forearm suddenly crushed Nathan’s neck.
            “I ain’t finished with you!” Tyson growled. He leaned back so that Nathan was hoisted off his feet, his legs kicking only air.
            Stunned silence greeted the outburst. Paddy O’Sullivan seemed to have even forgotten the fact that his arm was numb from the shoulder down. The only noise breaking the silence was Nathan’s heavy wheezing as he tried to draw breath into his lungs.
            “Hunnh, hunnh, hunnh!” he went, while his legs pathetically pedalled the air.
            Tyson carried him a few awkward steps away, leaning himself back as if Nathan were a bag of barley that needed lifting into the tray of a truck. Nathan floundered in Tyson’s grip; his left foot snapped forward with enough force to dislodge his shoe. It spiralled into the air, before tumbling end over end into a large pool of water. And before he even realised it, Nathan followed his shoe… arse first into the largest puddle on the whole of the playground. And if that wasn’t humiliating enough, Tyson scooped up two handfuls of filthy black mud, and cupped them over Nathan’s face, rubbing it into his mouth, his nose and eyes, while he spluttered and coughed.
            “Not even your rich dad can fucking save you now, city boy,” Tyson growled, rubbing the mud now into Nathan’s hair. “Why don’t you go back to the city, rich boy!”
            “Yeah, city boy!” someone else said.
            “Where’s yer fuckin dad, anyway?” Tyson added. He was now squatting over Nathan, who was clawing mud out of his face, which had gone from scarlet to the same pale white that graces the underbelly of a fish. “He too good to follow you and your bitch of a mother out here? Too good to live in the bush? Is that it? Or have your folks divorced? Is that it, rich boy? Your mummy and daddy not fuckin no more? Well? What is it?”
            “What is it!” the echo screeched. And suddenly, the chorus was taken up by all of the farm boys; all of them leant over Nathan, who still sat in the cold depths of the puddle shaking black mud from his hair, shouting into his face.
            Tyson, seeing his work as being done, backed off a few steps. He was still the boss. All the while the crowd began to increase in numbers as kids from other reaches of the playground came running over to add their two cents worth, for whatever reasons.
            But Nathan ignored the farm boys yelling in his face. He even ignored the fact that some of the town boys had joined in the fracas; anything, perhaps to be seen in a similar (but not the same) light as the farm boys… look, we’re not really that bad… we have a common enemy now! When finally he picked himself up, and bellowed out, it was clear to whom he was addressing.
            “The reason my dad isn’t home is because he is dead! He has an excuse not to be home, unlike your jailbird father!”
            The colour drained from Tyson’s face the instant the last words faded into the now silent playground. Everyone who had been jeering and taunting Nathan stopped, their jaws slack, their eyes gawky. No one says that Tyson’s dad is a jailbird, all of their minds were saying, David’s included, for although he wasn’t among the group jeering Nathan, he had watched the verbal exchange all the same.
            Nathan was not oblivious to the hush around him. He knew he had cut Tyson deeply with the words he had just said and knew what the price of saying those words constituted. But he also had a soft spot where his father was concerned, and as another unwritten law of the school yard goes: defend your father’s honour. And that’s just what he had done, despite the fact that as far as the silent group around him and Tyson were concerned, Nathan Johnson was a dead man.
            Threat or no, Nathan smiled at Tyson, that cold smile that was patently his, the smile that matched his eyes, giving Nathan a frightening look. It was hard to believe that the eyes now locked onto Tyson’s firing green orbs were the same eyes that had held the year six audience captive while Nathan delivered a speech beyond reproach. The look in those cold eyes practically dared Tyson to do something and get it over with. Though an imbecile in class, Tyson knew better than to start something in the playground and risk bearing the wrath of the teacher on duty. Indeed, what he’d done already was going to cost him dearly. He knew deep down inside that every teacher in school wanted him out of there, and that even if he failed year six again, his promotion to high school was inevitable. Compared to Nathan Johnson, Tyson Maloney was Mount Everest. Broad, deep voiced with the onset of puberty; Tyson was more of a bull than a boy. There were rumours (which no one ever had a cause to substantiate) that Tyson had pubic hair. This naturally meant that because he was more mature than the other boys, he demanded their respect.
            He fixed Nathan Johnson with his trademark grimace of disapproval that many kids had seen before having their lights knocked out. “You’re dead meat, arsehole,” Tyson growled. As the pièce de résistance, he hawked and spat a large wad of green phlegm onto the ground at Nathan’s feet before he turned and lumbered away.
            His cronies, the weak slavering hyenas that they were, laughed in Nathan Johnson’s face; Vinnie Dollabella and Damien Treloar, went as far as to point the index and pinkie fingers of their left hand at him, invoking the sign of the Evil Eye, proclaiming him cursed. Whether Nathan was scared or not, David couldn’t tell, for he hid it behind those cold eyes so well. When the crowd had dispersed, David went with it, knowing that there was little hope for Nathan to escape from the hole that he had just dug himself.

Thursday, 29 August 2013


Too often, held back
By a sense of trepidation,
As if worried to offend
That speaking one's mind is somehow misbegotten, rude
So you hold it all inside

And the moment passes, as all such moments do
And you're left with that linger of doubt

What if you could have, in that second
Transcended that stumbling point, given air
To thoughts you considered better left unsaid?
Free from raging fires, of damnation
Would the truth set you free?
Or would the gulf, that cold No Man's Land,
Cause an open wound between you and me?

Tuesday, 27 August 2013

How to avoid living

Sometimes I wonder, why do I even bother?
I try to smile but you always bring me down

I want to share my good news with you
But all you want is to share with me your blues

Oh, why?

Take a step back
See from my eyes
Hear your voice with my ears
Ask yourself why

Why now, after all we've been through
It's like you want to slip out from the back door
The world is tough, tough enough, yeah that's true
But you can only chase the sun so long before
The sun chases you

Oh, why?

Listen to your reasons
Excuses thick and fast
Empty chalices, broken promises
How long will this next turn last?

You say you're after perfection,
Yet you cease all that you start
You'd rather a million false starts
So as not to upset the apple cart

With your head in the clouds, and the dreams alive
Playing out in the theatre inside your mind
You can preach all you want about what happened before
But for now, let it be known, you've stopped living.

Five Minutes - 2

It happened in the blink of an eye. The ball was passed from one set of hands to another, to another and yet another. At length, the ball was snapped to the tall blonde boy named Nathan Johnson.
            Nathan gripped the ball tightly in his hands, eyes flicking to his left—the direction the ball came from—and to his right, seeking and finding a further set of hands to which he could unload the ball. However, unlike the rest of the team, who played football like it was a game of hot potato, Nathan held onto the ball. The time wasn’t right to pass. Not yet. Not with the touchline only about fifteen metres ahead.
            This was the closest the team had come to scoring a try; and they were behind seven to nil. If Nathan scored this try—if he even helped to score this try—then there’d be some semblance of pride to take home with him that afternoon.
            He paced forward a few steps, eyes frantic, moving left and right. So far, the line moved up alongside and behind him. So far so good. And at this early stage, the opposition line had only encroached a few feet closer, all of the boys nominating a player on the opposition to “tag.” Nathan scanned the line, trying to make out just who it was who’d nominate that they’ve got “ball,” which meant that their responsibility was to watch the player with the ball and move with them.
            As of yet, nobody had called “ball.” But everyone had named their “tag.” At first, this situation didn’t bother Nathan. Maybe, because he was the new kid, they thought he’d just siphon off his pass and just play hot potato like the rest of his mismatched team. They were the odds and sods, the rejects in the primary school caste; mainly town kids, who you could spot because they wore black school shoes instead of work boots and their shirts were ironed. Their opposition were all country kids. All of whom wore clod hoppers and were built like brick walls. So far this lunchtime, they’d dominated the play, using their size, as opposed to their skill, to outplay the disorganised town rabble. It seemed to Nathan, the newcomer, that this was the way it was always played out. It must be a bit of a tradition out here in the sticks, hundreds of miles from anywhere; and millions of miles from home.
            Well, fuck it, Nathan told himself. There is no way I’m going to accept being a loser. He knew that there was only one way to prove himself. And while he was standing, able to run, with the ball in his hand, he’d not quit. He didn’t want these farmer boys to think he was less than what they were. Just because he was wearing leather school shoes and his shirt was neatly pressed, that didn’t mean he was rich and snobby. They might have trampled on the souls of his team-mates, bullied and pushed them around; that didn’t mean that they intimidated Nathan. There were bigger kids from where he came from; and there will always be bigger kids. It didn’t mean that you had to back down just because you were smaller.
            Nathan licked his lips, jogging slowly forward. The opposition line was still hanging back, giving him room in which to move. Their eyes watched closely, and though he couldn’t see their collective gaze, he could feel it. They were reluctant to approach, not knowing whether or not this city kid had any skills. Each time Nathan had found himself in possession of the ball, he was allowed to run with it; at least for a little while. And each time he did, he was watched carefully by twelve sets of eyes. Scrutinised, studied; tracked.
            The touchline loomed only about ten metres ahead. The opposition line had begun running off the touchline; but they’d only jogged forward a few metres themselves. Looking furtively left and right over his shoulders, Nathan could see that some of his team-mates had kept up with him. More than half had slowed down to a walk, hands on hips, or clutched over their heads to draw breath that they’d hardly wasted on playing.
            The only kid who seemed as interested in playing as Nathan did was jogging alongside him to his right. There was a thin red headed beanstalk between them, who looked as if he’d snap if he were shoved too hard. Each time the ball flew his way, he’d either drop it after fumbling like a buffoon, or toss it away as if it were alight and scorching his hands off. This other kid, though, held his ground; even now in the latter stages of the game, where spirits were low and tempers paper thin.
            There was only one kid that Nathan really had to worry about, though. That was that bully, Tyson. He’d made himself known to everyone in the early stages of the game, palming kids off with his huge hands, and pushing others onto the ground even when they’d relinquished control of the ball. He was at the back of the line now, eyes glued to Nathan’s movements, his face held in the scowl Nathan had seen on pictures of Neanderthals in the World Book Encyclopaedia.
            It came was no surprise to Nathan when Tyson suddenly shouted, “Ball!” and jogged his way back into the front line. He’d only just returned to the game after sneaking off to smoke a cigarette, and only played when his team were defending—mainly because he was as uncoordinated as a newborn lamb, and as fast on his feet as a tortoise. Nathan doubted that Tyson wanted to play touch football. The game Tyson wanted to play was what was known by another name in the city: “Kill the Dill with the Pill.” And right now, Nathan had the Pill; that meant he was a moving target.
            That meant he was ripe for the picking.


I don't know about you,
But I feel these whims are distractions from
That which you don't want to face
Perhaps wrong doings in a distant past,
Poor choices, with dire consequences
That you've now chalked up as disgrace

Bird-like you flutter from this to that
Unsure if you'll break free from the cage
Of perpetual discontentment with your life
If you're trapped, you're the only one who sees it
As you beat dementedly at invisible bars
Shed tears, and bleed, inflicted with this strife

Perhaps you only have to sit back and take
A new look at that which seems to demonise;
Stop chewing your lips and wringing your hands
This disappointment is but transient,
A now conjured perhaps from a bitter past
That has chased you across foreign lands

Step back, but most of all breathe...
Unchain yourself from the shackles self imposed
You have nothing left to lose
Instead of piling resentment upon resentment
Hiding behind walls you have reinforced with doubt
And sifting through air to discover clues

There is no mystery
There is no darkness other than that you make
Each step into enlightenment
Is one less step you have to take
But remember that like time, you must go forward
There is no turning back
Why hide inside your cage, a fluttering prisoner
When you should come forth and attack?

Sunday, 25 August 2013


A moment in time caught and frozen
Laughter, paused, head thrown back, eyes half closed
The light reflecting from your eyes
This memory of a better time
When we were free and the world was ours
Where we thought time would stand still for us

Today, I found that photo
Hidden in an old envelope in a box in the spare room
Yellow at the edges, a crease in the top corner
Wedged amongst old knick knacks that were once important
Tucked out of sight and out of mind
Lost to thought, and to time, which moved on around us

The memory reclaimed, I could count the minutes and seconds
Since we went our own way
And self importantly, shrugged off anything resembling joint responsibility
It was all recrimination, the perfect cannon fodder for the suits we hired
To fight with their precious laws, our respective sides
The day when time stood still, to our eternal shame

It seems the only people happy with the falling out
Is my mother in law and the lawyers who grin
As dollar signs flash in place of their pinprick pupils
And the possessions that once were ours are now yours
But I know you're not happy, just as I am not happy
Time slipped through our fingers, slippery fish, greasy eel

Once we talked about settling our differences
But those days are long gone
It is not a sunset of oranges and reds on a far horizon
Or the signatures on the dotted line that mark this life from that
But rather, the lines on your face, the gauntness of your cheeks
The ravages of time that raced to its logical conclusion

Now, in this empty room, I merely shuffle from one room to the next
My threadbare slippers no comfort in the halls of my memories
Which slip from my grasp to shatter like a vase on the wooden floors
All I have is a photo taken from better times
And the papers that mark where our paths divided
All I do now is count the seconds until the end, where time's prisoner no more will I be

Saturday, 24 August 2013

Five Minutes - 1


Just that morning he had arrived at school—the new boy—with a clean, freshly ironed shirt, leather shoes and a tie fastened round his neck, in total contrast to a lot of the other boys, who sported stained shirts and work boots. Right from the beginning this new kid was different; and things weren’t going to get much better.
            The news that the Johnson kid was coming to school on that particular day spread through the student body quicker than a brush fire through dry grass. So thoroughly was it known that the front yard of the school quickly became filled with one hundred and two eager faces waiting and watching, wanting an early glimpse of the new kid, to take a measure of him.
            Their arrival was no different to the arrival of hundreds of other kids. The family car—a well loved and albeit, well-used Ford station wagon—pulled alongside the kerb, idled for what seemed an eternity before finally spluttering to a halt the way cars do in the middle of winter. The front doors opened and you could almost swear that the wider the doors were thrown open, the more pronounced the collective sigh was among the horde watching.
            And suddenly, there he was. Nathan Johnson, stepping onto the footpath, bag over his shoulder. He stared at his new school without any emotion showing on his face. To this day it was unknown what his first impressions were, whether it was or wasn’t what he expected, whether he felt lost, annoyed, or even flattered by the presence of almost the entire school. He merely turned around to face his mother, who slung her handbag over her shoulder and moved over to the other side of the car.
            Nathan led the procession with his mother in tow; just looking at her confirmed to all that the stories going around town were true. She was rather ordinary to look at in a pair of jeans and a shirt, her face fixed in a rigid smile unlike the face of her son. She walked with a precise, measured step, as did Nathan; both had long legs and arms that made them look both fragile and strong at the same time, the fragility being illusionary, a misconception due to their height. Mrs. Johnson’s eyes showed nervousness as they darted left and right inside their sockets, scanning the crowd that had gathered to watch her son’s entrance. They relaxed immeasurably when the principal, Mr. Frump, appeared at the top step of the front office, looking a little too neat in shirt and tie, dress he wore only on special occasions. He guided them inside his office with a wave of his hand, bringing the grand event to an end.
            David Gray chewed his lip and shook his head.
            “That’s it?” someone said, breaking the silence that had held them so completely over the two or so minutes that it had taken for the Johnson’s to arrive and disappear.
            “Who did you expect, you dolt?” A terse reply. “The fucking president?” It was only Tyson Maloney who would say something so barbaric. “You should’ve seen all ya faces as Boy Wonder strolled up the path like a fuckin’ little king.” He snorted derisively, before storming away with his “gang” in tow.
            David watched the small group of boys leave, crowding around Tyson who stood out because of his sheer size. Every school had a school bully, and Tyson was theirs. Like so many bullies, he was larger than most of the kids in school, only because he was two years older than the second oldest kid in school. And like so many other bullies in so many other schools, Tyson was not “brain” material. In fact, you were doing him an injustice to call him stupid. The teachers disliked him, and having made him repeat twice, decided that even if he fails year six again, next year he was going to high school.
            David could imagine the intense relief both staff and students would feel with Tyson out of their midst. The playground would be much quieter, and Frump would have so many afternoons free instead of having to watch over Tyson at afternoon detention.
            But that was next year. Right now, Tyson reigned supreme and made no effort to hide the fact. He was fourteen years old, and that meant that everyone else owed him respect. Those who didn’t respect him, he dealt with severely. It wasn’t hard to imagine exactly what was going through his mind as he vanished around the back with his loyal band of misfits, who hung around him like snapping hyenas. There was Vincent Dollabella for instance; a jelly-spined coward if ever there was one. Why Tyson accepted him was one of those infinitesimal mysteries of the world. Maybe it was that oily charm of his, or just his oily hair. Either way, Vinnie (as he liked to be known) could almost have been Tyson’s second man had it not been for Damien Treloar. He was everything Vinnie wasn’t; strong and good looking, except for the way his left eyelid twitched occasionally. It was a well accepted fact that Damien would inherit Tyson’s mantle as school bully when Tyson was promoted (along with Vinnie) to high school, though try as he could, Damien would not have the same power that Tyson possessed.
            There would only be one thought predominant in Tyson’s mind that morning. Nathan Johnson, and more importantly, what to do with him. It was plainly obvious that a new student worried him, particularly one in the sixth grade, one that just might threaten Tyson’s balance of power. Was Nathan Johnson one of them, or wasn’t he?
            There were really only two groups he could belong to: those Tyson beat up on, and those he didn’t. David was one of the kids Tyson managed to leave alone, for reasons he knew not. His main target seemed to be the kids whose fathers were well off financially, for these kids were often just as spineless as Vinnie Dollabella, as if all the money their fathers’ hoard robbed them of their strength. It was these kids who paid for Tyson’s lunch when he was strapped for cash—which was nearly every day because any pocket money he earned was spent on cigarettes. Another reason why David wasn’t a target for his provocation was that when he needed the money, he simply wasn’t around. Living just around the corner from the school meant that he was one of the few privileged students to have a lunch pass.
            Lunch, however, was the last thing on his mind at the moment, for equipped with the full knowledge of Tyson’s past, David felt sure something was going to happen. So too did David’s friends, who sat with him in a small group, looking around with smiles on their faces. They all lived out of town, like a great majority of kids in Rand, on farms where they helped their Dads doing farm stuff, like driving tractors and exciting shit like that. In fact, David was probably the only one in sixth grade who couldn’t drive a tractor, or worse yet—couldn’t ride a motorbike. Working on the farm explained why most of them were built like tanks and wore work boots all of the time and felt like they were being strangled when forced to wear a tie. It was also partly the reason why all of them would be going to Boarding School next year. The other reason was to do with money, which most of the farmers seemed to have in abundance, even in bad years.
            So, the question began. What was to happen to Nathan on his first day at school? If his pristine uniform was the first benchmark of separation, then the second was to occur only minutes after entering the classroom for the first time. No sooner had he seated himself, opened his book, dug out his pen from a brand new pencil case, was he required by the teacher to stand up and give an impromptu speech to the class. It would seem that from this moment on, in this cold and frosty auspicious July morning, that Nathan Johnson’s day would be marked with humiliation on top of humiliation.
            Cowed on by the class, with Tyson at the very back adding his two cents worth, Nathan had no option but to rise slowly to his feet and walk to the front of the classroom. Again, he walked with that dignified action, each foot precisely placed on the ground, giving off a slight squeak as his new leather shoes began to wear in. His uniform was brand new, every crease fresh from the manufacturer, giving him an over neat appearance that would have destroyed him at that very moment were it not for the way his tie now dangled loosely from his neck. He pawed at the hanging piece of material earnestly, a smattering of colour rising to his cheeks that may have first been construed as embarrassment. Nathan was not exactly the sort that girls would throw themselves at. He was ruggedly handsome, with a strong face, blonde hair that was razor straight and a short nose. His only vice was his eyes, those cold icy eyes that stared with the intensity of laser beams. He raked the class of seventeen with those impeccable eyes. He was assessing the class as much as they were him to the extent that the excited cheers intent on embarrassing Nathan soon wound around to embarrass the person from whom they came. When he spoke, it was in a clear, even voice. He was a natural public speaker, something which most of the other kids found arduous at the best of times. Once he overcome the rigidity of his audience, he delivered a fine speech full of wit and dripping with so much honey that he could have almost won them all over. Almost.
            Nobody had counted on lunchtime lasting those extra five minutes. Least of all Nathan Johnson. Nor would those involved realise the significance of those extra five minutes; for three people, it would mark a turning point in their lives.

The moment when...

Some day the clocks will stop their counting
Everything will pause
Holding that last moment, a pent up breath
A night, perpetually dark
In this, we can make no sense, but everything becomes clear
As insubstantial, and soulless
We rise above our pain, unfurl our wings
And our mortal shell
Sinks into a hole in the ground

Wednesday, 21 August 2013

Mourning of the Dying Bride

There’s a moon in a sky as black as sackcloth
Tossed on clouds of slate;
Fired like the drum that holds the vintage wine.
With the eyes of a goddess in the light,
She waits at the edge of the ocean sea,
Bare feet in the sand of the beach;
Many miles from anywhere in either direction,
But only inches away from me…

I listen to her breathing, the tide of the light in the sky.
I see her naked, cradled by nothing but moonlight,
And I watched her bathe in the roaring tide.
While the stars overhead sang in mourning of the dying bride.

            She died there in my arms,
            At the water’s edge.
            Her spirit left when the tide eased,
            And she bled into the sand.
            She bled into the sand…

My heart is on the ocean waves tossing on a dream,
Braving the calm of the storm.
The irony was that I looked it in the eye.
And the ice in my heart grew warm,
The goddess she took my only love
and crushed it into grains of sand.
And when I saw her fingers open
There was a shining pearl in her hand.

I still hear her breathing, frost in the winter air.
And I still see her clinging to me as we fought against the tide.
In her eyes once burned a love so near and so dear to me,
And the stars overhead sang in mourning of the bride.

            She died there in my arms,
            Prayed to me not to let her go.
            But the arms of the goddess beckoned me
            As she bled into the sand.
            She bled into the sand…

And I let her go to her death without the conscience of a lover
But a pirate.
Reefing the chest from the ‘X’ mark in the ground.
Cutting off the protests of my companions with the knife I took from my scabbard
And left them bleeding in the sand.

I ran to the goddess but she laughed at me
And tore my clothes with the talons of a harpy.
Beneath her malice I fell like a snowflake into hell;
My body joining hers in the rising oceanic swell.

            She died there in my arms
            As I strove to new perfection.
            The one chance in a million gone,
            I could have saved her.
            She bled into the sand…

She died at my hand.

Tuesday, 20 August 2013



He was there again, standing across the road from the apartment, hands thrust into voluminous pockets. Today was the fourth day John had seen him out there, or at least the fourth day of his being conscious of the stranger’s presence just beyond the front door. Each of those days without fail he stood like a pillar, dressed in a large overcoat and a broad brimmed hat despite the warm weather. John couldn’t discern the features of his face, but could see skin the colour of milk in vivid contrast to the shadows gathered under the brim of his hat. He knew not whether he smiled or frowned or held his face pensive. All he knew was that the stranger was there, watchful, watching... perhaps waiting for something, or someone.
            John regarded this strange apparition for several long seconds, the briefcase in his hand feeling like a dead weight, all of a sudden too heavy... too grand a burden. The man across the street didn’t move. Nor did he seem to be aware of John’s advent through the front door. He seemed to be watching the sky closely, as if fearing a sudden spate of rain. Even as John inched slowly towards his car, the stranger didn’t appear to be noticing... but was John merely allowing his imagination to run amok... or was this guy really on the lookout for him?
            Surely not, John mused. Even still, his throat felt as if it were lined with cotton wool, as it had yesterday and the day before when he noticed the stranger.
            John unlocked the door to his car and got in. Somehow, in the safety of the car, he could relax. He was still there, but John wasn’t out in the open, and therefore, not in danger. Nevertheless, his elbow stole up to the window and depressed the locking mechanism. The car started without a hitch and he reversed slowly, keeping his eyes on the apparition across the road through the rear view mirror. He didn’t move, in fact, he seemed disinterested in this daily ritual, his face still pointing towards the sky. Why John was letting the stranger’s presence get to him he didn’t know.

            At length, the car was in the main road, idling. Still the man didn’t move. John crept forward slowly, slowly— ever so slowly, eyes darting from the road in front to the man reflected in the rear view mirror. For the fifty metres that encompassed the length of the street, the man didn’t move: not a single muscle, nor blink of an eye (not that John could actually see the latter). At the intersection he stopped, chewing the inside of his cheek as he negotiated the oncoming traffic. He looked left, looked right, then left again, taking all of about three seconds. And when he looked back into the rear view mirror, the man had vanished without a trace...

Monday, 19 August 2013

The Harvest


Twilight saw the sky change to a chaotic whirl of colours, beginning with a vivid red-orange where the sun was being swallowed by the ocean, and ending with a bruised purple where the first stars pin pricked the canvas of the coming night. Curtis Drake sat in his battered car, smoking his first cigarette in well over fifteen years, but his eyes remained disinterested in the beauty of the swiftly fading day and the approaching of night.
            He was watching the solemn graveside ceremony played out in silence across the road. Watching and feeling something of an interloper, given that it was at least fifteen years since he’d last laid eyes on the person involved in the vigil and the same fifteen years since he’d last set eyes on the dark town of Stillwater.
            A quarter of an hour ago he had passed the leaning town sign and suddenly felt the old sensation of dread he thought he’d never have to feel again. It returned like a familiar jacket, hugging over his body, a perfect fit, filling his mind, gripping his heart. His first thoughts were to throw a U-turn in the main street and return to the city, to leave Stillwater and live up to the promise he’d avowed himself fifteen years ago. To leave and not come back.
            But he didn’t.
            He had things to do, people to see and places to revisit. Most of all, underneath the cold feelings of dread, whose fingers slid dark and treacly into the fibres of his mind, there was a strange, faltering light. A tiny whispering voice of hope, perhaps? Drake didn’t know, but could hear its plaintive voice buried beneath the throaty roar of dread. A voice that whispered, “Welcome home, Curt.”
            Welcome back to Stillwater.
            While that plaintive whisper caused him to shudder as much as the cloying sensation of gloom, there was within that little flicker enough light and enough hope to make him not turn the car around. So he drove through the short main street, absorbing afresh the town of Stillwater, with the continuous shop facades running down either side of the main street, its proud faded verandas thrown out as relief against sweltering summer sun and incessant sea side rain. While a few more stores looked as if they had been closed during Drake’s absence, the important ones were still clinging to life.
            McGhee’s had had a minor face lift. The general store now had an eftpos sign in the door and several gaudy cheap cosmetic displays in the window. There were neon trims sparked into life, trying to give the main drag a desperate smile, but even this splotch of colour couldn’t hide that Stillwater was teetering as it had always teetered on the verge of being a ghost town.
            Through the town Drake drove, past the old school which alone served as a cauldron of memories, good, bad and indifferent. Once beyond the school, it was a short jaunt to the old Catholic church and its spire pointing to the sky like a thin bony finger. From here, the jaunt to the graveyard was even shorter.
            Drake parked behind the only other car he had seen since his less than auspicious arrival: a beaten up white ford station wagon. There was a sticker in the bottom right hand corner of the rear window which advised that “FM108.9 played the rockiest tunes this side of the Alps.” Drake laughed; a cold, somewhat humourless chortle.
            Robotically, his fingers delved into the front pocket of his shirt, grabbed the pack of cigarettes inside, fumbled open the flip top. He didn’t cough when he drew on cigarette number two. The welcome mat of renewed nicotine addiction greeted him just as fondly as did his old home town.
            And so he sat for the next few minutes, watching the sole figure at the gravesite through the passenger side window which was cracked just enough to let the blue-grey smoke from his cigarette curl outside. Had his wife been there, she’d have taken him to task not just for smoking in the car, but for daring to smoke after having ‘quit’ for nearly fifteen years. She wasn’t there though. She was three hundred kilometres away. And as strange as it now seemed to Drake, he didn’t miss her as much as he thought he would.
            Part of that feeling he supposed was because of where he was. For the same fifteen years that he’d renounced smoking, he’d also renounced, but never really forgotten, Stillwater. It was part and parcel of growing up in these small rural communities; their uncanny knack for remaining lodged in one’s subconscious, just beyond the reach of the fingertips of day to day cognition, but there nonetheless.
            Small towns were like rubber bands. It didn’t matter how far you pulled yourself away, or for how long you were gone, there would always come a point where you could no longer fight against the gravitational pull of the place, and before you knew it, you simply snapped back. And inevitably, most of what you left behind was still there waiting for you when you got back.
            That too was the power of small towns. They were virtually resistant to change, especially change on a large scale. Sure, there were a few more shops that were closed and a couple of façades in need of a good lick of paint, but overall, Stillwater was still caught in its magnificent past.
            There was a phrase used by many in Drake’s generation to describe their beloved hometown: Stillwater was looking for a place to die. Only like so many other similar places, look though it might, Stillwater never found death. With the tenaciousness of a terrier, it clung grimly to the mortal coil, moving at its own pace while the world around it moved on, succumbed to the bump and grind of new technologies, the new ways of living. Drake wasn’t the first to leave. He wasn’t the first either, to utter that immortal catchphrase of the freshly departed: “I’m never coming back to this hole again!” While his sojourn away might rank as one of the longest, Drake knew in his heart of hearts that the pull—the gravity—of Stillwater was all pervading, and just as light couldn’t resist the pull of a black hole, he wasn’t going to escape Stillwater forever.
            The rubber band analogy came back to Drake then and he sniggered, puffing smoke out of his nose. He had tried to run and true to form, he was back, though hardly with his tail between his legs and his head hung low. No, he wasn’t a beat down country boy who’d been given a licking in the big smoke and was sneaking home to Mum and Dad for a decent home cooked meal and a bed to sleep in to tend his wounded pride. Nor was he a pathetic, homesick young adult pining for the easy life, scared shitless by responsibility and looking for someone to sponge off.
            Fifteen years was a long time. Drake had grown up. He had a wife and kids, a house he was halfway to owning outright. The maturity didn’t seem to matter, though, because Stillwater had still reached across the passage of years with its ageless hand, and had touched Drake’s shoulder and Drake had come home.
            It felt so alien to call this place home. Yet there was no other word for it. Stillwater would always be home, even if he had managed not just to cross to the other side of the country, but to the other side of the world. There was something so horribly morbid in that realisation that made Drake shiver. When others spoke of “going home,” their words were inflected with a sense of warmth, a sense that home was somewhere comforting, somewhere safe, a repository of happy memories. None of that Drake could equate to his homecoming. It wasn’t exactly a triumphant return to the world of his childhood years. The very fact that he was sitting in his car outside of the cemetery made that point as surely as a grand piano crashing down upon him from a great height.
            Because for Drake, like so many people before him, it wasn’t the town that was calling him back. It was the sawmill, and the various twisting ways its existence intertwined with almost every living person who worked, lived and breathed in Stillwater. That was the reason for his being parked behind the white Ford station wagon, with its jingoistic sticker; why he had, during the final stop before approaching Stillwater, at the petrol station some forty-five minutes away from town, added that packet of cigarettes to his fuel bill—without even consciously realising he did it.
            “Welcome home, Curt,” he whispered to himself. All at once, his voice seemed thick and syrupy.
            He crushed out the cigarette in the car’s ashtray, snapped it shut, paused for a few seconds and then, without really knowing or caring why, opened the ashtray, took out the butt and tossed it out of the window. Then with what seemed like an extensive effort, he reached for the door release, plucked it, pushed open the door and stepped out into Stillwater for the first time in fifteen years.

Saturday, 17 August 2013

Hoarding Treasure

Hoarding treasure, buying leisure
Standing at the end of the world
Tear stained eyes gazing, thoughts of lazing
Feel the downward spiral

I see your problems but I think it’s all right
We have to pull together to make sure everything’s fine
You seem to understand that is how this world works
In it’s last dying moments, the last sporadic jerks…

Mourning widow, broken window
Grey skies and pouring rain
Swollen fingers, the hurt that lingers
Feel the pain of broken hearts

Through the smoking haze of the meadow burning
I feel the breeze so cool teasing my sweaty brow
And the invisible green river slides unseen
As the herder curses the furrowing plough

Each step forward, gives rise to two steps back
We break a nail with every clod we grab and break
And for every dollar handed to the unclean beggar on the street
They take a dollar fifty from the poor and two dollars from the meek

Hoarding treasure, buying pleasure
Smile blandly at the turning world
Empty premise, broken promise
Can’t you see democracy is a joke?

Friday, 16 August 2013

After all, it is only passion

Lover... can you... come out... to play...

Yes, she is a tease
But she is my tease
I do anything, anything to please... her

Cold hands on morning skin
Warm breath on the nape of my neck...
I think you can guess the rest

How come I wake alone?
Where's the fairness in these... dreams
Our world, this oyster, lacking the shining pearl

Lover... can you... come out... to play...

Ruby red lipstick, winning smile
I only held her for a little while
Skin to skin to skin, the bright flames...

Her youth, my inexperience
Our innocence... lost
This dream, now nightmare, and now hope is lost

Too late, the move is made
The game is played
In the east, the day... golden
I cannot tarry, you cannot stay

How come I wake alone?
Where's the fairness in this... chaos
Our world, imperfect diamond, shard of glass

The sun, too close, our wings stretched
We were destined to fall
Some things were never meant to be
The sweet bliss of a moment's thrall

Wednesday, 14 August 2013


And when the rain comes down...

The people run inside as if they want to hide,
They bury their heads, pretending that they’re dead
And they want better things to do.

Outside the rain is falling, down from the clouds
And while I feel this way inside, I’d rather frown.

And when the rain comes down...

The people want to hide; their hearts turn into ice.
There’s no children playing in the street anymore
They’ve got better things to do.

Outside the wind is blowing raindrops from the sky
And while I feel like this, I think I’ll cry.
And when the rain comes down...
You’ve seen it all before; the calm before the storm.
They run inside where it’s warm and dry
They’ve got nothing better to do.
You can see it in their eyes, the greyness like the sky
And while I feel this way inside, I might as well die.
And when the rain comes down,
The people begin to frown
And the tears form in my eyes.
They’re leaving me behind.

Waiting for a train

They were waiting for a train
To come and carry them away
To a far distant place anywhere but here
Where they hate to stay
To pass away each lonely day
Forever hoping and forever waiting for
Someone to push them along
Give them a penny always
To hear the same old songs

They were waiting for a train
To come and carry them away
Away from this place, to another time
Mayhap they’re just sick and tired
Of hearing their lies and seeing their faces
As everyone knows your business better than you
And you know it, too

So all you can do is run
Try to catch up with the morning sun
Before it passes over you and behind
Before you’re too old to even try
And your legs no longer do what you say
And the nights get longer than the day
You take more and more to ease yourself of the pain
All tell everyone that you’re

Waiting for a train.

Tuesday, 13 August 2013

Modern Living

The short lived rebellion
Ended with a television set thrown out of the window
The crash after falling thirty floors to certain doom
And meth-fuelled dreams of Jesus
Punctuated by a million laughs that could be screams

There are lurid murals on subway walls
And on the trains themselves
Suicidal artists, dreamers of the modern world
Shoplifting C4 in their pockets drawing attention
To their onerous Gods

And behold, black lipped and black eyed
Entranced wannabe Goths
Nodding sleepily under mops of lank hair
Drawing their blood, imperfect crimson jewels
Cries of anguish, cries of help

And through this all, running the gauntlet between
Truth and certain destruction
Neither saint, nor sinner; imperfectly perfect
He hangs his hat on his sense of justice
But keeps his gun loaded... just in case

This is modern living
This is the promise of our progress
This, the dream
We've come so far, the circle is nearly complete
But the door is closed
We flock to our casinos for religious instruction
Our banks for penance
And then we come home to numb our senses
And forget the lesson we've learned
After all, it is always someone else's fault
And we can point the finger of blame
That's the modern way, litigate, assassinate
Money lubricates the way
There are the haves, and the have nots
Those that give, those that take
And those who'd offer their souls for gold
When their liberties are at stake.

Thursday, 8 August 2013

I won't cry over you

I won't cry over you, this cause is already lost
Pick up the broken pieces, and my pride from the dust
Where it lays with my heart, bleeding, but still beating
Closed the door gently, silent curses, this history repeating

Maybe I fall too soon; maybe this is my lot in life
To be that moment's burning spark, but never Mr Right
That would seem a common thread through all I have said and done
At the end of each encounter, why should I reassess what I've become?

You are but a footnote in my book of life
Obscure like a speck of trivia
A leaf making a raft on a river
You are proof that life based on a lie
Will always be false
And that love will not last forever

Like a thousand shards of glass
Tearing wounds across my mind
Thoughts chasing across the plains
Like a stampede of headless cattle
Following blind panic to the end of the horizon

So, in the setting of the dying sun, let this be my swift adieu,
Though void now, I shall rebuild; I won't cry over you.