Saturday, 25 January 2014

The Dream of You

Under your spell
Sallow faced moon
Who are we to argue?
What is wrong, what is right?
And the spaces in between our silence
Louder than a crash of thunder
Hammer of rain upon the roof

I lay awake
Dreaming the dream
The dream of you.

Monday, 13 January 2014

Dark Waters

I wait and watch for the dawn to break
Hoping that there will be a way
I listen to the things you say
Nothing can help to ease the pain

Deeper and deeper I feel myself falling
Further and further into the break
Sibilant echoes, the gossamer sea-spray
Will I hit the bottom before I wake?

Scratching and biting fleas on my skin
Whispering voices that come from within
A man with a background, living in sin
No one will help him, no one will help me

Somebody calling out to the sun
Visions of darkness, visions of blood
A man in white shines a light in my eyes:

Mother, am I really dying?

Thursday, 9 January 2014

The Altercation - 5


As she did the night before, she waited until he was just about to unlock his door.
            “Mr. Hallaron?”
            It made him jump and spin, and lurch to the right. There was a splash of metal, his keys falling from his grasp and smashing onto the tiles.
            “Christ, Jane. You scared me.”
            She was lounging in the swing seat, perched like a sentinel, watching the comings and goings of Toantown; not that there was much to watch. She had spied Jim Hallaron’s listing silhouette from way down the street… had heard his off key brogue Irish singing from even farther afield. It was a remarkable thing, Hallaron’s Irish tongue—you’d only ever guess that he was from Irish stock when he was drunk.
            “Had a good night?” Jane goaded.
            “A hard day’s night,” Hallaron conceded. He proceeded a couple of steps towards Jane, a hand cupped over his eyes to ward off the worst of the burning light bulbs he had installed after Tuesday’s attack. “Shouldn’t you be in bed for school tomorrow?  If I was teaching…” he glanced at his watch, “…I’d be abed by now.”
            “I was waiting for you, actually.”
            “For me?  I can’t say I’m flattered. Does your mother know you’re up?”
            “Don’t be silly!  My mother went to bed hours ago.”
            She saw Jim nod his head sagely, as if the answer should have been more than obvious.
            “We’ve been told the news Mr. Hallaron.”
            “Oh, aye. The news.” The accent rang crystalline through the cold air. Jane found it hard to believe Jim had lived in Australia for twenty-four years. He seemed deep in thought for a few seconds, his eyes distant. Then, he looked up at Jane. “What nonsense did they tell you lot?”
            “Not much. Lachlan and Benny were suspended. You’ve been… how did he put it… given respite until the situation is sorted out.”
            “Were those Mr. Baker’s words?”
            Jane nodded.
            A thin whistle escaped from Jim’s lips. He looked again as if he were contemplating something of earth moving proportions, an un-gloved hand, unusual for Jim Hallaron, speculatively stroking the bottom of his jaw. It was a pose Jane had seen countless times in class: the thinking pose, the reflective pose. On most other occasions, this process would move Jane. Only tonight, given the ugly flaws on Jim’s face—flaws that Jane noticed were healing quite well, thank you very much—that very process seemed to be a parody of itself.
            “That man,” Jim stated, appearing to choose his words carefully. “Is a twat.”
            The word completed the parody. That ugly, four letter word, uttered from a man whose English, though sometimes tainted with that Celtic lilt, was better than most. That four letter word was a fair representation of the inner turmoil that was no doubt swirling about Jim’s poor head. But for Jane, it was the sound of the wind dying in her sails.
            For some time, there passed between them a deathly silence, borne on the frozen wind and that last callous statement. Jane was watching Jim, just as Jim watched the ground. Whatever hope Jane had for her mentor was dissolving at a rate she could hardly bear to stomach.
            “What are you going to do?” she asked, her voice piercing the envelope of silence.
            Jim’s shrug was barely noticeable beneath his bulky jacket. “I haven’t given anything much thought of late.”  He glanced up at her for the briefest of seconds, before lowering his gaze once more, finding his boots more interesting.
            “You’re going to fight this aren’t you?”
            “To the best of my ability, Jane,” he told her, though the flat cadence of his voice suggested otherwise.
            She regarded him closely then, trying to compare the messages his body language sent with those of his words. That they didn’t coincide was really no big surprise to her. It hurt, sure, but wasn’t unexpected.
            “You can’t let them win,” she said.
            “Let who win? Lachlan and Benny?”
            “Well... them... and Mr. Baker...”
            “They won’t win,” Jim said.
            “How can you be so sure?”
            There was another short pause, broken by a long drawn out sigh. “I can’t,” Jim admitted. “I just can’t.”

Monday, 6 January 2014

Waltz of the Damned

Ooooh, hey!

Keep your options open, they say
Give them choice, they say
That way everybody is satisfied... right?

Tell them about yourself
Cast them so without a doubt
That what they see is what they get... right?

Pretty white lies
What do you fantasise?
Woe, you’ve been hurt one too many times... right?

No room to move, you say
No point to prove, you say
God’s honest truth in black and white... right?

And when two strangers meet
And you get your cold feet
There will always be next time... right?

Sunday, 5 January 2014


Behold this trail of destruction
You leave in your wake
As a stone’s throw at the pond’s centre
A tsunami makes
I am the leaf raft dashed asunder
And you walk as a giant
Crowned in lightning and thunder
Careless of my wants, my desires, my needs
Deaf to my entreaties, my desperation, my pleas

And only when the thread is severed,
Only when we reach the end
Only then will I discover
That you were never my friend

Saturday, 4 January 2014

The Altercation - 4


She found him in the corner farthest from the bar. As a consequence of this, it was also the farthest point from anything. He was hunched over a half full schooner that looked as if it hadn’t been attended to for well over half an hour. In fact, it looked as if Jim was unaware of anything going on around him—the noise, the smoke, the jostling… the testosterone—and that he rather preferred his own private world than the one surrounding him.
            She approached him carefully, unsure of what type of mood he was likely to be in. In three years of knowing one another, there had never been a situation like this, something that could probably cause a strain between their relationship. The five metres between them were both physical and metaphorical virgin ground—an allegory that Jim might have found humorous at any other time… but now?  Emily stopped abruptly, abruptly enough for a flannel-clad local to plough into her, spilling precious drops of beer onto the floor.
            “Aw, shit, sorry!” he drawled, eyes crawling over her body. The smile oozing over his face made his lewd thoughts blatantly obvious. “Does your momma know you’re here?” he inquired, blowing a foetid cloud of boozy breath into her face.
            “Does yours?” Emily quipped, spinning suddenly, all of her second thoughts dissolved. She slid onto the vacant stool across the tiny table from Jim, who as far as she knew had still been staring into his schooner while Neanderthal Man had ogled her.
            Apparently he hadn’t. “I see Ted’s still trying,” he muttered.
            “Ted?” she looked over at Neanderthal Man for the briefest of seconds, aware that he was glaring intently at her. Seeing her looking at him, he blew her an extravagant kiss.
            “Come to drag me home?” Jim asked. His eyes were still fixed intently on the brew sitting in front of him.
            “I’m not your mother,” Emily told him.
            Jim guffawed.
            “John told us all what had transpired. Minus the confrontation… I heard that from the office ladies…”
            Jim glanced up for the briefest of seconds. There were large black bags under his eyes that she had never noticed before, either as a result of the poor light in the pub or further symptoms of what occurred on Tuesday. Either way, they transformed his face into a distended, inglorious mask. But it wasn’t until her gaze was torn from these afflictions to the redness of his eyes that she realised their true nature. By then, he had lowered his gaze, once more in contemplation of his beer.
            “It was a very censored account of what happened if that’s any consolation.”
            He pushed the schooner away from him. “I bet it was,” he said. He raised his eyes again. They were still wet and shiny and red with tears.
            For seconds that felt like hours, Emily could only stare, her heart skipping a loose rhythm inside her chest. He was staring at her in a way no man had ever stared at her in all of her life. There was not the Neanderthal Man style of lust, the loving genuflection of her father, the deep, warm, passionate gazing of a lover… or the old conspiratorial exchanges shared many times with the man sitting before her… This was… the look of somebody who was completely and utterly at a loss. Dark, dilated pupils reflected not only the sordid antics of the locals behind her, but the disenchanted soul of Jim Hallaron. A soul that had had its wings cruelly cut and its feet bolted to the ground. Here was an unanchored galleon tossed on the wild seas of uncertainty.
            “I thought at one stage that I’d be one of those silly fuddy-duddy old professor types… with kids chucking paper planes around the room while I, in my dotage, would be reciting shit about Shakespeare, oblivious of everything.”  A screwed up smile briefly lit Jim’s face, until the obvious discomfort this action caused stole it away. There was still a strange twinkle in his eyes that held Emily fixed to the spot. What she was seeing was a cauldron of emotions set to brew slowly, each emotion flickering across his eyes momentarily, before vanishing down to the end of the queue, ready to start again. “It’s not likely to happen now. Especially after John is finished with me.”
            “Forget John,” Emily replied, snaking a hand out to clasp one of his. It was like holding a cold bag of bones in her palm. She looked into his eyes, watching with wonderment the cascading emotions playing for poll position across their landscape. What was he going to do? she asked herself.
            “You know,” he began, giving her hand the tiniest of squeezes. “Once upon a time—I’m going back about ten or so years… when I was still quite young—I used to be as quiet as a dormouse. You would be hard pressed to get three words out of me. At my first job, everyone kept saying to me: ‘Why are you always so quiet?’  They’d always say stuff like that. ‘Why are you always so quiet?  Why don’t you talk more?’  Back then, I was of the mindset that unless you actually had something to say, you kept your damn mouth shut. I thought, Christ, there’s probably two people having twenty people’s conversation; why the fuck would I want to join in?  So I didn’t for a little while. And then… I don’t know; I was bitten by some kind of bug. Some kind of, I don’t know… political bug of some sort. The sort of thing where you speak what’s on everyone else’s mind. Like a fucking politician, I was. Shit, you couldn’t shut me up for nothing!”  Jim paused then, his free hand busy rubbing underneath his jaw. “Wow, four days off work and I’m already using double negatives…” He grinned and shook his head slowly. “To cut a long story short, I transfer here, spout my damn mouth off at everything nobody else was going to touch with a fifty foot cattle prod. I trod on the wrong toes, and now, John is casting me out to the sharks. I’d have been better off being the quiet Jim Hallaron… the one who took the crap good-naturedly. The non-controversial Jim Hallaron.”
            “I don’t think I would’ve liked that Jim Hallaron.”
            “That Jim Hallaron would still have his job.”
            “That Jim Hallaron wouldn’t be the good teacher I know today.”
            The eyebrow above his battered right eye shot up into a high arch. “Are you flirting with me, young girl?” he asked.
            Coming from absolutely nowhere, the question pole-axed her. Her hand slipped from his, rested lazily on the table. He was smiling, obviously pleased with her reaction. He reached out and reclaimed her retreating hand.
            “Sorry I said that,” he remarked, patting the back of her hand between his. They were now warm, charged with a new vitality, as were his eyes, no longer stained red with tears. Even the bags were vanishing… albeit, slowly. “Wanna drink?”

            “I… um…” How could she resist?

Thursday, 2 January 2014

The Altercation - 3


He wondered for a moment if John Baker was leering at him. There was something in the neat smile and the deadly sheen in his eyes that suggested to Jim that maybe, just maybe, he found all of this commotion slightly humorous. Indeed, in Jim’s deepest and darkest thoughts, he suspected that this was the chance the boss had been waiting for. The perfect opportunity to dredge him out like an irrigation channel, scraping out years of bile and other emotional detritus. Payback day, perhaps.
            He was wearing his ‘official’ suit, the black number with the velvet trim and the neatly pressed shirt. He was even wearing leather shoes instead of the clod hopper workbooks he usually wore, with pristine dress socks. And his tie wasn’t multicoloured and loud… just a simple economy shade of rusty red. He wanted to talk ‘business,’ and had dressed for the occasion.
            Only he was wearing that self-satisfied grin, the sort of grin that Jim referred to as the shit-eating grin. It was that grin he wore when he was bawling out his staff, even though the glint in his eyes, like cold steel, told all that dared look that this was a serious deed.
            “I’ve rang the union,” he told Jim.
            “What have they got to say?”
            “Oh, the usual.”  The comment was delivered deadpan, but was loaded nonetheless.
            “What is the ‘usual?’” Jim asked, noticing the emphasis he put on the word usual. Somehow, in the last infinitesimal milliseconds, the word had developed several hundred new levels of meaning, much like the shades in between black and white. “Do I have a case?”
            Baker paused, his Adam’s Apple bobbing abruptly up and down. He diverted his eyes momentarily, the movement magnified by his spectacles. A breath shuddered from his chest, a hastily lost breath, followed by an equally hasty intake. Then he looked up at Jim, his blue eyes hard and cold, lips pressed together tightly so that they formed a jagged pencil line on his mouth. “It’s hard to say, Jim,” he admitted, splaying his hands in front of him. “I mean… there were hardly any witnesses…”
            “Hardly any witnesses?”  Jim shot forward in his seat. “What about all the kids standing around gawping?”
            “Do you seriously think students would make reliable witnesses?”
            “…and what about Andy?”
            “He arrived too late.”
            “Too late?”
            “The damage had been done.”
            Jim paused. What did that mean?
            As if hearing Jim’s thoughts, Baker continued: “He didn’t see how the altercation began. He only saw the end bit… where you had Lachie… I mean, Lachlan in a headlock…”
            Jim frowned, leant back in his chair, feeling it groan under his weight. A thoughtful hand went to the side of his face, gingerly caressing the dark purple smudge mark located there. “What you’re implying is that maybe I attacked Lachlan. Is that right?”
            Baker once more caught a shallow breath. His eyes roved around the room in one swift movement before centring on Jim. “You know what the legislation about this sort of thing says…”
            “The Child Protection legislation?  Yeah, I know about that. What about Occupational Health and Safety?  What about the legal rights of the victim?”
            “And just who was the victim in this instance, Jim?”
            The challenge was uttered so softly that at first Jim failed to hear. It wasn’t until a few moments had fluttered past did Jim realise what had been said. And it wasn’t for another few moments after that that Jim realised that the challenge had been meted out. And now, John Baker sat on the far side of his overly large desk, his left leg resting over his right, thin arms folded over his even thinner chest, his eyes glaring across the space between Jim and himself. It was his eyes that said the most. His cold, challenging eyes, firing icy torpedoes of accusation in Jim’s direction.
            There was a bitter silence for several minutes, broken only once by the click of Jim’s throat as he swallowed. At length, shaking his head, Jim pushed his chair back.
            “The two of you have a history,” Baker offered, both as explanation and a further riposte.
            “Mm,” Jim said, with a wave of his hand.
            “Albeit not a pretty history.”  Another sally.
            He repeated the same guttural noise, the same gesture of his hand. He was now staring intently at the floor, unable to look into his boss’ eyes… afraid perhaps of seeing that shit-eating grin. A veritable red flag.
            “And you did cross the line.”  The matter-of-fact manner in which Baker related these points may have blunted his tongue’s sword, but each checkpoint (Baker made a habit of counting off points on his fingers) cut deeply nonetheless. And something in those deadpan thrusts indicated to Jim that perhaps Baker was enjoying this. Enjoying this immensely.
            “I was defending myself, John. You understand that don’t you?”
            Baker may have understood that… but Jim very much doubted he was going to say so. He was right, too. “That doesn’t justify what you did. You went too far.”
            “Too far?” Jim hissed, all fear of meeting Baker’s eyes now evaporated. He raised his eyes, seeing Baker’s hand raised; he had indeed been checking points off with his fingers. “Look at my face, John, and tell me that I went too far. You see this cut—” Jim laid his finger on the butterfly strips that criss-crossed over his right cheek—“that was Lachlan’s Harley Davidson Ring. And I have a lump on the back of my head the size of an egg from where that bastard king hit me. Both of those shots—and probably five or six more—he got on me before I even thought of retaliation!  And then his dead shit friend Benny Gooding decided he’d have a go. Two on one, John… and it probably would’ve been a lot worse if I hadn’t retaliated. All of those kids would’ve liked to kick my arse.”
            “I wonder why,” Baker muttered dryly, a hand roving up to his face to conceal a smirk.
            “And what do you mean by that?” Jim retorted.
            “You’ve had it in for those boys ever since you got here four years ago!”
            “Bullshit nothing!  You’ve constantly derided them, hackled them, and insulted them. Did you expect nothing to happen because of it?”
            “I never insulted them, John, and you damn well know it. And I’m not the only one in this school who has had run ins with them.”
            “The point, Jim, is that you over reacted!  You totally lost control in front of a large and impressionable group of children!  You broke Benny’s nose and almost broke Lachlan Murray’s neck!”
            “Would you rather they’d broken mine?”
            “Stop being so dramatic, Jim. For Christ’s sake…” Baker rose from his seat, and paced the floor. “You have to see this altercation from the Department’s side. We’ve a public image to maintain.”
            “Lachlan had a switchblade.”
            Baker closed his mouth.
            “He threatened to cut me.”
            “We searched him. We found nothing. All I know is that Andy Johnson saw Benny Gooding with a busted nose and you and Lachlan wrestling…”
            “I didn’t start the altercation.”
            “You may have exacerbated it.”
            “You told the boys to clean themselves up.”
            “I told the boys to clean their area up.”
            “That’s not what I’ve heard.”
            “Well that’s what happened.”
            “Look—what happened before is immaterial. What really matters is that this whole thing is cleared up to the satisfaction of everyone involved. You, the school and the students involved.”
            “By making me a scapegoat?”
            “That’s what is happening, isn’t it?”
            “I never—”
            “You don’t have to say anything.”  Jim got slowly to his feet. “Ever since Tuesday you’ve given me nothing but empty assurances. ‘Everything’s going to be fine,’ you’ve said it over and over again—but is it?  Everything isn’t fine!  It’s not!  I can’t even go to the fucking pub without catcalls from the street.”
            “This is a small community… you’ve got to understand.”
            “And I’ve heard nothing from you defending my character. All I’ve had is empty promises and a lot of silence.”
            “I’ve made a few phone calls…”
            “So have I. The Union said students can be witnesses.”
            “Hostile witnesses, maybe.”
            “But witnesses nonetheless!”
            “Look… you’re making a mountain out of a molehill!”
            “And you’re being a stubborn, arrogant prick.”
            Baker’s cold eyes suddenly narrowed. “Insulting me isn’t going to help you.”
            Jim stared back, the hairs on the nape of his neck teased by some invisible fingers. “What are you going to do, fire me?”
            “And give you an avenue for an unlawful dismissal lawsuit?  Come on, Jim!  I didn’t come down in the last shower you know!  Consider yourself on indefinite leave with pay.”
            “Why won’t you help me?”
            “I am. I’m giving you stress leave and the pay to go with it. I can’t do any more.”
            “You can defend my reputation!”
            “How?  By saying that you drink three beers a night instead of four?  Damn it, Jim!  Stop being obstinate!  You’re lucky you haven’t had your sorry arse dragged off to jail!”
            “That would have suited your purposes though, wouldn’t it?  You would have liked a better pretext for firing me, wouldn’t you?”
            “Look… our past disagreements mean nothing. This is entirely different!”
            “Maybe, maybe not. But any undermining of the foundation is good, now, isn’t it?”
            For a moment, Jim felt sure that Baker was going to acquiesce with him. But at the last moment, he lowered his eyes, and said, with a voice softer than snow and devoid of any emotion: “please leave Mr. Hallaron… before either of us say something we might regret.”
            Jim held out his hands in resignation. “Fine,” he replied. “I know when I’ve lost.”

            He backed out of the door, surprising himself by closing it gently. He further surprised himself by grinning at the secretaries as he sauntered out of the office, sure without a doubt that they had listened to more of that exchange than they would care to admit.

Wednesday, 1 January 2014

A Lie Upon a Lie

Only darkness to hide the movement
Of your tongue
While your eyes gaze into the middle distance
And your thoughts gather momentum
As you chase a lie upon a lie

This story, compounded with twists and lines
A plot broken like tributaries of a flooded river
Winding to a poisoned sea
No fullstops at the ends of sentences
Just a teetering crash of a lie upon a lie.