Category Archives: New writing 2018

Josiah and his hair.


Josiah and his silent friend are walking with me through the Meadows

And he is telling me the story of his hair

This is hair worth a story

Part flat top, part dreadlocks

No medusa coils

If these dreadlocks were alive

They would be smiling, sunbathing, sleepy snakes.

Josiah says

“When I was little I had an afro

Combed it every day

Discovered that the big girls from big school liked to stroke my hair

Discovered that I liked that too”

And Josiah says

” Then I got a  flat top

Urban flavour

Sharp

Hard edged”

And Josiah says

” My grandmother

Buffalo soldier all her life

Wore her dreads wrapped in fabric from home

Flashes of red and yellow and green

My grandmother died”

And Josiah says

” So these locks remind me that  my grandmother is always with me”

And when I look

I see his shoulders are broad enough to bear this burden.


Ruth @ number 80


Ruth first tasted freedom during world war 2

Found she liked it, never looked back,

Except perhaps, just at the end.

Sharp as a pin,

Should have gone to grammer school,

But didn’t

Worked in the hosiery,

but quick to tell me on first meeting,

Not on the factory floor,

No head down hemming for her,

In the offices,

A cut above the other girls.

Somehow, unimaginably , bought her house alone in 1950 something.

Ruth, never courted, never married

But,

On hungover Sumer Sundays when boys lolled in my garden drinking pints of tea,

She had a scoring system based solely on how they looked sans shirts.

Ruth is proof, if I needed more, that I am not a good person,

Too busy to see she came out less,

Too busy to see the empty washing line,

Too busy to see the uncollected pints of milk.

Another neighbour,

Better person, did,

So, knocked and got no answer,

Broke in and found her upright on the sofa,

Dead,

A dog each side.

And in the telling, it was hinted that the dogs had started nibbling

And that might have been the case.

Ruth,

Payed a heavy price for early emancipation.

 


Mr Harrison


My street puts the O in Harrison

Not some complex metaphor or cryptic crossword clue

But, simple fact

Mr Harrison, Victorian builder of the 8 parallel lines of palisaded terraces sought immortality in brick

So, chose street names to spell out his own

H A R R I S O N

Like many things, the sum was greater than it’s parts

Names chosen without rhyme or rhythm, the only reason that all important first letter

H A R R I S O N

Mr Harrison built well

2 step front gardens, and at the back, a coal shed, outside lavvy, a washing line and room for some sturdy soot proof shrubs and maybe a rabbit for the pot

Houses built for the better sort of working man

Able to afford to keep his wife at home

Able to afford to send his children to the new board school on Ingle St ( confusingly, not the I in Harrison)

At weekends the braver youth would trespass on a local farmers field, until he, exasperated into charity, donated land to build a city park

Still there

Its trees the oldest things around

Both they and Mr Harrison achieving some sort of immortality.


Rescue Me


This is for Ryan & Niko ( and the dogs of course)

The Polish dog is old

A little moth-eaten, shabby around her seams

She resembles nothing less than a much loved greying teddy bear

My dogs are small, sometimes overawed by the rumbustious play of bigger dogs

But

They enjoy her undemanding company

So

Sometimes we walk together

The Polish dog, the Polish boy and us

He says

” She is shy”

He says

“My stepfather used to beat her”

( and I see him choosing to not go there, not today )

He says

“But if you give her time and space, allow her to set the pace, she will stand near, allow you to touch her”

And when we stop, so that she can rest, she does just that

Head just reaching his knees

Leaning in

Milky eyes fixed upon his face

My dogs are bored now, cast around for excitement

See Indi explode though the park gates

Indi, spent the first 6 months of her life in a room

No-one seemed to know that she needed walks, fresh air and other dogs

A different outfit every day

Plenty of instagram likes, but not much love

Finally rescued and re-homed to the yoga teacher

Indi, making up for lost time

Everyday a birthday

We walk together and the boys lean into each other with an easy intimacy, say something I don’t quite catch

And later the yoga teacher says

” We are together”

He says

” We met here, on this park, because of the dogs”

He says

” We are happy”

And it is a tiny every day miracle

The dogs, the boys, the park

But blink, blink and you might miss it.


I need a sat nav for my life


I need a sat nav for my life

I want updates on congestion in the corridors

And more crucially, congestion in my chest

I need a sat nav for my life

But not the shouty ones

The ones that scream turn left when you have already missed the junction

Instead a honey tongued siren who will whisper

“Turn round when you are able”

And understand it may take time before I find a turn that I can take

I need a sat nav for my life

I want to know when I’m on uneven ground, on thin ice, heading to deep water

On days when I can’t dress I need a sat nav to give advice

” At the 3rd hanger take the first item”

( in fairness, many of my clothes are double parked)

I need a sat nav for my life

“re-configuring your journey”

when everything seems lost

and a sat nav that will re-boot to take the scenic route to remind me that fast and straight are not the only way to reach your destination

I need a sat nav for my life, even when it says we’re here, and here just looks like everywhere and so I keep on driving and maybe that’s the point

I need a sat nav for my life.

 


fire watching …..extended dj remix


My grandfather cycles at a careful deliberate pace

Too fast and the dynamo will make the bike lights burn too bright

Too slow and they will flicker, falter, fail

No light matter in war darkened Dublin.

My grandfather is going firewatching

All night he will stand, binoculars in hand, surveying the sky

His war quality woollen muffler chafes the back of his neck

This scarf has been knitted, badly, by the family’s itinerant maid

This same woman, who each day will swaddle my mother in her shawl

A shawl that smells of cheap tobacco, porter, peat

A smell my mother still remembers almost 90 years on

At the end of his uneventful shift my grandfather will cycle home

But this time faster, as light creeps over the Wicklow hills

With a final delicious freewheel down Roebuck rd and then a sharp left into his own drive.

In daytime , there are drills, alarms sounded, all clears given

Dubliners, least herdable people in the world look up

They all have cousins in London, Birmingham, Coventry

Know what the skies can bring

But, secure in their neutrality

They shrug, agree that Hitler is a terrible auld eejit

Go back to daily living

My grandmother sniffs

Sees these drills as showing off

Goes off about her daily business

Queues for jam where raspberry pips have been replaced with chips of wood and where no-one recognises the names of fish at the fishmongers

He swears they taste like plaice

They never do.

My grandfather missed the one night of air based action

A German bomber

Off path

Off plan

Misjudged their route

Tried to jettison the contents of their bomb bays into Dublin bay

Misjudged again

Took out a row of terraced houses.

Decades later, I lie at his feet

Unravelling knots in a Persian rug chaffing my neck

I clutch my newest Enid Blyton to my chest

Clutch, but don’t read because I’m trying to make it last

Even babies of war babies know the importance of rationing pleasure

My grandfather’s regret at missing his one chance for heroism is palpable even to me

My grandmother, heard it all before, sniffs and in the absence of any help these days, goes off to make a pot of tea.

 

I know I shouldn’t , really shouldn’t , but like any addict, convince my self that this time it will be better and if it isn’t then I can easily retune to Classic FM, Smooth radio

Loose myself in dance hits of the 90s

But instead, I am listening to radio 4

Insect extinction

Antibiotic resistance

And a clear-eyed child telling me that I should panic about climate change, panic as if my own house was on fire

And I wish I had my grandfathers’ binoculars

Wish I felt their heavy weight of certainty

Wished like him I believed that this is a world worth fighting for.

 

Their faces say that we know that we are part of history

And they are watching Notre Dame burn

Half a world away, smaller less important churches are burning too

A different sort of priceless artifact inside

Children dressed in Easter Sunday finery

Dresses with sticky out skirts

Gleaming patent shoes

Some carrying small baskets of painted eggs

It’s best, I find, to not think too hard about those painted eggs

In this war there are no drills, no all clears sounded

Sometimes, like those people back by Dublin Bay

It’s just poor luck

Wrong time, wrong place

And I wish we all had my grandfather’s binoculars

All felt their heavy weight of certainty

All believed with him that this is a world worth fighting for

And we are all firewatchers now.


Best road trip ever


The younger dog is puzzled

All this activity bears the hallmark of a day out, an adventure, a road trip,

Leads collected

Dog bags descovered

Keys lost, keys found,

He positions himself at the front door to ensure that he is first into the car,

But,

Unacountabily, today he is left behind, home alone.

He stands at the window, nose pressed against the glass

Confident that a mistake has been made, an error occurred, a wrong to be righted

 

Today is a one woman, one dog, one way road trip,

So, you let her sit in the front seat, open the window in case she wants to stand on tippy paws to hurl abuse at other dogs in other cars,

But,

She is tired, sighs, curls up like a kitten,

Perks up when you open a bag of treats before you even reach the end of your street.

You drive one-handed, traffic Saturday morning light,

This time chosen carefully to avoid any danger of meets with colleagues later today as you know that punching someone in the face will not play out well on some internal disciplinary sheet.

You handfeed pieces of bite sized chicken, cheese, salami, all the good stuff

and she sighs again, but this time with piggy greed.

In the car park you sit, engine running while you rub her belly and she, tailless, wags her whole body in pleasure while you eat the final sliver of cheese,

Wish that you could freeze this moment forever.

The waiting room is  empty, first appointment of the day, candle already alight

So you wait, stroke velvet soft ears

Push back the inevitable tsunami of tears

Not now, not here

And afterwards, when the vet tells you that you can collect her on Thursday

You look at his face, his lips

Can’t understand what he’s trying to say

Until it dawns on you  he means the box of dog dust and not her at all.

At home, the younger dog is pleased to see you,

Covers you in dog breath kisses

Invites you to a game of bark, nip, run.

It is only hours later, after his careful examination of the garden, the dog beds and the rooms upstairs that he finally stands at the front door,

Stares at you

Confident that a mistake has been made, an error occurred , a wrong to be righted.