Down to earth with a bump

Realising how unimportant you are is painful.

Being in company. Feeling you know your place. Relaxing, which you find difficult, only to realise you mean nothing to people you felt close to only moments earlier. That is painful.

Immediately you feel foolish. It is a reflection on where you stand. Your rank. Possibly you have sacrificed something for those people. You hope that your efforts have been recognised. Worse, perhaps you believe they have been recognised. All those days, nights and weekends spent working. You are shy and you hate to blow your own trumpet. Then, within minutes of being dismissed you realise that your work, your effort, has never even been considered. Others are talking at length about their sacrifice. Their efforts. Yet they all seem to have evenings when they can go to a cinema – when did you last go to see a film? They were away at the weekend. Goodness – even on holiday you were working until 11pm on a Saturday evening. Then they start to laugh at you. Right there, in front of you, they are mocking you. It is a self-congratulatory act by them. At that moment you realise just how foolish you have been.

What was the point of that sacrifice. You turned away from contracts and offers since you had a debt of participation. You stupid, silly fool.

The bubble has burst. You kept your head down and you never commented when, time after time, others did not fulfil their part of the bargain. “People are stressed”. “They have a lot to think about”.

The weight you have put on since you cannot even get time to walk the dog. The fact you are making no profit and cannot repair the house or replace your ageing computer. The fact your accountant earns more from your efforts than you do. It was accepted since you felt part of something. It mattered that you were a part of something.

That was an illusion. It is difficult to handle but it is educational.

Still, it hurts.

Here comes winter

Sitting and listening to the trees and the sea. I have a heater on. Outside is getting stormy.
My 5 minute “poem” – I am no Ted Hughes! I attempted to shape it like half of a fallen leaf.

Waves
Splendid, noisy waves.
Unabashed and unapologetic.
Unlike the withering, dessicated leaves’
Whip and rattle this evening
In time with the strengthening breeze
Impatient boughs shiver
Their hospitality withdrawn
And summer is over
Hibernation beckons
Nature remembers
She is a visitor
Counting days
The elements
Oblivious
Always
.

Los Gatos

The Cats

I arrived in the walled town early in the morning. Autumn was giving way to a frozen Winter. Around the ancient walls a stubborn mist stood guard over white fields tethered by withered vines.

There were no cars permitted within the boundaries. The local workforce had been paid in part with wine from the bodegas which were the sole industry within this high valley. Their basement excavations had hollowed the foundations and turned roads into vaulted arches. This was where they stored their vino. If a road collapsed it would reveal a bloody stream of red wine and shattered glass. The pulse of a subterranean giant sleeping off the excess of too many parties.

Within 50 minutes I had strolled the extent of the town battlements and witnessed the frozen siege set upon it from all sides. I turned my attention inward. Looking for the people and the shops I found only darkened streets and cobbled roadways, grand wooden doors and chipped shutters.

I met nobody. No shops were open and the market took place on Wednesday. This was Tuesday. No sounds escaped the thick walls of the old houses. I smelt no cooking and I saw no smoke rising from any chimneys. The town was in suspended animation.

The town lay on a hill. A teardrop shaped slice of land surfing from the clouds to the valley floor with the Church standing alone at the highest point. For such a small settlement the Church was magnificent. The doors were lined with rows of religious characters. Saints and the suffering sinners. Scholars and priests. Miracles and offerings. In dark wood and in strict hierarchical order. Religion has such a rigid class system.

Here, for the first time, I could hear movement. Turning to capture the attention of whoever was behind me I was confronted with a street full of cats. Hundreds of cats in various scrawny states of disheveled malice.

I have always liked cats and for most of my life a pet cat has been part of the household. Individually, they exhibit boredom and disdain. En-masse they appeared to me more like a pride descending on it’s prey. For a few seconds I was quite alarmed. They bore little similarity to the sleek animals I knew. Some were matted, some slightly bald. Tall, short, torn-eared, monocular, tailed and tail-less. Battered and tattered. All sinew and all looking at me.

The scouts arrived at my feet and I immediately realised there was nothing to fear other than fleas. They settled around me and waited – I presumed for food – but I had nothing to offer. There were so many I feared what might happen if I did pull some meat from a pocket. Leaning to stroke the head of a healthy looking, short-haired cat it backed away. They sought out human company but seemed unwilling to make contact.

“You have many friends. You cannot all enter the Church, I am sorry”

I turned to discover a middle-aged priest standing in front of a small doorway cut into the gates. He was smiling as he approached me.

“They will soon be distracted. It is a quiet morning. Soon the cooking shall begin and the washing. Then they shall forget you and move on.”

I asked if I might see inside of the Church. The priest paused a moment and informed me that there were now, regrettably, visiting hours to adhere to. The tourists were too numerous and their offerings too small to cover many of the associated costs.

He then smiled, ushered me toward the door and asked me to enter quickly before my friends snuck in.

The interior was remarkable. At such an early hour it was dark with only dim light skulking through the grimy windows. The atmosphere was of a smoky, rustic kitchen. It was smaller than I had anticipated. Countless Madonna and figures of Christ seemed to have been randomly scattered. The church felt very old. The pews were a mixture of styles and eras. The chandeliers and candles were an eclectic mix. All of this added to the feeling of entering a massive religious jumble sale.

In those first moments, however, I was reminded of the tale of the biblical Christ and I shared some of the awe which rural workers must have felt upon entering. Countless feet upon these stones. Stretching back centuries. I wanted some time alone and turned to ask the Priest if I might reflect a few moments. He appeared to have anticipated my request. I could see him reading through a visitors book. He indicated to me to take my time by raising a hand and smiling. “It is OK” he appeared to be saying “I understand”.

In those minutes spent in silence – preying atop an ancient Spanish town in an empty Church which belonged to an unfamiliar religion – I felt I had found a piece of the Spain I had read about and for which I might have been searching. I felt I had found a connection to a past. Rightly or wrongly.

I did not want to return to the mocking modernity of my world. Not for a while.

Outside, for the first time I could hear the collective mewing of the Cats. Perhaps, as the priest had suggested, they were saying their goodbyes as they set off to begin their working day.

Solace

More a note. Hoping to form a poem of it sometime.

No sooner have I settled at a desk, or on a step, to write
I hear some argument in the street or from the garden.
Shared now, sadly, by the people who shout.
Shout to greet. Shout when departing and each moment in between.
Why pay for the mobile phone which dominates their day
It seems unlikely they cannot be heard. Far away.

I watched a programme set in Lahore. From there to Mumbai.
The poverty was a sin. Shrink wrapped in miserable heat.
Yet the cruelest strain was the absence of silence.
Still people manage to create, breed, sleep and eat.
Privacy must be borne from fatigue. Sound blind
Not deaf but unable to hear. Senses calcified. Ossified. Paralysed.

No sweat forms on their skin, there is no crust. Nothing cracks.
The temperatures crackle and another generation wither.
Within their shadows I sought solace to cool my envy and my pity.
All the while the people who shout continue. Shouting at their phone.
Shout about money, confirmation, deliveries. In need of medication.
Pointless, noisy declarations. In a silent town. Shouting even while alone.

Evening lights, November

Time.
I fear I shall lose my mind
For if I cast a glance at night
Along the congested lanes, I fancy I find
No choking queues only veins of light
Scarlet and vanilla. Amid the blaze
I find my fireflies and tinker bells
They waited patiently for me to stray
And I long for a chance to follow them
Back into those cotton-wooled, milky days
And see my mother once again young and my brother,
Always together, both distant and within
And play the nursery games we surely played.

If it was not casually given or taken.
If asked, I am sure he would have.
Stayed.

I bow my head to glance inside then travel on
Choked, as the dainty, daydream lights blink.
Fade.

Coffee Break

Written after stopping for a coffee shortly after a storm.

Coffee Break

The leaves continue to rustle in their lifelong tussle with the wind,
The ground, so harshly treated after yet another heartless deluge,
Warms and dries and forgives it’s haughty neighbour her sins,
The insects scan the land for scar tissue,
The birds scan for insects as I view the landscape for damage,
And find, to my relief, only fresh new colours and tiny rainbows amid the dew.

Curved Air

I can see the wind long before it blows against me.
Smooth clouds of invisible ether overlapping,
circulating, undulating. A polished burr of free,
lolloping, playful power. A delight. I suppress
my smile until sudden along comes a gust,
a blot of startled air tearing, rippling, possessed.
Exhausting, fading slowly then consumed.
I am a riddle in it’s grip, unsettled by it’s caress.

Wolves

This short poem was in my head when I woke one night. I have since only changed one word and wrote it out in a single, quick pass. Strange how something like that can happen. Hardly great poetry, mind you!

Wolves

There. Just there. In the distance.
There is a wolf calling. I think it is a wolf.
Some long distant compatriot, trying to awaken me.
I fear it has been too long. I seldom feel the cold.
Generations led to this, to unquestioned obeisance.
I am trapped in a cage, numbed.
Desensitised. Native Americans, it is said, used alcohol.
Humbling the ancient inside, shutting it in,
Drowning out the wolves trying to awaken us all.

Insomnia #1

A short poem which started off with a resolution to write whenever I have attacks of insomnia. If they are dull enough, it may solve the sleeping difficulties.

Hush. It is not yet five.
Silent, except for the probing wind against the trembling pane,
Once, all the world would have sheltered so, unalive.
And in some kinder epoch so it shall, once again.