29.8.06 | For My Parents
who's inverted childhood i watch and for whom i count the chimes of distant clocks.
The Old Fools
What do they think has happened, the old fools,
To make them like this? Do they somehow suppose
It's more grown-up when your mouth hangs open and drools,
And you keep on pissing yourself, and can't remember
Who called this morning? Or that, if they only chose,
They could alter things back to when they danced all night,
Or went to their wedding, or sloped arms some September?
Or do they fancy there's really been no change,
And they've always behaved as if they were crippled or tight,
Or sat through days of thin continuous dreaming
Watching the light move? If they don't (and they can't), it's strange;
Why aren't they screaming?
At death you break up: the bits that were you
Start speeding away from each other for ever
With no one to see. It's only oblivion, true:
We had it before, but then it was going to end,
And was all the time merging with a unique endeavour
To bring to bloom the million-petalled flower
Of being here. Next time you can't pretend
There'll be anything else. And these are the first signs:
Not knowing how, not hearing who, the power
Of choosing gone. Their looks show that they're for it:
Ash hair, toad hands, prune face dried into lines -
How can they ignore it?
Perhaps being old is having lighted rooms
Inside you head, and people in them, acting
People you know, yet can't quite name; each looms
Like a deep loss restored, from known doors turning,
Setting down a lamp, smiling from a stair, extracting
A known book from the shelves; or sometimes only
The rooms themselves, chairs and a fire burning,
The blown bush at the window, or the sun's
Faint friendliness on the wall some lonely
Rain-ceased midsummer evening. That is where they live:
Not here and now, but where all happened once.
This is why they give
An air of baffled absence, trying to be there
Yet being here. For the rooms grow farther, leaving
Incompetent cold, the constant wear and tear
Of taken breath, and them crouching below
Extinction's alp, the old fools, never perceiving
How near it is. This must be what keeps them quiet:
The peak that stays in view wherever we go
For them is rising ground. Can they never tell
What is dragging them back, and how it will end? Not at night?
Not when the strangers come? Never, throughout
The whole hideous inverted childhood? Well,
We shall find out
15.8.06 | "Would You Like Death With Your Latte?"
I'm late. I'm always late. I explode from the bus into the city street in a swirling mass of black. My tatty trench-coat flowing behind me, my matching black stomp-boots furiously gripping the pavement and propelling me towards my desination like they really mean it. I compare my watch to the one on the high street in the oft-anticipated hope that i might have been transported back through time this once and thus arrive exactly on time for my coffee with da Pumpkin. Bit time remains stoically keen to pursue its own goals.
"You got any spare change, sir?"
I stop dead.
His face is vaguely recognizable, but then so is any homeless vagrants on Manchesters city streets. You get so used to seeing them that their scruffy anxious faces blend into each others after a while. Some people find it easy to ignore them and the begging. Some berate them angrily for not having a job, for not being clean, for not being normal. Some people give them a few coppers, or a bit o' silver that they have weighing down their trouser pockets. That's what i do.
"Sure. How are yer doin'? It's a bit nippy today, innit? Here ye go".
I stare him into his desperate eyes as i drop my coinage into his cup. I've seen conmen doing their begging rounds on these streets before. He looks for real. Today... i don't care. If he needs the money for "whatever", then it's his.
I give him everything i have. It's one of those days. I want to hug him, too. But let that pass. He looks incredibly grateful. I move on to my appointment, feeling the wind blowing through me like i was a ghost.
I meet Pumpy in the book-store and we get our respective coffees. Latte for her and a yummy moccha for me. I torment her a little with a loud curmudgeonly Devonshire accent as we move towards a table by the window. She rolls her eyes and gives me a pained expression. No-one else pays any attention whatsoever.
She tells me about how she hates her boss. I listen, but my mind has never turned away from you all day. She knows what i'm thinking about, and takes my hand in hers and for a little while we sit in silence.
You had been drinking coffee too, before you were engulfed in a horror of white noise and orange flame, then drowned in the darkness of dust and broken glass, and then the more impenetrable blackness of death.
When they found your body, you were still wreathed in grey dust, like a cerement shroud. Your new-born son held tightly in your hand. Your wedding ring glinting through the murk. You were 28. This is your story. Just one amongst the hundreds and hundreds... just one who had to die to suit the purposes of macho politicians and radicals who are more concerned about their popularity rather than doing what is right.
I did not know you. But i miss you. Your absence is an ache in my soul. Coffee and witty repartee... seem so much harder without you.