Bear

In the high street you turn from Ursula,

that small wreaking bear in a fine old coat:

well worn dichlorobenzenated reminder

of an otherwise wasted life.

.

Up and down she pads, from dawn to dark,

claws clicking past embarrassed charity,

rather proffering that magnificent maned neck

to the limp lasso of wet and greedy punters.

.

Her hunted life is heft and loaded into BMWs,

to be stuffed and tipped back latersore and sober,

that fabulous bear coat torn and taken from her,

the remains of its wilderness scratching at her back.

Mother

When this apple tree is axed and carted to the yard

its old leaves stripped, its twisted branches cut and carved;

when birds and errant squirrels are summarily dismissed,

and mistletoe is torn and puckered lips unkissed;

somewhere beyond the function of its analytic brain

beneath the anxious beating of its heart, the alignment of its grain

we will get down to the nub, that grande dam the tree would be,

except artful years bore sweetest fruit contorting destiny.

Thaw

Forgotten

in locked allotments

bracing brass monkey feet

she

dug

deep

with clenched teeth

through frozen clods

customarily turning over old leaves

 until

she                                                                     slipped

and gripping glass

g

u

i

l

l

o

t

i

n

e

d

her pinkie finger tip.

.

As shock welled

to fill iced water butts

she saw her isolation reflected hard as winter

and lifting her mangled digit

in surrender

staggered bleeding to the gate.

Computer Generation

He was once a real boy;

distinctly she remembered him

holding her hand and looking her in the eye.

.

These days, to gain his attention

she wore prescription 3D glasses

and sat in a life-simulating gaming chair;

unsure whether the blurred edges he exhibited

were the result of his stereoscopic obsession,

a definite change in generational perspective,

or the tears in her empty nest eyes.

The Choosing

Angry as a woman ever was—
her file of life a medical lexicon
she left it all behind and plunged into the sea
assaulted by bitter rainfall on her weeping skin
body escaping from confines of wet crumpled clothes
and hair of seaweed falling through galloping waves.

All things come to an end and even pain
with all its earthly wires and strange responsibility
cannot hold us unless we will consent to stay
to keep human vigil for those who choose to swim away.

Art Models

Queens of the studio
we sought the other’s company
time within the confines
of our role to reflect
on limited life chances

Paid a pittance we posed
in perfect stillness
projections of abashed love
brushed into our lives
by twelve anxious teenagers

They painted our ordinary beauty
over again every day, beaten by
the pink plait which wound like
laughter down her strong back
carving fold and curve

Our granite lives outside
were hacked in sharp relief
to this academic canvas
where promises were outlined
to be smudged at a later sitting.

Dusk

Twenty or so if youth declares,
out of fuel on a parky night
blanked by eery-lit unforgiving
dry stone walls, trudged doggedly on,
mile after mile, youth’s gift to push
home through fear with salmon-like
fortitude, back from the godless moor,
like Scott, I boasted, or Kathy,
without a hint of irony.

Fifty or so if age discloses,
an independent woman timed it wrong;
clinging to cliffs pitched deep in night
petrified last rocky reflections
damned by awareness, inadequacy and
grazed knees; sliding towards
the unforgiving sea, mouthing –
I am old, mistaken, stupid, cold.
ENOUGH. Please rescue me.

Merchantesse

Some would say the woman with long red hair merely sells reclaimed clothes; she doesn’t call out her wares; doesn’t lean on people to buy unwanted goods; doesn’t exclaim ‘beautiful’ when someone tries something on; doesn’t cluck, smile or pamper. She sits quiet, still and reading outside her stall, waiting for people to find her and buy her merchandise.

But to those touched by the butterfly’s wings, clothes are jewels. And when I sat at her feet for the seventh year, she may have recognised my aura and, I am almost certain, told me a tale.

“I dig these clothes from gold mines, I steal these beauties from the washing lines of kings, in my cave I keep silver spiders aweaving silken webs, I sweep dew drops from fresh smelling early morning grass and stitch them on as sequins, I snip vivid rainbows with scissors as sharp as words and hang them upon angels to ascertain the fit.

“And more than this,” she said; “my buttons are the imaginations of wise men mistaken for fools, my wool is wound by storytellers, my pockets are filled deep with the rich promise of new life and my sleeves are as long as the breath of wind. My shoes have travelled the loaded road of dreamers and collected the heavy dust of prayer.”

I went to the rail where the clothes were hanging – cerise, rose, pitch, scarlet, emerald and indigo. With new eyes I saw each crease was a quest for answers, every seam was a river, decorations were celebrations, slips and tears were crags and ravines and hats were mountain peaks.

As I paid for my chosen garment with a poem, the woman with long red hair raised her eyes in slight acknowledgement and turned back to her book as though she had not uttered a word.

Rapunzel

Through barred gate
past angry dogs and wet dreams
through lecherous forests
and the need for affirmation
I stumbled to the tower.

My broken leg
hanging at a desperate angle
taking necessary steps
lugging heavy fantasies
I reached her level.

Forgetting to knock
failing to catch my breath
as it howled in castigation
I broke down and shut the door
checking for wise women.

Sighing heavily
at my monotonous predictability
she unrolled her plaited hair
and shot me a bored smile.
She knew the ropes.

Butterfly

Climb into this chamber
of reflective domestic surfaces
where your thin girl lies
with translucent skin;
needing to breathe.

Old roses glow
upon blue veins; roots,
stems and features flower
upon a pink pillow. Pins
prevent movement
beyond permitted parameters.

Listen outside your barred
summer window, to sparrows
eating pea shoots and
gooseberries refusing to soften,
as obstinate rain falls.

Fall through the thoughts
of your girl who courts inadequacy and
barely controls the urge for
flight, often alighting
on chairs next to dark
denying eyes, hands fluttering.

Disliking draughts,
you stopped her dance today,
that way you have of
whispering, shifting into
graceful rumba hold, to
pas des deux her from the room.

Bit by bit you have
snipped blue dazzling wings.
Poor attempts at annihilation;
each cut recalling the agony of
her birth, and worse,
the pain of subjugation.

Frightened, feel her
twisting, pulling ’til
your body aches, then
begin to build associative pictures
from tiny be-curtained roses.
You taught her this, once.

Remember early indulgences,
childhood nonsense, spinning round,
she laughed and ran with you,
indigo wings breaking
household things in real joy.

Hours slip towards evening
and she takes and shapes you;
shadow miasmas crossing moving lips
on a vague sense of hope.

Deep inside your broken mind
beset with guilt and consequences
is something carefully creased.
From your unwrapped imagination
she draws two gifts;
a single red tipped match,
and minuscule glass paper, folded once.

Once she had a dream of being alive,
and she was born, damp wings
stretched and held,
innately patient, biding your time.
Wings dried,
but bold beauty bore weights
of conscience and responsibility
like baubles of lead.

Looking past dread
more potent than death,
with a swift shift of consciousness,
with will suppressed,
as manifestation of choices never made;
with freedom thwarted
and joy never realised,
you strike the match
and as the ash of your blue butterfly rises –
you watch the world turn.