Sunday, June 03, 2018

Is like


is like
waiting to play at a brass band competition in a cluttered school music room amongst
people expressing the jovial bonhomie of those who meet only annually
and who spend their time trying to out-practice the opposition
by riffing on difficult arpeggios or running through the nasty bits with ease or
blowing notes at length to show their breath control;

is like waiting to play at a singing competition
in a back room where sometimes suppers are served
and where the contestants aim to outdo each other in dress sense,
make-up, and the highest of heels, deepest of cleavages –
if such are available - and where the guys turn up
in suits, or tuxes, or something that shows they can
spruce up nicely thank you, (unintentionally impressing the girls);

is like waiting for a delayed plane at a cramped airport
with too few chairs and nowhere to lie down and
drinks that are fizzy or caffeinated, and pies with burning
chopped steak and mushroom, and panini with tired salad fillings
that look good in the glass or plastic cases but taste
like plastic (though never like glass) when purchased;

is like waiting for the telephone call from your wife to say
she’s started her labour pains with the about-to-be-first-born ˗
or your second-born ˗ or your third-born ˗ or subsequent-borns;

is like waiting for news of the interviews you’ve squirmed through over
previous weeks, or haven’t made the grade for, or missed out on
entirely;

is like waiting at an assigned meeting place for someone who,
unbeknownst to you, thought they were meeting an hour later;

is like waiting to go into an important exam you don’t feel in the
least bit prepared for, where you know you will fail and won’t understand the questions and
all the multi-choice responses will be meaningless, and none of the material will be at all
familiar;

is like waiting in the hospital waiting room – the chairs are
too plastic, or the backs are too far back for comfort, or as hard as steel, or cold, or
just chairs that no one in their right mind would sit on, and your
child is in the surgery possibly dying, possibly reviving, possibly
about to come through and in a month or two everything will be
forgotten, including the uncomfortable chairs;

is like waiting for the
dentist in one of those chairs that leave you lying on your back with a
headrest that some go-ahead inventor not in his right mind
concocted and which isn’t at all at the angle to stop your head from feeling as though it’s
about to snap at the neck, and it seems as if the dentist has gone for a
tea-break, or a vacation, or a long-overseas trip from which he may or may not
return, and the nurse is fussing about clanking sharp knives and long daggers and
implements of unimaginable torture, and everyone of these she’s
throwing on the round steel table just so you know your teeth are in a
desperate state of decay, and it’s likely each and every one of them will need to be
removed before the afternoon is out, and the weather outside, which you can just
see out of the corner of your eye is glowering, turning from a sunny
morning into the stormiest two o’clock you’ve ever seen, and
suddenly here comes the dentist as if he’s never been away, and
picks up every tool at once in his innumerable hands and throws each and
every one of them into your mouth, screwing some of them tight into your
gums, and poking others into the holes you’d thought he hadn’t noticed, and
grinding others right across the surface of your teeth so that you know when you
next look in the mirror you’ll see irremovable skid marks, or children’s
handprints in cement, and with another tool he’ll dent a tooth that was
perfectly fine when you left home this morning, and with another he’ll be picking at
the spaces between your teeth and finding plaque by the globle-ful and tut-tutting, while the
nurse is swabbing your mouth and rinsing it out with a vacuum-cleaner that leaves you more
soaked than dry, and in the meantime your throat needs to swallow and needs to do it
now! and with all this stuff in your mouth you’re going to croak it, you know it, because
the dentist has never himself experienced the horrors of being on the other end of those
tools;

is like waiting unstimulated on a desert island, bookless, or without a bit of music to play, or a thought in your head, or a pen to write with (and nothing to write on anyway), and
only the searing sun and the trees dropping coconuts heavily on your unwary
noggin and sand getting into everything from teeth to cracks between the toes to the
hair amongst your private bits to the hair under your arms to the hairs on your head, and
nothing can get rid of it and all the warm and friendly ideas of a tropical island are
dissipating fast and you wish you were home beside a cosy fire with a book, with some
jazz in the background and the newspaper ready to read when the book proves to be
unreadable, and the telly to turn on if you’re desperate, and your wife in the kitchen singing
some old pop song she learnt as a teenager and which is revived when she’s at her happiest, and she’s making date scones which you’re not very fond of but you’ll eat because when
she makes them they’re always much more mixed-spicier than you imagined, and the
kids will come down the stairs and play Monopoly at your feet, and the fluffy dog you
thought you would never have loved will be standing, front paws on your knees, pleading with big brown eyes to be allowed to jump on your lap and lick your hand and flump his
head across your arm – or maybe go for a long walk up hill and down dale. 



The day I cut my finger off


The day I cut my finger off –
my index finger, now made
smaller than my little finger –

I cooked my childhood favourite,
carrots and parsnips mashed, for tea;
it was the day my wife’s work sent

flowers in memory of her sister
who had died on the other side of the
world.  It was the day my wife was

gib-boarding the upstairs bathrooom,
the day I had a heavy cold and
should have been in bed, the

day the dog ate some of the carrot I
dropped on the floor, but not the
parsnip; the day I catalogued three

shelves of books onto an iPad app;
the day we were to go to a
quiz night at the Kensington, and

answer trivia; the day my two
daughters went to see
New Zealand’s Got Talent along

with thousands of others who wanted to
be seen in the audience and didn’t
realise it would be too dark and

that the audience is only there to
provide a noise.  It was the day the
two Jack Russells next door decided to

fight, with one of them nearly biting off
the tail of the other, the day my
son-in-common-law came to

pick me up from A & E since my
wife had to stay home to mind our
grandson, and he was the only one

free.  It was the day we almost had
soggy pies for tea, because I put them in the
microwave, and defrosted them too

rapidly, but saved them from
destruction by cooking them hot
and strong in the oven.  It was the day I
said to my son-in-common-law that
these things always happen to me,

and he didn’t agree, since he’d
cut off his own thumb at an
earlier point, in a wood splitter. 

It was the day – or maybe it
wasn’t – that all these things and
much more happened to me. 

Memory is deep, and memory
remembers what it wants, and
forgets what it wants, and

suddenly decides to bring a
history to light that years had
forgotten, and there’s a program on

TV, which is called Unforgettable
only it isn’t, since it runs to a
formula every other cop show on

TV runs to: a main character, a
sidekick - male to female in this
case - with a know-it-all boss,

and a couple of lesser cast
members who fill in the gaps, and
in this case a heroine who can’t

forget anything, but if that was
truly the case she would be halfway
round the twist, which she plainly

isn’t. What she remembers are
only those things vital to the
plot, things that most of us would have

forgot, like a face seen in a cafe, or a
photo on a wall, or a shadow on a
gate.  Wait, all these things, the

carrot and the parsnip, the flowers,
the biting of the tail and cutting
of the finger, the cataloguing,

the gib-boarding, trivia quiz,
the NZ’s got talent, the picking up from
A&E have happened; I remember them all,
Yet there’s one thing I have to confess:
I didn’t cut my finger off at all.

Like it or lump it


Like it or lump it is common in English, and
‘lumpers’ unload from United States docks
(such as Gloucester in Mass.), but the
Germans (as often) make best use of Lumpen,
a rag-word (not ragwort) pursued by
a ragtag of rag and bone words like
Lumpensammler, and
Lumpensgesindel, and dear old
Karl Marx’s (maybe insulting)
Lumpenproletariat,
those at the bottom, the
ones most degraded, the
working class, poverty-
ridden, prone-to-diseases,
consumptive, those dying too young,
those losing their children, so that
one single name might be
used for two infants, (confusing
descendants and family historians),
for whom children composed
all their wealth, and the loss of one,
two, or more was like losing the
bank notes hid in your mattress, or
having a thug mugging you down some tight
alleyway, coshing you, uncashing you,
or a man skyscraper-leaping on
hearing investments have gone down the
plughole. 
     Lump is a mass undiffer-
entiated, the lumper the man who
understands mass, who humps on his
single hump the weight of a camel whose
double humps saddle the mass of a
man.  Lumpensgesindel, the
rag-taggle rabble, whose weight
dear old Karl wrangled into his
brain, commonsensical,
dialectically logical,
straining to see, to bring to
reality the Proletariat Dic-
tatorship, to envisage the
people, the workers, the mass in
charge, to see the demise of the
capitalists, to see inequality
quitted.  Marx was the
Lumpensammler, the rag-and-
bone man whose revolutionary
ideas were red rags to
bulls who horned them up,
tossed them, crossed them and
in general lost them.  Red was the
colour of their true love’s hair, but
this girl was blood through and
through.

Untitled Sestina

Attempting a complex approach to a sestina, with both the first and last words of each line working through the sestina pattern...there are also two ongoing rhymes...


I light the black wick in the glass;
You carry it calmly to Gray.
He takes the flame outside to pray;
We watch as he kneels on the grass.
‘You people, now hear what I say!’
They listen, and file quietly past. 

They reflect on all that has past -
I saw you reflected in glass,
You came first to hear what we say,
You painted a picture so grey -
We spread out the lunch on the grass -
He, meanwhile, continues to pray.

He spreads out his long arms to pray.
They consider all that’s gone past;
We eat from the spread on the grass,
I pour out the wine in your glass,
You notice the sky’s glooming grey;
You have almost nothing to say:

You never have too much to say,
He asks why it is you don’t pray,
You glance up quite quickly at Gray;
They glanced at we three and then passed.
I drank all the wine in my glass;
We stained both our skirts on the grass.

We shake all the crumbs on the grass,
You cry out, accuse me, you say
‘I saw you reflected in glass!’
He closes eyes, focuses, prays;
They wheel down the drive and go past
You pick out a hair that’s gone gray.

You find that more have gone gray.
We pick up the cloth from the grass;
They tumble on down through the past;
You now have so much more to say,
He sobs and we can’t hear him pray,
I smash on the ground the fine glass.

You brush away Gray and you say
We hate the grass, why does he pray?
They shatter past; I shatter glass.                                            3.8.12

Gone



Gone.

On the bathroom windowsill,
pre-redecoration, we had twin
white containers of conditioner and
shampoo (or as Egyptians
delightfully pronounce it, shamboo); the
clear glass denture cup; the
man’s small travelling
shamboo called, in best masculine
fashion, Dominate; the baby
shampoo and the baby oil – though
we’ve been babyless in this
house for some years - and the
Alpha Keri, intended once for
my dry skin, but proving to be
allergenic round the nose and
sinus areas; (a smear of one percent of
Hydrocortisone in Aqueous Cream
combined with half a percent of Menthol
cleared the skin instead).

Gone.   All gone.

The windowsill, post-redecoration, is
clear: no white containers of
shamboo or conditioner, no glass
denture cup, nothing to Dominate, no
baby oils, shampoos, no Alpha Keri to
increase my eczema, and where
before the bottles and containers
formed themselves into
military arrays (as seen from my
prone position in the bath, with the sun
shining through the bevelled glass), or
formed themselves into oligarchies or
hierarchies, with the larger containers
dominating the smaller, or the smaller in
rebellion against the larger, or into
various dramatic tableaus that came from
some long-forgotten nineteenth-century
play in which the cast were required to
stand still for minutes at a time
allowing the audience to reflect on the
passions of the characters – or
lack of them - or on the
drama inherent in being able to
observe a group of people formed into
patterns amongst which you’d
discern the hierarches based entirely on
whether the actor was upstage or
downstage or seated or standing or
higher than all the others on some steps or
rostrums that in previous incarnations had
been the focus of a different play entirely.
These days they’d call them
Happenings, or installations.

Gone.  All gone.

Drum


Drum

I lie in the dentist’s chair, mouth numb,
teeth glum at the fact of being there. 

Out on the street, there’s a drum beat:
student protesters - one chewing gum -

shouting some slogan; in the midst of the scrum
the chewing gum student looks dumb;

dumb, keeping mum, he wants to know
why he’s driven along by the throng, and

slumbering inside his head, the slogan song
stunning the air that he breathes, choking his

conscience: there isn’t a crumb in this function for
one such as he; he’d sooner be slumming at home,

strumming his new-strung guitar, leaving the
politicos, activists, radicals thrumming

the sum of their discontents, discharging their
duties as soon-to-be-citizens, getting it out of their

systems before they succumb to the same old
reactionary plums offered new chums by the 

Old Boys clubs.  Whatever may come thinks the
chewing gum boy, being less than the sum of his parts.

Sunday, May 13, 2018

Oven Stones

There was this here jolt, see, like an earthquake. The only thing I hear moving is them two round oven stones and the glass plate, the one what used to fit in the microwave we got rid of.
The wooden stand for the rolling pin what looks like it’s made of a marble staircase ˗ the one me hubby found at the recycling ˗  that holds them in place.
So it shifts with the jolt, I suppose, and off they goes. Off the bench. Onto the floor. All three of them in a bunch, three peas in a pod…!
Never smashed, you know. Should of, but they never did. I mean, one of them’s made of glass, in’t it? The others, well, they’re made of stone ˗ stone don’t break easy, not unless you drop it off a great height, like a cliff. Then it still has to fall on stone. Stone on stone, you see?
Unless it falls on some unsuspecting bloke sitting down there taking a kip alongside of the sea ˗ and then this oven stone falls on his head. Split it in half, it would, that oven stone. Like that there bloke standing up on the plinth with the gun. The time immemorial bloke.
He had his head split open once: had to get the Council to glue it up again. Kids done it.
Anyway, my hubby picks up that there microwave plate and says, This here ought to have broke. I’m gonna nail it on the front door. Like an horseshoe.
That’ll break it, I says.
Always picky. I’ll glue it on.
Not on my front door you won’t.
Righto, I’ll just stand in front of the bleedin’ door and hold it. Will that make you happy?
This story first appeared on Helen Moat's blog, as one of a series of flash fiction stories writers contributed at her request. 
She also interviewed me: you can see the interview here. 
She 

Sunday, April 01, 2018

Future sceptic


'We know from yesterday's calculations that the sun is only three centimetres in diameter. And therefore the moon, being smaller to the eye, must be smaller still in centimetres. Parsons! What do you calculate the moon's diameter to be?'

I look up. Personally I don't give a toss about anything in the sky that's got a diameter. I'm more interested in the diameter of the wheels on my self-driver. Dad bought me one last twelfth, when they came down in price, in exchange for me supervising the self-mowing of the lawn. Old braindead that he is, he's always concerned that the self-mower is going to sail off the edge of the section and crash into a passing self-driver.

But it's a task. Tasks are good for growing boys, supposedly. I think Dad's forgotten I'm already sixteen, and around 240 centimetres tall.  I'm probably not going to grow anymore.

Which reminds me, they've raised the school basketball hoops at school to four metres. Basketball hoops have a nice diameter. Must SuperSkype Jomz and tell him he hasn't a hope of hitting the hoop now.

Something else to do when Ranter's finished ranting on. I mean, does anyone need to know that the sun isn't a big ball of flame in the sky like the old braindeads used to think? Or that the moon is just a little glob of yellow spit, hardly worth thinking about?

I read somewhere that men were supposed to have walked on it. Amazing what people used to think they knew about the Un-verse.



[Originally intended for a National Flash Fiction Day competition, but apparently never sent! Plainly my secretary wasn't doing his job properly.]

Tuesday, October 24, 2017

Alphabetical

Challenged by a poet to write an alphabetical, one word per line, poem, I came up with this. Needs some work still, methinks.

As
baits
cause
death
every
fish
goes
home
in
jugfuls
kept
loosely
mostly
not
openly
pulled
quietly
riding
signs
to
universal
victories
where
xeric
years

zigzag

Thursday, October 12, 2017

Six characters in search of...


Six of them stood under a sky crackling with frequent lightning.

Five of them stared at the ramshackle framework of the novel from which they’d been excised.

‘What’s he going to do without a cheerful character?’ asked Shoat, a man in a heavy raincoat (it rained often in his country). ‘I was the best he had. That other bloke’s a villain.’

The woman to his right ignored his question, glared ahead. ‘I was coping with the sour, self-focused dialogue he gave me...’ She spat on the ground, to Shoat’s surprise. He’d thought her genteel. ‘But killing me off with cancer was the last straw. Before the book even started. Obliterating my name!’ She strode off amidst thunder, after sending a long, thick spittle at the building.

Bemused, the wizard Mukkeljugson half-heartedly cursed the framework.

It was oblivious to his magic, although it shivered. Its appearance altered continually.

Shoat’s enormous draught horse, Arnold, said nothing ˗ as you’d expect ˗ though he nodded in agreement with the others’ complaints. He nudged Mukkeljugson, who, not being familiar with horses, jumped back, unsure if it was a warning or an encouragement.

The last two, a middle-aged man and woman seemingly joined at the hip, scowled like souls lost, silent. Then the woman burst out at no one in particular, ‘The whole idea began with us, you fool!’ She hammered at her mild-mannered husband with her fists. He knew her anger was directed at the author.

The downpour began.

--------------------------

This story was originally published in Flash Frontier, November 2015.  The characters had all begun life in a children's fantasy I was writing at that time: The Disenchanted Wizard, and had all been cut from the finished novel. 







Tuesday, February 14, 2017

Wellington

Wellington: half-hot and half not

                    half super-smart and strutting-stuff, half scruff.

Found in one of my old diary entries, from May 1989 

Thursday, February 09, 2017

Photo

Photo

Each time I climb the stairs
the faded photo of the skinny boy
is leaning to the left again.

Smarten up, boy! I say.
He grins, salutes, and again
next time I climb, to the left

he leans. I'll inform your sergeant,
I state, but the boy's sergeant,
we both well know, is long gone. The

boy hooks his crooked cap rightwards,
to compensate for his lingering
leftward lean. Long dead, this

teenage, ageless soldier

grins, salutes. And leans again.