The Broken Mirror

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In the cracks and shards of the mirror are broken promises and forgotten dreams, false memories and the missing pages of an unfinished book,

the frightened child hiding under a bed from the tyranny of shame and the blame and the strap,

the lunatic father who never came home, who tells you to confront your enemies as he beats the shit out of you, who tells you to harden up as he crushes you like a flower,

the mother who refuses to hold your hand, who loves only herself, who lives with regret and punishes you for not being perfect,

the child-parent who wants to be your friend but makes an enemy, the misfits of generations staring back and recognising one of their own, the devoted son who feels only guilt,

the friend who loves you and the one who became nothing, the friend who ghosted you and the one who forgave you, the joker, the bully, the fool,

the sitter who got stoned and taught you to lie and showed you sex and the one who can never be named,

the lover, lost in the beauty of a love with their senses on fire, the unforgotten desire, the great-love who betrayed you,

the youth with the perfect life trying to change the world, fighting for truth in a bar,

the actor with the wisdom of the ages in a b-grade film and getting an Oscar for playing God, the one who takes a bullet and tells you that war is entertainment and that pain isn’t real,

the sister who took off the first chance she got, the brother you fought for the biggest portion, the monster who kept you awake in the night,

the teacher who bullied you and the one who loved you too much, the whore who would do anything for the rent,

the slob who picks his nose and doesn’t wipe, the boss who fired you, the bully who is you,

the broken mirror.

Illicit Love

Same but sideways

I put on my best shirt quietly and studied the marks on her translucent skin from the underwear and the crush of the sheets. A wisp of brown hair stuck to her lip and lifted with each breath. A shiny camisole lay dormant on an old backless chair beside the mattress. Her drunken flung shoes were somewhere. She struck softly at an assailant in a dream and moaned her husband’s name.

I wanted her for a while. She didn’t want an affair and I agreed but I never imagined she would be so lovely. A trite memory told me that the day was breaking soon.  I wanted to hold her once more but not wake her but lust got in the way and she stirred, tussled and yawning and reached out. 

‘You look like you’re going somewhere. Why don’t you stay?’ she said.

‘You’r twisting my arm but I need to work.’

Outside, the only light came from a single street lamp flickering insanely. A woman in a short skirt stood there, smoking. She rubbed her bare thighs with a free hand to keep warm and when she saw me looking, she waved as she got into a car.

A red neon sign in a window illuminated the dew like blood on the pavement. A newspaper blew along dancing in the light-show. and as far as I knew it was only me now watching the small silent things. Rejoicing in the clarity of my life, I guessed she didn’t love the guy.

Noir

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I love the noir, the dark city streets. A rat foraging. A possum eating fresh leaf tips from a rosewood seedling out back in the night garden where spiders haunt dark spaces, crawling over walls and spinning webs of truth, unseen.

A long alley, headlights at the end glaring setting your wispy hair on halo fire. Dark puddles reflecting pale light and bronze human statues smoking, waiting for buses and in cars, steaming breath. The smell of diesel. Homeless pile of rags in a corner moves, showing fact of life in a lonely place, uncaring and wanting. Desire is dying lonely and wicked.

Who will miss you? Your mother, ex, the lover who’s heart you broke when you left, leaving behind injustice and loneliness like dust and leaves in a swirl. Your lover’s head filled with fantasy and denial, sniffing back tears. Sleepless nights wandering about the dark streets, the smell of sewer on the edge of everywhere. Get on the bus, lift your bag and go on,  get out of here.

His Days

black and white rainy portrait canonHe woke again in a panic as if he was being attacked but it wasn’t a nightmare that woke him in the cold darkness. It was a memory that pulled him out of sleep. A memory that lurked below the surface and a day never went by that it didn’t show.

He stood naked in the cold and wiped a circle in the mist on the window and peered at the street. It was dark but for the streetlights and a hint of ultramarine in the sky with the stars beginning to fade. He could hear the hum of distant traffic, of people going to work so he knew the sun would soon rise.

He went to the bathroom and held himself steady against the wall while he peed. He was drowsy but it was too early for coffee and his work day was hours away. He wanted to return to bed but he knew that he would not sleep and that he would be tired during the day.

He dressed in thick socks and pants and a heavy dressing gown and went out and lit a smoke. He watched a man walking briskly along the street, with his hands tucked into his pockets and a bag slung over a shoulder. He heard the screech of a train braking and the crunch of tyres turning on gravel. He heard the footfalls of someone running and the low rumble of a car warming up under the building. He listened to the magpies calling and greeting the morning.

If only he could live in the moment like the birds, he thought and live each day as it came or plan for the future but the past clung to him like a worn shirt. Each day was an extension of the last and every day before that going back to the time when he had made the big mistake.

He had betrayed the one he loved and he hadn’t dealt with it and the guilt and remorse held him firmly in the past. He prayed that he would wake one day to find that it had never happened. If only he could forget but as memories faded, the remorse had not. It had grown stronger like a tumour. Unnoticed at first until it took hold and in time had become a part of the small movements of his days.

He returned to his bed but sleep eluded him as it always did. So he put on the coffee as he always did and dressed.

The Grey Ghosts

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The grey ghosts shuffle, aimless, scared and listless. Unable to decide and complaining to the few who still listen.

They move without purpose of what or where or how to be yet holding fast onto the shreds of dignity for without it they will fall.

Out of step with those who walk briskly and outcast by the others. They slouch with their grey heads staring without focus into the middle distance. From park benches.

Or in the warm loneliness of home they binge on the blue TV light with all the experience in the world yet afraid to wake tomorrow for yet another useless day.

Left behind by the rest and dressed with a vague expression of longing and waiting … to be old.

Broken

The tracks shake loose in the cracked cement as he leaves the train and the old majestic homes crumble while the flash men walk drunken, lusting, singing ditties with whisky voices from the docks in the old town.

It wasn’t as if he couldn’t remember where he belonged. It was that he didn’t want to live there anymore, so he stood for a while fumbling with his keys.  The old place was falling down from decades of neglect but it was clean and straight inside and smelled of fish broth and bread from the kitchen.

The daughter hangs clothes on a line out of the window and watching her father, hoping he isn’t drunk so early. She would not be shocked or surprised. He hasn’t been the same since the company shut down the docks.

He falls and the daughter helps him to his comfortable chair and fetches a cigar. He bites a tip and she lights it and he bangs on the arm when she doesn’t do it right. The acrid smoke fills the room so she opens the shutters despite the rain.

The people used to say he was brave man, a fighter. Now they say he is broken and ignored but for the daughter who picks up the pieces of his life. He has no purpose now and drinks more than before, driving the mother crazy. They argue and then make peace.

Drink, argue and make peace. It is the pattern of the days.

The Train

adult city commuter groupLong coated grey men wait for the morning train. There are young people, dressed beautifully for the day, not cowed or cynical. A hundred worlds cram into this rhythmic space. Businessmen, clerks, factory workers and students. The train is a great leveller because here we are all just passengers, going to our work, tired and irritable, wishing it was the weekend, reading our papers, laptops, magazines, phones. Texting, listening, daydreaming. Few stare from the window and watch the world. They’ve seen it all a hundred times without anything new. So we stare into the middle distance and avoid the eyes. No one speaks.

The train rocks along clacking and rocking and swaying into the world. I sit wondering if I am suitably inspired to do my best today.

There is a young woman opposite in a short skirt and a long scarf. I consider her for a moment. She is curvaceous with olive skin and dark almond shaped eyes and a Roman nose, she wears earphones and reads a magazine, oblivious to a young man watching her.

The train noise is louder as we flash past a station. A lady leans against a pole, irritated that school children haven’t given her a seat so I offer her mine. She gratefully declines and continues scowling. The kids ignore her and continue laughing at their private jokes.

Along walks the uninspired conductor. To do his job with enthusiasm would be too personal. The automatic voice tells us the next stop but we check the screen anyway.

I once saw an exhibition on old trains at the old depot. There were vintage trains there, turn of the century trains with women in wide hats and long dresses and porters and orderlies in pill box caps, smoke and whistles and old platforms with steam blowing about. I remember the old red rattlers from when I was a boy and you could hang out of the window an let the wind blow through your hair. You could stand between carriages and smoke a cigarette. This isn’t one of those. This is the type where you can’t open the window.

I want to speak to someone, to connect and make a new friend. I want to chat up a girl who noticed me. I want to discuss the news I heard on the radio this morning as I dressed. I want to tell someone about my day ahead and my hopes for it. I want to talk about the war. You know, That war. An old lady is watching me. She looks too old to be going to work. I sense she in enjoying herself and the silent human contact. She is on a day out, an early riser like me. I want to reach out to her. Ask her how she is.